Narrative Design and World Building


It’s week 4 now and we’re well on our way. We got a look at our incubees’ progress and everyone has really solidified their ideas! We’re deep into construction at this point: with a lot of the framework locked down, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at our building blocks. It’s time to consider the narrative design aspect of the game, with Kelly Hornung!


Kelly showed us the importance of narrative in a game and showed us different was to include it in our games. Far from being limited to texts and dialogues, we saw that narrative design is also conveyed through the environment in which the characters exist, objects strategically place along the player’s path, references to other productions, etc. For more information, see the slides!

The subject of world buildin and narrative design without the use of written text was also discussed last year with our mentor Odile Prouveur. Here’s the example she chose: The player finds themselves in the village square. You want to convey to them that there is a fire at the library and that they should go there to help out. You have several options: One of them would be to have a non-player character dashes up to the player shouting “Oh my goodness, the library is on fire! Please do something!”. Another way might be to have smoke all over the village, with villagers running away from the library, and a large plume of smoke and fire at that location. Odile then followed up saying that this is exactly the kind of thing that playtesting is useful for, as it allows creators to ask the question “Is my intention clear here? Did you understand my message?”

For more information :
Session on narrative design from PGI5.
Session on narrative design from PGI6.


By now, you should have a pretty basic prototype of your game’s core concepts working. If you’re still having trouble with your prototype consider taking an hour’s break to switch gears and do something fun! If, after another cycle of “programming”, your prototype is still far away from being complete it’s time to consider several options:

  1. Break down the area you’re stuck on into a series of baby steps.
  2. Simplify. It’s easy to get excited about your game and try to do too much. Remember, that six to eight weeks isn’t a long time. In order to scale back, you should list the most important verbs/actions of your game. Decide whether each is really necessary for your game and do the most, important ones first. Prioritize. Place the secondary actions as stretch goals. You can always get to them later!
  3. Switch game tools, if needed. Are you trying to learn programming (say in Unity) AND how-to-make your game? Try switching to a more visual-based tool, or use an asset to help (ex: Fungus). There’s no shame in making your life easier.
  4. Go ahead. Copy and paste that piece of code ;) (You can always ask for information on that code later, if you are curious about what EXACTLY it is doing!)


Next week, we shall cover visual art and sound. However, if you want to get a head start, here is a little intro to some useful resources.


If you’re looking to make your own art, graphics tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, or even one solely for pixel art (see below) can come in handy. If you’re inexperienced with pixel art, while it looks simple pixel art does take a long time and requires a lot of patience. If you’re inexperienced with art altogether there are lots of different options out there. You can choose to use free assets, use a stick figure or doodle art style, cut out photographs, or go with minimalist shapes to represent your game’s art.

Alternative Ways to Make Art:

  • Claymation
  • Stop motion
  • Video vines
  • Photography
  • Glitch Art
  • String together YouTube clips
  • Scrape Google Search to create auto-generated art
  • Draw, color, watercolor, etc on paper then scan them in
  • Use the laptop’s built-in camera then manipulate the video feed of the player with programming

Free Graphics Programs:

  • Pixlr, online photo editor
  • Pyxel Edit, pixel art and tileset creation tool,
  • Tiled Map Editor, general purpose 2D tiled map editor
  • ASEPRITE, animated sprite editor and pixel art tool
  • Wings 3D, 3D modeler (no animation)
  • Graphics Gale, tool for animation, spriting and pixel art
  • Gimp, open source “photoshop-like” tool

Free Art Assets:


    As you will see next week, sound is the key to immersion. It’s what the player listens to. It’s another way of giving the player feedback. If you’re ambitious, you’re probably hoping to sink your claws into sound design which can be an amazing experience! But plan your time wisely, it’s easy to get carried away with sounds of traffic, children at play, and splashes. If you haven’t got the time, there are lots of free sound assets out there for you to use!

    General Tips on Sound:

    • Keep in mind that the effectiveness of sound in games has more to do with the timing of the sound and slightly less to do with the type/style/quality of the sound. Instantaneous timing that creates the proper reactive signal to your player gives them the sensation that what they are doing is meaningful to the game.
    • Many free sounds have blank bits or silent lead-ups until the sound actually triggers. Use free programs to cut them down, and maximize on that reactive timing.
    • It is important during sound implementation that you are logical and consistent. If you implement a sound for one game enemy, but no sound for another, your player will feel like something is off or that they have broken something. Make your asset list and prioritize what feedback is most necessary.
    • Consider programming functions in that control all your sounds. It will make it a lot easier if you want to edit and improve on them later — you can swap out one single line, rather than searching in your code for 40 different lines.
    • Save sound implementation right until the end! Playtesting will reveal what and when those sounds are most needed.

    Free Sound Tools:

    Sound Assets:


    As seen in all the links, there’s a treasure trove out there of awesome stuff on the internet that you can put in your game. This brought up a lot of questions in our session about legal use of pre-made art assets, music, and sounds. For the most part, when creating your first (non-commercial!) game, it’s not a huge concern of big companies to come chase after you, as much of it falls into the category of fair use.

    However, it’s always good practice to be mindful of proper crediting and attribution rules. Read up a bit on Creative Commons and how that works. Many free sprite and sound kits come with easy-to-follow instructions. If you’re not 100% sure about if it’s fair or not, you can always find alternate sources where it’s more clearly stated, or create all the assets yourself! There’s still plenty of time to revisit and swap out placeholders in your game.


    We encourage you to go online to discuss (and ask questions!!!) on our Facebook Groups or on our Slack channels, but there’s still no substitute for face-to-face interactions. Thus we encourage you to meet with us again to ask questions, playtest, bug-fix or just for tea and biscuits!

    When: Saturdays from January 12 to February 23 2019, inclusively
    Time: 2 pm to 5 pm
    Where: Gameplay Space, 1435 Saint-Alexandre, suite 140 (station Place-des-arts)


    1. Continue working on your game prototype! There are only 2 more sessions left and it’s up to you to take the reins and develop your game further. Be realistic and don’t hesitate to re-scope (Always give yourself modular goals)!
    2. Don’t be afraid to scrap your idea and start over, or even switch tools. It happens and you just may be happier with your second try. Don’t panic, it’s not too late, and the skills you’ve learned thus far and the efforts you’ve put in are still valuable, never wasted!
    3. Start adding in the artistic touches, swapping assets. It will be a good change in gears from programming and will motivate you to get back into it.
    4. Add at least one sound effect or background music to your game. (Even just to know how to do it later.)

    N’hésitez pas à nous poser des questions ou à nous écrire pour des commentaires ou des réactions. Envoyez-nous vos courriels à

    Next week: VISUAL ART AND SOUND!

    Posted in Game Incubator, Pixelles Game Incubator 7
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