Nominee | Best Student Game

Created by Osmotic Studios.

Each year at GDC, MFA students from the NYU Game Center interview the Independent Games Festival nominees, asking them three questions about their development process. In addition to this interview, you can read all the insightful interviews from 2017 here. These conversations, and much more, will happen when the Game Center returns to GDC in 2018. Learn more about the Game Center at GDC 2017.

Burgess Voshell: What was the main idea, concept, or image that began the project for you?

Melanie Taylor: Actually we started in 2014 and the idea sort of came up shortly after the Snowden revelations 2013. The idea came from our game designer Daniel and he was thinking about making a game that plays on a desktop that is set completely on the desktop of a computer. So it always sort of pretends to an operating system that you use to find information about people. That was before Her Story came out, which is also a desktop based game. Yeah, it sort of came together like that, like, okay we could make a game about data and desktop and then Snowden revelations and it sort of became a very interesting topic, this online data, privacy issues, and surveillance.

Burgess Voshell: Can you describe a specific experience with another game or media that influenced you as you were developing it?

Melanie Taylor: Yes, our game designer played a lot of Papers Please and that was a main influence and we actually started off with a concept that was more similar to Papers Please and I think the main difference now in gameplay is that with Papers Please you also play a government official, but you actually have negative consequences if you decide to let people through although you’re not allowed to. With our game if you do negative or bad things to people you don’t get any consequences. We didn’t want to influence the player like this is good or this is bad morally by putting the gameplay in that direction. So we decided to just keep it neutral and just have story consequences and no game mechanics consequences if you make people look guilty or put in wrong information.

Burgess Voshell: So what was important about that distinction for this project? The making it a narrative consequence rather than mechanics based one?

Melanie Taylor: Well, it was mainly because of this moral issue we didn’t want to influence players, but it also makes the game more story focused and less mechanics focused because Papers Please is a more mechanics focused game. It tells the story of yourself, of your family, but in Orwell it’s much more narrative focused, the whole gameplay and story and actually it’s not only about choosing what’s right and wrong or finding out who’s guilty, but it’s a lot of just finding out about the person, about the character. So it’s very character focused.

Burgess Voshell: Is there a specific tool or methodology that you feel was important in shaping a unique characteristic of Orwell?

Melanie Taylor: Well it was important to us that – many people were saying you could use real images, make it look more real, but we wanted to, on the one hand we wanted it to feel kind of real, but also sort of surreal and that’s why we didn’t choose photos as an art style, but we used this polygon art style. We sort of mixed it. We shaped our faces out of many different faces and used the triangle art style to make them more abstract. The idea was sort of as if you are looking through a window that is distorted. It’s like a distorted reality that we were going for.

Burgess Voshell is an artist, designer, and MFA student at the NYU Game Center.