transcendence: origins

Platform: iOS & Android

Collaborators: The Alchemists, Warner Bros.

Team size: 6 (software team), 10 (media team)

Engine and tools: Unity 3D

What I did: I was the Producer and Co-Designer/Writer on this project. I helped hire the other team members, and afterwards my job was to manage schedule, run meetings, and make sure the project got finished. I also was co-designer/writer on the project. I designed the game systems and UI, co-designed the puzzle and storytelling systems, co-wrote the story, and directed the media portion of the project, including video, photo, and voice-acting.


WHAT IS transcendence: origins?

Transcendence: Origins is a mobile platform-based narrative prequel to the 2014 science fiction movie Transcendence, directed by long-time Christopher Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister and staring Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hill, and Kate Mara. In it you assume the role of a scientist studying memories "downloaded" from human brains, using a touch-interface app to sort through captured brain information in the form of frozen visual moments.

Each set of scrambled memories is like a puzzle. Solving each puzzle is a game, but also pushes the story forward, as you discover more and more about the person's memories you are examining.

There is also a character-based conversation element. You maintain an on-going discussion with a co-worker (played by Kate Mara, reprising her role from the film) about the ethics of your job. She asks you questions at various points which lead to moral choices and four different endings.

Do you feel downloading memories is a form of torture? If so, are you willing to sabotage the place where you work? If not, are you willing to inform on your co-worker for her beliefs? And does the person whose memories you are studying make you want to choose one or the other?



My job first and foremost was to ensure the project finished on time and on budget. I maintained the schedule for the project, updating it every day. I ran the daily check-in meetings, using a variant of scrum: "What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? What could get in your way?" I also coordinated with every member of the team individually each day to make sure we stayed on-task and on-vision.

As producer, I also coordinated with our collaborators at The Alchemists and Warner Bros. I gave them updates, outlined project progress for them, responded to and brought their feedback back to the team. Since we were working with a film/media company, I also served as a general educator on the process of software development. I was able to troubleshoot concerns that arose from practices and risks unique to software that may not exist in traditional media. This minimized the miscommunication that often arises from interdisciplinary collaborations. It was a major reason we were able to finish the project on-time.

Parallel with my producer duties, I also served as co-designer/writer on the project. I helped shape the prequel story to the film from the beginning, and then worked to develop an overall design that would let players discover that story. I wrote design documentation that was used to guide the programmers and artists.

Though I collaborated on the design of everything, the interface and overall interaction design is something I had more design authorship of. As a mobile touch-based game that tells a story using images and text, I felt it was important that the game "be as easy to interact with as Instagram and Gchat". It took a lot of work to achieve that simplicity, but I am happy with the results.

The other major aspect I had design authorship of was the creation of the images, which required me to fly out to L.A. and film actors on location. This was storytelling but also game design, since each set of images is a puzzle players are meant to put together. This meant I had to direct the actiors and camera person in such a way that I knew we were creating the right clues for the player to know which images went together. It was a very unusual and rewarding example of narrative game design.