Kognito Health Simulations
January 2018 – November 2018
Kognito is a New York City studio making branching conversation-based role-playing games. Products are designed to educate about empathetic communication skills through fun, interactive simulations.
At the studio, I split my time programming in-house development tools and writing narrative design documents for specific products.
In-House Tool Development
Kognito employs a cross-disciplinary team of designers, artists, and programmers with varied technical abilities. During my time with the studio, I built Python, web-based, and C# development tools which allowed these teams to prototype designs together and to iterate revisions quickly. These tools primarily integrated with their proprietary branching game engine and Unity. My main responsibilities were to empower designers and to expedite the development cycle. I managed the workflow of these tools across design, programming, distribution, and training.
Narrative Design Documentation
Each Kognito conversation game is built within a proprietary branching game engine. This engine controls the main game loop. My task was to design and write the dialogue, flow-logic, and player feedback for conversations in this engine.
One of the most common challenges involved balancing realistic character behavior with entertaining game-play. I often wrote many revisions of a given script, incorporating rounds of feedback from internal and external stakeholders. While integrating feedback, I frequently faced other limitations as well, including scope and timelines. Because I was toward the front of the pipeline, each narrative decision I made had a ripple effect across other development teams.
Other common challenges included assembling and debugging the flow-logic to ensure the characters’ behaviors matched the intended documentation. Once voice-over audio and animation were integrated, I play-tested and debugged conversations to create a smooth player experience. Sometimes these changes were technical, such as client-requested features, and other times they were creative, such as patching narrative plot-holes discovered after recording is completed.