Lost in the Dark

Platform: PC · Engine: Unreal · Team size: 17 · Timetable: Six Months

Lost in the Dark is a PC horror-exploration game designed by Sleepless Dreamer Studios. Lost in the Dark follows Caroline and she wakes up in a nightmarish mansion and makes her way back to the safety of her room. Trapped in the mansion with her is a monster known only as Bagman who is trying to steal the light away from Caroline. Lost in the Dark is a game about exploration and the juxtaposition of light and dark. 

My role on Lost in the Dark was that of Producer. I spent the entirety of the project in a traditional production role where I scheduled milestone deliverables, scoped the project, and coached my team through developing our team culture. In addition to my duties contributing to the efficiency and effectiveness of our internal processes, I acted as the connection point between the team and the stakeholder group along with my Game Designer. At the end of the project I was responsible for representing our team at the SMU Guildhall IP Showcase Event where I presented Lost in the Dark to potential investors and employers.


Contributions and Tools

Role: Producer

My Contributions:

  • Scheduled project with user research and deadlines
  • Worked with Game Designer to scope the game vision
  • Fostered team culture of honesty and accountability
  • Orchestrated presentations to stakeholders
  • Ran user research feedback sessions
  • Performed Scrum Master duties
  • Organized sprint plans in sprint planning meetings
  • Designed credits sequence

Tools I Used Daily:


Documentation and Downloads


Live Images


Risk Assessment/Management

Assessment: Inexperienced Leads

Management: Mentoring and Coaching individuals

Method: One-on-One meetings, group meetings, explicit expectations, add responsibility over time

Two of the five leads on Lost in the Dark had no lead experience, and a third did not want to be a lead. To level them up, I spent time working with each individual one-on-one and as a group to address challenges in their disciplines and help them stay organized. As they grew, I added additional responsibilities to their plate to continue to challenge them and help them grow as leaders.

 

Assessment:  Lack of Leadership for User research

Management: Fill leadership void

Method: Scheduling, finding playtesters, delegating tasks, Organizing User Research Session

Our user research sessions were to take place with two other concurrent projects at SMU Guildhall. I stepped into the leadership role for these user research sessions when a void was identified. I scheduled dates and times for the sessions, found playtesters, delegated installation and build responsibilities, and organized the event when people arrived. I also trained the members of my team in effective user research observer practices.

Assessment: Difficulty finding gameplay

Management: Iterating quickly on design / Prototyping

Method: Use team's strength of iterating quickly and prototyping to fail fast and find the fun

"Top-down design" is a term we used to refer to games that start as a feeling or emotion and have to search for mechanics to match the idea. Lost in the Dark followed this "top-down design." Early troubles finding the gameplay for our game were mitigated when I developed sprint plans that focused on rapid prototyping as many ideas as possible. By organizing and facilitating these flash-hacks, I helped the team find mechanics and proceed with development.

 

Assessment:  Too little manpower to complete features

Management: Get a new resource or cut features

Method: Step in and help complete tasks in programming and design

Credits and menus were identified as necessary features for us to ship. As development progressed we needed aid in completing those features. I stepped in and helped add polish to the menus in the game and orchestrated the design for the credits sequence. I also spent time helping fix bugs when other hands were tied up. Pivoting into the role of a bug fixer was critical to complete these features at a level acceptable for release.


Postmortem

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Lost in the Dark: Postmortem


Quotes

I firmly believe the reason our team got along so well was because of the foundations of trust and humor that Justin set with his personality. He gave us the room to be open and honest about any hiccup in development but also gave us room to breathe and de-stress, so much so that quite a few of us were willing to work overtime to see the project through without even being asked. That balance of work vs relax helped us keep clear heads while creating, crunching and critiquing. As a result we ended with a beautiful product because of him and his example.
— Paige Reans, Artist
Justin Gibbs was the encouragement that pushed our team forward. Even through the toughest of times, he reliably held the team’s morale together and reminded us of the goals that we were sprinting towards.
— John Nguyen, Lead Programmer
Working with Justin Gibbs during Lost in the Dark was a remarkable experience. He guided our team to significantly raise our own standards of quality. Justin approaches production as a coach, particularly excelling at fostering a positive work environment, candid and vulnerable relationships, and exceptional team identity. The team was incredibly fortunate to have Justin as a producer.
— Justin Loar, Level Designer