The Night When He Left

Interactive Story Game




The Night When He Left is a solo-developed UE4-project. It’s an interactive story about coping and the continuous revisitation of memories, and eventually finding a way out of spirals and darkness. Florence and Gone Home are big influences in terms of shaping my decision into making this into what it is; not only in terms of story, but also that it’s okay for game to be short experiences as long as you have something to say.

The Night When He Left the outcome of a break-up that cycloned into a pretty dark period of time in my life. I think it’s something many people have experienced, but that period of time of grief that you’re usually used to just endure and then finally push away, that feeling when days bleed into each other and the sensation of something weighing you down seems to spin perpetually.

So, for once, I chose to harness that darkness to make something different. Instead of seeing the darkness as something foul that I need to forget and push away, I wanted to put the feeling in the spotlight; it is a part of me, and I should embrace and value the emotions that come with it, even if they are sometimes difficult to deal with. I’ve never really been good at talking about my feelings, so using art and now the Unreal-engine kind of helped me make something that I best represents my state of mind. Communicating about mental health publicly is a bit daunting, but I think it’s a good step for me to push myself to do it.

Art Direction

When it comes to the art in this game, I wanted to create something that I felt I hadn’t seen before and could really portray the more raw and personal aspect of this project. I wanted to create a style that almost would resemble a sketched movie from my mind and I ended up with the visuals that you see now. I wanted that feeling of a low frame-rate to permeate the game, and it’s reflected in some of the particles, the environment textures, and also animations. The waves were created with this technique too just wave-sheets rolling in.

Choosing When to Break Away from Conventional 3D Techniques

I think that once you choose an art direction in a project, it’s not just about what looks good on a still-frame, something that I can kind quite immersive-breaking is whenever something is supposed to feel like another medium looks quite good just based on a still-frame of the 3D, but as soon as you start engaging with the world, the fantasy falls apart because maybe something is just moving way too smoothly to actually fit that style.

So that’s something I worked with a lot in this project. I always loved the feeling of having rain outside, so this was one of the things I really wanted to spend time on getting right as I imagine it in my head. After trying a simpler particle effect and not feeling I was getting what I needed, I experimented with just layering effects on top of each other, so I have 3 animated billboard sheets that together create the sensation of “rain” in this game. And for what I wanted to portray in this game, it really felt like it was enough. I really wanted that feeling that the rain was really shattering the ground outside, but that you’re comfortably shielded inside.

Symbolism through Gameplay

I wasn’t able to create interesting gameplay since I’m not a programmer. At the same time, I don’t believe that gameplay needs to be overly complicated to be able to make an interesting point. In this game, the game starts off in gray values, and as the romance grows, the world around the player starts bursting in vibrant colors. This would symbolize how everything in your world seem so much more bright when you fall in love. Vice versa, at the end of the game, the colors are inversed. The colors are out of reach, while everything close to the player is fading back into grayscale. The very last scene is just in complete black and white, with no shades.

The way the player progresses through the levels is by finding a bottle of wine which they gulp down, fading the scene and starting the next one. It is supposed to represent an unhealthy way of coping by repressing memories that might seem hurtful. However, in the laters stages the bottle disappears, signalling that the only way to get through is to accept that darkness and pain is a part of human emotions, and they don’t need to be pushed away; they need to be processed, and they can help you grow.

Additionally, there are several literal spirals in the game, which is the visual representation of the figurative spiral where you mentally keep tumbling down.