Never Alone was made in conjunction with the indigenous people of the Inupiat in Norther Alaska. The game tells the story of a young girl named Nuna and her friend Fox as they travel through the dangerous tundra to find a way to stop the eternal blizzard that threatens to destroy their village. Never Alone is based upon traditional stories of the Inupiat that have been passed down orally from generation to generation for as long as people have populated Alaska.
From a gameplay perspective, Never Alone is a 2D puzzle platformer that places a heavy emphasis on mood and atmosphere, more than it does on percise jumps. The most unique concept to Never Alone is of Interdependence. Interdependence is an important part of the Inupiat lifestyle as without being able to rely upon each other, no one would survive the frozen tundra of Alaska. The game captures this element by requiring the player to rely upon the unique skills of both players to solve the puzzles and reach the end. The game is best played in co-op and lasts for about 3 hours.
Never Alone has also been well received by the gaming community. It has won multiple awards including a BAFTA for Best Debut and Game of the Year from Games for Change, as well as being nominated for countless other awards. Never Alone also has an "very positive" rating on Steam from over 2,000 reviewers.
Launch Trailer for Never Alone
Aesthetic: Narrative, Cooperation
Production Completion: January 2015
Game Engine: Unity3D 4.3.4 Pro
Scripting Language: C#
Roles: Level Designer, Game Designer
I joined E-Line sometime during the summer of 2014. Never Alone had already been through multiple iterations and they had finally settled upon the direction you see the game as now. I was brought in in order to help finish out some of the level designs. At this point, only 1 level was completely playthroughable and nearly every level would be completely overhauled leading up to the games launch in November 2014.
On the first day, my friend and designer buddy Brandon (also hired recently) and I were tasked with playing the game and then we were called into a meeting to be shown what level we would take over and rework. After seeing it and hearing many of the problems with the level design, we opted to kill it with fire. Also at this time, Never Alone was having some problems with its narrative around our assigned task, so we worked to solve both. On the second day, Brandon and I pitched the concept of 'Fox Spirit Boy' and designed his mechanics and how he would work. This change completely reworked the latter 1/3 of the game.
We were first tasked with redesigning the Forest level using 'Fox Spirit Boy', which we did. We also began to prototype the new mechanics of 'FSB' and soon enough, the rest of the team started to get on board with this huge shift to the game. Brandon continued to work on the Forest level by building it in Unity, while I moved on to recreate the (unused) Rolling Heads and Blizzardman levels, and later reworked large chunks of the Nuna's Village level.
The Rolling Heads level didn't make it into the game, mostly due to time constraints. I was able to build it out into a fully playable prototype and the level would have been an interesting change of pace for the game. It would have been fairly silly and way over the top as the level was about moving around rocks with spirit faces. One part of the level was one rock (with a face) being stuck in the nose of another rock (with a face) and to get it free, you had to make the rock sneeze. A fun, but buggy and often times frustrating level, I instead turned my attention to redesigning Blizzardman.
Blizzardman already had a design pass, however, a lot of it needed to be reworked to incorporate 'FSB' as he plays completely differently than Fox. I had two major design goals for this level 1) Create an intense "final" level and "boss" confrontation and 2) reuse as much of what had already been built due to a ship date that was fast approaching.
This image here shows the geometry changes that would need to happen to rework the level. The Turquiose represents the original geometry of the level with the black and grey being the pieces that were modified. Seeing this made the producer and artists very happy (for once). From there, I built the level in Unity and constantly reworked the level to remove as much frustration as possible, while maintaining that sense of urgency and intensity.
This is an early video of one of the attempts at creating the Final Adze sequence. As you can see no camera work had been done at this stage, but this concept was cut due to development constraints.
This is an early, grey-boxed version of the Blizzardman level. This part in particular went through the most iterations to get right and was essentially built with duct-tape and spit to get it to work.
Jonathan Gregoire - Game Design
Started at Ready at Dawn as a Senior Level Designer on an unnanounced project.
Last days at Naughty Dog working on The Last of Us Part II.
Shipped the Last of Us Part II press demo level "Patrol".
Started working at Naughty Dog as a Contract Single Player Level Layout Designer on The Last of Us Part II.
I started doing contract work for a start-up company called MyPad3D that focuses on VR experiences for corporate products.
More interestingly, I have begun to prototype my own card game on the side and have been volunteering with Sunbreak Games on an unannounced product.
With a heavy heart, E-Line Media has shut down the Seattle studio, laying off everyone including myself. I am currently looking for new opportunities.
Began working at E-Line Media again as a Level Designer on an unannounced and untitled game.
Updating my website to reflect the work I did on the Forest Song with Colabee Studios. Unfortunately due to funding issues, I am no longer with them, so I am currently looking for new opportunities.
Lots of new stuff since I last updated. Added in a short comic I made called Old Debts. Also have put up information about my role(s) on Never Alone and Never Alone: FoxTales.
Promoted to Lead Designer on Never Alone: FoxTales at E-Line Media.
Graduated Digipen as a BAGD and with a Cum Laude. Started working at E-Line Media as a Level Designer.
Uploaded a new Beta build of Chained. Also just put up the old builds of the game for anyone interested in our very quick process and progress.
I recently wrote a paper that was published for the IGDA about the benefit of Paper Prototyping. You can read it at this following link: http://newsletter.igda.org/2013/11/30/student-beat-faceoff-the-influences-of-board-games-on-video-games/#!