Adrienne Law on making something digital feel physical

With nostalgia at its heart, Adrienne Law explained how Ustwo Games made its latest project Assemble with Care at November's Nicer Tuesdays.

12 December 2019


Our third speaker at November’s Nicer Tuesdays was Adrienne Law from south London-based studio Ustwo Games. Best known for the Monument Valley series, its work centres around elegant design, artistry and bringing meaningful experiences to mobile audiences.

The subject of Adrienne’s talk was the studio’s latest release, Assemble with Care. The game follows a travelling repair woman that arrives in a small town, here she sets about repairing not only people’s things, but their personal relationships too.

Despite being a mobile game, Adrienne explained that Assemble with Care was created with the idea of making something that is digital feel physical. The team decided that a 3D interface when carrying out the main tasks in the story was integral to achieving this. “It was really important to us to preserve this idea of being able to manipulate the object in 3D, to feel like you could pick it up and look at any part of it that you wanted,” said Adrienne.

She also explained why the specific objects that need to be fixed were chosen, with items from the pre-digital age such as film cameras, record players and cassette decks featured to elicit feelings of nostalgia.

Aside from the design, she explained how the story itself was also key in providing a human element to the game. In her talk, Adrienne mentioned the difficult process of having to edit the story at the same time as testing the usability. Fortunately, it resulted in a positive outcome, as it culminated in the objects becoming more strongly intertwined with the characters and the narrative.

Talking us through the processes involved in making the game, Adrienne also mentioned how extensive experimentation was needed with the game’s dialogue. Through testing, they realised that back-and-forth conversation between the user and characters wasn’t feasible. Instead, they settled on a story told through a narrator, which according to Adrienne is “calm, meditative and feels like someone is telling you a story.”

One of the aims for the game mentioned at the start of the talk was for it to be player-centric, which it turns out was achieved by placing the user in a rather novel position. Adrienne said: “This person who is fixing the objects is serving as a confessional listener, in the way that a taxi driver or a hairdresser might – you end up revealing your secrets to them even though you barely know them.”

She ended by saying that the various components of Assemble with Care are designed to evoke feelings of nostalgia, something that hopefully means anyone can appreciate it. ”It’s something that you can play and enjoy, but you could also pass it to your nan and she might be able to play it and enjoy it too.”

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