Hi! It’s been fairly quiet here since the New Year because I’ve been working on one of the most challenging and busy contract projects by far, by doing a lot of fundamental in-game engine work. Whenever I can, I have tried to make some spare time for adding to game design concepts, aesthetics and writing fiction. Additionally, I was able to be part of two 48-hr game jams during this time, Toronto Global Game Jam and TOJam, which were both fascinating experiments with some great talents.

Starting late May and early June, I will create more content for this website, including blogging about Canadian game dev projects, events, and communities. I will also talk about international game development, but I will aim to shed light on more Canadian content because we have quite a unique talent pool and very engaging voices that are sometimes not explored by enough people who know about indie games. To that end, I will also redesign the layout of this website so that it is much more comprehensive and content is much easier to find. Ah, maybe even bring my Twitch.tv channel back to life more frequently (though this is the most difficult to schedule in)!

One of the first things that I will cover will be Bit Bazaar Spring Fair at Bento Miso, which showcases Games, Crafts, Zines and good food in conjunction with TCAF. It runs all day Saturday, May 10. Because I am expecting a lot of fantastic content – video, pictures, and lots of excited words – I will update gradually about the cool things from the Fair over the course of this month and early June.  Also because I am, as of writing, in crunch mode.

Line-up for Bit Bazaar on May 10! So excited.

Line-up for Bit Bazaar on May 10! So excited.

I won’t claim that I am an impartial observer in game development. I think that it is hard to, from a practical standpoint, because I am embedded on the production and content creation end. Additionally, I come from a background of cinema studies, and I think it would be a strange thing to not attest any sort of cinphile or mediaphile. I can claim formalism when I commit to it, certainly. But in a blog, I cannot say that I do not love the field of games and new media, and, as such, I think my coverage will be more accurately understood as Editorials. Succinctly, I am of the belief that, when I love something and it is presented as such (ie not under academic rigour), there are emotions involved, and therefore there cannot be an impartiality.

Okay I don't have that many pictures lately, hence the picture from December's massive ice storm at the top. But this one is from February! With lots of the VR Jam participants hanging out at Bento Miso. It's just such fun working with these talents.

Okay I don’t have that many pictures lately, hence the picture from December’s massive ice storm at the top. But this one is from February, when our Oculus VR Jam shirts arrived! With lots of the VR Jam participants hanging out at Bento Miso. It’s just such fun working with these talented and cool folks.

What I can say is that I want to meet friends, new and old, and share good works with a broader audience. I want to give back to the Toronto game dev community that has been so vibrant the past year for me. I want to do that in writing and in vlogs. I want to share some of my joys and the joys of fellow devs, who may or may not have gone on a similar journey as the one that I’m embarking on. With great friendship comes great learning experiences, and so, I hope that it’ll be a positive learning experience, not just for myself, but for everyone: Readers, writers, creators, all.

2013 was a year of growth for me. Painful growth, thorny and weedy and out-of-place.

The start of 2013: I was still coming into my own, still ill at ease with my sense of personal and cultural identity, feeling at odds and far away from home. This was despite that I had found work and rent in my place of birth: Hong Kong.

And then I fell in love with the city, despite my own fresh heartbreak, plus the feeling of hopeless inadequacy without the perception of my grandparents’ generation to guide me through its labyrinthine sociopolitical heritages (unlike them, I have a myopia for war and conflict). I was barely making rent, but my want for independence still played to fit the colourful, liminal spaces. I was breathing in the smog, but also the omniscient lights and the throngs of people from all walks of life. I dared myself to persevere, and by consequence I saw that each neighborhood has a life-beat of its own.

I threw myself into work, of twisting vertices and bones, and setting them to an animation track. Stress tests. I walked out of the office at 9pm for fast food congee and walked back in on a sudden Eureka moment because I lived 5 minutes away, in one of the most condensed metropolitan centres in the world. And, somewhere along the way, the colour palette shifted, like a filter under the cinematographer’s technique. An orange warmth of the hues as I scraped up the Mid-Levels escalator with new friends, local and cosmopolitan, and felt like I could touch that sky that had never seen snow.

Dichotomies exist in all cities. The old and the new. Hong Kong's captured me.

Dichotomies exist in all cities. The old and the new. Hong Kong’s captured me.

I knew, then, that this was what I was meant to do: Observe, fall in love, and tell a story through art and language.

It was a new kind of disquiet when I came back to Toronto in March 2013, five months after I’ve left for Hong Kong. There would still be frost on the ground for another two months. But what was once familiar had a kind of emptiness in gestures, because the person I thought I would always share them with had left me behind. I lost also the kind of crowds and colors that I thought I could hide in as a personally demarcated “foreigner”.

It brought to the forefront of how I am so compelled to re-examine my identity. I have never been more hyper-aware of the ambiguity of my Westernized personality and socialization. It wasn’t a question posed within the walls of academia for once, but in everyday perceptions and conversations. Those missed opportunities for grasping something meaningful about one’s social roles and beliefs, especially. In the case of those who have had their foundations in mainland China, there was such a gap of shared cultural experiences with me as to be a chasm.

Babel is that project about identity. It was born from staring at a mirror shining with naiveté and idealism, and wondering how they’d be lost. It was losing track of language, signs, faces and realities, and gaining it again. Babel is the understanding that many people in a city state goes through this transformation in various ways.

In Hong Kong, I was taking photographs for the express purposes of documenting memory and being able to reproduce it in 3D. For an interactive experience.

In Hong Kong, I was taking photographs for the express purposes of documenting memory and being able to reproduce it in 3D. For an interactive experience.

It’s a work of fiction that aspires to be art. It’s primarily inspired by the many contemporary concerns of an advanced capitalist state where demarcations of East and West are rarely clear. There were many times when I am writing Babel as a script that I had rewritten again, so that the core themes have a deep presence that can be read across multiple tonalities. It’s not until I’d become more embedded in the local game development community and met so many diverse talents in the latter part of 2013 that I have a true confidence that storied experiences can have local flavours can also be universally approachable. I had always known this in theory, but it was different to put into practice as a content producer.

Loss and rediscovery of identities and culture?
That’s lingua franca to everyone.

Where-ever you are, where-ever you’re thinking of: There’s something to be said about loving a place so full of pastiche. A localized cinematic examination, I’ve found, can give such homage to a place as to add to its breathing structures. With the demarcations of light and movement, the artistic compression of a city onto film patch a unique intentionality. And an unspoken intimacy, even if we don’t understand a single line of dialogue.

It’s never going to get easier. In 2014, and in the years to come, the stories I want to create as well as those foisted upon me will only become more textured. The plot will be convoluted. But that’s part of the challenge. That’s part of the hope.


Babel’s team had a great time in its first outing at Bit Bazaar’s Arcade. Bit Bazaar is a Toronto celebration of comics, arts and crafts, and the local game development community, brought to life at Bento Miso by Jennie Faber and her team of awesome volunteers. For the short amount of time that I was able to peel myself away from Babel’s station, I was able to get to know some really diverse and engaging talents from Toronto’s comics and game development scene.


Although we are really only one month into crucial development time, and even less if we count that towards building our showcase level, it was a great way for us to really come to face how to develop as part of a community rather than in isolation. It was also a great milestone for us to aim for. Some might say a little prematurely, given that we were rubbing shoulders with game devs with over a year in development for the games that they are showcasing. At the same time, we already share a common understanding that, regardless of the game, the development process comes not only great design and focused themes, but a lot of consistent hard work. We learned a lot from these experienced developers and how they connected with their audience at the Bit Bazaar Market.


We generally got great critiques and feedback from people who engaged with our niche game, and we really want to thank people who tried out our game to give us such thoughtful feedback! We heard back that the atmosphere clicked with a lot of people who tried our game. Some found that the pacing and melancholy was different from the norm but was an interesting vision that usually isn’t articulated in video games. Some really got it, that it was meant to be an artistic interactive experience in the same vein as games like Dear Esther and Cat and the Coup, or even closer to arthouse cinema, from which it gained its inspiration (Chungking Express and other Wong Kar-Wai films). Personally, I am delighted by the interest from academics, who see potential of Babel as a way to describe and contextualize difficult narratives of political and personal identity within the format of interactive puzzles.

At the same time, we want to push the boundaries a bit further to blur the categories of artistic and emergent gameplay experiences, so we will look to redesign better puzzles, both relying on logical and lateral puzzle-solving. We know that we can push the emotional emphasis to the game a lot better, while more gradually revealing themes and conflict of the narrative. We will keep honing the script, level design, art, and game logic to that end!

Thank you Bento Miso and the Bit Bazaar organizational team for such a great experience.

Alexander Martin (@Droqen of Starseed Pilgrim fame) checking out our game! Thanks for the feedback! Looking forward to incorporating the changes.



Yasin really liked our game! Thank you for all the fantastic feedback!


Thank you team! From L to R: Me (Tanya), Blake Withers, Mikki Benaglia, and Rob Richard.


For the video walkthrough of the prototype level, click here!


This is just something that I just started developing after coming out of Bit Bazaar and the first Babel build. I started thinking up the idea of creating a slice-of-life story of a girl who grew up in an entertainment agency and wants more than anything else to step into the role of an idol, just because that’s all that she grew up with. As everything else that is so manufactured and under the watchful eyes of another, I think there’s room to create a world of dreams as well as insurmountable nightmares, pressures, and fears.

I created this chapter in Twine over the course of eight hours (with plot outlines that I’m not showing you, of course!). Some GIFs are sourced from performances. Unmoving images are my own.

You can play the first chapter here.

Just newly built on Dec 7th, 2013!

Here is the artwork from Babel’s first prototype, built in Unity and 3DS Max. Story and art driven, Babel was a challenging one month build because I had to ensure that the first chapter’s script was comprehensible to the world that I had to level design for, while keeping the authenticity of East Asian urbanity. I had over 75% of all model assets to complete for a six-minute puzzle game.

It is an experimentation with a painterly acrylic look to the art assets. The rest of the models – including the NPC – are created by Mikki Benaglia and Blake Withers. Rob Richard was the lead for programming, real-time deployment and optimization.

Gameplay: You throw a projectile to hack into electronics, in order to reveal game dialogue. We are going to continue to develop this gameplay mechanic further so that there’s more iterative puzzle solving.

Our timeline for this build:
2 weeks of preproduction: Script writing, script editing, level design, asset list, concept art, core systems
2 weeks of production: Voiceover recording, promotional printing materials, modelling assets, building the level, coding scripts, lighting, video editing

In engine (Unity):



In Max:






Babel_Preview_FavoriteElectronicsSome of my favorite electronics.



Double Blind is a project that first started in Aug 2013′s Indiecade/Oculus VR Slow Game Jam.
It is a multiplayer PC first person game using the Oculus Rift Head-Up display.

It features a tag game between two to four players, where one person plays at the Medusa, and are able to freeze other players in their tracks. The other players seek out fortunes in the ruined temple within which she resides…

I was the Lead Artist for this project. The majority of the art assets, excluding pillars and the Medusa herself, are created by me. I also designed the look and feel of the world based on Creative Director’s greybox. I designed lighting and also build some shaders in engine. It is built in Unity.





This is the first concept art that I did for Babel. It was at first just a vague idea in my head that I wanted to do something about Eastern Asia and mass consumption. I started the drawing in Hong Kong, specifically in the Wan Chai neighborhood. I finished it in Toronto.


Babel is a single-player 3D video game that encourages the player to explore and solve puzzles to piece together a complex, narrative-driven world. This world is set in an alternate-history, current-day Hong Kong. This vertically structured urban jungle will tell the story of a people with contrasting cultures and ideologies, with dreams of improving their social standings, coloured by their personal ethics and fears. As you search for a missing friend, you are drawn into a brewing discontent between an underground group claiming to speak on behalf of the people, and a conglomerate that owns most of the city.

I’ve since changed the art direction for this significantly, since I created this in a few days in time for an ideation roundtable with local game devs! Nonetheless, it shows some of the themes that I will be developing for, even though I will likely change the Engine from UDK to Unity.

Please view in full screen in HD for optimal quality. Thank you.

So I completed my first solo weekend game jam games at Dames Making Games (@DMGToronto) at the Snacktember members jam! It was a lot of fun, and definitely a test in self-judgement and self-reliance. Prior to this, I have completed Ludum Dare 26 (themed “Minimalism”) as a floater and the Oculus VR Jam (3 weeks long slow jam for the Oculus Rift) as an Art Lead. Snacktember’s theme was “tropes, especially inspired by Feminist Frequency’s Tropes Vs. Women”.

I figured Twine would make a great starting point for me to really flex my design muscles of out how narrative games really works. This would be a great way for me to figure out how to design for my real baby, Project Babel, to have naturalistic narrative progression in interactive game form. I have never learned Twine until this jam. Thankfully, my initial impression is true: It really proved to be a great exercise in not just creative writing, but also in game design.

Play it here!

Mind, it’s a prototype, built and learned in a cumulative 16 hours. Yes, minor grammatical and sentence structure gripes.


I also really wanted to pay respects to the theme. After significant questions marks popping up all over the space above my forehead, I figured I’d go with something that is both a familiar narrative theme to me, but also a challenge to write. I wanted to subvert the damsel in distress trope by putting the player in the role of a woman who is under house arrest for a politically motivated charge. It’s also a story about friendship and redemption. Yes, you are actually being put in the situation of  “Peach in a Castle” in the style of pragmatic realism, not a male-oriented fairytale. When I say that it’s based on familiar themes, it is because I take to reading both polisci analyses and political film thrillers.

What I really enjoyed:

  • Taking the time to write out a comprehensive storyline summary (about 5 pages long), suggesting the relationships of characters and their environment ahead of time.
  • How CSS really isn’t that hard, even though I probably shouldn’t have prioritized at all, but it was fun to make the Twine look unique and fit the storyline.
  • Seeing the Twine build get updated and then seeing how all the “scenes” flow together.
  • I liked my own thematic take on subverting the damsel in distress.
  • How basic Twine is so easy that I was surprised by it. Simple but powerful.
Wow, too much text! Here's a picture interlude of something that visually inspired me. This is by Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters, Carnival, 1947. Dadaist art is a response to the horrors and illogic of war. Header image is Dadaist-inspired graphic design by Jack Deane, student of Manchester Metropolitan U.

Wow, too much text! Here’s a picture interlude of something that visually inspired me. This is by Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters, Carnival, 1947. Dadaist art is a response to the horrors and illogic of war.
Header image is by Francis Picabia, Hera 1929.

What could be done better:

  • Oh my gosh, so much. I had a loss of faith on the second day that I was spending way too much time in areas of the game that the protagonist is “alone”. But it turned out that it was my best writing. Thankfully, I didn’t axe any of it. (What Henry Faber (@henryfaber) said is right: Don’t change your direction halfway through the game jam. Stay the course.
  • I had not had the time to do 66% of the game. I honestly thought that I would be able to get maybe 75% of the writing done, if not all of it. Writing well takes longer than expected, but now I know how to time myself. I need to basically start thinking of it as I do with anything like a 3D game:
    1. Create a something akin to a greyboxing but in Twine, laying out all the branches of the story. I was so enamoured by Twine that I started writing chronologically; I fleshed out the descriptions and felt so connected to the story that I was emoting it. Even though emoting is actually kind of harmful to happiness and stamina for a project like this.
    2. Then, figure out which pieces of the story are the centre stage pieces, the ones that are the high points of exposition in the narrative. That’ll give it better flow, just like in a 3D level.
    3. Good texturization is important, though, because it helps sell the atmosphere as realistic and suitable for the world that it’s meant in. Same for 3D level design as it is for interactive novels. I should have approached it more strategically, maybe working out some of the dialogue parts out of chronology, but only after the skeleton/”greyboxing” has been established.
    4. I actually haven’t tried the above method yet, but when @HenryFaber mentioned it, I was like like “oh”! I just talked about this in a presentation! Hahah, spot on.
  • Related to the above point, I actually didn’t have enough time to flesh out the exposition via dialogue as much as I had hoped (Part II). It’s rushed and I know it, and empathy for my characters therefore takes a nosedive. It’s because they’re not three-dimensional enough for me to implicate what their motivations and contradictions are.

Like all game jams, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. Dames Making Games is such a welcoming community for me to explore more unusual game content such as a story about a woman’s gradual agency even in the most limiting of circumstances. I’m very blessed to be part of such a community and to receive such positive feedback and thoughtful advice from the members and coordinators there. Thank you for making it a great experience! Special thanks to @alexalksne for reading through some of my first Twine passages and letting me know that it hit the right tenor.