dhQuest: Design/Development


So, like most (all?) things that I work on, one of my biggest goals from the outset of designing dhQuest was to have as clear of a visual communication with the game’s many features and forms, etc., as possible.  (There’s lots more to say about this kind of work regarding my other recent game project, The Reunion, as well, but I’ll have to come back to that in a future post.)

dhQuest checks a lot of design boxes at once, stuck as it is between the worlds of pen-and-paper RPGs and digital gaming.  The obvious inspirations to some of the design work are the great pen-and-paper RPGs (I probably don’t even need to mention Dungeons and Dragons by name, but I will anyway), which set the visual standards for a large portion of the tabletop graphic design work, and many of the game’s mechanics as well.


The Player Character Sheet (for the old-school pen-and-paper gamers!) that lets players record their character and their progress as they play.


But the larger design effort, at least for now, was the digital component.  The game leans pretty heavily on this half at the moment, since the tabletop version remains to be turned into the multiplayer experience it was designed to be.

So for the moment, what we have is essentially a digital single-player experience, and one that straddles the line between game and web application.  As a designer, my goal was make sure it looked just enough like both of those two things that it didn’t accidentally fall fully into the category of being just one or the other.

So, here’s a quick look at some of the design and development stages that went into making the current version of dhQuest‘s digital companion piece (and single-player game).


Quest icons, to give players an at-a-glance view of the availability or completion status of quests.

Since most of the interface for dhQuest was essentially a quest logbook (think World of Warcraft, etc.), it was important to make sure that each quest had a distinct graphic presence depending on its availability, or completion status, to the player.  The goal was to let the player know at even a quick glance which obstacles stand between them and any of their goals, and to satisfy them that they had either met or completed those requirements, in order to progress.  (And, breaking with the subdued color scheme, the “help” icon on the lower right is the one instance of white typography in the mix, to make sure it stands out to the player that needs more guidance.)


The resources (Time, Funding, Staff, and Support), and ending goals (Credibility, Network) that players record during their game.

As with any project, it was important to create a library of simple icons to communicate the stats that the player has available to them.  I’ve been happier with other icon sets of mine, but for the moment this seemed to do the job well enough.  And, though it’s probably lost on exactly no one, the shield icons were a nod to the sorts of heraldic visual flourishes that go hand-in-hand with the medieval fantasy aesthetic of older tabletop RPGs.


Icons representing the Team Members players recruit throughout the game. (IT, Library, Faculty, Student Body)

Finally, the player’s other goal is to assemble a local team of experts to their research group, and I wanted to design a simple visual icon for each of these.

The result–for the moment, anyway–is an interface that combines to look like this:


More soon, about the game itself, and the integration of these elements into the user interface.