Paradigm: Visual Novel Thriller with Pixel Art

Made with Unity3D for the Loading Screen Jam

It’s been a couple weeks since our last update and we hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We took a little break this past week to spice up our creative juices by attending the Loading Screen Jam.

Do you every wonder why loading screens are, well, just loading screens? Do ever wonder why you just sit there and watch a spinning circle as you wait for the next level to load?

Well apparently, Namco filed a US patent 5718632 back in 1995, which forbid interactive loading screens. It’s 2015 and the patent has finally expired, so the theme of this jam is creative things that you can do involving loading screens.

Our submission, Paradigm, is a mystery visual novel with puzzles, thrilling alternative endings, nerdy humor, and pixel art. Staying true to our in-house values on personal development and straying away from what we’re comfortable with, we picked up new tips and skills for this game, specifically in writing mystery stories and drawing pixel art.


Writing a visual novel game turned out to be a lot harder than we expected. Branching dialogue—storyline changes depending on how the player responds to questions—requires a dialogue manager, which also needs to initiate sprite animations and cinematics. The more branches our story had, the more complicated the coding got. With only one week to finish the game, we put together a shoddy, barely functional dialogue manager.


In regards to writing a story, a text-based adventure like Undertale requires well-paced dialogue that develops the characters’ personalities and makes revelations without revealing too much. Guy Hasson’s post on Gamasutra has an excellent in-depth example on how to write a mystery.

Designing the reveals means that you are now beginning at the lowest tier and working your way up. Your hero will begin at one of the items at the lowest tier, and not be able to see that there is an entire network of things to be discovered. Now build the plot so as to guide your hero from one item to the next on the same tier, slowly climbing up to reveal the big reveal of that stage.

I highly recommend checking it out.

The following picture shows our brainstorming of possible story routes, with each smaller post-it being a sub-mystery that builds up suspense for the final reveal.

It ended up taking us four days to fully flesh out the story, leaving us only three days to code, write the dialogue, and draw the art. You can imagine the smiles on our faces when the jam was extended 3 days.


I was inspired by Hyper Light Drifter and Doko Roko and wanted to take advantage of this short break from Mind the Traps to try it out. It turned out to be a lot of fun. You can check out my pixel tutorial on how I settled on this art style.