Case: Hukkaputki

Client: A-Clinic Foundation, Nuortenlinkki

What we did: planning and brainstorming, helping with script writing, graphic design animation, programming (Game Maker)

Julkaistu: February 2017

A youth’s life is filled with choices; some good, some bad and many in between. Making choices is not always easy because of peer pressure and friends’ influence for example. We did an educational story game called Hukkaputki with the A-Clinic Foundation’s Nuortenlinkki. The game tells a story of a teenager going home from school and facing many choices along the way – and it’s up to the player to make them.

Nuortenlinkki is a website for adolescents run by the A-Clinic Foundation and funded by Veikkaus. The website offers information, tests, quizzes, discussion and counselling to help adolescents with addictions, mental health problems and life management issues. The page has 10 000 monthly visitors, of which 70% visit the page on mobile devices. The aim of the site is to increase youth’s awareness and stir up discussion – in Finnish and for free.


To enhance the content on the Nuortenlinkki-website even more, the A-Clinic Foundation wanted to add an educational game there. The game was to reach out for new users and support youngsters’ independent thinking concerning the risks and dangers of intoxicants.

AIMS AND GOALS

The basis of the game was to create an interesting, easy-to-use and somewhat simplistic browser game that can be played anonymously on a computer or on a mobile device. The target group was defined to be 13 to 15 years old users of Nuortenlinkki website. The themes and content of the game were to support the existing content on the site. The idea was that the game could also be used in schools in health education classes, for example.

Intoxicant awareness was to be the basis of the script but in a way that the players would really need to actively think about intoxicant related choices and questions. A story game with branching paths was chosen as the genre. The game was to have flexible editing possibilities so the game and its story could be adjusted and edited based on received feedback. The script was set very high standards quality-wise; the story and the dialog should be realistic, captivating and at times humoristic too. The player was to feel as if he or she was one of the characters in the story affecting the flow of events.

Analytics tools were wanted for the game. These could be used to monitor how the game is played and which story branches are the most and least used. With this information, the game and its story could be improved where necessary. Also, the script was to be created with such tools that it could be easily edited before and after the launch.

The visual side of the game was to be plain and simple, and with a fresh and bright colour palette. The character designs were to look identifiable – and be done so that they look identifiable for youngsters in the future too. The style would mirror the visual style of the Nuortenlinkki-webpage, where the game would be featured on. The clarity should also extend to the user inferface, so going through the story and playing the game would be easy for all and the focus would stay on the content. Also, a priority was to make the game experience as enjoyable as possible regardless of the device.

CO-OPERATION

In the beginning of the project, the basis of the script, the outline of the story, the feel of the game experience as well as the major characters and environments of the story were planned. First drafts of the graphics were also done early on to get a better grasp of what the feel of the game would be like, which would help to develop the script too. The experts at Nuortenlinkki were responsible for carefully constructing the story whereas we did the technical and visual implementation of the game.

For one month, we focused solely on the script and the graphics. Both aspects were widely evaluated and commented by both parties and then worked on based on the received feedback. In addition to the feedback from the experts at Nuortenlinkki, the graphics were also uploaded for the target group to evaluatuate on Nuortenlinkki’s Instagram account.

The branching storyline was written to revolve precisely around the intoxicant educational content. The script fuses the existing content of the Nuortenlinkki website, topics from discussions on the site as well as various themes discussed and mentioned on Nuortenlinkki’s social media sites.

When the graphics and the script had been prepared enough, work on the programming commenced. Each week a new version of the game was created. Each version was tested, commented and edited by both parties. The target group also had a part in testing the game; a group of twenty secondary school kids played the game and gave feedback on it. Based on this feedback and the preset quality aims, the game was honed and fine-tuned for release.

OUTCOME

Hukkaputki was released after 4 months of intensive work. The game’s professionally written script is captivating and easy to follow. The story is about a youngster’s way home from school through everyday environments and realistic events. The player is involved in the events as if he or she is one of the characters. Decisions, such as whether to ask what’s bothering a distressed friend, govern where the story branches out and how the other characters react.

The story’s setting of getting home from school was a natural fit for the target group; it is an easily identifiable scenario. During the course of the story, various insights are provided to matters such as bullying, cutting oneself, cannabis, alcohol, snus, parents’ divorce, energy drinks as well as time spent on games. The story was written with the idea that the game would be played through several times but with choosing different choices each time. This would bring the cause-and-effect relationships clearly to the forefront. The story itself became expansive because of its branches; there are a plethora of ways to go through the story.

The graphics of the game were created around the thematic colour of orange that is prominent of the Nuortenlinkki website. Alongside that, a fresh, neutral and timeless colour palette was chosen. Characters are in the main focus of the visuals – just like they are the main focus in the story. The main characters were developed to be clearly teenagers but at the same time not to look too time and place specific. This way the game wouldn’t get outdated and as many adolescents as possible would find the characters identifiable. Also, the characters were designed to be really diverse with different body types, ethnic backgrounds and gender neutrality.

RELEASE

The game was released on the Nuortenlinkki website on the 1st of March 2017 and is there playable for free. The analytics tool of the game will be used to monitor the most and least played branches of the story. This will help in honing the script to better fit the target group’s tastes. Also, the effectiveness of the game’s educational content and the popularity of the game can be monitored with the analytics tool. At a later date, more characters and scenes can be added to the game if players so desire.

”The whole process progressed as planned and communicating with NordicEdu was easy. We are very content with the outcome!”

– Sara Mäkäräinen, the development planner of the A-Clinic Foundation