Yi Xie
Emotional Connection
Lian 恋 (2020)
Lian 恋 (2020)
Red String (2021)
Red String (2021)
Serendipity InBetween (2022)
Serendipity InBetween (2022)
Throughout my life, there have been a lot of bonds and relationships established through playing games. The power of games in uniting people and passing emotions is a fascinating topic to me. As a level designer, game designer, and gameplay programmer, I make experimental games focusing on establishing emotional connections between players. This portfolio is a showcase of my exploration and experiment starting from 2020 until now. It is a process of me getting deeper into the topic of offering intimate emotional gameplay experiences to my players. Through storytelling using game design, level design, and technical design, I am creating games that widen the bandwidth of player communication and emotional connection. 
Lian 恋: A Game About Love & Distance
Solo Project

Play Through Video of 恋Lian With Subtitle Help Demonstrating the Idea

恋(Lian) is a beautiful Chinese Character that means "feeling attached to." It expresses a strong emotion of humans that they are connected with someone, something, and some event, and I think it perfectly describes the game. 恋 Lian was created at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic after I had just gotten out of a painful and toxic relationship. It is easy for people to underestimate the power of distance until the Pandemic hits. 

In 恋Lian, the world heavily distorts when player separated with each other for a while

The core mechanism of Lian is distance. Players will receive negative feedback that distorts the lens when separated apart, and it will be recovered if they stay in each other's Aura. All the game mechanics, level design, and story design are related to this mechanism. Based on the core mechanic of distance, three levels are developed to discuss three topics related to intimate relationships. In order to conquer these levels, players need to find and acquire the emblems that represent the topic of each level.

Players see the other's Aura on their side of the screen. It is the most important visual indicator players need to pay attention to while playing the game

A relationship between two individuals is combat against themselves, each other, and other distractions. The metaphor of ego, sacrifice, cheating, and the feeling of losing, disappointment, surprise, anger, and scare are all presented by metaphors in level design. Players need to stick together while not losing themself. In this level, players are introduced to the mechanism of Aura and their own Personal Space (Blue and Orange tiles). The ego (character size) of players will shrink if they stay in the incorrect Personal Space (Tile of opposite color). Sometimes players can choose to sacrifice their personal space and make decisions to separate apart in order to achieve goals (bonus).
Difficulties in life hit like bullets. There is no way to run away other than protecting each other and enduring it together. In order to get the emblem of this level, players need to go through a range of bullet hell that pushes players on hit. The core gameplay is to keep calm and stay together. The design of this level focus on the meta-conversation of players in reality. Players' reaction towards the bullet hell and traps consists of the narration of this level. 
Other than the distance, another cold-blooded killer of relationships is Time. In this level, players are introduced to a very long tunnel without any indication of speed and space. Players will be assigned a different speed after entering the tunnel. They need to wait for each other and endure the boredom caused by the tunnel. It is another game mechanism with a focus on the Meta Conversation between players in reality. During the playtest, players endure frustration and uncertainty on this "endless journey" until they reach the end of the tunnel and see the hourglass emblem. Very naturally, they realize the message of this level, and it is the most beloved level in the whole game experience.
Red String
Game Designer, Level Designer, Programmer
Pico-8 ver.
Athena Sullins - Music/SFX
Matt Simons - Art, Level Design, Programmer
Rachel Heleva - Game Design, Narrative Design, Art, Programmer
Yi Xie - Game Design, Lead programmer, Level Design
Red String is a 2-player puzzle platformer that bases on the ancient Chinese myth of Cowherd and Weaver Girl Myth. It is an ancient myth about free love and a celebration of female power in the weaving industry. This pico-8 version is a prototype of an in-progress Red String game made in Unity. 
Based on my work for Lian恋, I want to take another approach in two-player games to create meta-conversation and interaction experiences between players. The theme of Red String is protection. It is an extension of the "Defend" level of 恋Lian.​​​​​​​
Core Mechanics
Red String, according to the Chinese Myths, is the string of fate connected to the destinated lovers. In the game, we visually represent this string of fate using a redline that connects both players. In the game, the only trap that will kill players is the spikes. The fireball, contrary to traditional game knowledge, does not kill players. Instead, it affects the red string that connects both players. We simulate the physical property of a string connecting two objects. When a fireball hits the red string, the players will be applied a force toward the hit point. This force is varied according to each player's distance to the hit point. This mechanism encourages players to move together and sometimes utilize it to fly high. It sets the fundamental of the game.
The other mechanic of the game is the constellation puzzle. The myth of Weaver Girl and Cowherd Boy originated from the Summer Triangle. We take the idea from its origin to design a series of constellation puzzles. In the game, players need to platform and draw the constellation according to the hint. It adds more flavor to both aesthetics and gameplay.
There is a long-term Unity project of RedString is in development. We aim to use games to reinterpret this story and criticize the emerging gender and consumerism problems in China.
Unity Remake
Cowherd Boy Unity Ver. Character Concept Art
Cowherd Boy Unity Ver. Character Concept Art
Red String Unity Ver. Level Concept Art
Red String Unity Ver. Level Concept Art
Weaver Girl Unity Ver. Concept Art
Weaver Girl Unity Ver. Concept Art
Red String Unity Ver. Theme Concept Art
Red String Unity Ver. Theme Concept Art
Art by Xi Yang, Jingwei Zhu
Serendipity Inbetween
Game Designer, Level Designer, Programmer
Game Designer: Yi Xie                            Level Designer: Yi Xie                             3D Artist: Yifan Shuai    
Narrative Designer: Yi Xie, Tracy Lin      Concept Consultant: Jinyi Kang             Music: Ryan Cheung
Special Thanks: Patrick LeMieux, Stepanie Boluk, Eugene Shi
Serendipity InBetween provides a greek tragedy story that lasts for 30 years of two childhood friends in an iconic old community in Shanghai, China. Players experience the game not only as gamers but also through the pioneering use of haptic feedback within the controllers that convey the emotion of one player to another. This is not just another bitter-sweet story in the game but also an unforgettable experience between the players who hold the controllers.

Player Interact with NPCs

Chapter One - Serendipity
On a typical day in Shanghai, China, two kids in Long Tang met each other, driven by an unknown pulse in their bodies. Players can navigate a vivid Shanghai Old Community and interact with people. In this open-world level, players will be able to explore the unique interactive story of each neighbor in the neighborhood. Efforts have been put into this level to replicate the disappearing buildings and communities that were an important history of Shanghainese Culture called Long Tang. Long Tang was the major living community for many Shanghainese during WWI and WWII. It is a mixture of Chinese and Western building styles that become a signature and soul of the Shanghainese culture. 
Shanghai Long Tangs usually have a complicated layout, and we also replicate that in our game. Players have separated apart in the level, and a haptic pulse hint will help them find each other. It is an establishment of emotional connection between players when they find each other guided by the hint provided by the haptic feedback.
Players will also be able to collect character customs to further decorate their character if they interact with neighbors in the communities. This customization will allow players to add their personality to the character. It not only motivates players to explore stories about neighbors but also an action that players project themselves onto the character.

Demo Project For Level 2

Chapter Two - Tacit
Like all teenagers, No one rules them! Two kids sneak out during the night and find a mother cat giving birth...
Players need to collaborate to move fast in the night while not being caught by nosy adults. An experimental haptic feedback game mechanic is designed for this Level. The players can feel each other's input through the haptic feedback, and this will help them conquer the difficulties. This level aims to further fortify the physical connections that emerge player into the game. Players will learn to communicate through the haptics feedback channel provided by the game.

Chapter Three Gameplay Screenshot

Chapter Three - Connection
Growing up together, the huge difference between their family foreshadows two kids' separation. One of them stayed in the community taking care of his/her family grocery store. The other went to a college in another city. The longer they separated, the more they could not help but think about each other.  
This level offers a two-player rhythm game experience where haptics plays an important role in the game feel and narration. This is the twist in the whole game experience where the meta-interaction triggers engage. It is not a normal rhythm game, but an interactive experience about how a sudden connection with others will do to a person.
Chapter Four - Stranger

They finally meet each other again after years. However, everything changed. The difference in their life creates a huge mental filter in their mind. They see their neighbor's stories in completely different ways. It constructs the biggest surprise of the game when players emerge deeply into the experience. The haptic feedback pattern, game content, and music they get used to in the previous level start to lead two players in separate directions. This level is similar to level one, but with multiple events, including the finale, that players need to check together. The asymmetric information for two players at this level will cause meta-conversation in reality. The Player's reaction and interpretation of the finale will form the last piece of this experience. 
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