For six Elon University students, what started as ideas written on sticky notes during their Winter Term class at the start of 2023 became a published video game just months later.
“Samira: Taken From Time” is a free, narrative-driven, puzzle-solving adventure game featuring an animal companion, a post-apocalyptic world, time travel, ancient gods, supernatural powers and futuristic technology.
Interactive media student Morgan Chisholm said the most rewarding part of creating the game was figuring out how to incorporate everyone’s ideas and seeing it all come together in the final product.
“How do we connect time travel to ancient technology to futuristic technology to all of these things that we wanted to see represented?” Chisholm said. “It ended up being a really cool culmination of what the game ended up being in the final product.”
“Samira: Taken From Time” is the result of Elon’s game design minor core capstone, which was a combined Winter and Spring Term course. The course had only six students who decided to work as a team rather than splitting into smaller groups. Although Chisholm said they had a smaller team and much shorter timeline compared to similar independently published games, which she said often take over a year to create and publish.
Chisholm worked on the game as the level design head and environmental design head, developing the layout and graphics in each level.
Senior Henry Agyemang created most of the game’s narrative, which follows a woman named Samira as she finds herself in an ancient African society after traveling back in time to escape the apocalypse. Agyemang said the game was based on his own culture from Ghana.
“Growing up, I didn’t really see games representing my own heritage,” Agyemang said. “I thought it would be a cool idea to use this project as a gateway to bring in my own culture and have at least another game — if any — about my own culture out in the market.”
One way Agyemang said he incorporated his heritage into the game was with Adinkra symbols. In the game, these symbols are each associated with a god Samira meets.
“The gods’ names, they all come from Twi — which is the language that we speak,” Agyemang said. “They all come from symbols called Adinkras.”
Though Agyemang was in charge of the game’s narrative, the whole team worked together to bring the story to life.
While they worked on the game during their Tuesday and Thursday class periods throughout spring semester, Chisholm and Agyemang said the group spent many late nights and weekends in Duke building.
“We did end up putting like 30 extra hours every week outside of class, sometimes 40,” Chisholm said.
Some members of the group had taken classes together before their Winter Term class over the course of the minor, but Agyemang said it was their first time all working together as a group.
“Everyone brought their own ideas,” Agyemang said. “And everyone’s ideas was able to be represented in the game.”
Their different interests, skill sets, backgrounds and majors are part of what made the game come together so well, according to Chisholm.
“It’s very easy to box in game design into the software development, computer sciences area because that’s where it lives in the Duke building, but game design is for everybody,” Chisholm said. “All of these different skills, that without that the game would have been completely different because we couldn’t lean on that expertise.”
Chisholm herself was a communications design major and worked on the game’s graphics and environmental design. Another team member, John Spitznagel ’23, was a music production and recording arts major who served as the team’s audio engineer.
While the six of them worked together closely, Agyemang said each member of the team had their own roles and aspects of the game to focus on, such as user interface design, character rigging and design, sound design, level design and environmental design.
Agyemang said his favorite part about the game was seeing how each of the different elements and ideas were represented in the finished game.
“Having seen that all come together as a final product was beautiful for me because it showed that no one overpowered anyone else,” Agyemang said. “We truly worked as a strong team to make this game come to life.”
The game was published on Steam, a digital distribution platform for computer video games, on May 3 and is only compatible with Windows devices. Since publishing the game, the team released one small update, but have no plans to make any further changes or updates.
“It’s out there, it’s in the world. I don’t think I’m touching the game again,” Agyemang said.
Agyemang said he still regularly checks the Steam statistics. As of Sept. 5 “Samira: Taken From Time” has been added to 15,876 user libraries with 213 unique players.
Steam users and curators are able to tag the game to add it to lists of games with similar elements. Some of the tags on “Samira: Taken From Time” include “action-adventure,” “atmospheric,” “funny,” “dystopian” and “sci-fi.”
Agyemang said he likes looking at how long users are spending on the game. According to Chisholm, it takes 45 minutes to an hour for a full playthrough, though the game can be completed in 30 minutes.
“Most of the time people have played it more than the given time it takes to play the game, which means they’ve played it multiple times.” Agyemang said. “We saw one person play the game for 10 hours and I was really confused on if he was stuck for 10 hours or he had played the game that many times.”
Steam data also tracks where the game has been downloaded. As of Aug. 25, the top spots for “Samira: Taken From Time” included the United States, with 60 downloads; Russia with 15 downloads; Germany with eight downloads; and France with seven downloads.
Chisholm said she reads each of the reviews left on Steam. As of Sept. 5, of the game’s seven reviews, only two of them do not recommend the game.
Steam user ScaptainSky left a review after playing the game for seven hours, and has since spent over four more hours on the game. Their review said they had replayed the game several times and rated it an eight out of 10, with low difficulty and appropriate for a wide age range.
The game’s multi-generational appeal was intentional, according to Chisholm.
“I was very adamant that it would be a game that 8, 9, 10-year-olds could play because I have two baby cousins who I love very much, and they were really what I wanted to show this off to,” Chisholm said. “We wanted everybody to be able to get something out of this, learn about a different culture, be able to play through a really fun story with relatively low on- boarding or tutorials — you don’t need to be a master computer gamer to play this game.”
Some of the comments point out different glitches in the game, but still recommend it.
Chisholm said despite the glitches, she is still incredibly proud of what the game has become, especially considering the process it took to create it.
“It’s not 100% the perfect, polished game we wanted it to be, but it’s everything we needed it to be and I think that is for me the biggest win,” Chisholm said. “As a game it works, it tells the story we wanted to tell, it has all of the things we wanted in it. And for us to make that in four months is unheard of — especially with six people and never having made a game before.”