Sort of announcing a game: Operator

screenshot of webpage! yeah!

Operator ( is a new project being haphazardly dragged into existence by the team at Negative Brain (me, my dog, coffee) for mobile devices sometime in 2017. Which is pretty aggressive, actually. Now that I write it out there like that. 2017. 2016 isn’t very far from being over.

Great. Look what you’ve got yourself into now, Allen. You total idiot.

What is Operator?

Operator is… currently a bunch of text files, some tests in Unity, and a bunch of stuff/ideas/dreams I’ve stolen from things I like. This is how video games get made. It’s a disgusting business.

More importantly…


What will Operator be?

Operator is a real-time terminal puzzle adventure set in a very near and very bent version of the world in which we find ourselves today. Players take on the role of an “operator” – agents employed by Risk Management corporations to provide support and security to anyone willing to pay for it. Using the tools provided, an operator will have to make split-second decisions that mean the difference between client success and failure. Ensure client stability. Solve lateral thinking puzzles. Research targets and locations. Provide advice on dating. Make prank phone calls. Start a genetic fur trading empire. Bribe some public officials. Plan brunch for eight. Pilot drones. Inspect evidence. Feel bad about that one job that went wrong. Drink coffee. Blackmail librarians.


Upgrade from two buttons to the full suite of sixteen buttons. Win “Operator-of-the-year” for six years running. Pass certification tests. Explode some shit probably. Hack all kinds of things. Hack a computer. Hack a robot. Hack a person. Hack some plants. Hack that guy Dennis in accounting who won’t stop posting fliers in the break room about yoga in the park. Steal all his information. Sell it on the black market. Offer to help Dennis find out who did this awful thing to him. Make him feel even worse. Change his passwords to y0gasuckz. Cackle. Dispose of some bodies that aren’t necessarily related. Clone a childhood pet. Get some hardware implanted in your skull. Save an endangered species from extinction. Hijack a radio station. Team up with good people. And bad people. Probably don’t think about good or bad, really. Morality is secondary. Achieve job satisfaction. Improve your score. Impress the boss. Sometimes maybe let someone die but really was that your fault anyway? Definitely surveil and be surveilled. There is lots of surveillance. And timing. And puzzles. And adventure. All from your mobile device while sitting on the toilet or whatever you’re doing–no judgement here just you know wash those hands and don’t ask me to take a picture with that, uhg–

Okay but really

Okay really. Operator is a high concept, low UI adventure game that wears it’s influences directly on it its’ sleeve.

The concept is pretty simple: Marry 3 Minute Games’ Lifeline device-immersive presentation of text adventures in real time with Level-5’s Professor Layton series’ light-but-challenging mini-games and puzzles.

The mission-based, real-time adventures created by the combination of these two sweet-as-hell systems will be wrapped up in a decadent, pulpy exterior inspired by the scarily-near future visions of Terry Gilliam, Philip K. Dick, and Thomas Pynchon.

Truth through absurdity will be the guiding force behind the creative direction of Operator, both through the world in which the adventures will be presented, and the interface with which players will be asked to “Do the Needful.” More on that interface another time.

Because Operator is mission based, the game framework will be extensible and updatable as the game matures, allowing for new stories and adventures to push their way through to unsuspecting players. The goal is to focus on smaller moments of wonder and and engagement which tie into a larger world, rather than rely on one over-arching narrative to carry the experience.

You can read the first (published) story set in the world of operator here: Washington Island, an Operator story. More will be published as the world of Operator leaks out from whatever weird place it came from.

“You could be there one day,” she said to Ed, beaming. “Your Uncle Tom is a groundskeeper for the Rothbergers. He said they said he was an important member of their team.” She gripped his shoulders tightly as the bus swayed back and forth. “You could be an important member of their team, too, Eddy.”




How’s it being made?

Operator is being prototyped with Unity and Yarn, a dialogue-ish/text-adventure-ish/twine-like tool created by @infiniteammo and @NoelFB for the development of pittsburgh-ish game Night in the Woods. It’s been fantastic, and it plugs right into Unity with this handy dandy integration right here.


Between Unity and Yarn, the bulk of the game is accounted for from a systems development and deployment perspective. Thanks to the ease of use of many tools these days, I’m able to develop the game from the ground up (with google’s help.)

Operator will likely be a text-and-programmer-UI for a while before I bring on some assistance to make everything pretty. Step one: make a game that’s fun. Step two: convince an awesome illustrator to help. I have someone in particular in mind, but that’s a little ways down the road. Needless to say, an artist’s ability to convey existential dread through the press of a UI button will be paramount.

Also down the road things which will be needed: foley audio, probably a soundtrack of some sort, and the god-forsaken wasteland that is mobile device testing.

Down the road, as if 2017 is already like, right here. Ahg. Okay. Time to get to work. The bodies won’t bury themselves.

Also published on Medium.