Outer Wilds is an open-world exploration game set within a time loop that restarts every 22 minutes. The player controls an unnamed alien, a “Hearthian,” who has been training with their species’s (notoriously risky) space program, Outer Wilds Ventures, and is leaving on their first-ever expedition into space to explore the solar system.
Some travellers leave behind journals (framed as audio recordings) that the player can find. Like all other found text in the game, these journals use limited but entertaining text to deliver carefully selected clues about the world and its mysteries.
Narrative design SAMPLES
Found text in outer wilds
I wrote Outer Wilds’s in-game text to fulfill highly specific design needs and support nonlinear narrative progression. Every piece of found text
communicates a clue,
sets up an important piece of world lore, or
builds on themes and characterization,
usually all three at once. By finding these pieces of text and following their clues, the player can uncover the mysteries of the cosmos and piece together the story of the Nomai, the ancient aliens who lived in the solar system long before the player’s species.
Text translator tool
I developed a non-linear style of branching dialogue as part of the Nomai’s unique voice, then worked with the creative director and lead designer to create a translator tool that the player uses to interact with found text in 3-D space. Playtesting showed that not only was this more fun for players, it also significantly increased information retention.