I wanted to make sure every small detail of the game had meaning
When I decided to wrap Memoir En Code around a meta-gaming layer of interaction, I thought I had to stay true to the autobiographical nature of the project. Memoir En Code is a game designed to be experienced like a music album, with the difference that every track is an interactive autobiographical game. Every small part of the game is designed to hold strong personal traits, and this results in a number of elements that are not necessarily visible to the player, but that definitely contribute to defining Memoir En Code autobiographical.
Game code to follow game design principles
One of these elements is the way the game encrypts the save data. After playing Memoir En Code many times and after finding some secret elements hidden in the game, the code generates a key that the player can use in order to decode a message hidden in the game’s save data. I could have used random numbers to encrypt data and generate this key, but I wanted to make sure every small detail of the game had meaning. Because of this I decided to use dates that relate to the game events.
One of the first game tracks is based on the times I would say goodbye to my girlfriend while being in a long distance relationship; the game encodes the save data by using the dates of the plane tickets related to those moments. Another track is based on memories of my life in the Netherlands; the game uses the date I left my country to start my life abroad. The same goes for all the other game tracks, encrypting data based on significant dates.
It was perhaps unnecessary to use these dates to encrypt the save data since it’s not something the player is necessarily exposed to, but since Memoir En Code is the most personal project I’ve ever developed, I needed to know that every bit of it would follow the design of the entire work.
After obtaining the secret decryption key, the player can use a decryption tool called Memoir De Code to try and reveal a personal message I wrote to give closure to the experience. The players that want to find the message are required read through the save data of the game, and this for me was enough to justify spending time and effort to give meaning to the numbers shown in the ini files. The player won’t know what the dates refer to, but I think that making personal games has to feel entirely genuine to the player, as well as the designer.