The Call of Karenprojects > call-of-karen
Systems Programmer, Technical Designer
Marketing, Community Management, Localization, Player Tech Support
Jan 2019 - Jun 2020
- • Featured in Kritiqal Care Podcast
- • Featured in Den-fami Nico Gamer News
- • Runner-up @ MassDigi Game Challenge 2020
- • Showcased at PAX East 2020
- • Featured on Boston Indies Talk Show & Happy Hour
- • WPI Provost MQP Award
- • Featured in WPI Virtual Research Showcase
The Call of Karen is a PC simulation comedy game about a 1950s suburban housewife whose home is invaded by Cthulhu. Play as Karen, trapped in an unhappy marriage taking care of an ungrateful child, and faced with the struggle of keeping up appearances in the face of a home gone mad.
As a programmer and tech artist on a small team, I contributed to all aspects of design, development, and release.
We released the game for free on Steam in June of 2020, earning various awards, press coverage, and over 120,000 downloads worldwide. The game was officially sunsetted in summer of 2022 after two years of support.
Designed and implemented HUD and menu UI
Created custom subtitle engine and UI localization features supporting 8 languages (English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, Portugese, Polish, Japanese)
Developed high-level gameplay systems in C++ and Blueprint, streamlining implementation of gameplay mechanics and storyline
In-engine implementation of 2D and 3D art, including furniture interactivity and animations
Developed/maintained callofkaren.com and carried out pre and post-release marketing and community management
Co-authored a published research paper detailing the game’s design process and technical implementation
The Players Know Best
None of the gameplay from the first playtesting build made it into the final game. It was critical for us to put the game in front of players early and often to understand what a majority of our players found funny, confusing, and stressful in order to achieve the right levels of frantic and absurd without overwhelming or frustrating players.
Expect the Unexpected
In addition to working with unfamiliar tools and inconsistend schedules, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to transition to fully remote work 3 months before our intended release. By announcing our release for "Summer" rather than "June," we had unknowingly given ourselves a much-needed buffer to adapt to these rapid changes.
Scope is Key
The game was scoped for an estimated 2-3 months of work for a feature-complete greybox. This allowed us to manage unexpected delays gracefully, and left the majority of our 9-month timeline open for playtesting, iteration, and polish. We ultimately cut several mini-games including smoothie-making and lunch-prepping, which allowed us to achieve our beta release deadline without negatively impacting our experience goal.