MELT is a video game with persuasive rhetoric, where a core mechanic — melting, metaphorically corresponds with a global issue — climate change. The limitations, rules and moral dilemmas were developed to deliver a clear message: every individual is responsible for ecological collapses. My goal was also to prototype some features that might help to enhance the immersion of the traditional point-and-click genre, such as a fully interactive environment, intuitive actions, and the inability to get stuck.
The game depicts the work of the Antarctic station, a place with the harshest climatic conditions on Earth due to the low temperatures and lack of oxygen. The consequences of global warming are especially vivid there. Players investigate mysterious circumstances, trying to figure out why the station has become abandoned.
The visual contrast between the snow-white icy desert and the player’s bright costume indicates the confrontation of naturalistic with industrial, also giving a hint of the fundamental conflict in the story. Horror component discloses in dim lighting, dark colors, and tangible force of nature.
The player takes a role of an engineer who is approaching the station to make a routine inspection. Upon arrival, they see the building covered in thick snow. The lab staff is not responding. The weather gets worse, cutting off the way back, and leaving no other options but entering the abandoned facility. From now on, the player has to investigate what happened, to save not only his own, but eight other lives.
By the long press of the right mouse button, you can melt the layers of the snow with the welder. The tool can overheat from long-lasting usage, leaving the player freezing in the room. Also, there is a risk of burning a crucial piece of information and losing valuable clues. The only non-flammable game objects are the crossings between levels.
Based on the alpha-tests, most first-time players are melting everything surrounding them. It happens because while gaming we tend to fall into the flow of subconscious testing of the game’s possibilities and completing quests. In MELT, that kind of behavior leads to the negative ending, because all traces of survivors are destructible. Failing, next time players start to think critically and trying to keep the right balance to succeed.
Showing procedures without the direct propaganda, I tried to deliver the persuasive message that heating and freezing are processes, losing control over which might bring the humanity to a climate crisis.
Apart from destroying the environment, the players can explore it. Behind the ice, doors, and sometimes even walls, there are objects to interact with. Some interactions lead to gaining pieces of the storyline, others are lined up in a chain of evidences about what had happened. The more important the item — the more difficult it is to find it.
Personal possessions are automatically saved in a workers’ interface page. Decoding secrets behind them influences the ending: nature side, people side, harmony, or collapse.
MELT invites the player to experience a story instead of seeing it through text or item descriptions, as in the other room escape games. With the temperature increase, the screen fogs up, and you can hear the character’s heartbeat and the fire crackling. When the temperature falls, the wind worsens the view, and sounds of ice grinding and heavy breathing appear.
Special effects create a connection between the character and the environmental processes, and between the player and the consequences of his actions.