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Client: Aurora 44, Annapurna Interactive Role: Game Designer Tools: Unreal Platforms: Xbox One, Windows 10, Steam

There is a rumble in the distance, and then a light. Through the leaking eyes you make out a peak on the horizon, choking the land in a cloud of ash.

Nothing ever shone so bright. 


Ashen is an Action RPG about forging relationships and finding a place to call home. Inspired by games like Dark Souls and Journey, Ashen takes the player through a harsh world where not all is as it seems.

Through the use of a seamless matchmaking system players stumble upon other real players exploring the world. Player's must learn to trust the strangers they cross, building relationships and overcome the difficult challenges presented by the world. Ashen produced by a dedicated and creative team based in Wellington. It is a declarative statement to the world the new Zealand can make amazing games.


I was brought on to the project in may of 2017 as a Game Designer to help out in the following areas:

  • Traversal Systems: Co-OP Climbing and Treading water systems.

  • Player UI: Player Inventory, Character Creator, Character Stats and Messaging System.

  • Open World Level Design: White-boxing on several critical areas of the game, Cave systems and dungeons.

  • Encounter Design: Encounter pacing and placement, Enemy behavior design, Boss fight design.

  • Quest and Narrative Design: Implementation of Quests and the design of each quests flow.

  • Achievement Design: The creation of some of the game's achievements, deciding on the goals and triggers, along with the amount of Gamerscore awarded for each one (Xbox Live Only).

During my time on the project, my design role was dynamic and varied. I became a specialist in whatever design area was essential to focus on at the time. This dynamic nature of this position prompted me to quickly adapt and learn new skills to become effective in the design role.

With this project being massive in scope and working with a small team, I alongside learning new design skills was required to improve my communication skills as it became very important to make sure everyone was on the same page between each group. This communication from us was either through documentation of designs or chatting directly with the different members of the team in person or through the internal company chat network.

As a designer on ashen, I was also in the privileged position to be able to advocate for the game to accommodate a diverse range of players. I attempted to achieve this by pushing for as many accessibility options, like colour blind settings and fully remappable controls on both Console and PC. Alongside making the game open and accepting of players of various identities, through systems like the character creator.


  • "In Ashen, you survive together in the light or you die alone in the dark."  - ign

  • "Alone and out of healing items, I fell quickly. Despite my defeat, I came away from Ashen energized" - Shack News

  • "When a random player appeared in my game I began to appreciate how special Ashen could turn out to be." Windows Central