Nic Junius

PhD Student, Computational Media
University of California, Santa Cruz

Pronouns: they/them


I'm a Computational Media PhD student in the Interaction Dynamics Lab at UC Santa Cruz. I was previously a Digital Arts and New Media MFA student and an MS student in the Expressive Intelligence Studio also at UC Santa Cruz. I primarily study computational models of character interaction and theatrical practice. At the moment my work is focused on building interfaces and interaction models to facilitate new kinds of expressiveness between players and characters in digital games. Much of the inspiration for the modeling approaches I use is drawn from acting and directing practice in theater as well as computational caricature with the goal of making approachable, customizable systems for interactive narrative projects. Please visit my page for the official pages of my released games.

Selected Publications

Isaac Karth, Nic Junius, Max Kreminski
ICIDS 2022
Best Student Paper Nominee
Nic Junius, Michael Mateas, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Elin Carstensdottir
AIIDE 2022
Nick Junius, Max Kreminski, Michael Mateas
FDG 2021
Best Paper
Nick Junius, Michael Mateas, Noah Wardrip-Fruin
FDG 2019
Batu Aytemiz, Nick Junius, Nathan Altice
DIGRA 2019

Selected Projects

Puppitor is a theatrically inspired digital game interface written in Python designed around giving players and AI behaviors control of a character's physicality during a conversation. Its core features revolve around mapping buttons to different designer authorable actions and the creation of character specific rules governing how performing each action changes a character's currently expressed emotional state. This emotional state and set of actions can then be used to alter the character's gestures, facial expressions, color palette, background music, and other in game elements. My C# port of the library can be found here.
Papers: AIIDE 2022, FDG 2019, MS Thesis
Nick Junius, Joe Rossi, Joseph Bernay, Patrick Russell, Yasha Taylor, Camellia Boutros, Matthew Dunlap, Nicole Maines, Chris R. Rodriguez
Inure is a fully 3D, six degrees of freedom, bullethell game built in Unity as my undergraduate senior thesis project. The project draws heavily from the mid to late 1990s era of science-fiction shooters for its narrative design, told mostly through radio chatter between points of action, and shmups like Ikaruga for the bullet absorption mechanic. Screenshots of the game from prototype to final version can be found here.
Unto the Night is a Twine project that began life as a rewrite of Breach (see Projects). A lot of the aesthetic inspiration for this story came from the military science-fiction I grew up reading and playing, though with a much heavier focus on character than many of those stories. Like its original version cosmic horror crops up more and more as the story goes on, though with a much more, dare I say, positive view of the cosmic entities than the previous iteration. This slightly more positive attitude may also be thanks to the object in the story's cover art developing a cult following while I was working on it (thank you Isaac). Again like this story's predecessor, Unto the Night's plot is related to Inure's mainly through time, place, and fallout, rather than character.
Produced in the 2016 Chautauqua Festival, Dir. Nick Whitlow
One of my small cast, near single setting stories that centers on a group of soldiers trapped in a building and forced to reckon with their identities as tensions mount. One of my main interests in writing this script was the responses different people have to their perception of self being challenged. Sometimes we embrace this and sometimes we violently push back and in doing so reveal about ourselves than we normally would.
Produced in the 2015 Chautauqua Festival, Dir. Kieran Beccia
This play focuses on three characters each vying for control over each others' lives and the different personas they use in the contest. I tried to keep the kernel of what the play was about as ambiguous as possible in the script to allow for productions to fill in those details themselves. With that said, there is still an eye towards issues of mental health inherent in the script.


ARTG 140: Writing for Interactive Narrative
Graduate Student Instructor Summer 2020, Summer 2021
I designed this class to help undergraduate students practice their writing skills with games and other interactive media in mind. The structure was mainly focused around a bi-weekly writing workshop style classroom where students would bring in progress work to be read out loud by their peers or myself followed by a discussion and critique of what was read. I also scheduled time for group playthroughs of narrative focused games to give students a better idea of some of the variety in kinds of projects they might find themselves on.