Nic Junius

PhD Candidate, Computational Media
University of California, Santa Cruz

Pronouns: they/them

Code Libraries

code snippet of the Puppitor update_affect function
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 2023, AIIDE 2022, FDG 2019, MS Thesis


animation of the two characters in Tracks in Snow acting out part of a scene
Nic Junius, others (forthcoming credits list)
An interactive drama Ren'Py game using Puppitor that follows two young women on a road trip. It is a digital play about insecurity, communication, and the complexities of relationships as well as the nature of ghosts and golems. The MFA version of the game can be downloaded through its page.
Papers: AIIDE 2022, MFA Thesis
Freyja Erlingsdóttir, Nic Junius (as Nic June)
Ghost Engines is a science-fiction mecha tabletop role playing game and wargame created for hex grids. The game features simultaneous turns, combined arms warfare, terrain deformation, and extensive construction systems for everything from infantry to mechs. Ghost Engines is playable either as a tournament style wargame or a narrative focused role playing experience. I am primarily responsible for the design of the construction systems, the damage system, network area, weapons, and much of the available equipment. Ghost Engines is still in development and we are looking forward to a full release including campaign rules and additional setting details.
That was a good one, how do you think it's going up there? Gamma puts the reader he was holding onto his exposed chest. We'd probably know if it was getting bad, besides, all the sounds are the same as they've been for the last day. I pull myself into a sitting position. Bets on when our new admiral is going to come see us? Delta's feet patter against their armor.
To Beseech Old Sins is a Twine project in the Mourner's Kaddish for Golems series, featuring the recurring characters of Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Set after Unto the Night and significantly before Homeward in the Roil, the plot is centered on an admiral, the same admiral as makes an appearance in the latter story, asking the three golems to deliver her a victory to avoid further loss of life on both sides of the battle. I'll just say that things turn out unlike anyone, especially the golems, expect. This Twine was a part of the main festival for Spring Thing 2024.
'It's good to hold on to what is important,' they say. 'Ideals. Rules. When you have no berth to call home they will anchor you. Hold them long enough and they will become tradition.' 'Like they did for the wanderer fleets?' I ask. They chuckle.
Freyja Erlingsdóttir, Nic Junius (as Nic June)
Homeward in the Roil is a Twine project collaboration set in the same universe as Unto the Night and One Attempt for the Future, though much later in the timeline. The story deals with the trauma of losing someplace to call home and finding connection across different cultures, and ultimately finding love and belonging in the middle of chaos and uncertainty. I advised on setting details as well as designed the Twine layout and structure to convert the story into interactive fiction.
The hand does more for my pain than morphine ever could. 'Hey.' I still can't manage to stand up. 'What should I be calling you today?' 'I think I've settled on something after last time.' The hand gently rubs my back. 'You want to guess? It's an easy one.'
One Attempt for the Future is a Twine project that began life as a rewrite of Fear thy Nature (see below) and is officially the mark of the beginning of the anthology series titled "Mourner's Kaddish for Golems" (also containing Unto the Night). This story is set long before its predecessor, before space travel was even a thought. The golems are tasked with an assassination under impossible conditions with barely any equipment. Not only are they given an absurd task, their bodies are fighting them every step of the way. This story contains many of my thoughts about having life saving surgery and being pressed back to work as I recovered.
A conversation between a very chill looking professor and a stressed graduate student
James Ryan, Nic Junius (as Nick Junius), Dietrich "Squinky" Squinkifer, Silvia Ordonez, Janel Catajoy, Thovatey Tep, Max Kreminski, et al (see credits page for the full list)
A Twine based interactive narrative game adapting roleplay scenarios to train new graduate students in the responsible conduct of research (RCR). There are nine different stories in Academical, each composed of two different perspectives. The scenarios deal with topics including peer review, study design, and data fabrication, among others. There is an emphasis on navigating interpersonal relationships between students and advisors in many of the scenarios.
Papers: FDG 2020 (exceptional paper), CHI LBW 2021, CHI LBW 2020, book chapter
Light erupts from both sides of my helmet on command. It doesn't reach as far as it should but it's better than the alternative. Turning around to face the door again, I'm at best a couple meters into the hallway. 'Well, is anyone else coming?'
Unto the Night is a Twine project that began life as a rewrite of Breach (see below). The aesthetic inspiration for this story came from the military science-fiction I grew up reading and playing. 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.
space ship flying through a tunnel, gathering orbs, and launching a bomb to blow up a door
Nic Junius (as 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.
medical readout featuring identity, blood type, and medication information
A Twine project I wrote as a way of processing my thoughts and experiences needing emergency, life saving surgery. This experience also made me realize how much I was relying on my job as a teaching assistant to afford the medication I was on while simultaneously having my work devalued and needing to get back on the job as soon as I could.
You hear a faint voice as you take another step down the corridor. You can't make out any words, but it is obviously a voice of some kind and it seems like it wants something. option 1: You try and make out what the voice is saying. option 2: It's just your imagination. You're just tense, that's all.
One of my early projects built in Twine that tells short, branching story about a group of soldiers sent to investigate some strange happenings in a remote star system. While the story is inspired by certain parts of military science-fiction, I tried to inject some cosmic horror into its short read time. Somewhat intentionally, Inure's story is connected to this game and if you want to be generous you might call Inure the sequel. I entirely reworked this story and released it as Unto the Night.
guy in a poncho shooting at purple, red, and green dudes who do flip attacks, gun attacks, and rocket attacks respectively
Michael Gunning, Nic Junius (as Nick Junius), Chaiz Tuimoloau
We made this GameMaker side-scrolling shooter as a silly, slightly more narrative leaning game when compared to Contra. We included between-mission "codec calls" as the most obvious way of delivering the narrative. We used a similar random weapon drop system to other games in the genre with two notable exceptions: weapons are consistently dropped by specific enemies and rather than a pistol with unlimited ammunition, players' fallback weapon is their fists. If you want to play the game yourself and have a Windows machine, click the game's title. If you want to watch a playthrough: click here.
purple guy with a hammer trapped in a corner by a ghost next to a health pack
Michael Gunning, Nic Junius (as Nick Junius), Chaiz Tuimoloau
We made this top-down ImpactJS game to be a fantasy themed shooter as something we could make in a few weeks. What the game wound up becoming was much more of a classic top-down adventure game, complete with combat that only allowed for four-directional movement and deciding whether you were attacking or spacing yourself out against enemies. Click the game's title if you want to play but note that if you have a high refresh rate monitor the game speed will be significantly faster than intended and the main menu may be difficult to navigate.


staring down a purple corridor near a large glowing object
With the amount of time I'd spent making maps in various Halo Forge tools, I knew I wanted to revisit that environment in some way. Quite unintentionally this little project added layers and layers onto my response to the prompt. Originally this was just supposed to be something I couldn't give my past self but due to the game I was using being a decade old, I couldn't give my current self the video I'd recorded because the online rendering utility had long since been disconnected. So the Twitter poem I found myself with wound up being a little, fleeting reminder of how so much of the work I'd done early on in my life was lost as technology moved on. HTML Archival Version.
view of the top of a triangular map with a structure at its center
I began making custom maps in Halo 3 once the first "canvas" map (Foundry) was released and with it the ability to edit something resembling geometry, even if it was at the end of the day just a bunch of crates being used in increasingly creative ways. Once Halo: Reach came out I'd spent enough time messing around in the tool and with the game mechanics to add more polish to the projects, including getting deeper into the respawning system the game used.


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 more 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.


A twice a week twitch stream devoted to full playthroughs of video games, often narrative heavy, with the occasional foray into multiplayer games. Discussions frequently involve academic critique, queerness, and life in academia.
A weekly Twitch stream created by Stacey Mason and Peter Mawhorter that features live academic critique by game scholars, both academic and academic adjacent. We occasionally bring developers on to chat about their design process as we play through their work.
A critique channel I have been running for a number of years that focuses heavily on discussing narrative in videogames, both in their writing and systems. One of the ongoing video series I'm most proud of is the deep dive into FreeSpace.