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Some words from Harvey&Holly!

We started this game as part of our master’s course at the National Film and Television School. At the start of 2024 we graduated and have since formed our company, Studio Morgan. 

We’re currently working towards releasing Morgan: Metal Detective on all platforms!



‘Morgan: Metal Detective' is designed to be like an old jumper - warm, comforting and above all, cosy. We wanted to express the feeling of childish, care-free exploration; the Cornish island of Glasden is your playground to explore and re-discover lost treasures with your trusty old metal detector. We have attempted to evoke these feelings in all areas of the game design: from Morgan's bounding strides, to the vibrant environment design, the rumours of magic, the comforting sound design, the optimistic soundtrack and the complete safety of the task at hand. We hope that we have succeeded in creating a wholesome world to relax in.


‘Morgan: Metal Detective’ is a cosy love-letter to childhood Cornish holidays. Set against the backdrop of a hand-crafted 3D island, it invites players to embark on an adventure filled with the innocent thrill of exploration, armed with a trusty metal detector and shovel. This game blends a simple yet striking environment with vibrant 2D details, mirroring Morgan's inquisitive perspective of the island and its inhabitants.

How did the idea of Morgan: Metal Detective first come about between the two of you?


I keep a running Google Doc of game ideas and one of them was just “mudlarking” (when you scour the beaches of an estuary for finds). I played around with this a little bit and thought about a murder mystery where you accidentally discover a murder weapon while mudlarking and are embroiled in the acts of a vicious London gang… but I quickly got rid of that idea.

One of things I liked about a game involving mudlarking was the premise of discovering items hidden just below the surface; the idea that there’s history hidden under every footstep. Then it struck me, why limit ourselves to the banks for a river? Why not expand out to anywhere? Metal detecting.

I pitched this basic idea to Holly, “first person game about metal detecting”, and we quickly picked up and ran with it.

The way our course is structured is that we’re meant to pitch three different ideas to a panel of industry experts, and use their feedback to inform our choice of which one we develop. Although we pitched two other game ideas, we’d already decided that we were invested in this one concept, initially named “Searching for Treasure”.

Early on, we joined up with the game’s writer, Ruby Abbiss, and started to talk about how we could build a narrative around metal detecting. We envisaged that a rewarding game loop would be listening or finding clues then use these to pinpoint a location where a treasure could be found, then return this item to its rightful owner for an emotional payoff. I don’t think we’ve ever lost sight of this goal!

What were your main reference points through its development?


These were super clear for us really early on. Our main touchstones have always been ‘Firewatch’ and ‘Alba: A Wildlife Adventure’. We wanted to create a unique blend of the two, but also add in the core mechanic of metal detecting.

From an art style perspective, we were certainly inspired by the chunky models of ‘Firewatch’ and the low poly gradients of ‘Alba’, but we were also inspired by ustwo’s previous title, ‘Assemble with Care’. We loved how each of the objects to disassemble, then carefully assemble, are lovingly designed. In addition, we adored its hand drawn character art style. Another strong reference point for us was the design of the magical, soft 3D environments in ‘Sky: Children of the Light’.


We also took inspiration from the likes of Untitled Goose Game, Ooblets and Frog Detective. Each with a unique style, these games utilize flat-shading and lower poly models to flesh out their worlds and visually narrate their stories. As a two-person team, there were many time constraints Harvey and I had to consider, one of which being how we could efficiently create 3D assets in a small amount of time. Using these flat-shaded, minimalist looks as inspiration, we were able to build a low-poly library of assets that use block colours and gradients. This enabled us to produce the assets we needed within our production schedule.

Is there any element of the game that each of you found most challenging to make right?


The most difficult element to get right has certainly been how metal detecting works, looks, interacts with the terrain and around the story elements. Early on in development we got obsessed with the idea of keys. One key you found underground led to a safe, which contained a key, giving you access to a beach hut, which contained another key that opened a gate in a cave… We got carried away.

What really helped us was to think about what items which each of the game’s characters could desperately want returned, and weave a larger narrative into that.

From a technical perspective, we went through several iterations of how the metal detector system would work, and interact with the game world. We initially played around with a third party system, Digger which literally rips holes in the Unity terrain system. However, we could not get this system to operate in a performant way, so had to abandon this approach.

We played around with another third party system, SeeThrough Shader but couldn’t find a reliable way to get this to work with the terrain system.

Next we played around with a system which uses a second camera to show a hole on the ground, much like Portal. But this felt like overkill.

We ultimately ended up with a stencil shader system which renders layers and materials such that we can fake a hole intersecting with the terrain, without actually making a hole in the terrain. A huge thanks to fellow National Film and Television School Games student, Thomas Porta for masterminding this solution.

What is it in the game that you feel most proud of?


I’m really proud of how the game feels to play. From playtesting, we’ve seen that players LOVE metal detecting, maybe to an obsessive degree. I’m not sure if we anticipated how content players would be just searching for stuff hidden underground. In some cases, we’ve developed these intricate quests and storylines, but the players weren’t interested. Good stuff.


I’m also so proud of the world we’ve created on this little Cornish island. We wanted to evoke a sense of child-like wonder in this game, so it is really rewarding seeing the player's enthusiasm to want to run around and explore the beauty and mysteries of the island!

Is there anyone you had specifically in mind as the audience while creating the game?


We think that cosy games are a really powerful tool to help people relax, decompress and switch off. We wanted to create a place where people can do that. No stress, no danger, just get out your metal detector and explore. I guess it was anyone who feels like they need that space?


I’m a huge cosy game fan, and have been loving the recent wave of wholesome titles such as Mail Time, Ooblets, and Bear and Breakfast. When Harvey pitched me the initial metal detecting idea, we could see how this meditative mechanic would really lend itself to the stress-free and calming nature of cosy games. The games market is saturated with high-adrenaline games that lean on the idea of fight or flight, but with ‘Morgan: Metal Detective’ we wanted to reach out to audiences that crave emotionally and socially engaging games through soothing visuals and gentle gameplay mechanics.