This game was made in 44 hours during Global Game Jam 2019. The theme was 'What does home mean to you?'. I was the game designer and programmer on the team together with an artist, a sound designer and another programmer.
After given the theme, I was very excited about the idea of defining home on a bigger level. Since Sci-Fi is my all-time favorite theme, I started to think how the concept of 'home' changes in a hyper-realistic context such as space. Inspired by scenes from movies such as 'Gravity' and 'Interstellar', I had a rough picture in mind of spaceman struggling in space and trying to get back home. A clearer image started to appear: a spaceman using jet pack to move with limited controls.
With this idea in mind and knowing that we want to make multi-player game for audience engagement in game jam, I pitched this game to my teammates: two astronauts trapped in space trying to use jet pack (counter force) and string to fly through obstacles in space and return home. After discussing the potential technical challenges and drawing concept arts, our team decided to go with this idea.
At first, I did not know what kind of controls will be fun for this kind of game. It could be a slow strategy game, or a fast turnaround arcade style game. It could even be a turn based competition between two players. Instead of having more group discussion, I decided to just build some thing first. As I was taught Jesse Schell's Game Design class, 'Build the toy first', I found a way to move the character.
It was simply just pressing one button to make him jump in the direction the arrow is pointing at. Once he is in the air, holding the same button will rotate the arrow and releasing the button will result in a counter force in the direction of arrow at that moment.
We played around with the "toy" as a team and reflected about how it felt: it was fun and challenging because of the freedom to fly around and the limit from not having the full control over the direction. I also adjusted a few attributes in the movement.cs script and did more playtesting with only the toy. Based on the feedback, we started adding more features to the game.
Now we had the basic movement. we were at the second phase of development: to define the goal and set the obstacles. The goal was simple: to get home/the other end on each level. Then we proceeded to brainstorm some game items/obstacles with special properties such as the platforms that will break after one stand, the black holes with random attraction and the death zone.
We realized that to encourage communication, the interaction between players need to play a critical role in wining the level. This means that level design needs to be conducted at the same time of making the second feature, which is the cooperation part. Once again, we stopped group brainstorming as a team and went to design our own levels. After an hour we had more than 5 levels to choose from. Meanwhile I also programmed a test level with all the properties implemented. By laying out all the levels designed based on the prefabs we made, we playtested all of them and chose the best five ones.
The final 5 hours were spent in refining the game feel by polishing the controls, feedback, compiling animations and sound. We also wrote a simple narrative to present as the space log shown during the transitions between levels.
You can watch the full game play here: