P3: Spaceboi vs. the World

Shimea Bridgewater, Nick Feffer, Alejandro Cid

CS 377G: Designing Serious Games

Prof. Christina Wodtke

P3: Spaceboi vs. the World

1. Artist’s Statement:

Would you sacrifice your planet in order to find love? This isn’t a question most of us have to answer in our lifetime… However, Spaceboi is not as fortunate as we. In order to reach Spacegirl when their planets’ orbits are at their closest, Spaceboi needs to build a rocket using resources collected from his planet. However, his relentless extraction of resources carries risks, as he could irrevocably harm his planet’s delicate ecosystem.

Spaceboi vs. the World models a simple planet’s ecosystem and climate. The player’s actions (extraction of resources, use of advanced tools, interaction with fauna, etc.) affect the planet’s systems, which feed back to the player as random events, changes in spawn rates, changes in the behavior of  fauna, etc. In other words, the player performs actions which affect the planet, causing the planet to react in ways that affect the player and help or hinder his efforts to reach Spacegirl.

Much of the learning in Spaceboi vs. the World occurs naturally from the player’s interactions with the ecosystem. In order to illustrate our planet’s sensitivity to human industry, the planet in our game is designed to react quickly and noticeably to Spaceboi’s actions. This forces the player to be keenly aware of the planet’s ecological state and subsequently determine whether they can extract more resources. Representative of modern human capitalism, Spaceboi needs to find a balance between industry and conservation so he can reach his goals without irrevocably harming the planet in the process. We hope the player will carry this attitude with them in order to make sober, moderated decisions about their real-life consumption and production.

2. Concept Map and Game Modeling

Original concept map.

Screenshots of our game planning/ideation.

3. Initial Formal Elements and Values

The two principal values of Spaceboi vs. the World are ecological conservation and love—these values informed every decision we made while developing our game.

Ecological conservation was part of the design of our game from the first stages of ideation. We knew we wanted to model a delicate ecological system and have the player carefully interact with it. From this value emerged some of the principal formal elements of our game… We needed an industrious character with an outsized individual impact on their planet, so we designed Spaceboi as a highly-motivated, chibi, sci-fi Romeo toiling to build a rocketship. Furthermore, the designs for the various resources, including mineables, flora, fauna, etc. of our game were heavily informed by this value. Because we wanted to focus on ecological conservation we looked at real-world industries which at once harm the Earth but are crucial to the perpetuation of modern civilization. After some research and brainstorming we designed a few resources inspired by real-life industries and conservation struggles: “womp” from the timber industry, “elysium” from the fossil-fuel industry, “geese” (penguins actually) from the polar ice caps melting, “wooter” from the water scarcity struggles, and “zaza” from… zaza. Furthermore, the planet itself is a formal element of our game which acts as a sort of omniscient, temperamental antagonist, preventing Spaceboi from easily reaching his goals. It is both the source of resources and conflict in the game and must be treated delicately.

We introduced the value of love later in the game’s design because we felt Spaceboi needed a compelling reason to build his spaceship. In other words, we needed an enticing outcome or goal for our game. Thus we introduced Spacegirl, who has been texting with Spaceboi for a while now and wants to move in with him. This provides a relatable, cute, and compelling objective for the player to reach, motivating their industrious extraction of resources.

4. Testing and Iteration History

Our first iteration of the game relied on combat and a complex in-game economy in order to drive the gameplay. After discussing and playing around with this idea, we determined these elements distracted the player from the planetary ecosystem and the careful harvesting of resources. We simplified our idea by removing these elements and focused the gameplay exclusively on the player’s harvesting of resources from the planet.

As mentioned in the last paragraph of the values section above, after paring the game down to its essential elements we realized that the protagonist lacked a clear motivation for his actions, so we conceived Spaceboi and Spacegirl as well as their relationship. This informed the cute and cartoony aesthetic of our game and helped us design the different visual elements of the game.

Once we had some of the basic gameplay elements in place, we performed our first real playtests. During this phase we got a lot of useful feedback regarding the controls of our game. For example, a lot of players found the resource extraction to be difficult to perform because it used a raycast pointed at the player’s facing direction which detects whether the player is in front of a resource. The raycast was very difficult to aim so we chose to use a collision area instead, which expanded the detection area for resource extraction.

We spent a lot of time getting the game’s systems in place and working properly, so during our final playtest a lot of the feedback was focused on the story/character elements of the game. For example, one of our playtesters wanted to see more interaction between Spaceboi and Spacegirl during the gameplay loop. Perhaps after every day, we could have a cutscene of Spaceboi and Spacegirl texting. We also plan on including a third character, Spacedoc, who lives on Spaceboi’s planet and engineers his rocketship. Because our whole team decided to stay on board for P4, we will be able to address these changes in the coming weeks.

5. Final deliverable link

link: https://nfeff98.itch.io/spaceboi-vs-the-world

pw: 377g_nina

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