Spaceboi vs. The World is/was a super fun and challenging project. I worked with Ale and Shimea to create a polished slice of what we hope will become a large and intricate game for P4. I think we inadvertently followed some of the prototypical HCI teachings in our development cycle; we started out with a very small idea – mine resources from a planet. Then, it branched out and eventually included combat, multiple characters, an economy, and a sentient environment bordering on god-like entity governing your surroundings. From here, we focused down again to distill the game into its key interaction modes, which would focus on mining and exploring very small areas in an episodic puzzle-type fashion, much like Monument Valley (we drew much of our original inspiration from this game). Once we had our core interactions done, we decided to flare out again and tackle a procedurally generated world to allow for player exploration and high replayability, which lends well to our episodic and newly-roguelike game.
We sought out to include a variety of types of fun: sensation and submission in the mining interactions, which while stimulating, are also fairly casual; fantasy and narrative in the story and setting, an alien planet with a cute and amicable hero on a quest to find love; and lastly, challenge – while not immediately apparent, our ultimate vision is for the game to be …rather frustrating. Over the episodic structure, which we have yet to explore during P4, if the player harms the environment in one way or another, their actions will bring about climate effects that make it exceedingly difficult to meet the daily and chapter goals, which would result in the player’s companion, Spacedoc, quitting his job, and forcing the player to start all over.
Designing the system was really fun. I was shocked to find that as we brainstormed as a team, the system kind of designed itself – we would simply have conversations about where the game should go, what we think should happen, what new features to add, and someone would say something like, “Oh! And then the player has to spend A to use the new B!” or, “What if their interactions with X influenced the spawn rate of Y?” The variables in these conversations came about very logically too. For example, we came up with the idea of eventually having a power tools in the game so the player could mine faster, but some of the tools create exhaust which pollutes the environment. This creates a feedback loop between the player’s usage of time and their effect on the climate. The conversation then led to “What if they had to spend their fuel resource to run the power tools?” This is a very intuitive notion, but since fuel is another resource in the game, this simple idea adds another complicating level to the game’s system. Unfortunately, many of these connected emergent mechanics depend on the game being much further along, so they are not visible in P3, but we are excited to play with them in P4.