IT GOES ON - GAME DESIGN

Project Type: Personal
Role:
Designer, Artist, Scripter
Team Members: Alex Carey, Owen Reimer
Duration: 10 Months, Released June 2018
Tools: Construct 2

IDea

It Goes On started as an idea I had many years ago. I noticed that video games have a tendency to fulfill empowerment fantasies. From being a burly warrior, an arcane wizard, to a universe traversing spaceship captain. Video games seem to fulfill that empowerment fantasy wonderfully but I had the thought, is the reverse true? Would video games be a good medium to explore the theme of disempowerment? So I went heck, let me try and create a game that does just that.

Process

The first issue I came across was my scope was too big. I wanted to create a game in 3D with different characters each exhibiting different movement styles. I realized that a 2D platformer style game would still be able to articulate my theme of disempowerment while I could actually finish creating the game in this century.

After settling on the 2D platformer genre I didn’t just want to copy the standard move right, jump, save the princess formula so after some contemplation I came up with the idea of rotating the prospective of the level. This created some challenging level design problems to overcome as the levels would then need to work in four different orientations. Sketching the levels on graph paper helped visualize how the levels could be put together cohesively. Several of these designs didn’t make the cut as they played more like mazes than stages to platform through. These maze designs didn’t have interesting choices for the player to make and rather just required tedious backtracking if the wrong path was taken.

Early level sketch

Early level sketch

With the theme of disempowerment in mind I began to explore how I could translate that theme into game mechanics. Typically as a game progresses the player becomes stronger gaining additional power ups and such. I turned that progression on its head making the player lose forms of movement with each iteration of the levels. This disempowerment curve begins by removing the player’s ability to move right then removes any ability to move and the player must rely on rotating the perspective. Finally in the last iteration the player must complete all levels only being able to rotate the prospective one direction.

For the aesthetic design of the project I was greatly inspired by the game Thomas was Alone. The simple geometric design of the player and environment allowed the mechanics to be the star of the show. An early iteration of the game used a grey/green 8bit style akin to the original Gameboy. However, I came to realize when the player reached the end of a section and would begin again it was challenging to communicate to the player that there had been a change in there ability to move. By adding varied coloured levels this helped communicate that something was different so that the player could discover the loss of movement organically.

Takeaways

Near the end of development I realized It Goes On was mirroring what it was like to have a disability. Although beginning with a general theme of disempowerment the game clearly was drawing on my personal experience of having a disability. I leaned into that realization creating a loose narrative and hiring a voice actress to deliver a one-way conversation to the player. Along with a superb soundtrack created by Owen Reimer, I feel I did an admirable job articulating disempowerment or the disabled experience.

There is however one major thing I would do differently for this project. Despite being a game about disabilities it does not have any accessibility features such as rebindable keys or closed captions. This is a gross oversight on my part which I hope to rectify for future games. Regardless, If you are so inclined please give the game a play and I would love to hear your thoughts.

"In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on."
~Robert Frost

 
Basic platforming

Basic platforming

Perspective rotation

Perspective rotation

Unable to move player

Unable to move player