Results from Game Design Challenge: Space is the Place

By Danny Cowan [04.22.14]

With NASA's recent discovery of over 700 new planets, there has been increased speculation in the media regarding the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the universe. What sorts of physical environments might these newly discovered planets host? What kind of life forms might they sustain? Video games have speculated about alien worlds for decades, but they're largely portrayed as hostile worlds for humans to investigate, escape from, or destroy.

For Game Career Guide's latest Game Design Challenge, we challenged our readers to design a game set on an alien planet, where no humans are presents. Here are our top picks.

Best Entries

Rogério Paulo Ferreira Marques, Biochemist, STARSTUFF - Cosmic Life Simulation (see page 2)

Kiên Nguyễn Vũ Trung, Eat2envovle (see page 3)

Amy George, Student at the University of Montevallo, Atmos (see page 4)

Josh Douglas, Herzing University, The Quest for the Dinosaur Overlord (see page 5)

Amy George, Student at the University of Montevallo, Atmos (see page 6)

Rogério Paulo Ferreira Marques, Biochemist, STARSTUFF - Cosmic Life Simulation

"Time is pulled into the future by a kind of attractor."

~Terence Mckenna

Game Fiction

Do you remember when your consciousness was connected to an entire planet? Perhaps what follows might be a refresher...

Somewhere, sometime planet has formed within your perception.

You connect your consciousness to this particular and unique planet and you are now a mote of dust spiraling through the vastness of the cosmos.

Eventually, thanks to your diligence, something special is changing in this planet, sparking the emergence of a something entirely novel: life.

This life evolves with time, and eventually, agency emerges amidst the planet's biosphere: entities that can decide about their lives, their future, their planet. Your consciousness is now connected to them at a much deeper level and it is through connection that optimal strategies ought to be sought out to acquire increasing capabilities and levels of freedom as well as to avoid extinction.

Game Mechanics

The game's mechanics will reflect some aspects of what we currently know about cosmology, planetary science and space exploration. The main feelings transmitted by the mechanics aim to be of awe, loneliness and feeling small, but still important, amidst the vastness.

The core game mechanics involve random events which prompt the player to make apparently incomparable and most times mutually exclusive choices to determine the fate of the subject connected to their consciousness (planet, life, intelligence).

Sequence of gameplay could break down into 5 phases:

  1. Define your universe - define the universe in which you want to play in by adjusting the constants of Drake's equation or simply generate a universe with a random set of parameters.

  2. Lifeless planet - find the balance between order and chaos and enhance physical and chemical diversity   to increase the likelihood for biogenesis (life origin event);

  3. Living planet - once life has spring into existence it will need to be challenged in order to evolve into greater complexity, but not too much chaos or it will go extinct;

  4. Fledgeling intelligence - as soon as an intelligent life form emerges (civilizations), select proper technical solutions before being overwhelmed by problems, decide about what tech to invest in (best choices aren't obvious and trying to develop all tech is unsustainable) and resolve conflicts minimizing violence to avoid total war;

  5. Mature intelligence - you are now able to detect other planets (both intrastellar and extrastellar) and send ships to colonize them and discover if you are or not alone in your galaxy.

Game Graphics

The graphics can be minimalist pixel graphics: red is volcanoes, blue is oceans, green is vegetation, brown is fertile land, white is ice, yellow is deserts, black is rock.

Kiên Nguyễn Vũ Trung, Eat2envovle

Dear human in the planet called by Earth,

I'll tell you about my planet named ... uh ..ah... Whatever. On the Whatever planet it's only one spices called Alpha but never, ever have two indentical Alpha, because we are constantly evolving. We eat to envovle. Well, I just ate a guy who designs games that earth.

And the Game.

Name: Eat2envovle ( Eat to envovle)

Genre:RPG (Multiplayer Arena)


Player rolling a little Alpha, weak and small. For survival that Alpha must grow up and envolved. Mirrcale is if player eat another Alpha, him got ability and body shape of victim.

You've know on the Earth,

- Turltle got a big tortoiseshell but monkey can climb trees.
- Eagle got wings but fish can live in water
- Some spices got sharp tooths but some spices got horns

In Whatever you can got every ability you want. But you must try to survival long enough to get them.

Core gameplay:

- Atack another Alpha > Eat them > Absorption Ability>Level up


- Health: equivalent to damage you can get, incrase when envovle, abosorp,eat... decrease when attacked, acident...
- Attack:equivalent to damage you can make.
- Absorption: time you keep ability of other alpha you eaten.
- Digest:time you completely digest the food eaten. ( if it = 0 you can't recovery and possibly die)
- Envovle: EXP you get to envovle ( depending on level)
- Recovery:equivalent to re-fill your health.


Absorption rulle - You got 03 slot to eat other Alpha. when you eat them you will have the possibility of them until they were completely digested.

Envovle rulle - When you get enough EXP you envovle. You must choise 1 ability and keep it to next level, that ability belong to your body and shape.All absorption slots been clear.

Level Rulle: Max at level 6. 

Game mode:

Single Play mode ( Endless Survirval):

- Player start in the jungle created by system with terran, Alpha Animals and Alpha Plant, something else...
- Max level = 6. In that level you can make a lair and family, born some child.Choise one to play more. Child has random gen and ability you get.
- Play when you can't play anymore. Multi Play mode ( Arena)
- Player start in the jungle created by system with terran, Alpha Animals and Alpha Plant, something else...(limited animals)
- Max at level 6 but can't birth anything.
- Kill all others players to win.
- Think some Strategy 

That's my idea
Thank for read it.
P/S: I'll eat a artist later.

Amy George, Student at the University of Montevallo, Atmos

Atmos is a single player sci-fi horror game. You are Salha Urahu, the head immigrations officer on Planet 2-B in the Solanus system, known more widely as Rahnak.  Life is the same day in, day out on this dry planet. The blue sun rises and sets, species visit and leave. But something is about to change.

Native scientists have been working since the colonization of Rahnak to create a chemical mist that would make the atmosphere breathable and allow Rahnakians to expand beyond their protective residence domes onto the open planet. The chemical was released inside Salha's home, Dome C, as the final test to ensure its effectiveness and safety before spreading it planet wide. It has been pumped into Dome C from an inside scientific facility for the past three solar cycles with no negative effects to anyone. Or so it was thought.

The Rahnakian people have noticed sudden changes in the some of xenos species that have been living on-planet. Many have been acting strangely lately, as if they don't know who or where they are. Memory loss is widespread. They have become unexpectedly vicious, even psychotic, and move erratically. It is only happening in those who have been around as long as the mist has.

Not long after initial symptoms, xenos species begins to mindlessly attack others, and Dome C collapses in a haze of death and intense confusion. The violent behavior becomes known as "Atmos Sickness". The Rahnak government quarantines Dome C, deems it a dead zone, and refuses to keep contact with no explanation. Trapped and with no help coming, you have no choice but to discover the real story behind the Atmos sickness, its selectiveness, and if it can be stopped.

The primary goal of Atmos is to break into the scientific facility in the center of the Dome, then locate the atmosphere generation facility to shut down the mist in any way possible, end the nightmare and save the xenos.

Salha has an extensive knowledge of xenos species because of her work. Access her knowledge and exploit the natural weaknesses in the xenos types (ex: long tentacles obstruct movement through debris) then use them to escape while completing missions and helping or harming other survivors.

The Atmos are sick, not evil, but they will hurt Salha badly if she's seen. The surroundings of Dome C can be used as weapons, however, the Atmos can and will overpower her, so avoid them if you can and run. Weapons only serve to stall for a few moments, and she doesn't want to hurt them since she's trying to save them!

Strategy is an extensive component in Atmos. Companions must be chosen wisely, as must hiding places and routes through the city. Some Rahnakians will betray you or choose to sacrifice you in hopes of saving themselves. Others have skills or information that can be useful to you. Choose your path wisely, and cure your world.

Josh Douglas, Herzing University, The Quest for the Dinosaur Overlord

Platform: Playstation 4

Genre: Fighting/Rpg

Setting: A planet run by dinosaurs beset with political intrigue, all assets have the appearance of being cut out of cardboard.

Gameplay: You choose a dinosaur to vie for the title of Overlord; you must fight, campaign and buy your way to the top.

You start by choosing your issues which determine your path while leveling up, healthcare for the healer role, environment for the fighter role, and education for the rogue role. You gain levels through various activities such as debates (sometimes resulting in fighting), conspiracy (only if you don't get caught), lobbying, and giving speeches. You gain points for your given role by completing these tasks with a high enough score in the public poles.

You work your way up through the different offices by public vote, or by becoming the second seat and then eliminating the head person in office either through planting seeds of unrest in the public resulting in impeachment, in this case that means death, by going in straight for the kill which could lead to losing points in the public pole, or by waiting out their term while building on you platform. Once you reach the office of Overlord you must then try to keep it as long as possible.

Features: There will be an offline and online mode where players will compete with each other only the top ranked people will be able to participate in the elections and the rest of the players will have to vote for one of the candidates. The online version will allow the people in office to set tax rates and they will also be able to challenge any and all other players in office. All offices below the Overlord office will have limited term and will have to keep their ratings up if they wish to participate in the next election. At any given time the players not in office can cast a vote of no confidence and try to impeach the player office by a trial of combat. There will also be an offline global leader board for each office that will show how long and rating a player has for that given office.

Megan Shaw, Freelance VFX / Concept Artist, Nurture

Nurture is a story about a young four-armed, female alien, whose secluded village is about to become the center of attention for neighboring planets. Truruen discovers another alien from one of these planets inside a crashed ship. He is dying, and he has a mission that cannot fail. With no one else to continue it, he grabs her arm, and strange little specs crawl out of her skin and into hers. She finally manages to pull away and runs off the ship, but the sudden pain and strange feeling causes her to pass out. When she awakens, she realizes she's not alone. The specs are now part of her, and introduce themselves as "Nanospecs", tiny nanobots that must travel within a host until delivered to a special, hidden sanctuary where they can grow so they may return to their planet and save it from destruction.

Truruen's planet will be explored through a third-person view in a 3D adventure atmospheric game, giving the player the chance to feel as if they're part of this world. Each level will feature new challenges, powers gained for the Nanospecs, and unlock secrets on their origins. Enemies will include the environments dangerous wildlife as well as aliens from neighboring planets who wish to do harm to these Nanospecs. To survive, the player must utilize the following:

Each level will introduce new skills and items to enhance combat abilities, provide extra health and power boosts, and contain side quests that have special rewards. Weather changes will also affect the gameplay: rainfall will cause blurred vision, snow will reduce speed, and hot climates will cause energy to be lost overtime.

The player must travel through rough terrains and odd lands, all while utilizing survival skills to help the Nanospecs and help a neighboring planet be saved from an unknown force of destruction.

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