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  • Results From Game Design Challenge: Snow Business

    [12.24.19]
    - Danny Cowan

  • Adair Tabb, Student at the University of Montevallo, S'no Bother!

    The Premise:

    Winter is a tough season for a lot of people. With shorter days and plunging temperatures, it's harder to do everything that needs to be done from day-to-day, much less tackle the annual challenge of the holidays. It leaves many feeling overwhelmed, or unable to keep up with the complications colder weather might bring.

    Luckily for the people of one small village, Poff the snow sprite is unbothered by the harshness of winter and has plenty of time on their...well, they don't have hands, exactly, but that won't stop them from helping out however they can.

    Controlling Poff, the player will assist people with specific tasks--but they can't be seen by humans, or caught by troublesome pets. The first part of the game will take place before the invention of the furnace, in a small village struggling through a harrowing winter; this is where the basic mechanics will be introduced, with tasks such as bringing in forgotten firewood, closing a door left ajar, or putting leftovers from supper in the snow so they don't spoil.

    As the player progresses, time does as well. The invention of the furnace makes it more difficult for Poff to help inside the house, for fear of melting. The village grows, making it more difficult to move around undetected. Eventually, the levels catch up to modern day, and as they do, some of the challenges the player must overcome and the tasks they must complete become more complex, such as finding a way to help a human pay a power bill or fix a burst pipe. The tone of the game will shift as well, from brightly hopeful to a grimmer kind of dedication to help.

    Medium:

    As a puzzle/stealth game relying almost exclusively on environmental details to build the narrative, but requiring 3-D levels and objects (similar to The Untitled Goose Game), the Unity engine would be perfect; the game itself would translate well to both PC and Nintendo Switch.

    Mechanics:

    Stealth: The only time Poff is entirely invisible to humans and pets is when they are motionless in a patch of snow. Otherwise, they must use shadows and the environment around them to break line of sight and hide before a pet pounces on them or a human comes over to investigate.

    Melting & Recovering: Poff can't stay inside a heated house for long or they'll begin to melt--returning outside and rolling in the snow will get Poff back up to their proper size.

    Moving objects & Movement restrictions: Poff is limited in what kind of objects they can move; they cannot shift objects that are too large or too heavy, like an anvil, but firewood and grocery bags are alright. Likewise, doors and windows often require either too much strength or dexterity for Poff to open by themself--however, closing them is fairly easy.

    Experience Goal:

    This game is meant to speak to the difficulties of surviving winter even in modern day as at-risk groups, such as homeless populations, the elderly or very young, and those in poverty. The progression from an older time at the start of the game to our world today is meant to impress upon the player that the basic needs of people haven't changed, and that for many today's winters are no less harsh or deadly than the winters from before the advent of central heating. It's also meant to show, overall, that even a little help can go a long way.

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