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  • Results from the Game Design Challenge: No Jumping!

    [10.23.08]
    - Manveer Heir and GameCareerGuide.com staff
  •  What happens when you are told to make a game for a genre when one of the core mechanics of that genre is removed?

    The answer is amazing amounts of creativity.

    A recent game design challenge had you design a new platform game. The only catch was that you couldn't have the player jump (or grapple or anything similar), and the only buttons available to the player were movement left and right.

    Among the submissions, there were games that had a very strong puzzle element, while retaining the platforming roots. Other entries used the concept of gravity to pull the player downward (falling, rolling downhill), using air control to move left and right. Some tried to use other items in the world to propel the characters upward or forward (spring loaded platforms, jet packs, balloons) and let them move around without requiring a key-press. There were ideas we had never even dream of trying (characters with the ability to vaporize into energy particles), all in the name of getting around the inability of the player to jump.

    One could say making a platform game without jumping is a bad idea, but this is another example of designing under constraints -- this Design Challenge just happens to be an extremely severe example. By removing the genre convention of jumping from the equation, many of you thought about the problem laterally and came up with new, interesting mechanics to take the place of the jump.

    The best entries kept the platforming roots of the genre intact while offering a simple, but compelling twist on the standard platformer game.

    Some of the entries strayed too far away from a platformer game and into the realm of puzzle games or another genre. There is no standard or official definition of a platform game, but we think of platform games as those that involve moving the player across different platforms, often through jumping, with obstacles and enemies along the way to hinder the player's movement. Platformers are about moving spatially through the world to reach your goal (as opposed to a brawler, which is about pugilism through the world).

    Without further ado, here are the top three entries (and three honorable mentions) that we liked best.

    Best Entries
    Abhishek Deshpande, game designer, Rotator
    (see page 2)
    Abhishek Deshpande did a fantastic job of not only explaining, but illustrating, how his game Rotator works. The game seats the player on the rim of a wheel that can expand or shrink in size; the player also serves as the wheel's pivot point for climbing onto a platform. The control scheme Deshpande created solves the problem of moving around the world while also creating challenges of accuracy and navigation. (See also in the Honorable Mentions Luca Breda's very similar idea.)

    Martin Bilello, senior technical architect and independent game designer,
    Get Out of My Tomb!
    (see page 3)
    Early on in this challenge, Martin Bilello posted this idea on the forum: "if you think the ones that mostly don't jump on this type of games are the villains, so why not to be a villain?" And thus, the mummy game idea was born. It's basically a game of tag, but done in such a way that it works as a computer game.

    Thomas Bedenk, Technische Universität Berlin, Pepe the Donkey (see page 4)
    There is something to be said for a submission (or game idea pitch, for that matter) that gives the reader something clear and entertaining to visualize within the first dozen words. Here, we have Pepe the blue donkey: "You are Pepe the blue donkey and as clumsy as can be. So you happen to fall into these holes all the time. On your unwilling journey down slippery slopes, slimy tunnels, and rocky caves, you have to avoid getting stuck or being flattened by boulders and stinky critters chasing you." The game mechanic isn't what sold us (and explains why this entry isn't higher up the list), but the description of this cartoon buffoon definitely hooked us and made us want to know more about the game -- and that is half the battle.

    Honorable Mentions
    Pawel Dabrowski, game designer in Warsaw, Poland
    (see page 5)
    Pawel Dabrowski's entry repeats the most common ideas we saw submitted in this challenge, but he created a series of simple diagrams that were useful in illustrating each point, and for that, he deserves an honorable mention.

    Ned Elwell, no industry or educational affiliation, Bolt Man! (see page 6)
    Bolt Man!, Ned Elwell's solution to this game design challenge, is a bit quirky but would likely garner a solid audience for using a whole slew of super-human feats in a very video-gamey kind of way.

    Luca Breda, Circle and Triangle (see page 7)
    Luca Breda sent in a long list of ideas, some of which were strong, and some of which were not exactly unique. In two of his ideas, he gives almost exactly the same game concept as Abhishek Deshpande (see above), though Deshpande fleshed the idea out more substantively. But because they were so close, we recognize Breda's submission as an honorable mention.

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