SpaceMercs – Exile gamejam

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This will be the first post that focus on game design after I have completed my Master of Science from the IT University of Copenhagen, Yay!!.

Exile Gamejam
Exile Gamejam is located at Vallekilde High school on Sj├Žlland, Denmark (http://exile.dk/). It is different from other gamejams that I have attended as I find it more focussed on networking and just having a good time while you make your own games. However, there are some specific guidelines/rules that you need to adhere to in order to apply and be part of the Exile gamejam. This year, the rules were to continue developing existing game projects. This was the perfect opportunity to further work with the Master Thesis project SpaceMercs.

We were four people during the master thesis that both worked on the game, made playtests, gathered and analyzed the data and wrote a huge paper on different aspects of the game. However, during the thesis and the conducted playtests, many testers described that they missed the tactility of physical controllers and to be able to push/punch buttons and hold a joystick when interacting with the game. Something that we as game designers in hindsight also can agree on.

From the gathered notes from the thesis, we decided to look at including more physical controllers that afforded some kind of tactile gameplay experience. This could also lead to a more cohesive and immersive gameplay experience for all the players. However, some of the gameplay mechanics that was already in the game needed to stay, such as the use of accelerometer and gyroscope of the tablets to steer and aim in the gunner and engineer roles, because the testers thought it greatly contributed to embodied gameplay through the player generated interactions with the game.

However, the touchscreen was a different matter. It only gave the illusion of pushing buttons or levers when players needed to shoot or fix things in the gunner and enginner role. This was also something that many players felt took them out of this immersive gameplay experience as it was very different from how they used to interact with game. To our defense, we had no other choice design wise because of the choice of the platform for SpaceMercs.

Enter the new controllers
We gathered quite a few new and crazy controllers for this gamejam. The pilot would role make use of a Xbox Steel Battalion controller instead of a tablet. When looking at it, it is easy to see why it is perfect for the pilot role. All the crazy buttons and the almost unlimited opportunities when it comes to mapping functions to the pilot role. We had to restrain ourselves when devising game mechanics to the pilot role.

We also found a golf fast track controller which was so fun to play with that we designed a new role for it specifically and inserted it into the game. The role was to power up a powerful beam laser that could be controlled/ aimed with the right hand and left hand needed to power it up by keep cranking up the energy to it in order to shoot (like when starting a lawnmower). When enough energy was accumulated it could be released with the press of a button at your feet.

The light- and heavy turret and the engineer role would still be using tablets with the same setup as when we designed them during the master thesis.

Did it work
Oh, yes it did. However instead of descriping it, I will post some pictures and gifs. I apologize for the darkness and somewhat potato quality of some of them. Hope you will find them enjoyable anyways.

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