Up In The Air
Engine: Unreal Engine 4.16
Genre: Sandbox Exploration Game
Team: Studio Jiggly
Team Size: 13
Play Time: 1-2 Hours
Up In The Air is an open-world sandbox exploration game where you play as a balloon dog in a demented theme park. Hidden in the park are multiple Golden Tickets, and players must complete numerous fun activities and games to acquire as many as possible. The park is also filled with kids that would love nothing more than to kick you all day. But they might love hot dogs even more.
Gameplay Bytes are activities that are found all around the park, rewarding players with a Golden Ticket upon completion. There are several different kinds of Bytes, that range from simple activities like getting a soccer ball in a goal to wrangling sheep plushies in a corraled area.
During development, one of my most important responsibilities was the creation of these bytes. Rapid iteration was key, as many different prototypes were created and playtested. Ultimately the team kept the best ones, and by implementing early we could polish often. This resulted in very juicy and satisfying gameplay.
In order to facilitate the creation of future bytes, I developed a base structure for bytes. Working with the Game Designer and Lead Programmer, my structure contained all the basic necessities for any future bytes. This eventually developed into a class system that allowed new gameplay bytes to be created in minutes. The goal was to make each gameplay byte essentially drag-and-drop for designers to quickly add them to the world.
I designed bytes to have variable difficulty, in order to get the most out of each one, since we knew some of them would be re-used. The Hopscotch byte, for example, is a series of six numbered squares in the ground. Players must jump from one square to the next without touching the floor. The Blueprint is setup to allow the designer to quickly arrange the squares anywhere they wish along the map, adapting to terrain.
When placing this byte into the world, I was able to move the squares individually to make each instance unique and, more importantly, exactly as easy or hard as I required.
What Went Right?
Core gameplay pillars drove almost every design decision, as well as kept a great vision for art team to latch onto.
Team managed scope well. We cut when we needed to cut, we fought for what we really needed.
Sense of fun was never lost among the team. Through hardship and toil, we kept our sense of humor.
We kept sight of polish at all stages of development.
What Went Wrong?
Due to the large volume of content, there's still a significant number of bugs and even more polish we wish to add.
What Was Learned?
Maintaining the core pillars is key to keeping a cohesive game design.
If you keep polish in mind at all stages of production, it's so much easier to keep high quality.