Calling it a game might be an overstatement. It is, however, a self contained, playable “thing”, revolving around spatial exploration. It borrows the mechanics of a typical third person game and combines them with an abstract spatial representation and an unclear overall goal, bringing it quite close to a “walking simulator”.
GGJ 2019 theme: “What home means to you”
IO came up within the context of 2019’s Global Game Jam. I took part in the event while in Malta, in the premises of the Institute of Digital Games (which locally hosted the event). This year’s theme was “What home means to you”. Initially, the theme did not really appeal to me. I was looking forward to something less abstract, that could be interpreted directly as a specific gameplay typology. However, since themes are quite open to interpretation, I did my best to make something out of it.
IO‘s concept was formed as a vague interpretation of the game jam’s theme (“What home means to you”). It revolves around the notions of Inside and Outside, where the former represents a space of isolation and peace and the latter a space of exploration and danger.
The main idea is that neither one of these states is acceptable for too long. After staying inside or outside for a specific amount of time, the environment starts changing and becomes gradually more “unbearable”. An annoying sound starts to increase in volume and the environment becomes more colorful and bright. The purpose of this transition is to urge the player to escape their temporary state and keep moving in a perpetual, interchanging quest for shelter (which turns into a prison), or freedom (which turns into danger).
The following screenshots showcase how the concept was materialized into a final, concrete implementation. They are laid out in a sequencial manner and accompanied by a bit of text in the form of a short story. The point is to describe what the player’s experience may be like, when playing the game. That is, of course, a hypothetical scenario and your actual experience may vary!
In search of a shelter:
After a while, the environment starts to change. It’s as if the mere fact of staying Outside has some kind of magical effect on it. The structural elements’ surfaces, as well as the avatar, turn into funky, animated, colorful blobs. As if that was not enough, a loud and noisy sound emerges in the background.
Given the short time span of the game jam (around 48 hours) and the fact that I decided to “play solo” this year, I am really glad that this “thing” reached the state of completeness that it did. Although I do have some ideas about expanding it or, possibly, creating a better version of it, for the time being “it is what it is”. After all, a game whose main mechanic is ‘trying to annoy the player’ is a tricky idea.