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The Plastic Invasion
Published 10 months ago
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A 2D side-scrolling runner with an aim to create awareness about plastic pollution among children

Concept & Story

The game is about a young penguin that responds to the call for a hero and sets out to fight the evil that plagues his colony. The concept for the “evil” plaguing the hero's world stemmed from the plastic pollution rampant in our oceans today. We wanted to use this in the game to inadvertently get players to acknowledge a very real problem in today's world.
The concept was driven by a goal to educate our target audience of 8 - 13 year old children about the dangers of plastic and the importance of fighting plastic pollution in the oceans. We hypothesize that children would connect more to a game where they get to play a hero as opposed to an experience that simply preached to them on plastic pollution. The sense of accomplishment in controlling the character that is on a mission increases their immersion.
Our hero's primary goal in a level is to slide to the bottom of the slope towards the monster while gathering speed to reach the optimum speed to burst through the plastic monsters.
(insert GIF of monster being destroyed)
The art-style is inspired by the popular side-scrolling title Alto's Adventure

Characters

Our main character is an ordinary penguin who decides to save his colony from the plastic monsters.

We designed our monsters to resemble agglomerations of plastics thrown into the sea.

Gameplay & Mechanics

The player maneuvers through levels with the aim to defeat the monster at the end of each level and save his fellow penguins. The player avoids obstacles and races down the slope, reaching the optimum velocity to defeat the monster.
A meter displayed on the screen informs the player of their speed. Failing to avoid the obstacles reduces the speed of the player. If the speed is not high enough, the plastic monster doesn't die upon collision and the player restarts the level.
The player maneuvers using the following mechanics:
They can also activate power ups, after collecting them in the game. One of the power ups is zoom. It increases player's speed for a limited period of time and allows him to move through obstacles unharmed.


Utilization of Unity 2D Tools

Our game began development as part a university assignment and we were in the initial prototyping stage when we heard about the Unity 2D challenge, this introduced us to the wide variety of 2D specific tools available at our disposal. After quickly updating all of our devices to the latest version of Unity we ended up using three features
  • 2D SpriteShape
  • 2D Cinemachine
  • 2D Animation
We'll cover why and how we came about using these features in our development process below

2D SpriteShape

The most vital element in our game, after ensuring that the physics felt right, was the terrain. We wanted to create terrains with curves/slopes that felt good to slide down on while at the same time reduced re-work on our end. Re-work here refers to the process of finding out a curve doesn't feel good while playing, going back to illustrator to redo the terrain and re-importing it to Unity. Our initial terrains were created in illustrator but we discarded that in exchange for the flexibility and speed offered by SpriteShape. The angle ranges and corners allowed us to create huge masses of glaciers with ease. The process of creating repeatable and rotating tile-assets saved us a lot of time compared to building each level fully in a 3rd party application. Presently we've only utilized it for level design but we will be incorporating some decorative elements to the terrain using Sprite Shape in our next update

2D Cinemachine


When we started development, we simply set the camera's transform to the player's transform with an offset. We also experimented with writing our own camera script, but it was finally Cinemachine 2D that helped us get the desired camera movement with no scripting from our end. Here are a few pointers that we learnt from using it
  • We used only the Follow transform and not the Look At for our game, we set the Follow to our player character
  • Under the body tab, we left most of the settings in default and only changed the following
  • Screen X and Screen Y which helped fix our character at the top left position of the screen
  • We also set the Dead Zone height and width to prevent the camera from tracking the player movement exactly, we wanted to give the player a little bit of freedom in moving around, we found that this enhanced how "speeding up" looked in the game and helped keep the player within screen bounds better
  • We also increased the X and Y Damping to prevent the movement from being too jittery, we found that keeping the damping amount along both axes equal worked best for our game


2D Animation

Since your player character has only two states of motion in our present prototype, we stuck to a frame-by-frame method for that, but we wanted our plastic enemies to feel gooey and plasticky. Since we were a team of students who primarily did art and design, we didn't have the bandwidth to do a frame by frame animation for our monster. Having worked with packages that enabled IK in unity in the past, adapting to the native 2D animation did not take us a lot of time and effort. And as you can see below, it really helped bring life to our plastic monster

Whats Next?

The game is still in development and we've only created a basic playable prototype so far. The fully developed versions will have the following additions (tentatively, we find ourselves to be easily moved when we find something that makes the game more fun!)
  • 7 playable regions of 3 levels each, distributed across Antarctica, each with its own set of visuals, bosses and unique elements
  • Each of these regions will also feature different kinds of plastic to educate the players about them
  • Additional power-ups to increase gameplay variety, allowing players to shoot projectiles and shields
  • A mechanic that involves saving other penguins stuck in plastic
  • A scoring mechanic based on coin-collection and saving of penguins
  • Fine-tuning and refinement of visuals in terms of animations, more obstacles, decorative elements and enemy bosses while retaining the present art-style

About The Team

We're a team of design students pursuing a degree in game design from the National Institute of Design, India. While we all contributed to core game design decisions, we split up into two teams to tackle art and programming. This is the first game we've worked on together and it was really an eye-opener in terms of how much engines like Unity have helped fast track the game development process and how much easier it has become to go from an idea to a playable prototype. We'd love to hear feedback on the project, Thanks!
Amar Ravi
Design Graduate Student, NID - Student
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Contributors
Jennifer Horo
Game Designer - Student
Niyati S
Game designer - Student
Shreeya Achar
Game designer - Student
Comments
Amar Ravi
10 months ago
Design Graduate Student, NID
Apologies for the stray line above the characters paragraph "(insert GIF of monster being destroyed)", in true student fashion, this report was written with a degree of sleep deprivation. Thanks for understanding! :)
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