Space Leap is a game of exploration and collection and about loneliness. It was first made for iamagamer Jam back in July. After my last many jam games over the last two years I’ve postmortem-ed at most a week after. This one has taken 5 months to get to.
The first version of SpaceLeap let you jump around, collect one resource, and turn it into oxygen, the life sustaining resource that lets you continue to play a run in the game. It was a simple game jam game. I got to improve my engine with it. My favorite element I worked on in the first SpaceLeap version over that weekend was the writing. Not the words, grammar, or voice, but that I had words there, telling any kind of story.
The iamagamer jam in July was about making games with female protagonists. I thought about what makes a game about female protagonists leading up to the jam. A lot of other games and media bug me with characters that indicate a female character’s gender with cultural female signifiers. Something Anita Sarkessian discussed really well recently. Being a woman doesn’t define a character, it is an element among many of who they are. This can be told by the characters visual design, especially if tropes are avoided, but also the story of who they are.
Past jams didn’t challenge me with something I thought I should respond by writing an actual in-game story. That really excited me leading up to this one. It’s what excites me about continuing to work on SpaceLeap. What I wrote for the original version and what is mostly there unchanged, I don’t think it is enough. I want to write more story and will.
Since the first version I edited one tiny part of the story and have been instead working on systems to add sound, and getting terribly distracted by that, and more recently how the character moves. The character has two forms of movement, jumping and object movement. Jumping is simple and straight forward, unchanged except for speed. Moving though, while on a body though was mostly a hack using the same login for jumping.
Instead of that hacky motion, I wanted something that felt nice but distinctively quirky. A rolling stroll. Bouncing. The overall idea is that the player’s vehicle is like a lunar lander and impacter mixed together. The movement on these astral bodies is regular and steady and controllable. Launching into the mysterious void is controllable at the beginning but then your floating at the whims of this game’s universe.
The new version improves on the body movement. Instead of jerkily throwing the vehicle into body, it now rolls around. Stepping and stopping around. For a bit I had a stage in-between rolling around a body and launching but this was really confusing to people who play tested it for me. The rolling is odd but the awkward movement is appropriate.
SpaceLeap is about loneliness. The story, the physics, the environment, talks about this. The story says you’re specifically here alone. The physics movement around a body is awkward, in part because I personally like the style for this game, but in an artsy sense it reflects an awkwardness of the character. Jumping into the environmental void you can’t see your destination, in another artsy sense, new friends, until you run into them.
I didn’t intend to make a game about loneliness but it is something I’m well acquainted with. I attended three different elementary schools as my parents moved my family around a lot. Once my family settled for the last 10 years of my childhood, we lived only near one family that we became very well acquainted with. All of my other later childhood friends lived 10 to 25 miles away. Living so far away meant I couldn’t regularly hang out with friends until 10th grade when I had a drivers license. Marching band though is probably why I didn’t end up a friendless loner.
Space Leap isn’t supposed to be a sad game. Just one where the character grows in a lonely environment.
Space Leap is finally somewhere where I’m happy to write about it. While I’m next immediately working on early sound and music, improving Space Leap with further game mechanics and more story points, than at the start and end of the game currently, is something I’ll be working on during and after the next iteration.