Interstellar Vacuum

PlatformsWindows
macOS
Release date1 December 2021
Team size10
My rolesLead Designer
Producer
EngineUnity 2020.1.10f1
Development timePre-Production: 3 weeks
Production: 6 weeks

Interstellar Vacuum is a physics-based puzzle collect-a-thon starring Dusty, the last surviving cleaner robot aboard an abandoned spaceship.

Take control of Dusty’s unique Suck Up and Spit Out abilities to collect floppy disks, cassette tapes, game controllers and more as you dispose them into garbage chutes.

Explore an abandoned space vessel inspired by escape rooms and help Dusty on his journey to a nearby planet.

Interstellar Vacuum was created in 6 weeks by first-year students at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Melbourne.


Development Log

My role on this team project included producer and lead designer. This involved a number of responsibilities including assigning tasks, managing scope, planning the puzzle sequence that would dictate the critical path through the game, and designing the level itself.

Production

  • Task & Scope Management: For the management of team members’ tasks we opted to use the HacknPlan platform, which is a tool specifically designed for game development, although less sophisticated than Jira Software, which I have used elsewhere. This involved an agile workflow split into four sprints or milestones that were 2-3 weeks in length. After a project roadmap was created, scope was managed at the beginning of each sprint by calculating the number of hours that each team member could commit to the project and measuring this against the estimated time required for each task, including bugs.
  • Additional scope management was achieved by creating burndown charts for each sprint, separated by discipline (art, design and programming). I also ran daily morning stand-ups to keep track of tasks, including to gauge which tasks were creating blockages in the team’s overall workflow.

Design

  • Puzzle Design: A great deal of attention and iteration was allotted to the design of the game’s puzzle. There were two key qualities driving what the team wanted for this puzzle design: we wanted it to involve physics, and we wanted it to feel like an escape room. Admittedly, the final critical path through the level didn’t fully utilise all of the mechanics we had developed for the game, such as spinning a fan to move an elevator. It also overly relied on collecting too many items and firing them into a garbage chute in order to progress. Nonetheless however, it was a valuable learning experience in puzzle design.
  • Level Design: The last of my major responsibilities for this project involved building the level itself with Unity. This involved a number of sub-tasks:
    • I meticulously positioned art assets and modular kit assets, to create a cargo workstation in space that felt recently inhabited and abandoned.
    • Additionally, I used the free Spacescape application to create the game’s nebulous skybox.
    • It also involved testing and adjusting the level to ensure that it felt good for the player to move and jump around in.
    • Finally, it involved plugging in the script components that the programmers had created to ensure that the puzzles functioned as intended.

Credits

Design:

Andrew Nardi – Lead Designer/Producer
Corey Hunt – Designer/Particle Effects
Josephine Tsenalidis – Designer/Sound Designer

Programming:

Rahul Jhugroo – Lead Programmer
Dylan Smith – Programmer

Art:

Rhiannon Eckhardt – Lead Artist/UI Artist
Amman Rahim – Environment Artist
Dylan Chapman – Environment Artist
José Osvaldo Ducuara Rico – Character Artist/Environment Artist
Michael Le – Environment Artist

Music by Rhodz
https://soundcloud.com/rhodzmusic

Border Poly, 2021