Itsy Bitsy Passengers

What kind of game is Itsy Bitsy Passengers ?

Itsy Bitsy Passengers is a multiplayer action game in which the player can choose between playing a fly or a spider. The team playing as flies has the objective to consume cookies that are randomly and evenly placed around the level. While the objective of the opposing team of spiders is to prevent the flies from doing so by capturing and eliminating them with spider webs. All the action takes place in a moving train traveling through South and Central Africa. At the start of the game the level is limited to one wagon of the train. However, whenever the flies manage to consume all cookies in a wagon, another one is opened up continuing the game. The game finishes either with completion of the third wagon or with expiration of the timer.

What was the inspiration for Itsy Bitsy Passengers ?

A friend of mine was applying for a university program for which he was required to come up with a game concept within three days, where the only condition was to be inspired by the song "Coal Train (Stimela)" by Hugh Masekela in 1974. As a group of three, consisting of one 3D and Texture Artist, another 3D Artist, and myself as the Programmer and Unity Engine user, we swiftly started concept planning. We tried to encapsule the feeling and matter of the above mentioned song into our level design. As such we decided the level to be a train that had carried the african men to a coal mine, but now travels back, completely empty, with only a few belongings left back. To us, it seemed only plausible to control a character that could explore and feel the atmosphere, but at the same time preserving the emptiness, so we decided the character to be a fly. We decided on a simple collection objective, making exploration mandatory such that the player could appreciate and feel the atmosphere of the level at his own pace. The scale of the fly supplemented this idea by making the whole level feel big, and every left behind item feel significant. After successful development within the three day time period, we decided to continue work on this project since we really liked the feel of the game. As mentioned above, the initial concept only included the fly as a playable character and did not include any multiplayer aspect and was a rather simple exploration and collection game. At the time Unity's UNet system was actively being developed and looked promising, and so we decided to transform the game into a multiplayer experience, adding the spider as an enemy team. This gave the game a new twist and substituted the exploration at own pace with replayability and multiplayer action, which we found was a great thing.

What did I learn?

With Itsy Bitsy Passengers I learned how to Concept, Plan and Develop a game on a tight schedule. My knowledge of Unity Engine deepened exceedingly as a result of working with many different parts and components of the engine. Moreover, I started writing my own simple Shaders. The direct communication with the artists made me really grasp the importance of a Artist and Programmer Symbiosis for the end product. By programming two different playable creatures with different means of locomotion, I gained a remarkable understanding of the importance of a Responsive and Engaging Playable Character. This understanding even lead to me starting a new project, where with the goal of the spider to feel absolutely enticing and real, I created a system of procedural animation for it using inverse kinematics completely from scratch. (Click here to see project). In addition I spent quite a lot of time coming up with Intuitive Camera Controls for the player, since the characters were able to climb walls and as such stand upside down, which could easily make the player feel lost. Lastly, I learned a tremendous amount about Multiplayer Programming which gives rise to a completely new dimension and layer of thinking. As a result, with lots of research, trial and error and headaches, we developed a game that we were able to play online with friends around the world, having an absolute blast together.

Additional Information

Itsy Bitsy Passengers is not available for download. I might release it in the future but for now I have no plans to do so.