Inspired by the air deprivation mechanic from 1991 Game Boy game "Altered Space", "Must Have Air" pits you against up to seven other players each trying to find air cannisters before their air runs out.
I wanted to recreate the experience of the sense of urgency that Altered Space provided while changing it to a competitive multiplayer experience. You always had to keep moving and maintain awareness of where your next air cannister was. I took that idea and increased sense of speed, added additional players, and created an arena type experience.
With only four weeks to produce and develop the game I had to be picky about the arena size, mechanics, and obstacles. By creating a self contained area I could limit where the player could go and how long it would take them to potentially get there. Add the fact that air cannisters don't immediately respawn and in fact randomly respawn between a range of time all of a sudden you have an interesting game concept. With the focus being on traversing the level from air supply to air supply the experience was about awareness of what and who was around you sense there are no weapons in the game.
Blue and green cannisters spawn in preset locations throughout the map. Blue cannisters increase air by 20 units while green only increase by 10 units. You can spot air cannister spawn points in game by looking for the energy column that vertically shoots upwards from their locations. When spawning blue and green cannisters make a slightly different spawn sound.
What would a platformer be without moving platforms. Player has to time jumps on randomly vertically moving platforms.
Player is simply launched into the air but control direction of speed based on how fast they run into the launch pad.
Yellow tiles cause damage when run into. Crouch under or sometimes consider jumping through to gain a needed cannister.
This area just slows you down. Whether you are walking or jumping molasses grasses will impact travel time.
Use speed strips to move quickly all around levels. Players can do entire laps to move around the map quickly.
Simple but time impacting maze with two different options for cannisters as well as a few shortcuts from inside the maze.
Its hot lava. It hurts. Don't jump in it.
Another platforming regular. This 360 degree rotating platforms takes a little more timing than players would think.
When players choose to hack the computer it INCREASED air deprivation for ALL players including themselves.
Another platforming classic. Players can find that elusive under water cannister if desired.
Cannister locations were always centered around an obstacle or special area of interest from lava pits to mazes. Molasses Grasses is one of the more interesting POI as it slow you down when in area and provided a risk reward scenario dependent on what level of cannister was present.
While waiting for other players to appear in the multiplayer lobby it was important to provide single players an enticing experience. This was especially important in the early days of the Core platform as players were rarely dialing up multiplayer games without some coaxing in the form of requesting others play via discord. Often times I would load up a game that seemed to have promise or looked interesting only to find there was no one to play with. I tried to mitigate this bad experience with giving players the option to survive a time attack solo mode. This coupled as a way to train themselves to learn the fastest routes and explore the ins and outs of each area and overall level. Check out me sucking at my own mode below:
Core Games often runs game jam contest which is where Must Have Air! came out of. Knowing that the air deprivation mechanic was something I had been interested in a while it worked really well with the survival game theme and prompt that was provided. With only 4 weeks to create the project and never having created in Core it was quite a fun challenge to hit within the constraints. I desired to keep things simple and knew that I had to keep the level and map small and straight forward. Adding mechanics to the map vs. the player was fun and gave me lots of options in the map design for the project.
I wanted to offer a different and unique experience. I figured there would be a lot of crafting and zombie type entries and there were. Some of the categories were specifically asking for them and I chose to go for the "out of the box" category. By removing gun play and being much more direct with the prompt I was able to bring something unexpected. Although most survival games have a longer survival time I figured surviving only a few minutes is just as good as surviving an hour and brought a competitive multiplayer angle for players to enjoy.
Must Have Air! Ended up winning a runner up award in the "out of the box" category within the jam contest!