June 5, 2018 Student Spotlight: Space Chase
Robert Canciello

Mark Hurst is a student from the 11th cycle of Learn Unity in 8 Weeks NYC.

1. Tell us about your experience in the course.

Before Playcrafting I had managed a team to create a couple of video games in Unity, but I had never developed one by myself. So I signed up for Playcrafting hoping to understand the Unity development process a bit more – and also to meet some people in the New York gaming scene. I’m happy to report that Playcrafting delivered on both counts! I was able to develop and launch my game Space Chase, and I met some great people in the class as well.
My game Space Chase is available here: https://onlyhalfacup.itch.io/space-chase (OSX download)

2. Tell us about your game.

I grew up in the 1980s playing the first generation of videogames (in coin-operated arcades!) so I’ve always appreciated the retro feel in game design. Minimalist graphics and simple game mechanics can make for a great game experience. And as a bonus, a minimalist game is easier for a first-time Unity developer to put together!
And that’s Space Chase in a nutshell: a retro, minimalist, space game with simple controls. Much like the classic space games of the 1980s, there’s no back story, no character development, no explanation at all beyond the five-word tag line: “You’re being chased. In space.” All you have to do is use left- and right-arrows to evade the bad guys and get to the end of the level.

There actually was an old Apple II game that inspired the basic idea behind Space Chase. Launched in 1982, Bolo was a simple tank game where you ran around a level shooting enemies shaped like chevrons. (Watch Bolo footage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jMFITP_i5E) But I always found it more fun *not* to shoot the enemies, but instead to outrun and evade them as more and more of them poured out of the enemy base.
So far I’ve only created three levels for Space Chase, but I got good feedback from the Playcrafting instructors (Rob, Jose, and John) about how I might extend the idea into other levels. I hope to find time to work more on the game and show it at local demo nights.

Quick Questions

1. How did you get into games?

I remember very well living on a naval base in the Philippines in 1979 when my parents brought home our first videogame: Pong! Soon after e moved back to the U.S. and graduated to Atari, Colecovision, and Intellivision, while I spent most of my disposable time and money in coin-op videogame arcades. I have clear recall of, probably, hundreds of games – the gameplay, physical interface, visuals, and sounds – which has helped me in my career developing my own digital products.

2. You’re part of the first manned mission to Mars! You’ll be gone for 5 years and can only bring 3 games to play alone or with your 3 fellow astronauts. What are they?

– Nethack (maybe the greatest videogame ever created, given the precision and the breadth of the game and how its world works – and it’s still being developed!)
– Spelunky (as long as we could get the daily challenge downloaded to the spaceship! It’s also one of the greatest videogames ever created, imho.)
– Chess. Or if that doesn’t count against the list as a physical chess set, I’d bring Minecraft as an endlessly extensible single- or multiplayer game environment.

3. What would be your dream game to build?

A game that teaches the principles of some real-world topic, like climate change, or investing, or some historical episode. I often think back to Balance of Power, the 1985 Mac game by Chris Crawford, which taught me a lot about geopolitics. If I could get such a game funded, I’d love to create some “useful games” in the same vein that are fun to play but deliver learning through the play experience.

4. What do you love best about the game community in NYC?

I appreciate the enthusiasm that New York developers bring to their games, which I’ve seen at multiple Playcrafting events.

5. Choose 5 words to describe your experience making games so far.

How about a five-word testimonial: “It’s actually not that difficult!”