ALT.CTRL.GDC Showcase: The Unfathomed Voyager

Gamasutra spoke with second year ETC student Matthew Bofenkamp about the submission of The Unfathomed Voyager in this years ALT.CTRL.GDC Showcase. Alt.Ctrl.GDC is dedicated to games that use alternative control schemes and interactions.

Built during the fall 2018 semester for the Building Virtual Worlds class by ETC students Matthew Bofenkamp – programmer, Boyi Liu and Ruoxi Li – artists, and Chenchen Ava Tan – sound designer/producer. The Unfathomed Voyager puts three players in charge of controlling a malfunctioning submarine, using a variety of wild, wacky inputs to keep it moving.

Here are some excerpts from the Gamastura article:

We’re all currently masters students in our final semester at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, and thus have been making games for classes for years. We’ve also all had professional experience working at companies including Autodesk, Tencent, Universal Creative, and Alchemie Solutions.

Teamwork as your sub crashes

The Unfathomed Voyager is a game about piloting a submarine that is very dysfunctional and actively crashing. Each of the three players gets a control panel with several unique controls that range from buttons and switches to rotating boxes and wheels to spin. Each control represents a part of the submarine, some of which are more technical like the piezogauge or the oxyextrapolator, while others are more humorous like the paint color or the ‘spinning thing.’ Players have to follow instructions as a team to operate the controls correctly and quickly.

On the tools used to create The Unfathomed Voyager

The game was built using the Unity Engine, using the Phidgets plugin for Unity. For the controls, we used wood and acrylic boards and used laser cutting machines to cut them into pieces. We also used glue guns to assemble them. For physical decorations, we also laser cut some pieces of cardboard and painted them.

Constraints & chaos

It started with the fact that our team was rather short-staffed in the programming department, and we didn’t want to make it too overly ambitious in that regard. We heard from other people that Phidgets (individual buttons and dials and such that can be plugged into a computer to receive input) were relatively quick and easy to program, so we decided to use those. However, we also wanted to make something that felt very out of the box and ridiculous and fun, so we decided to use LOTS of Phidgets. This, ironically, undid our decision to make things easy for one person to program in three weeks, but we were really excited to make something extravagant.

We considered lots of different applications for the Phidgets and spent a lot of time googling “cool jobs to have” to find a good fantasy. In the end, it was between a chaotic submarine and running an absurd coffee shop, but we felt that a submarine seemed the most suited to an environment where one would have to operate lots of controls under time pressure. Plus, we all really liked the idea of an underwater setting. In terms of the number of players, we think that 3-4 people are a decent size of a group to trigger chaos. Lastly, we decided to do 3 panels for 3 players because of the limited number of Phidgets we could get within that timeframe.

Congratulations to Matthew, Boyi, Ruoxi and Ava for a job well done!

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