Objects in Space and me, or: How to build a spaceship in 3-100 easy steps

Being a Game Designer takes you to strange places. It took me to a place that requires building Space Ships. This is an exploration of why working with physical, DIY controllers has changed the way I work as a Game Designer in a world that is so digital.

Sometimes you start out as a Game Designer and all of a sudden you wake up and you're building space ships. Or at least that's what happened to me when I started working on Objects in Space.

When I first saw the very early prototype of this game, I was immediately infatuated with its quirky nature and boldness. 

Working on this project for about 6 months now, I have discovered that there is some serious magic in being bold about your concept. Being firm and clear with what it should be, transporting this vision with every aspect of the game and what we show our audience has sparked a respect and love from the game's fan base that I have rarely seen in any other project before. In the end, acting as an artist who owns a product seems to actually do something... hooray!

There's more though. Something that made me go... 'huh??'

If you follow our progress with Objects in Space, you might already know that the game is a fairly hardcore title. Flying your ship means a lot of micromanagement and getting to know complex systems that look quite overwhelming. When we took the game to PAX Australia in 2015, I was convinced we would attract a fairly niche audience who would love what we're doing because they are just as much in love with space travel as we are. I was proven wrong...


No matter where we take the game, we are constantly swarmed by people from all kinds of different backgrounds: kids as young as 8, space enthusiasts 60 and older, and casual and hardcore players alike have come to see the game. And while the game itself, once you wrap your head around the complex interface, is actually quite accommodating, I believe there is one very intriguing reason why even people who are more on the casual side of gaming are interested in playing. 

The reason consists mainly of wood, nails and glue and has a lot of blinking LEDs and buttons on it: the physical controllers of Objects in Space.

Originally, when we cobbled together the first setup in the two weeks leading up to PAX, our intention was to showcase the possibilities players would have when intending to build their own setup. Instead, many people reached out to us to ask whether or not they could buy the physical setup from us. Something I was not personally prepared for. 


"In a world that is so digital as ours, physical feedback seem to enable players to connect uniquely with a product."


This is how you become a space ship builder and mechanic overnight. All of a sudden my designer brain was very specifically shifted to building physical controllers. My jobs on other games revolved around spreadsheets and mechanics, on Objects mainly consists of splinters, paint everywhere and burns - and I can't tell you enough how much I love this.





Building things with my own hands for a player experience has probably altered and changed my relationship with designing games forever - for the better! It has been rewarding to be that close to the experience of our audience andObjects in Spacewill always have a very special place in my heart as a game designer. I have learned something about the people I'm trying to engage and I want to keep this experience in mind for everything I will design in the future.

If I could give you advice for doing something interesting and new to spark fresh ideas and love for your craft, I would tell you that you should try and build something physical, a non-digital experience for people to engage with and watch the magic happen.


And in the meantime? In the meantime, I will keep building space ships...

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