Results from Game Design Challenge: Road Trip!

By Danny Cowan [07.26.16]

From the rally racing of Out Run to the freight-moving action of American Truck Simulator, games based on traveling from one destination to another are a staple of the driving genre. Cross-country adventure games emerged with MECC's hugely influential The Oregon Trail, and recent tributes like Organ Trail and Super Amazing Wagon Adventure keep the spirit of the genre alive in the modern day.

For Game Career Guide's latest Game Design Challenge, our readers designed games that feature vacation travel at their core. Here are our top picks.

Best Entries

Emily Norris, Student at Herzing University, Best Pawsible Outcome (see page 2)

Jay Cork, GIS Technician, The Great Trip (see page 3)

Charles Radloff, Raw Deal (see page 4)

João Gabriel Guedes Pinheiro, Game Designer, Death Follows a Car: A VR Mystery Game (see page 5)

Jaiden Kurt, Untitled (see page 6)

Joseph Kalafut, A Trillion Dollars (see page 7)

Elsa Forberger, Road Block (see page 8)

Andrew G Wallace, Game Designer, Hitchhiker (see page 9)

Emily Norris, Student at Herzing University, Best Pawsible Outcome

A rookie truck driver from Chicago is faced with a daunting task: the delivery of cargo to Seattle, Washington. This task is faced with the ample assistance of his best friend Maxie, a German shepherd who loves to ride shotgun. The player controls Maxie to solve puzzles and conquer obstacles from her unique perspective in order to ensure a smooth, safe journey for her and her owner, who is often oblivious to the severity of certain situations.

Such obstacles might include a spider in the cabin threatening to startle her owner into a crash, a cat stowaway under the belly of the truck affecting their arrival time, aggressive robbers and thugs, or even the driver's wavering morale. While controlling Maxie, the player has the ability to bark, wag, bite, lick, whine, and howl, and these functions can be used in different ways to solve certain puzzles. This means that each player may have a different experience based on how they choose to use Maxie's skills to their advantage.

For example, to solve the issue of a spider in the cabin, Maxie might eat the spider to avoid the possibility of her owner seeing it, whine to get his attention so he can deal with it himself, or bite the spider's thread, causing it to fall elsewhere and potentially resurface to be dealt with again. Robbers might be dealt with by utilizing an aggressive barking fit to draw the attention of passerby who might assist, a vicious biting attack which may risk Maxie's health, or a particularly effective howl might even summon a local wolf pack! Mastering Maxie's versatile skill set is the key to this game.

The player's ability to solve these types of puzzles quickly and effectively will determine the game's ending. It is possible for Maxie to die if she puts herself in too much danger, or for the driver to die if it comes down to it, causing the player to restart from their last save. If the player reacts to situations too slowly, the cargo might arrive late, causing the recipient to be very unhappy. If the player reaches the destination on time or early, with the cargo intact and everyone safe, the recipient will be pleased, resulting in the Best Pawsible Outcome. If the Seattle delivery goes well, the driver may receive other delivery jobs, allowing Maxie to continue assisting him for many more cross-country journeys.

Jay Cork, GIS Technician, The Great Trip


You play as a middle-aged TV presenter that recently became unemployed after causing a ruckus. When everything cooled down Primeflix pitched a 12-episode travel show, were you have the freedom to choose were you go and a co-host.

The game is a business simulator with rouge-lite elements. There are two major systems that drive the game. A content system that has the player producing footage for 30 minute episodes, and a reactionary audience system. Successfully managing these systems results in high viewership which means the show won't get cancelled (GAME OVER) and will be renewed for another season (NG+). The show is managed through an in-game laptop you can use when your co-host is driving. You can manage the entire production including; budget, emails, and (most importantly) route planning.


There are filming locations everywhere. The player has to choose which to visit while balancing time, costs, and each location's attributes in order to create consistent quality episodes.

Each location is unique and has different attributes. A holiday park could have a high entertainment value and but takes a while to capture usable footage. A player may choose to increase filming time in order to increase the concentration of high-value footage. Locations also fall into different categories such as; nature, food, people, historic, etc. These variables have profound effects on the audience's expectations and helps mold them.

These locations can be permanent or be events. Events normally have superior stats, as missing them can leave the player with a lack of content. At the end of a week the player decides what proportion of footage is used from each location in an episode. If there's a lack of content, then footage intended for shorter segments can be used to fill out the episode. Diluting content results in badly received episode, and will effect audience retention.


The season premiere generates scores of interest and views. It's up to the player to keep this number high. As weeks go by people stop watching the show, leaving behind fans of previous episodes. The player has to puzzle out who the audience is, and what they want, using different data sources. An audience's makeup can be affected by age, class, gender, etc. A player that's curated a high percentage of young viewers might find that avoid filming in historical locations is in the shows best interest.

If a show's low viewership doesn't get it cancelled mid-season, then Primeflix will generate an end of season report. If the show's numbers are too low, then it's game over. A marginally better performance will mark the show as "on support" resulting in budget cuts and sponsored content forcing filming locations for more money. Exceeding viewership expectations can have positive outcomes like providing a larger selection of co-hosts, a larger budget, and open up filming opportunities... "Hello Mr. President!" Player's finding the game too easy can increase the show's episode run-time which naturally increases the challenge.

Charles Radloff, Raw Deal

Concept: Raw Deal is a four-player cooperative game about a trans-continental arms dealer whose family business is flourishing despite the fiery end of the world as we know it. Pick up a delivery, load it into the good ‘ol RV, and drop it off at the residence of the highest bidder. Sounds easy enough, right?

The Perils: The potentially deadly encounters may include but are not limited to: the weather, the local wildlife, raiders and thieves, rival arms dealers, and less-than-satisfied customers.

The Characters and Aesthetic: The feel of Raw Deal is an ironic one. Though the future is bleak, the world in ruins, and the remains of humanity is generally populated by murderers and madmen, the RV dwellers have taken scant notice, still believing that they're on the ideal family road trip, and managing to stay obnoxiously cheery at all times. A typical American Dream family, the Johnsons travel the continent with mom (Sandy), pop (Dan), a son (Billy), a daughter (Jenny), and a loyal (though hopefully not rabid) golden retriever (Buddy).

The RV and its occupants are exceedingly tacky and dorky, sparing no expense to meet every stereotype of the ideal family of the 1950s. The chaos and impending doom of the surrounding countryside is humorously contrasted by the upbeat, classic toons that consistently leak from the RV's old radio -- for reference, listen to a couple songs off of the "Family Road Trip" station on Pandora Radio.

Though the RV happily bumps along, the family will frequently need to fight for their lives using an arsenal of mostly reliable homemade weapons. As one might expect, shooter/combat mechanics while aboard a vehicle moving at breakneck speeds can feel quite hectic. The more ridiculous and adrenaline-injected the game plays, the more silly and entertaining the backdrop of an innocent family road trip becomes.

Progression/Locations/Events: The long term goal of Raw Deal is to make as much money as possible. The game revolves around arms deals, which are the Johnsons' primary source of income. Deliveries are picked up at survivor colonies and are generally delivered to the the friendly neighborhood warlords at whatever death fortress or rat-infested shanty town they happen to be holed up in.

In order to ensure the success of the deliveries, the Johnsons are capable of amassing a stock of frugally obtained weapons. The Johnsons' arsenal can be upgraded by collecting scrap from all over the country and returning it to special locations called Chop Shops where the rusted faucets and carburetors of the wasteland are refined into whatever havoc-wreaking tools of death the mechanics see fit to create - for a small fee, of course.

While making deliveries, all sorts of unexpected things can go awry. Sometimes a delivery may be made to a warlord whose compound is actively being sieged by an opposing warlord. Other times, the market competition kicks it up a notch by trying to run you off the road. The possibilities are endless!

João Gabriel Guedes Pinheiro, Game Designer at, Death Follows a Car: A VR Mystery Game

This design is a mystery game that uses VR to put the player inside a car during a road-trip around the country with friends.

The player is a former detective, who lost movement of his legs. The reason why the character has this past is to further enhance the immersion of the player, who'll play the game seated, sharing this limitation with the character. Your only mean of interaction is look around: your vision has a cursor on its center, so if you look at someone, and focus on its interaction menu, you can choose what to talk with, if you want to do some more specific action, like pushing his arm, and so on. If you look at the radio, you can ask someone to change to a specific station, or increase the volume or not.

The beginning of the game is all about knowing those people that were once your closest friends. You can talk to them about the scenery, about the weather, about sports, everything depends on what you've seen or heard. That's to emphasize the fact that everything depends on your actions, if you paid attention to what some friend say, you can repeat it later, or if you heard in the radio that the house team won you can comment it in the car.

During the trip, people begin to die in different ways: some were murdered by guns, other by strangulation, and you realize that suffer these "strange" accidents always happen in the towns your group spent the night, and as a former detective, it's up to you to find out if there's any chance it may be true.

Interacting with your friends is a big part of the game: if Friend A is late, you can ask him why he's late, if something happened, and he may say that was a small problem in his room. Then if some time later you hear him comment that was a different thing that happened, you know: he's hiding something from you, so he's a suspect.

Once you find out who's the murderer, you must convince your other friends. The time you spent with them is important to know how to bring up these facts: you can't just say "I'm sure that Friend A is a murderer", because Friend B may say it's a lie because they were eating when victim X died. You must convince them using facts you learned: "but that night he left the hotel during the night, you remember?"

You must also know how to bring it: if you are too offensive, someone may ask you why those hard feelings, and ignore what you say, though if you "just commented" on how it was strange that he left the hotel that night, he may consider what you say, gaining a possible ally.

The title of this game, then, is "Death Follows a Car: A VR Mystery Game".

Jaiden Kurt, Untitled

You didn't leave in time for your brothers wedding now you only have two days to get to your brother's wedding can you make it in time? Your objective is to avoid cars on your way to california. It turns out you're not the only one who was late now you have to fight off those who wish you to be even later. Don't forget to take pit stops for bathroom breaks

Your brothers wedding is taking place in two days you completely forgot and now you have to hurry and put the pedal to the dont want to repeat what happned last year at his birthday you showed up a day late without even a card and your mother scolded you so much you now have allegrophobia and can't bear being late for anything anymore.

The closer you get to california the more you see others who are late for the wedding and they're quite committed to not being the last to show up. They're throwing cans at your car for reason you still don't understand. As your car takes damage you must look for wrenches because everyone knows if you run over a wrench it repairs your vehicle.

You have three lanes to drive in and you must dodge through traffic and avoid the other cars trying to make you more late. Make sure to manage your bladder too you only brought one extra pair of clothes. There are pit stops every 100 miles but with all the action and damage to your car it seems like your bladder get harder to control it.

Joseph Kalafut, A Trillion Dollars

This game is a fictional open world game, in which you become Mike Jones a man that had just won Trillions of dollars by playing the power ball. Nobody had won the power ball for years so it keep accumulating. But there is one catch you have to spend the trillion in 4 days (Video game time).

The rules are you have to spend trillion dollars before the time runs out. You must also have to go to each and every state and spend the money if you do not travel to every state you fail. In every state there are multiple challenges and puzzles you must complete the challenges, if you do not complete the challenges you lose time and you will not be able to spend the money in that area of the state. Some of the challenges are easier than others but if you choose the easier challenges you will not spend as much money. This game can be played as a single player game or a multiplayer game with up to 3 people.

You begin the game in the state of California in Oakland at noon, so you know exactly what time the spending rampage will end. The first challenge you encounter is buying a vehicle that will transport you around the country. The game is restricted to cars, motorcycles, and planes. To get the vehicles you want you must know what year the car was made, the make, and the model.

In the game you can interact with random strangers on the street and you can try to make them tell you where the best place is to spend your money. Some citizens will not tell you others you must ask a lot of questions and take up some of your time to get them to tell you. Also in the game there are people who know you have all of this money on you and they will try and set up traps to try and catch you and take your money. You must be very careful if you get caught by a criminal you lose time. The only way to get around the traps is by finding a sequence of patterns that will show you where the trap is.

If you play this game in a multiplayer setting you must take a test that the game gives you and you will be assessed and ranked among other online players. The computer generated people will then place bets on you and your friends to see who is most likely to win. If you are the winner of the trillion dollar challenge then you get the money the computer bet on you. With that money you can upgrade characters and buy equipment that will help you the next time you play the game. You may also buy different types of clothing to customize your avatar anyway you want to. Also the money can be used to buy cars before you begin the challenge so you do not have to waste too much time.

Elsa Forberger, Road Block

In the fast paced game of Road Block, a child's toy will have to drive through a child's block world, trying to survive all that a kid's imagination can throw at it.

As a simple wooden child's toy sitting in a wooden car, you have been enlisted in an activity known as playtime. A huge, although rickety and precarious world has been constructed out of blocks, and the kiddos want you to be the protagonist of their story. You start out on the road, and soon are swerving around falling blocks as towers are knocked down. An example of a building in the block city is in the pictures below. Sections of road fall down, as a new part is built, just in time.

And throughout all this, you are subject to the childrens imagination. The children are huge, indistinct figures above your tiny self, somewhat like the picture below. From time to time you hear them talking, saying things such as "...and then there were five aliens who were all queens!" prompting the appearance of what they are talking about. Each wave of things from the childrens imagination will get more and more difficult to survive. Faced with aliens, an army of small dogs wielding hot dogs, and other strange things, you skillfully navigate on the road, avoiding the obstacles in your way.

You lack weapons, so to survive you must use your skill and reactions, as you deal with sudden obstacles and incoming fire. The further along the road you go, the faster your car will get. When you crash, or are shot a giant hand from above picks you up, and deposits you back at the beginning of the road, so that you can try to navigate safely again.

One of the key features of Road Block is the appearance of the world around you. With everything appearing to be a child's toy, and huge children towering above your tiny self, the player will feel as if they really are a toy during playtime. The graphic style will strengthen this feeling, as it will be simple and colorful, with models made out of simple geometric shapes. This, combined with the music and sounds, will create a happy, bubbly, and silly mood. Another key feature is the simplicity and ease of game play. Simple, intuitive controls will make it easy for anyone to play, and the escalating speed will help the player get better at the game without making things too frustrating.

Road Block is a single player skill based racing game. It's target audiences are children, and casual gamers, because of its style and simple game play that encourages skill growth. This game could be made for any platform, but it would be best suited for a handhold mobile device because gyroscopic controls, in which the player tilts the device to turn, could be implemented. These are the preferred controls for this game, because they are easy to understand and learn.

Andrew G Wallace, Game Designer, Hitchhiker


Hitchhiker is a music adventure game in which you play as a vagrant musician hitchhiking across the country to perform at a music festival. Busk for gas money, find rides, meet new people, jam with other musicians, and perfect your set list to play a killer show.


The gameplay is divided into two main parts: the music portion and the adventure portion. The music portion closely resembles games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band; a guitar peripheral is used to hold down notes and strum along with the rhythm of the song and the on-screen music chart. Songs can be selected from a library that grows as the player learns new material. Instead of a non-diegetic score, player's performances are judged by how much money is made from busking and the respect of other musicians when jamming.

The adventure portion is made up of dialogue-heavy scenes with decision points throughout, similar to modern adventure games like Life is Strange. Players meet a diverse cast of supporting characters who may help or hinder them on their journey, and the decisions players make will impact their relationships. Players also have to make decisions about where to busk, when to practice, what rides to accept, and more. The most important decisions deal with other musicians- if you hit it off, they may offer to join your band and accompany you to the festival, permanently affecting the style of your music.

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