Results From Game Design Challenge: To The Skies

By Danny Cowan [11.28.17]

 From the ancient legends of Icarus to Leonardo da Vinci's earliest designs for flying machines, mankind has been enamored with the idea of flight since the earliest days of civilization. While commercial airlines make flight trivial nowadays, some people still desire to take to the skies on their own terms.

Likewise, PC and arcade flight sims are now incredibly sophisticated, but there's more than one way to fly, and not all games about flight need to be simulators.

For Game Career Guide's latest Game Design Challenge, our readers designed games that feature flight as a core mechanic. Here are our top picks!

Best Entries

Zane Wilson, Student at University of Montevallo, Flyshot (see page 2)

Jase Goodson, Student at University of Montevallo, Laws of Aviation (see page 3)

Matthew Whitby, MSc Student/Game Design Intern at University of Portsmouth, Glider & Vent Game (see page 4)

River Dolan, Student at University of Montevallo, Flybaby (see page 5)

Kristy Castillo, Daniel Owais, and Travis Tomon; Students at Montgomery College; Shonen Flyer (see page 6)

Luis Brito, Game Designer at Level-5, Chargers (see page 7)

Scott Hawkins, Aspiring Game Designer/Developer, Untitled (see page 8)

Zane Wilson, Student at University of Montevallo, Flyshot

Flyshot is a 3-D flight game with single player and multiplayer components. In the game you play as a pilot whose is carrying a photographer that is in charge of getting the best shots of an international racing competition. It would kind of be like a faster version of Pokémon Snap where the player is also piloting the vehicle. The competition is filled with colorful races of Indy cars, speedboats, dirt bikes, snowboarding, and even other aircraft. Each race is very different and can be approached from many angles.

To start the game would be typical of a racing game where the player chooses a circuit and a starting aircraft to use. There would be many types of aircraft the player could choose from. Each one having their own unique abilities. For example, a blimp could fly much higher than other aircraft and therefore get better panoramic shots. However, it would be much slower and larger than the rest of the aircraft and might not be able to catch up with the competitors or get into tight spaces. A jet on the other hand would be much faster and get closer to the race than the blimp. It could also perform maneuvers to get more interesting angles. But the jet's weakness is it must always be moving so a player must aim ahead of their target. Other aircraft could be helicopters, biplanes, airliners, hot air balloons etc.

Once a race starts, the player would be free to go wherever they wanted to over the course. The game would control like a typical 3-D flying game but have a strong arcade feel to it. The player would have a map in a bottom corner of the screen to know where the racers are at. While flying the aircraft players would also be in control of the camera. To take a picture, players would simply have to press one button to take a picture. Wherever the camera is facing is the picture that is taken.

Power ups would be spread out over the course for the player to take advantage of. Such as, a time stop for a few seconds or a special filter for the next five shots taken with the camera. In single player a crash into anything would leave the player with two more lives. In multiplayer if a player crashes once they would have to wait until the end of the race.  After the race is done players could stop and choose another aircraft before the next race starts. They could also buy new pieces (using points) for a specific aircraft to enhance it and/or parts for the camera.

Players will be rewarded points based on the quality of their pictures. Good pictures for example could be shots of first place winner coming across the finish line, a spectacular crash that happened on the course, or a mesmerizing trick done by a racer in the case of a snowboard or motocross race. 

Jase Goodson, Student at University of Montevallo, Laws of Aviation

My game, Laws of Aviation, is a third-person, insect simulator game. However, instead of simply choosing an insect to play as, the player must design their own insect from a choice of insect body parts. The construction of the insect is highly modular, allowing the player to freely customize their insect in any way they want. Do you want three wings? Sure! Do you want a bee with a long tail instead of a stinger? Go for it!

Each design decision the player makes will affect how their insect operates. If the insect is small with short, quick wings, its movements will be fast and erratic. If the insect is heavy with large wings, it will move slower but be more stable. Once the player has designed their insect, they are placed in the back yard of a middle-class suburban family. The player is confined to the backyard until they have completed a short tutorial, at which point they are free to explore the entire house as well.

The game's story will portray the player as the last surviving member of a swarm which was destroyed by the humans. It is up to the player reform a swarm by completing certain tasks. The player will have to collect materials to build a hive, recruit other NPC insects to join, then take revenge on the humans. The player will only be able to complete all of these tasks by flying.

To construct the hive, the player is required to, gather randomly spawning materials around the property, bring the materials to a number of possible hive locations (i.e. in a tree, in the ground, under the deck, in the walls of the house, etc.). Once the materials have been gathered, the player simply waits for the hive to be completed before it can be used. The player uses the hive as a sort of home base, refilling their health as well as spawning there if they are killed. The hive is also the only place where the player can save the game, ensuring that if the player's insect cannot complete the tutorial, they must start over. Any insects that the player recruits to the swarm can be told to wait at the hive.

Different types of flying insects can be found around the map. Insects are recruited by either gathering nectar, or stinging a human. Though the stronger insects require more difficult versions of these actions. The player may choose to only recruit wasps, creating a deadly swarm. The player may alternatively choose to create a mishmash swarm of any insect they can recruit. Once the player has a large enough swarm, they can try to attack the family. If the swarm succeeds in driving the family away, the player wins. If the swarm is not strong enough, or if the player dies in the attack, the swarm is destroyed, forcing the player to start over.

Matthew Whitby, MSc Student/Game Design Intern at University of Portsmouth, Glider & Vent Game

Glider & Vent Game

High Concept

One player is controlling a glider that is slowly falling, the other must move vents to push the glider upwards and keep them moving through targets.


Glider and Vent is a game on a relatively small scale, because of this it would be best suited for mobile/tablet devices.

Game Overview


There are a few different settings that would fit the gliding game perfectly, the first is with a paper plane and metal fans or the other would be one player controlling a life-sized plane and the other is controlling a series of downward facing thrusters.

Simultaneous Multiplayer

The core gameplay loop is designed mostly for two players to work cooperatively, the best way to achieve this would be to have split screen on a single device that can handle both players input. If motions controls are needed, two separate devices connected to the same game would be the best solution.  

Hard Asymmetrical Co-op

The gliders and supporters will be experiencing two different gameplays experiences, but require cooperation to be successful. This promotes some replay ability with each player taking turns at each unique role to see which they can achieve a higher overall score with.


Glider Controls

The glider game will make use of motion tracking, for the glider this will be how they will steer their own vehicle. Aiming themselves left and right while the game naturally progresses them forward. Motion controls should not be forced however, for accessibilities sake allowing players to also use touch controls can allow people of ranging gaming experience take part.

Vent Controls

The vent controllers will also be moving to follow the glider; they view the glider from a side perspective and with their own motion controls to suitably place the vent to keep the glider in the air. The vents will push the glider higher if it is closer to it, but players will have to ensure they aren't pushing the glider above incoming objectives.


The main objective would be to proceed to the end of the level, but as they progress rings will appear for teams to aim for. Obstacles could also be included to increase the games overall difficulty.

Long term - Beat the teams own personal high score.

Medium term - Identify upcoming targets and coordinate to aim towards them.

Short term - Steer the plane or move the vent as required.

River Dolan, Student at University of Montevallo, Flybaby

Overview: Flybaby would have a simple, yet fun and addicting gameplay style, akin to most app games. Sure, a time-waster, but a fun one!

The game would have a ridiculous over-the-top kind of concept that people latch onto. The idea is that you're a baby that can fly, and you wreak havoc on the world below you by crying an absurd number of tears all while avoiding your parents who are trying to stop your fun. The tears would have fun ways to interact with the world passing quickly below. By aiming your tears at a cloud for example, if you "fill" it with enough tears, the cloud turns into a storm cloud and rains down below, gaining you bonus points. You could also aim the tears at things such as mountains, glaciers, even shark exhibits to cause all kinds of havoc!

There are other interactions that would rely on survival. Your parents have done this a million times and littered the sky with traps to catch you, but being the clever flying baby you are, you can stop it with your tears. Gates could be blasted open with enough force, hitting weight traps, and even filling cages full of water so they shut so you can pass on through.

The goal of the game is as simple as it gets, cause more mayhem, get a high score. Beat your high score. However, the replay value is increased when the idea of using the points collected along your main playthroughs to unlock upgrades for your baby. Such as faster tears, stronger tears, easier to control flying, and even big upgrades that could help immensely! These would cost more points, but make the game much easier and more fun. Such as the ridiculous Battle Rattle that would let you shake the screen to cause mayhem on a recharge, or a halo that would give you an extra shot if you fail!

The game has a very fun and addictive charm to it we've all come to know and love from our app games, and would certainly be a fun and fresh addition to the pool.

The game's mechanics are simple as well. One finger controls your movement, the other controls the direction of the constantly firing tears. As far as upgrades and active items such as the Battle Rattle, they would have specific ways of activating. Such as shaking the screen, double tapping, etc. All in a fast-paced, reactionary, side-scrolling game that's hard to put down.

Kristy Castillo, Daniel Owais, and Travis Tomon; Students at Montgomery College; Shonen Flyer

Shonen Flyer is a Momentum-based Aerial Combat game. The game is played in multiplayer arena matches between real and computer-controlled players. Players control supernatural fighters in a grand tournament to claim the title of the King of Heaven. While players can fight on the ground, the real battle is in the skies.

At any time, players can take to the skies and engage in dogfights for aerial supremacy. While in the air, players need to contend with turbulence throwing off their aim. In windy skies, players have to deal with strong winds altering their speeds. Meanwhile, they have to manage their speed; climbing will slow them down, but a good dive can quickly carry them out of engagement range. If all else fails, they can fall back on their handy air rolls to avoid getting hit.

In the game, players engage in battles on the ground and in the air. Players can unlock and develop their own fighting styles by choosing a weapon, each with their own melee attacks and energy blasts the player can use.

In addition, the player selects 4 super moves to round out their options. These super moves consume adrenaline. Defeating opponents can restore adrenaline, but if the player really needs it, he or she can focus his or her fighting spirit by screaming with the force of his or her conviction to recharge adrenaline. 

Luis Brito, Game Designer at Level-5, Chargers

Chargers - Game Concept

The year is 2031. Strides in Renewable Energy and Aerospace have enabled the creation of Chargers; flying vehicles that can operate solely on air intake. Wannabe racers ready for glory take to the skies to compete head to head with their tuned Chargers. Speed, drift, and shoot your way through multi-stage circuits to establish yourself as fastest in the world. But beware, for there are entities who enforce their air space, and they have no problem taking out trespassers.

Chargers is Luftrausers-styled flight and controls with Speedrunners' courses and abilities, but with an added challenge: power is limited. Spend every bit of power to speed to the front or cruise along in the back, but the only way to get more is to take the pedal off the metal. Pilots race through levels tactically stalling their engines and drifting through tight corridors. Utilize modifiers in each course to get an extra boost or disable competitors long enough to gain the lead.


Complete the required laps and follow the course to reach the finish first.

Control the vehicle by applying throttle and rotating clockwise or counterclockwise. The more throttle applied, the more the vehicle accelerates in the direction it's facing. The faster vehicles fly, the slower they rotate, so ease up on the throttle to make tighter turns.

Throttle can only be applied when vehicles have power. Gain power by gliding without throttle, flying through another racer's jet stream, or through specific modifiers on the course.


Traps and mysterious phenomena on the course change and activate as racers fly through. The more power a pilot's charger has stored, the stronger the effects.

Chargers are so efficient, they redirect excess energy. This can be good or bad. -Some Engineer

Energy Storms provide piloted vehicles with infinite power for 2 seconds.

Mines momentarily disable pilot control of Chargers for 2 seconds. Bigger mines work longer.

Ball Lightning is shot in the forward direction of any vehicle that comes in contact, resulting in Mine-like results for enemies in the path. Ball Lightning is more effective the more powerful the Charger.

Iron Clouds slow Chargers down as pilots maneuver through their debris.


There are two game modes: Race and Score Trial.

Points are granted based on 3 criteria:

Between races, pilots can upgrade their Charger's speed, power efficiency, and handling with the points they've earned. Compete against AI and Player piloted Chargers to take each Cup! Rule the skies through creative use of Modifiers, knowledge of the routes, and aerobatics.


References: Luftrausers, Steambirds, UN Squadron, RocketsRocketsRockets, Aerobat, SpeedRunners

Players: 2-8

Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox One, PS4

Scott Hawkins, Aspiring Game Designer/Developer, Untitled

This game would be comprised of air-to-air engagements between players or AI in levels made up of floating islands hovering over an abyss. The goal of this game is to control the settlements, or control points, located on these floating islands.

It is in the first-person perspective of a flying robot. Piloting the robot functions much like a glider. You'd need to plummet towards the abyss and pull up for a burst of speed, but the closer you are to the abyss the lower your maximum health is, making you a weaker, but a much more difficult to hit target. Press space to use thrusters to propel yourself to avoid plummeting, but they must eventually be recharged by doing so.

To capture these points players must 'roost' themselves on the structures on these islands. This regains your health quicker and captures the point. As long as a player is roosting and no enemy players are doing the same they capture the point, but they are vulnerable to enemy attack. The more players roost on a point, the further the island sinks to abyss, limiting the heath they have, slowing their regen, and making them easier to kill. Some players need to defend the roosters to keep points, while others go on offensive.

To avoid ‘player loafing' or ‘everyone being their own little Rambos,' players / AI are assigned roles that are either Offensive or Defensive. Offensive players are responsible for taking new points until Defense players can take their place and are also tasked with attacking the enemy team. Defensive players roost and protect roosters. Roosters are kicked off their roost after a period of time with a cooldown before they can roost again, so new players need to take their place. This keeps players from roosting the whole game and forces would-be-loafers to defend the new roosters or take new points depending on their role. It also incentivises ‘strategic roosting.'

To attack players they must switch into combat mode, which lets you shoot at other players but you can't shoot and fly at the same time. So the longer you take to aim and shoot the further you fall to the abyss and eventually die. The further you fall the harder it would be to recover lost glide potential due to wasted plummeting. Shooting others has instant effect and switching from Flight to Shoot is very quick, as not to be punishingly clunky. Using boost can keep you from falling and steadies your altitude, but that of course runs out. You maintain momentum in combat mode, so strategic launching of self encouraged as part of play.

Players spawn on their home island, which is unaffected by player induced sinkage. When one team captures and holds more than half of the islands for a period of time, they win. Or if time runs out, whoever killed the most players wins. There is XP based ranking in competitive mode, but not in casual mode.

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