Cloudwalker: The Concept

The core mechanics are already in place. Move, jump, collide, pogo jump!

Cloudwalker is a captivating platforming game where you take on the role of the rebellious Sun Wukong as he attempts to gain an audience with the Jade Emperor after being kicked out of the heavens. Earn favor and unravel the game's meaning by gathering tokens, collecting items, and restoring your legendary strength and abilities. With the help of a mysterious mermaid named Qing, jump through randomly generated cloud-scapes in a mystical world and see to it that you get what you deserve!

Why Cloudwalker?
Games can make themselves financially dangerous, unethical and nullify their own potential meaning by tapping into the hidden inner workings of our psyche. Encouraging compulsive behaviors, utilizing Ego Depletion, Reciprocity, Intermediate Currencies, Price Shrouding, and "Fun Pain" are still very relevant problems in today's marketplace. Despite discussion and new attempts to finding the right balance between games that are made and make money or games that are made to make money we still see cash cows lighting up the hit lists and reaching our social media news feeds.

One of the strongest ways we can fight and raise awareness of these approaches is to teach players and inform them when they least expect it. By playing Cloudwalker, players will be challenged to question their own actions and reasons for earning new upgrades and collectibles. They will find themselves in unfamiliar environments, suddenly stripped of everything they have earned, only to overcome the strongest of adversaries with their most fundamental abilities.

The game is inspired thematically by the Journey to the West's sequel, A Supplement to the Journey to the West, in which one of the primary characters faces the only enemy they cannot defeat with brute force: desire. Throughout the core adventure, Sun Wukong earns or demonstrates the ability to lift a 14,000lb shapeshifting staff, can leap ridiculous distances, can transform into dozens of different beings, can turn individual hair strands into clones of himself and more. This is a character who embodies strength and attaining it on an immeasurable scale, so when the Qing Fish demon traps him in a dream world, he struggles with his own compulsive behaviors and works closer to freeing himself from those base desires in order to overcome his inner demons and, this is my favorite part, become a teacher.

In the game, the story and mechanics will go hand in hand in order to open the players mind and ask them to question their own intentions. While it will have them second guessing their role within Cloudwalker, my hope is to have them questioning the actions they have made in the past and to reflect on a business methodology that is still taking advantage of the human mind.

Knowledge is power.

Additionally, considering the character's rebellious personality, cited as a representation of his author's desire to overcome untouchable rulers, there is potential to evoke certain messages related to the American political climate as of late. As Sun seeks an audience with the Jade Emperor and gets closer or further away from that goal, there may be mechanics in place that metaphorically speak to my view on our current government figureheads.

Serious Goals
- Raise awareness of unethical practice and encourage players to challenge those practices
- Teach players to question what games are asking them to do and why on a critical level
- Teach players how talking openly about their concerns can bring about solutions

Target Audience
Budding game developers. Typically, 17-20 year old aspiring devs who play mobile games in addition to PC or Console games on a regular basis and have just joined a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree. Considering my primary role as an undergraduate educator, I have encountered numerous prospective students who are familiar with these types of unethical games. Until we sit down and discuss their history and we challenge them to analyze their actions critically, they don't full understand the ramifications of these design choices and how they can be responsible for those design choices themselves.

The game will be made available for free through my blog and personal websites and playable on PC/Mac.

Game Summary
Players will participate in a series of "jump from here to there" platforming challenges in a side-scrolling perspective. Upon beginning the game, randomized environments will task the player with reaching a specific vertical chasm, effectively reaching a higher level within the heavens and getting closer and closer to the Jade Emperor. In each of these randomly shuffled chambers, individually designed with specific platforming-related challenges, you can find hidden chambers filled with collectible items or token-like favor. Favor can be used to purchase new upgrades from Qing, a merchant that you will encounter between chambers. She offers a variety of upgrades based on Wukong's mythological artifacts and strength, like higher jump height, controlling the length of his staff to "pogo jump" to reach greater heights, boots that let you walk on lighter-than-air clouds and more.

The catch is that you will never reach the Emperor. Progression-wise, once players unlock all possible upgrades (only a handful in scope right now) you will trigger a special "final level" that engages more directly with the goals and purpose of the theme and mechanics. Here, Qing will present her true intentions and reveal the big twist within the narrative.

Levels are chosen at random each time you play. As you discover new abilities, levels appropriate for using those new abilities will be made available.

Between levels, you can upgrade your abilities at Qing's shop. She isn't exactly hiding the fact that she isn't acting in your best interest.

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