CheckOut! is a point and click isometric multiplayer game for students in vocational education. Shipwrecked and stranded on a paradise island resort 2-4 players must earn their way off the island. They can do this by playing games or complete missions all over the island. While playing players must use the chat to talk to people on the island, play games or talk to each other. While at the same time every misspelled word (or Dutch word) is turned into gibberish by the game’s engine and unreadable. Stimulating/allowing the use of English.
The game was made for ROC West Braband which had the idea to make learning English more engaging. That is why only English was allowed during the game. The game did not stop there. Several minigames targeted other learning goals from spelling English in a Tetris like game to understanding spoken English by answering the phone for the local restaurant.
The whole game was co-designed with teachers from ROC West-Brabant. Missions and texts ingame where related to the real-world curriculum to make it fit into the school curriculum. Students at the school were asked throughout the development process for input on the style, gameplay, and difficulty of the game. On top of that, the game was also validated with academic research that investigated the effects of playing the game.
First of let me make clear that Paul Bierhaus created the entire style for CheckOut! (See the link above). This was a mammoth task to undertake with an ever-expanding level (and later on a second level), characters to populate the world and make all the UI to designs for the game and mini games. In the end I was asked to help Paul with of the screens of the game; loaders, ingame HUD and minigame popups. These needed to be flawlessly integrated into Paul’s ideas for the game, luckily, I had his help to guide me. For me this was (maybe still is) a style for from my comfort zone, making it a real challenge to copy the collage/retro vibes into the UI. I learned so much about composition, working with layers and contrast that Paul even challenged me to do some of the talking animations for the characters in Flash!
Not to sound to old, but making an isometric world map in Flash that was madness back in the days. I was not working in a beautiful graphical interface placing cool level parts on a grid. No sirs, this was 2008. The whole world consisted of sections wherefore separate backgrounds where drawn. Then one by one the level elements where placed onto those backgrounds, yes, with ordinary x and y coordinates. To make matters worse, the order of loading them into a section mattered for the z axis! This created very intricate lists of assets being loading into the game’s home-made isometric Flash-based engine. I do remember the frustration of putting in new things and finding and reloading the level multiple times to find the right spot. I ended up creating grid-based PDF-files with numbers of level parts to keep track of every position and manage changes. That earned me the title of asset manager by the end of development.
Unfortunately most of the development documents from this project are lost to me. Luckily, I still had some final shots and Paul still had some of his work on his site.