Project Overview:

This two story Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles installation featured an interactive game where you take control of Raphael or Leonardo in a face-paced skateboard race. I was part of a team of three that designed and built a computer racing game that utilized Wii hardware for input. Built as a student fan project in 2011, the booth was a huge success, winning first place in our division.

Design Overview and Process:

Our game chair, Joshua Debner, wanted to create an installation game that took advantage of the rich themes of TMNT in a way that fit in with the flow of the booth. We brainstormed general ideas, but booth presents several unique design constraints, namely that a game needs to have little to no learning curve and present an encapsulated experience in a relatively short time frame (as you need to move visitors through the booth).

We decided that we would be creating a racing game featuring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on skateboards. Our team agreed that it evoked the theme nicely, while also satisfying one of our most important design constraints: gameplay length. Debner found a graphics and physics engine for us use, taken from an open-source downhill racing game called Tux Racer.

We began with a racing track resembling a farm and turned it into a loop around a city park. I was responsible for the gameplay code and the level design. We added models, textures, and scenery to reinforce the look and feel we wanted. I did all the textures and Debner worked on the models.

Wireframe and Untextured Blender Models

Textured track and Manhattan Skyline Background

We wanted to emulate the "powerup" style mechanics from other cart-racing games such as Mario Kart, but in a way that was appropriate to the theme of our game. We settled on “Pizza Power”, a boost gained by picking up pizzas scattered around the course.

Our third team member, Ian Gillis, had been working on adjusting the steering and getting the Wii interface to work. Once we combined his keyboard mapping script with the game, we did a second round of tests, using a Wii balance board to control the game. The game was immersive, short, but had high replay value. The last step was the creation of two skateboard decks, each of which had clamp attachments to fit over the ends of the Wii balance board. This allowed users to control the game by leaning back and forth on a real skateboard, further involving participants in the experience of the skateboard race.

Installation and Final Gameplay:

I designed the following poster to explain controls to visitors, and we installed the game into the booth about 10 hours before opening.

The end result: a playable, two and a half minute racing game that reflected the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's experience. We had over 2,500 visitors through our booth during Carnival, more than 900 of which played the game.

Collaborators: Joshua Debner, Ian Gillis