Corona World

The Bohemian Browser Ballet is a satirical program part of the German Funk network. They are mostly known for their comedic sketches that push the boundaries of satire, but also, to some, for their games.

In periods of high topical trends they like to hire indie game development studios to quickly develop a fitting satirical game. The goal is simple, develop a game in a very short amount of time, to use it as a new-media platform for satire. The results are often controversial, some people love them, some people get mad, but excitement is always in the air.

At the beginning of the COVID pandemic the Browser Ballet immediately realized the potential for gamification and started contacting it’s previous developers. Due to the short notice all affiliated companies where unavailable, so the Ballet started looking for a new player.

My team and I were recommended by our professor, who happened to be one of the developers on a previous game: Muslim Ban 2. Very happy with our performance at our previous gig he introduced us to the representatives and after expanding our team to match the requirements, we were in business.

We now had to develop a topical game, highly inspired by Super Mario World, in around 3 weeks, making sure to meet all of their requirements, which included multiple enemies, a boss battle and at least 5 minutes of gameplay. Additionally we had to make sure to implement a leaderboard and to properly package everything with Unity’s WebGL.

Our team had the following composition:

  • 1 Producer
  • 1 Programmer (Thats me!)
  • 1 Level Designer
  • 1 Designer
  • 2 Artists
  • A bucket of love for the craft and juvenile naivety

If there was a team composition that was fit for the task, this was definitely it, but we knew from the start that my time would be stretched quite thin and my responsibilities were high. After all I had to implement multiple enemies, implement a boss battle, setup a leaderboard system (inclusive server-side), allow for localization and iterate on a complex player controller all while ensuring the happiness and productivity of my designers. We also had no time to deal with development issues, thinks had to work quickly and they needed to continue working correctly indefinitely!

Fortunately, contrarily to most game development processes, this game had a very beneficial requirement: The games final structure was set in stone from day 1; The game would always be a Super Mario World like level based platformer with a boss battle at the end. This allowed me to execute the following strategy: Pre-design and implement the macro software architecture immediately, while the designers are still busy with figuring out the themes expectations.

In a normal development scenario this would be a very wasteful strategy as games tend to mutate largely in the early stages of development. But in our case it proved perfect. By properly following the SOLID principles and implementing a custom minimal dependency injection framework I was able to setup the entire architecture in the first 2 days.

Here is my Day 1 Architecture diagram:

Corona World Class Diagram

I am happy to report that this diagram only required minor modifications and allowed me to focus my attention at the remaining responsibilities. Most notably, I ended up having to spend countless hours fighting “hackers” (or rather abusers) who immediately after release realized the abysmal security measures (or lack thereof) that i had implemented.

Honesty, do I really have to use advanced encryption for high score submissions of a satirical minigame?!

In the end the development went quite well and the Browser Ballet was satisfied. The initial reaction where quite positive, some people even started speedrunning the game and submitting competitive scores. Over time though, with the continuation of the COVID crisis, the game’s videos became more of a platform for unsatisfied citizen to express their repressed frustration.

If you, like me, still feel like throwing disinfectant on people that don’t follow restriction regulations or simply want to smash COVID’s head, give the game a try. It can have a real cathartic effect.