Finalist | Best Student Game

David Czarnowski is one of the creators of Pitfall Planet

Each year at GDC, MFA students from the NYU Game Center interview the Independent Games Festival nominees, asking them three questions about their development process. In addition to this interview, you can read all the insightful interviews from 2016 here. These conversations, and much more, will happen when the Game Center returns to GDC in 2017. Learn more about the Game Center at GDC 2017.

Ben Poland: What was the original spark that grew into Pitfall Planet?

David: When we were thinking of titles we were thinking a lot about space as one of our main themes. I think that space offers a lot of creativity and a lot of different directions for where the art can go. So we started doing a lot of concept art. And one of our first pieces of concept art gave us a lot of inspiration for game mechanics in an isolated isometric world. We really wanted the game to have multiplayer so we tried focusing on mechanics that were cooperative to encourage playing together. I think the spark came out of thinking about different space things, robots, creatures, and cooperativeness which we bolted into this game.

Ben: During most lengthy development processes developers can enter what some may call the “Valley of Despair” Did you experience this, and if so how did you push through?

David: We were all in school while working on the game. So there were times when none of us could actually work on it or only one person could work on it. Which lead to times when it was very difficult to get back into working on the game. Personally, I never have problems with creating stuff. I have always wanted to create things and whenever I had a moment to create something I had a lot of fun making new assets or levels. We did have some times when everyone was just exhausted from all the development work.

Ben: How does Pitfall Planet differ from the original vision you had for the project?

David: We came up with a lot of crazy ideas in the beginning. We had one where you would play as two drunken astronauts that were tethered together and you had to bring them back home. It did not really work the way we wanted it to. But we kept on building on things and as we got more and more playtesting and we saw more and more things that players would figure out and we tried incorporating them into the game. So from our original idea of these levels that were connected going deeper and deeper into the ground it grew into the isolated little worlds and these puzzles that get more and more difficult. So I say form the original idea we did not differ too much we stayed around the same idea and saw what people were playing and added to it.

Ben Poland is a second year Game Design MFA student who loves game nights, learning new things, deep conversation, and discovering new music.  “At the end of the day my desire is to create things of value.”