Sunburn! is a cute but deadly gravity-puzzle game released in Fall 2014 with Secret Crush Corp.
Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story, Kaleidoscope, Sunburn! was made with Aaron Freedman and Diego Garcia at the NYU Game Center. It was selected to be part of the NYU Game Center Incubator, and launched on mobile devices in Fall 2014.
Sunburn! was featured upon release on the front page Apple’s Best New Games, included in other promotions such as “Amazing Indie Games,” and reviewed in: Co.Design, TouchArcade, MOTHERBOARD, Animal New York, RedBull Games, Paste Magazine, and more.
Our 3-person design team was highly collaborative. We made all creative decisions together, but were responsible for distinct parts of the design.
Diego was the lead artist and prototyped gameplay mechanics, Aaron was the lead programmer and oversaw the business-related aspects of the project, and I was our producer, level-designer, and narrative designer.
This project started out as a 3-month project in Eric Zimmerman’s Game Studio II class at the NYU Game Center. At the end of 3 months of development we had a PC-build of a game with 12 levels. From there, the prototype was accepted into the NYU Game Center Incubator where we worked to turn our student project in to a commercial product.
During our 3-months at the Incubator we ported the game from PC to iOS, built out the mechanics, implemented a level-editor, came up with a cohesive narrative, designed hundreds of levels, and spent countless hours playtesting and refining our tutorial.
I was primarily responsible for production and level-design. As a producer I managed our day-to-day progress and project scope. As a level designer I sketched out levels, designed them in our custom-built level editor, and tested the progression with players.
I used dialogue between characters in the game to explain new mechanics, and worked with Diego to create visual on-screen indicators to help players.
We designed and re-designed over 200 levels for the game and finally settled on just over 50 levels for the initial launch. After checking out the analytics, some levels that made it into the final game are definitely way too hard, whoops!
THE GAME TODAY
We worked on Sunburn! for 8 months, (5 months full-time, 3 months part-time) and launched on the iOS and Android stores in 2014. The game had more than 25k downloads, many of them paid.
We were really happy with the project — we finished and launched it, the game was critically acclaimed and written about online and in game design textbooks, we showed it at festivals, we made some money, we had a great time.
Some things I’d change if I did it again:
Build the game in an industry standard tool, like Unity. At the time, we felt really strongly about using OpenFrameworks, an open source tool, but from a practical perspective it makes less sense now. The game has been super hard to update and is no longer on the App Store because of this.
Make a post-launch plan. We talked about making a post-launch plan to update and maintain the game, but didn’t make the actual plan. I think if we would’ve done that we could have kept the game alive and come up with tons of new content.