Marisa Hike
by marisahike on 26 Mar 2019 for Rookie Awards 2019

Blow the competition to bits, and be the last toy standing in a physics-based party game for four friends! BOMBFEST is a project I've been designing and creating art for since my junior year of university. Our tiny team of two have been able to release the game this year on all consoles!

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Blow the competition to bits, and be the last toy standing in a physics-based party game for you and up to three friends!

Battle in wooden forts, on folding chairs, and inside the kitchen sink as you attempt to be the last player standing. Use bombs to eliminate your foes, but don’t get caught in a chain reaction of explosions!

Featuring accessible controls, a whimsical art style, and chaotic physics, BOMBFEST is fun for all ages and skill levels. Unlock new levels, bombs, characters, and outfits as you blow up both enemy and friend alike. Don't have three friends nearby? No problem! Our handy dandy toy AI will give you a run for your money!


Functionally, we wanted BOMBFEST to be enjoyed by everyone (we took our E rating very seriously), so we selected a simple control scheme: players can hit the rightmost button to dive, the bottom most button for all bomb-related tasks (pick-up, throw, blow up), and walk with the direction pad. We were able to test out our system during game conferences where we would have a wide variety of ages ranging from toddler to grandparent.

Inspired by a local charity whose main goal is to make games accessible to those with disabilities, we ensured our controller input supports most modified inputs due to the game's simplicity. More specifically, our game can support mouse only controls on PC for one-handed play as well as alternative input devices. Aesthetically, we wanted the characters to be recognizable despite issues with color-blindness, so we made sure to create a unique grayscale contrast for each character’s texture as well as unique symbolic themes for each character. For example, the baker has bread themed iconography while the courier has mail.


Choices in our UI/UX design focused on creating a minimal and mainly symbolic understanding of BOMBFEST’s gameplay to create an intuitive experience. The game’s main menu contains an idea for what the player can expect: physics-based characters, blocks, and bombs rain from the sky while AI demonstrate what gameplay looks like in the background. The player can even mash the same selection button once the game loads to skim over the selection menus if they wanted.

More symbolic imagery is used throughout our gameplay for players to understand its mechanics. During matches, we wanted to create an engaging way for character kills to be easily understood and tallied, so we chose colored stickers for each player to collect as they knock-out their opponents. Players can also quickly ascertain who is in the lead by looking for the player wearing the crown (knocking them out gives bonus points)! Even the only triangular symbol in BOMBFEST is used to demonstrate damage dealt so that players can quickly glance to see how close they are to being blown off in one hit. Originally, we used emotes such as sweating and anger to show this process, but we would have to explain what it meant to the player. This was an issue we frequently faced throughout development. 

Our favorite example of this design struggle is the practice area. We wanted players to have a fair chance of understanding the controls and trying out new unlockables before the game started; however, we wanted to let each individual player choose when they were ready to start the game. In the old design, we have a glowing circle for players to stand in and wait for each player to be ready. This decision turned into some nightmare co-op scenario where one player would throw bombs at patiently waiting players and the game would never start. The group had to coordinate at the same time which didn’t fit with the rest of the gameplay. We were able to come up with a fair solution during our aesthetic overhaul where players individually jump through a door whenever they feel ready to start the game. From there, they patiently wait until the other players do the same.


We hope that BOMBFEST reminds our audience of the spontaneous games we all would play as children where possibilities for a game are endless—where q-tips can be swords and anywhere can be transformed into a play area. Few things felt more satisfying during our youth than exploring an area, creating something grand and toppling it over when it was time to clean up.

The unspoken story of BOMBFEST is one of a child who wants to play one of these silly games all across their home with their friends where they use mundane objects throughout their house to create unique, powerful objects of destruction. The art direction of the game serves to reflect the childlike wonder, chaos, and joy that comes from those moments, so we started creating rooms of the house that the child explored. In these houses, players can see a minimalist interpretation of what each room contains where the center of the player’s attention always revolves around the area of play. We were fascinated by the idea of modern art and how it reached audiences on such a base level through shape, texture, and guiding the eye, so we pushed ourselves to find that successful balance where people from various cultural backgrounds could still resonate as that child.

As we grew inspiration from minimalism for our first aesthetic overhaul and discovered how we could create successful compositions through modeling, we soon fell in love with the ideals of pop art such as celebrating the mundane objects that exist through our childhood home. 

Ultimately, we wanted everyone to be able to find something in BOMBFEST that stirred a little bit of nostalgia from their childhood home as well. Pop art also inspired the game’s triadic color scheme seen in each level; elements of Lichtenstein’s environment pieces influenced us to focus on creating further visual interest through outlines and textured patterns.However, we decided to make interactive objects have brighter colors and outlines so that the player could easily find their character. We even switched from confetti after knock-offs to the “BOOM!” and “K.O.!” prevalent in pop art culture.

So much more could be said about our design choices or our struggles, but we’re very thankful for what we’ve learned through making our first game. We hope to keep growing as game developers and bringing a little bit of joy to the lives of our audience.

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