2018 Global Game Jam - Carrier - Part 1: Design

In January, I participated in the 2018 Global Game Jam with a couple of my colleagues. In this post, I’ll be going over the specifics of the design work I did. I will be talking about Unity implementation in Part 2.

Here is a brief overview of the game my team created for the jam.

We came up with Carrier, a four player split-screen PVP game where the players are birds. The players could choose between being the predator (a Hawk) or the prey (a Carrier Pigeon). Hawks had to kill all pigeons in order to win. For the pigeons, only one had to deliver the message to the goal to win.

Our team of five consisted of one 3D Artist, one VFX Artist, two Programmers and myself. My role on the team was Unity Generalist and Game Designer.

Here’s what our build looked like after 12 hours:

For the design of Carriers - since it was a game jam game with the intent of it being fun but simple - there are only two aspects of design: Player Controls/Abilities and Level Design. I had amazing teammates that were focused on creating a complete game loop (playable with Win/Lost conditions). This allowed me to start testing and tuning the game early on.

Player Controls/Abilities

Since it was a flying game, I really wanted to incorporate barrel rolls and loop-the-loops into the controls because I felt it would add depth and fun to the game. Our team decided that those aspects were too complex for casual players and the timeline was too short for implementation. I was reluctant but felt it was a good call in terms of scope.

After I did some testing two things became apparent, aim and speed needed to be added.

The lack of aim or look controls meant the player could only see in the direction they were flying. In our game, the Hawks needed to look around for the pigeons.  The pigeons needed to look for the goal. If the player could only see in the direction they were flying, they would have to pick a direction to travel before they could see if that was the correct direction.

The lack of speed was just as much of an issue as the lack of aim. Without the sense of speed, it did not feel like the player was flying. Also, the player couldn't control how fast or slow they were going. In a PVP flying game, the ability to speed up or slow down provided a crucial layer of strategy in combat.

For these mechanics, we implemented these controls: left stick for looking around, one button for speeding up, another for breaking.

For the speed mechanic, we refined it further with a boost meter that replenishes and had a cooldown if it was completely depleted. In the HUD, I implemented a circular gauge for the speed boost and a speedometer. This way the player could immediately read how much boost they were using and when they were speeding up or slowing down. Once we had these elements in the game player controls started to feel well-rounded!

Level Design

For the level design, the Goal and the Hawk Spawn were set on one side of the map while the Pigeon Spawn point was set on the other side. In theory, this setup would force the pigeon to fly across the whole map to reach the goal. This layout would also allow the hawk to fly directly at the Pigeons and attack them head-on.

After playing some matches with the team, I found the map to be too small and the objective and spawn points needed to be moved around. The problem was that the Pigeons were able to get to the Goal very quickly.  For the Hawk, it was difficult to confront the Pigeons head on. Once the Hawk missed flying at a Pigeon, it couldn't maneuver around for another kill before one of the Pigeons reached the goal. A longer map with better spawn points was needed.

The new map drastically increased the time it took for the Pigeon to get to the goal. The new Hawk Spawn put the Hawk at a more advantageous position to attack the birds from the side and from behind. The Hawk also had time for multiple attack passes.


The three biggest changes to add balance to the game were adding open areas to the map, updating how boosting works, and giving the Hawk and the Pigeon different handling.

The map needed different areas to provide risk versus reward for the Pigeon. Having open lanes allowed for getting to the goal more quickly but exposed the Pigeon to the Hawk. Other open areas gave the Hawk multiple chances to go after the Pigeons.

The boosting mechanic was also changed so that it would replenish over time but had a cooldown if the whole gauge was completely depleted.

The programmer who worked with me on this feature exposed these stats to allow it to be extremely tunable. The rate for how long the Hawk and Pigeon could boost and their cooldowns were different. The Hawk could boost for longer, but the cooldown was slower. The Pigeon could boost for short burst, but the cooldown was quicker.


To round out the game we added a few more elements:

Hawk vision - UI tracker was added to the Hawk’s so it would be easy to see the Pigeon

Hawk radar - Pigeon can detect how close a Hawk is with vignetting. The closer the Hawk the stronger the vignette

Upper boundaries – Lower flight ceiling for Pigeons than Hawks, making it impossible for Pigeons to hide by flying above the Hawk

Breaking/Boosting – remapped Breaking and Boosting from face buttons to triggers on the controller so the player never move their thumbs from the sticks

Inverted Controls – added toggles to invert flight stick or look stick with bumpers

It was a lot of fun and hard work with some very talented people. Overall, we are very proud of how the game came together. But don’t take my word for it, you can play it for yourself (Download Here).

Thanks for reading!