Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

Game Design: Supernova

Ever since university I’ve carried a notebook along with me that I have scrawled little doodles, thoughts and ideas in. Most of the stuff in it is pretty non-sensical, but occasionally I come up with something tangible such as an idea for a game. For the longest time I would just let these ideas rot within the pages; doomed to be forgotten when I inevitably fill up the notebook and replace it with another one.

In recent months, however, I decided I would start taking some of the better ideas and try to turn them into polished game design documents. My intent for creating these documents is to get some practice putting my ideas into words, and to provide free (non-commercial) game ideas to people who may want to utilize them.

The first idea I’ve decided to type up is a relatively new one called Supernova.

Supernova is a two-dimensional, vertical scrolling, racing video game, where where players must compete against each other to outrun the shock-wave of an exploding supernova. A good starting point for visualizing the game would be the arcade classic 1942, a vertical scrolling action game with an emphasis on shooting rather than racing.

A brief description of the core gameplay is provided below, followed by a link to the complete PDF design document.

Hundreds of years in the future, when amazing technological advances has allowed humans to spread throughout the galaxy, there is an extreme sport known as Supernova. Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies from across the cosmos gather to participate in the ultimate thrill ride: a blazing fast race away from the centre of a stellar explosion.

Piloting highly advanced spacecraft, these reckless souls ride the fringes of a shock wave emanating from the supernova. They must navigate asteroid fields, avoid planetary rubble and fight off the other racers in order to stay one step ahead of the impending destruction. Falling too far behind is a death sentence, as ships are quickly overwhelmed by the heat and radiation of the detonating supernova.

Unlike most traditional races, Supernova does not have a designated track, finish line or even a finite distance to travel. Participates continue to race until all but one has succumbed to the destruction of the shock wave. The winner is hailed as a hero, while the losers are incinerated into space dust.

To add another danger into an already deadly sport, weapons are randomly distributed throughout the race area. Competitors can add these upgrades to their ships on the fly, allowing them to slow down other racers with a variety of missiles, bombs and power-ups. These boons are especially coveted in the later stages of the race, where two ships may be neck-and-neck with a shock wave scarcely a moment behind them.

Full Design Document Download


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  • Very interesting idea. So would the “track” be infinite in the way that you could circle 360 degrees around the supernova, or is it more like a say, 120 degree cone around the supernova?

    • I didn’t make it especially clear in the documentation (something I’ll likely correct), but the race takes place in an infinite “tube” of sorts. Players are confined to limited horizontal space, while the vertical space extends infinitely upwards as needed.

      I added a screenshot from 1942 to give a rough idea of what the game would look like. Hope it helps!

      • Ah, so it’s like a vertical shmup with variable scrolling speeds.

        I kind of imagined it as a first-person cockpit-view thing.

By Michael
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer