How I created my dream game, Panarctica

September ’22 — January ‘23 || Project Management Leadership Unreal Engine Blueprints Maya Substance Painter

Matthew L. Komar
3 min readJan 3, 2023

300 years from now, the surface of Earth is a frozen wasteland. You play as Lefty, a pirate aboard an airship called The Campbell.

For Panarctica, I focused on project management and making sure I retained members of my team throughout the semester. I also helped out with programming or 3D modelling when we lagged behind in some aspects of the project.

Panarctica is a vertical slice and proof of concept of a first-person shooter set in an ice age with zeppelins. It shows how a typical mission will look if the player pursues the piracy character arc. I pitched and developed the game at the Game Creation Society (GCS) at Carnegie Mellon.

The frozen world of Panarctica

Handling scope

We’re making a 5 minute Call of Duty level, not Bioshock.

Scope is a big part of any project, especially for games at GCS. As I wanted to create a vertical slice, I enforced the idea that we were making a 5-minute mission that is part of a larger game. We’re making Call of Duty, not Bioshock. We had to design a world accordingly. To simplify the art pipeline I laid some ground rules:

  • All characters must wear masks, to avoid face animations.
  • Enemy characters must share assets.
  • Levels must be linear and use marketplace assets to clutter them.
The concept art for Panarctica

A first-person shooter at its core is a very simple game to make, but still requires lots of programming. I had to make sure that we would create an MVP for a lot of the core components and not develop them further.

  • Weapons will not have ammo count and will have no zoom.
  • There will be no player inventory and there will be three types of weapons players will use.
  • Two types of enemies with simple AI. No friendly AI.

Retaining Members

Creating a friendly and low-stress environment improves member retention.

GCS projects usually have issues keeping people throughout the semester due to stress from College or GCS itself. To retain people on my team I:

  • Got to know people on my team and found out they wanted to get out of the project
  • Assigned tasks relative to skill level and interest.
  • I helped members when needed.
  • Brought my team pizza for lunch during most meetings.

At the start of the project, we had 18 members. We had contributions from 15 of them, with 10 members retained by the end of the project.

Meet the Panarctica Team

Helping out due to labor shortages

As our project had a shortage of 3D modelers, I focused on creating environment art and texturing other models. Occasionally, I taught other artists on the team new skills along the art pipeline to help distribute the art workload.

Toward the end of the project, we lost a couple of programmers, so I worked on finishing up our weapons backend, added in level scripting, and improved our level streaming capabilities.