Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Urbanity

from the gaming-like-it's-1927 dept

Last week, we had the first of our series of posts showcasing the winners in all six categories of the fifth annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It’s 1927, and the spotlight was on Best Remix winner Lucia. This week, we’re taking a look at the winner of the Best Visuals category: Urbanity by Government Name.

Best Visuals is a tough category in a game jam, especially for digital games, since a video game with polished original graphics isn’t an easy thing to turn out on a tight schedule. On the other hand, the public domain provides a wealth of new visual resources every year, and one of this year’s stars on that front is Fritz Lang’s Metropolis: a 1927 German expressionist film that is still praised and studied today for its iconic visuals and advanced special effects. Urbanity by Government Name is an exploration of the film’s themes and, more importantly, its imagery — but more than just a game, it’s an ambitious experiment in the use of AI tools.

Described by the designer as an “atmospheric story game”, Urbanity doesn’t just pull visuals from Metropolis: it uses them as source material with OpenAI’s Dall-E to generate new images, which are then converted into fully 3D-rendered scenes for the game. There’s plenty of creative flare embedded in this process: distorted lenses, smooth camera fly-throughs, parallax backgrounds and many other careful presentation choices combine with the bold art (and its muted color palette) to construct the consistently unsettling and overwhelming atmosphere of a looming gargantuan city…

…its tower-top vistas where the “Thinkers” learn and play…

…and its claustrophobic underground corridors where the “Workers” toil:

As the player, you choose one of those paths — Thinker or Worker — and proceed through some very simple point-and-click play to reach one of the game’s multiple endings (including, perhaps, its secret ending). The gameplay is underwhelming and at times a little buggy or confusing, but it works in service of the continually striking visuals, and you’ll find yourself powering through it just to see what else the game has to show you. It’s also helped along by some great atmospheric music and full voiceover narration. As the designer explains, the use of AI extends beyond the visuals, too: ChatGPT provided help with the actual code for every script in the game, and even gave the project the name Urbanity (all of which, it should be noted, neatly ties in with the themes of automation and technology in the film).

Put it all together, and you’ve got what a game with undoubtedly the most distinct and memorable appearance in this year’s game jam, with imagery that’s woven together with the story and source material, all developed via an interesting technological experiment — a fitting winner of Best Visuals.

Congratulations to Government Name for the win! You can play Urbanity in your browser on Itch, plus don’t forget to check out the other winners as well as the many great entries that didn’t quite make the cut! We’ll be back next week with another winner spotlight.

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Comments on “Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Urbanity”

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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Great choice for best visuals

The visuals are something I would expect out of a game that would be sold on Steam or put on XBox or Playstation. They’re that good. I would think this game should silence all the trolls who say that the ever-expanding public domain and/or TechDirt’s yearly game jam to take advantage thereof doesn’t lead to AAA games or games that look as good as them, but knowing our trolls here, they tend to be contrarian…

Anonymous Coward says:


There used to be out_of_the_blue constantly pooh-poohing any attempt to leverage the public domain, but he hasn’t been sighted since early 2021. My favorite pet theory is he either injected horse dewormer into his veins or got involved in the Jan 6th sweep.

Tero’s the next contender when it comes to public domain hate, which he’s voiced on multiple occasions. Suffice to say the game jams blow his Meshpage-powered nonsense out of the water.

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