The Quest of Corona: How Developing an Old-School RPG Game Helped Melanie Ponce, Abigail Limpioso, and Robert Torres Find a Little Levity During a Difficult Time
Melanie Ponce , Abigail Limpioso, and Robert Torres didn’t know each other prior to enrolling in UCF Coding Boot Camp, but they became fast friends when they were assigned to the same group project team. The trio were taking class remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were looking for a way to channel their lockdown-inspired frustration.
They knew they couldn’t kill coronavirus in the real world, but they figured they could battle the disease in a fictional setting for their group project assignment. That’s how the Quest of Corona game was born.
“The game was inspired by what’s happening around us right now with COVID-19,” said Melanie. “We wanted to take the situation we’re in and compartmentalize it into a small application that could be built in two weeks.”
Melanie and Abi had a specific look and feel in mind for Quest of Corona: the 8-bit Nintendo games of yore.
“We wanted to create a game with a storyline,” said Melanie, noting that Quest of Corona draws frequent comparison to one of the all-time classics, The Legend of Zelda. Like The Legend of Zelda, the game is set in a wooded fantasy world — but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
The game opens with a “choose your fighter” scenario where the player can select one of four character sprites: Covid Knight, Covid Ninja, Covid Mage, and Covid Warlock. Abi created the Covid Ninja, but the other character sprites were largely the brainchild of Melanie and Abi’s teammate, Robert said. “The ninja is a favorite,” said Melanie.
“I used some inspiration from other games I played and the current pandemic and — boom!” said Robert. “I used a pixel art website called Piskel.”
Each character is equipped with healing powers, the ability to block attacks, and most importantly, the ability to attack Quest of Corona’s three villains: a murder hornet, the bat believed to have started the spread of COVID to humans, and a crown-wearing dragon dubbed “the Corona Dragon.” However, player powers are limited. “You only get one heal and one block per battle,” said Abi. “They reset at the beginning of each battle and the game is made up of three battles.”
The game’s challenge lies in vanquishing Quest of Corona’s formidable foes without exhausting your limited healing and blocking capabilities.
Race to the finish line
The tight deadline didn’t leave much room for error, and any challenges the team encountered needed to be solved quickly. “We used an RPGUI framework for the character sprites,” Abi said. “Because it was a fanmade framework, it was very glitchy. That was a challenge.”
Melanie and Abi readily admit they spent too much time planning the game — and were racing against the clock during the execution process.
“We did have to think about the minimum viable product, because we only had two weeks and a weekend,” said Abi.
When it came time to present their project to the class, the minimum viable product turned out to be just the first level of the game, which the team managed to complete after pulling a near all-nighter.
“The game wasn’t finished when we presented it to the class,” said Melanie.
“We presented to the class around 11 a.m., but the project wasn’t technically due until midnight,” added Abi.
The team ended the presentation on a cliffhanger, telling the class that to finish the game, they’d have to wait for it to go live at midnight.
Believe the hype
The team already had their work cut out for them in delivering a finished product to their instructor by midnight. What they didn’t anticipate was the overwhelming enthusiasm of their classmates to play the rest of the game.
“Everyone in Slack started asking ‘So, where’s the link?’ and we panicked a little bit,” said Melanie.
The team then leaned into their classmates’ excitement by hyping the completed game as a midnight release. They even designed posters advertising the game’s launch and dropped them into the boot camp’s Slack.
Despite the fact that the team was running on very little sleep, they finished the game by midnight, to the delight of their classmates who were also anxious to slay the Corona Dragon.