Week 1 – Getting To Know Each Other


This week, we met with our teammates, instructor, and client for the first time. We decided on our project name and each of our roles, set up regular meetings with our instructor and client, learned about project backgrounds and goals from the client, and started researching and exploring ideas.


  • Jeffrey (Chia-Wei) Liu – Game Designer, Assistant Producer
  • Shicai He – Programmer, Artist
  • Tiange Zhou – Game Designer, 2D Artist
  • Yiming Xiao – Programmer, Game Designer, Tech Artist
  • Zibo Ye – Producer, Programmer

Client & Project Needs

We are building a web game for picoCTF to increase people’s engagement in the contest. PicoCTF is an annual cyber security contest hosted by Cylab at CMU, and they have a tradition of collaborating with ETC for a companion game every year, so there were many previous similar projects.

One important goal this year is to make the game stand-alone and less coherent to the annual two-week main contest itself, as picoCTF is expanding to a year-round platform for people to solve challenges anytime and they also want to have the game accessible regardless of the main contest going on or not.

According to the main topics of this year’s contest, our game should emphasize two categories of cyber security – Binary Exploitation & Reverse Engineering. Our client will provide a problem list for this year. They need the game to serve as an intro and hope it inspires the players to explore the picoCTF platform further and gives them confidence in challenging the problems, as the two topics are often the most intimidating to beginners. The game should ideally demonstrate the concept of what learners can achieve after acquiring hacking techniques and encourage players to apply break-the-rules thinking.

Research & Exploration

Previous Projects

We reviewed several previous ETC x picoCTF projects.


Strong storyline & pixel art

404 Productions

A combination of several mini programming games, fitting the client’s needs the most


An escape game with puzzles connected to cyber security


We also tried out some challenges on picoCTF’s year-round platform picoGym to familiarize ourselves with the subject matters and technical knowledge.



We had our first brainstorming meetings, and everyone brought up some interesting ideas covering different aspects of the game, which seemed able to be integrated into one ultimate proposal.

For the players’ goal, an idea was to hack a leaderboard to climb up to the 1st ranking. For gameplay mechanics, we thought about transforming the characters or items into different forms to solve puzzles, which express the idea of compiling and reverse engineering; we also looked into other programming-like games such as Human Resource Machine. For visual expression, we thought about using Minion-like cute avatars to represent bits for easier understanding for young kids. For the story and genre, we were inspired by Sci-Fi stories such as Westworld and Detroit: Become Human. Inspired by The Truman Show, We also thought about having the protagonist trapped in an artificial world and trying to break out. Finally, for art style and the sake of scope, we are preferring a 2D pixel art style and the story happening in a limited game space, as we got inspired by Party Hard.

Human Resource Machine
The Truman Show
Party Hard

Next Steps

We are meeting with the whole picoCTF dev team next week! We’ll keep brainstorming and see what feedback they and our instructor have for us.