May 8, 2020

Gameplay in a Bottle

Take the idea of a lush, visual message in a bottle and turn it into a mobile game that layers fantasy worlds onto mind-bending analog puzzles and you’ve got Bottles, a game that was inspired by a challenging life event.

Creative Director Brooke Jaffe tells us how a cancer diagnosis led to the creative process.

How do you describe your game and the gameplay? 

Bottles is a mobile game that fuses the tactile, handheld feel of analog puzzles and the delight of mobile indie magic. ?You play as a small character inside a bottled-up diorama world, rotating the level around yourself to navigate lush environments filled with delightful surprises behind every obstacle.

What was the inspiration for the game and how it’s played? 

My inspiration for Bottles came from my experience getting my blood drawn following a thyroid cancer diagnosis I got back in 2011. I had to get my blood drawn quite a lot after I had surgery, and being someone who was pretty needle-phobic it wasn’t easy! I got over my fear of needles by playing mobile games in one hand while the nurses took blood from the other, so one-handed mobile games ended up meaning a lot to me. I had thought of the idea for a game where you rotate the world around your character to solve puzzles while fiddling with a bottle, so when I was trying to figure out what sort of game I wanted to make from that idea I decided that mobile worked really well both mechanically and conceptually. I could give back to a genre of game that meant so much to me during a hard time, and make the kind of game I would have wanted to play back then, too!

What platform is the game made for and why did you choose it? 

Bottles is a mobile game—I chose mobile both because of the inspiration for the game, but also because I wanted to evoke a really physical play experience like having an analog puzzle in your hand. What better way to try and evoke that than by creating a hand-held game? I also wanted to focus on accessibility, and there is no console more accessible than the one everyone has in their pockets already.

What are your favorite story(ie)s of success and challenge during development? 

When we were only two weeks out from our Alpha deadline, we were having trouble finding the energy and momentum we had back during the first semester, because we had all just come back from holiday break. In order to try to shake things up we decided to take a risk and not keep working on the content we had already—instead, we divided our team up into two groups and let them make any kind of level they wanted, as long as it could be done in a week and was complete from design to art. Taking that time to let my team be creative and re-discover their momentum was one of the best decisions I made throughout the entire development process. We found our groove, we made some incredibly cool stuff, and one of the levels that came out of that week went on to become Shipwreck: our final level playable for the expo!

Are there any plans for distribution to wider audiences? 

Right now we are thinking of our current build as the starting point—a proof of concept that this mechanic is really compelling and fun, and that there is so much you can do with this game. We only have one level finalized but we have many more in the works, so when we get more of those to polish we will release a whole game full of Bottles to a wider public audience!

Where can we find more information about the game, and if applicable, play it? (website, social media etc.)

Bottles isn’t released for public play yet, but we do have social media and a website where you can learn more!

Our website: (Still WIP, almost complete!) 

Our Twitter:

Our Instagram:

Brooke Jaffe ’20 is graduating with an MFA in Interactive Media & Game Design.

Play Bottles as part of the USC Games Expo, Presented by Jam City on Tuesday May 12, 2020 at Register at