Korku Postmortem

Where We Started:

When we started making Korku we wanted to make a multiplayer FPS game where the players could customize their mech’s load out. We quickly realized that with the time we had available this idea was over scoped. We eventually settled on a cooperative player vs AI game. We wanted each of the two players to feel important so we tried several different ways to divide up the tasks that each player had to do. The second player was given a UAV to scout the area and a buffing mechanic to power up different parts of the mech. The first player controlled the mech and fired the main weapons. We also decided to have our game set during World War 1.

Where We Ended:

When we presented the game to the faculty we had come a long way. We had improved the second player’s mechanics to streamline their game play and allow them to be more active in combat. We gave the second player heavy weapons to give them a role in combat and cut the UAV mechanic. The biggest change for the second player was changing the buffing mechanic from its original puzzle based game play to a resource management mechanic. Through QA testing we balanced the weapons and got the shooting to feel right. We ended up cutting the customization mechanic from our original idea since it required a lot of art assets and we only had one artist. Our final level had the player destroying a convoy and escaping the area.

What I Learned:

The biggest lesson I learned this semester was the importance of communicating with my artists during level design. I had worked on level design before but it was by myself, this was the first experience I have had working with another person on a level. When creating our games level I would send the changes I made to my artist and he would give me feedback. The entire team agreed that this helped improve the level a lot. I really liked having a second pair of eyes on the level to help me make it feel populated and interesting. This is going to be a very useful lesson next semester because I am doing level design again for a different team and I will be working with the same artist from my old team. I also learned about the dangers of making a game with networking. We had the two players in our game connect to each other using a online network, this ended up causing a lot of problems for us. We did not realize how difficult it was to get a network working without bugs. We had problems testing due to networking issues and we also had network problems during our presentation to the faculty. Another lesson I learned that will be helpful next semester is ways to cut down on the amount of memory a level uses. My artist showed me ways to conserve memory which will be helpful next semester when I am creating levels and want to optimize them so they work on lower end computers.

What Went Wrong:

There were only a few things that went wrong this semester. The biggest thing that went wrong was our networking issues. Our game required a working network to play and when we presented to the faculty we had issues that caused our game not to work during the first play session. We got it working by the final play session but the damage was done, not everybody got to play it and it was clear that the issues left a bad taste in peoples mouths. The other big mistake we made was over scoping, our initial idea was really ambitious and we quickly realized that we needed to scope down. Once we took out the player vs player aspect we did not want to take out much more, however the game was still over scoped and I feel that we were worried about scoping down any more even though we should have.

What Went Right:

There were a lot of things that went right while creating this game. I had an amazing team working with me, everyone was always communicating and the meetings had a friendly atmosphere. Nobody in the team was afraid to speak their mind and everyone took critiques very well. The strength of our team was the reason we wanted to make Korku, we had two other potential ideas for games to make but even though Korku was the most ambitious we all loved mech games and we knew our team could pull it off. Another thing that went right this semester was our QA sessions, we went to QA at least once a week and got great feedback about the game. There were several testers that were super excited about our game and we were happy with the responses.

Joining a New Team

The Senior Capstone class at my college (Champlain College) is set up so that after the first semester half the teams working on games are cut and added to other teams who are also working on their own games. My team was unfortunately cut however I was given an offer to work on a game called Space Dunk.  The team liked the level design work I did on Korku and wanted me to do level design work for them, I accepted their offer but it got me thinking about what its like to join a new team and work on another persons creative property. I would like to use this blog post to talk about the integration process to hopefully give people in the same situation some ideas about where to start .

Meeting the Team:

The first meeting we had as a new team was very helpful, we talked about what the original members of the team wanted the new members to focus on. I had the advantage of going to class with many of the members of my new team so learning everybody’s name was easy. I asked the team to see their design documentation so that I could familiarize myself with the game systems, if I want to design good levels I need to know how the game works inside and out. After everyone was acquainted we decided to hang out as a group to get to know each other better. We went to a bar and talked for a while, it was a very friendly environment and I really recommend doing something similar to this (although it does not have to be in a bar). By meeting everyone in a non work environment it was easy to get to know each other without the pressure associated with a formal environment. The meeting was a very helpful way to get acquainted with the team and I am super excited to work with them further.

Adding Members:

I have had experience with getting new members on a team that I have been working with. The last game I worked on was originally a team of five and grew into a team of ten. The biggest tip I can give to teams that are getting new members is to be open to changes they want to make. New members of a team are always worried about making too many changes and stepping on the original team members toes, however a new set of eyes on a project can open up doors the original team did not even think about. Even if you don’t like an idea show them that you are grateful that they are trying to help make the best game that can be made, if you make someone feel uncomfortable about speaking early on they may not bring up good ideas later in the project.  When I had new members join my team last year I was worried that my vision for the game would be changed but I was pleasantly surprised with the awesome ideas they contributed to the game.  Working on new teams can be a scary experience but it will help you grow as a designer and as a teammate.

Designing Weapons

When designing a shooter game creating fun and interesting weapons is one of the most important parts of the design process.  The weapons are going to be used by the player for the entire play experience so they better be compelling and fun to use. When designing weapons there are a lot of details that need to be considered for example: how many weapons the player can hold at once, if the weapons have alternate fire modes, what kind of ammo does the weapon use, and how much damage it does.

Less is not always More:

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when deciding how many weapons the player can carry at once. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method and its important to pick the one that supports you game better. Many modern shooters (such as Halo, Call of Duty, Destiny, and Gears of War) limit the player to only a few weapons, this allows for a more realistic feel since in real life a person can only hold so many weapons. The limited weapon method also allows for more resource and choice driven game play, the player only has a few weapons so when they start to run low on ammo then they are forced to search for more or get rid of the weapon. The limited number of weapons also creates player choice since the player can’t hold the entire arsenal they have to make choices about what weapons they want to hold. The player may need certain weapons to get past certain areas so they are forced to drop a weapon they are holding. On the other side of the coin is letting the player hold the entire arsenal, this method was used a lot in older shooters (such as Doom, Half-life, and Quake). The advantages of allowing the player access to the entire arsenal is that it allows them the freedom to approach each combat situation the way they want to. The big draw back of this method is that it becomes very important to balance each weapon so nothing is too overpowered. Each of these methods can improve the experience of a shooter if its used in the right way.

Fire Modes:

When designing weapons one way to make the weapon more interesting is to give it multiple fire modes. This allows a weapon to have more versatility in combat. There are many games that have weapons with alternate fire modes such as: Bulletstorm, Unreal Tournament, and Painkiller. Different fire modes create the opportunity to make a weapon more memorable, or help compensate for the weapons short comings. In the game Unreal Tournament there is a weapon that shoots a fast beam projectile but the alternate fire shoots a slow moving ball, if the ball is shot by the primary fire the projectiles explode for extra area damage. The alternate fire does not need to be a different projectile, in the game Perfect Dark Zero there is a weapon that has an alt fire that turns it into a turret. Weapons with multiple fire modes give the player more options of how to deal with enemies and in a shooter the more ways the player has to deal with the enemies the longer they stay interested.

Weapon Design In KorKu:

The weapons in KorKu were designed around the level and the enemies. We wanted a long range weapon so I created a laser that had a slow rate of fire but had long range and high damage. The laser was the most popular weapon in testing due to its accuracy and damage. The other weapon the pilot has is the shotgun, this weapon has a high rate of fire but lower damage. This weapon was harder to aim but the spread allowed player to shoot multiple enemies at the same time. The second player had one weapon which was a heavy weapon on the shoulder. This weapon did the most damage but the projectile moved slow so the player had to lead their targets.  We designed this weapon to he harder to use but very satisfying when it was mastered. The cannon could kill any enemy in one shot but hitting that enemy was another story, this created a challenge for the second player to master in order to succeed in combat.

The Devil is in the Details

Designing games is one of the most fun things you can do, however many people don’t realize how many tiny details need to be tweaked and iterated on. One of the things that my team and I worked on a lot is the targeting reticle. A reticle is and UI element that is used in video games to show the player where they are aiming their weapons. The reticle may seem like a small detail but if the reticle does not read well the shooting will not feel as refined. It was a really interesting experience working on a reticle and I wanted to share it with all of you.


I decided to look into other shooter games to see how they handled their reticle design. The first games I looked at were other mech games such as the Mechwarrior series and Chromehounds. The biggest thing I gained from looking at games like this was that most of the reticles were designed to look like targeting systems that are found in modern fighter jets. The look in games like this is supposed to remind the player of military equipment, this is due to the fact that the game wants to give the experience of being in a futuristic military setting.  A lot of the more modern shooters have much more simple designs for their reticles. Many games want to keep the UI as minimal as possible to make their game more realistic.

Designing for Korku:

When designing the reticle for Korku my artist and I first started by talking about the kind of sights that would be found on WW 1 artillery. My artist created a bunch of different ideas for the reticle and as a group we discussed the pros and cons of each design.

img_20151111_165422_1024 This picture shows the first pass on the different reticles. The biggest complaint with our original reticle is that it was very large and did not feel like it was accurate. We quickly decided that each player would have a different reticle depending on what role they were playing (Pilot or Engineer). The pilots reticle ended up being the square one in the bottom row. Since the pilot had a shotgun we wanted something that showed where the spread was going to go. The final design for this reticle did not have the dots in it, we felt that the dots gave players the wrong idea about where each shot is going to go. The design that we picked for the engineers reticle is number 12, the engineer had heavy cannons as their weapons and we decided that we wanted a reticle that looked like an old artillery sight.  We made a few changes to the original design, we wanted the bottom of the reticle to come together like a V, the dot in the middle was where the bullets were going to go and player responded really well to it.


The biggest lesson I learned from designing a reticle is that the first thing to do is decide what kind of weapon the reticle is representing. If the weapon is very accurate you probably want a small reticle, if the weapon is futuristic you may want to help show that with the design of the reticle. The biggest thing to remember is that if the reticle does not read well the player will feel like the weapon is not very accurate. The reticle may seem like a small detail that will go unnoticed but its going to be something the player is looking at the entire time they are playing your game so it is important to make it interesting but also useful to the player.