When designing games sometimes you have an idea that you flesh out and after a while you decide that the idea is not right for this particular game. The worst thing you can do in this situation is scrap the idea completely and never look back at it, sometimes the best designs come from ideas that you didn’t like initially. This recently happened to me when I was working on level designs for Space Dunk. One of my first ideas was a diamond shaped arena. The initial idea did not test well at QA, players were having a lot of trouble figuring out where to go. The level was taken out of the game but recently I revisited it and came up with two different levels based on my initial design.
What to think about when revisiting concepts:
The first two things I like to consider when revisiting an old concept are: what was my original goal for this level and what part of the original idea did not work. I like to think about my goal for the level when revisiting it because it allows me to remember why I made the design choices I did the first time I was designing the level. This also allows you to think about better ways to achieve the same goal and it also allows you to reconsider the goal of your level and possibly change it. When you look at why a level did not work its important to look at it objectively, its easy to say a level didn’t work because it was a bad design but its much harder to look at the specifics of why it didn’t work. When I looked back at my diamond level I realized that one problem was that it was just too big, by making the level smaller it helped the players navigate the space better. The other major problem with the level that I discovered was that it was too cluttered so the players could not see the other teams goals easily. Since the goal of the game is to score in the other teams goal not being able to see the objective caused players to feel lost.
The first thing I do when making changes to a level concept I am revisiting is save a new copy of the level, that way I still have the old version before I start making changes. When I was making changes to the diamond Space Dunk level one thing I did was scale the level down to help with navigation. I also rotated the entire arena and removed most of the objects out of the middle so both teams could see the goals at all times. This allowed me to drastically change the level pretty quickly and get it ready for testing again. The only was to find out if the changes you make are for the better is to test them.
Looking at old concepts is a good way to inspire yourself but it is important to remember that not every idea you have is going to be salvageable, this does not mean that you can’t learn from the concept. The first few levels I ever designed and created were really terrible but I learned a lot from making them and I learned a lot more from revisiting them and playing them. When you return to an old project or concept and you have distanced yourself from the feelings you had towards it when you were first making it you have the potential to learn a lot from the mistakes and the successes from your past.
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.
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.
This week for my senior capstone game I have been working on designing mechanics for our cooperative mech game that would cause the players to have to work together. There are lots of games in the current market that have heavy emphasis on cooperative play games like Left 4 Dead, Evolve, Borderlands, and Destiny. Co-op play is not a new concept and with the advent of online gaming it has only gotten more popular, however the question remains how does a designer get players to work together?
One of the most popular ways to get players to work together is to create enemies that can incapacitate a player. Left 4 Dead does a great job of this, in Left 4 Dead 2 four out of the eight special zombie types incapacitate a player with their attacks. When one of these enemies attacks a player they are unable to move or fight back until an ally kills the enemy, this encourages players to stick together and heal each other because a lone player can easily be picked off. Another game with great examples of enemies that force players to work together is Army of Two. Army of Two is a game created from the ground up with co-op in mind, there are many types of enemies that have heavy armor in the front this creates a need for the players to flank. One player usually draws the enemies attention while the other player shoots their weak spots.
Another popular way to encourage teamwork is to create different character classes for the players to pick. This allows the designer to create objectives that only certain classes can complete, if the players know they need a certain person alive to complete the level they will work together to protect that player on the way to objectives and while they are completing objectives. When each player is a different class they bring more tactical options to the table and this creates a symbiotic relationship. In the game Resistance 3 there is a co-op campaign where each player has different abilities one player can heal others but they don’t have many offensive capabilities so it behooves the other players to protect the healer so they can last longer.
Some games use puzzles to encourage co-op play, games like Portal 2 have co-op campaigns that are all about solving puzzles as a team. This method can be a very good way to encourage teamwork, the players will not be able to progress further in the level until they work together to solve a puzzle. The danger of this method is that if one player has done the puzzle before they can just tell the other player what to do and that eliminates the need to really work together.
The methods I discussed above are by no means the only way to get players to work together, there are tons of other ways to get players to cooperate. When I was thinking of ways to encourage player teamwork in my senior capstone game I looked at a lot of co-op games and how they solved this problem. One of the mechanics that I came up with for my game was to have a super powerful weapon that requires both players to maximize its effectiveness. The pilot fires a slow moving projectile that deals average damage, the engineer can then shoot the projectile to make it explode dealing high area of effect damage. This encourages communication and rewards the players for working well together. I also created a mechanic where the engineers UAV has to be refueled by the Pilot. The UAV is very useful in combat and its in the pilots best interest to keep it fueled so that it can keep scouting and supporting the pilot. When designing co-op mechanics the biggest thing to remember is to make sure both players feel equally powerful, if one player feel less powerful then the other then they will get frustrated and not want to continue playing. If any player does not feel like they are contributing to the team then they won’t see the point of playing and as a designer you want to keep players invested as long as possible.