Game Design

Battle of the Alien Invaders!

Battle of the Alien Invaders! is a first-person shooter with two Capture the Flag game modes for the PC. This game supports up to 16 players using LAN connection. In the first game mode, players must capture each other’s power cores as intergalactic rivals in the battle to invade the Earth. In the second game mode, players race to capture the Human Artifact: a jukebox! Set in a 1950’s B-Movie desert landscape, players rush to either side of the canyon and ensure their rule over the puny Earthlings!

Project Specs

Team Size: 9 Developers
Dev Time: 16 Weeks
Weekly Hours: 15-20 hours
Engine: Unreal Engine 3.8

What I Did

Game Designer
-Designed the 2 weapons and 2 pickups mechanics
-Balanced both weapons and pickups stats
-Designed and Balanced the Charged Jump mechanic
-Designed and Balanced the Shield Mechanic
-Balanced all character movement and character stats
-Authored the Game Design Documentation
-Led Game Design meetings and maintained GDD on Perforce and Wiki
-Used 3DS Mudbox and 3DS Max to sculpt a Pillar of Utah

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What I Learned

Speak in Tangible Outcomes.

In pre-production, the holistic design is more important than every detail. During production, I learned that my team needed concise explanations about what they saw on screen. Having one-on-ones helped with team members gave me more insight into the implementation of features, beyond the design.

How to Design Multiplayer Weapons.

When your opponent is a human, you’re never sure what they’re going to do next. Before this, I really didn’t play FPS. During this project, I played everything. Working on Battle of the Alien Invaders! leveled up my skills as a weapons designer. I learned about weapon management, and how game design decisions such as “weapons as pick-ups” encouraged players to control sections with those items.

Systems aren’t the game.

Despite some features being well-balanced from a systems perspective, the overall player experience did not match the quality of our other gameplay elements. I learned that even if the system is well-balanced and fun to play, the player relies on audio/visual cues to understand how that system works. If we don’t have the time to communicate the system, then players aren’t going to use it.

Game Design

Weapons Design

I wanted to give players 2 distinct weapons that offered players choice between short range and long range combat. I spent the majority of my development time balancing weapon variables in Blueprint, play testing how their systems interacted, and working with the programming team to iterate when necessary.

Raygun – Starting Weapon

The Raygun has a fast fire rate, lower damage projectile-weapon.This weapon allows players to spam the weapon and also protect themselves from the front. Primary fire is a single projectile with no recoil. Both the projectile and shield color matches its affiliated team, purple or green. The primary fire projectile shoots through the air like a laser beam.

The secondary fire is a shield that absorbs all damage for as long as the shield has health. The shield has a cool down period before the player can use it again after the shield health reaches zero.

Blueprint Variables

Raygun, Weapon Balance
Raygun, Projectile Balance

Radiation Rifle – Pickup Weapon

The Radiation Rifle has a slower fire rate, but is a long-range hit-scan weapon. This weapon suits snipers and more advanced players, who can obtain 1-kill head shots while running. The Primary fire is a large beam of radiation that acts like a high damage sniper rifle. The average player cannot shoot faster than the rate of fire when holding the left mouse click.

The secondary fire is a grenade that explodes on impact and does poison damage over time to the opposing team. The explosion is a Radiation Cloud that does 216 damage over time for 12 seconds while standing in the cloud. This creates an area of denial for players and offers novice players a good escape route.

Blueprint Variables

Radiation Rifle, Primary Fire Balance
Radiation Rifle, Weapon Balance
Radiation Rifle, Secondary On Impact Damage Balance
Radiation Rifle, Damage Over Time Balance

Weapons Balance Sheet

Gamemode Design

This game also features a twist on the classic Capture The Flag game mode. Working with the Lead Programmer, we implemented a fun B-movie take on a center-flag game mode. In center-flag, players race towards one flag and then must successfully bring it to their base. In our game, we added an additional requirement: once players had the flag (jukebox), they had to beam it up to their ship–protecting it for a full 30 seconds. During this time, opposing players could enter the “beaming zone” and steal the jukebox from the defending team!

Constant Tug of War

This variant CTF game mode created a back and forth that encouraged players to switch between defensive and offense strategies. Even if players’ team acquired the jukebox first, the enemy team had a good chance of stealing it back. Beaming the jukebox to the player’s ship required players to stand in the radius of their ship’s beam ray to defend. If players left that radius, the jukebox would slowly lower down back with jump height. Enemy players would jump and steal the jukebox for their own team.

Reactive Systems

The variant capturing process was a system that required players to defend a radius while the jukebox slowly rose into the air. The number of players in the radius defending at once determined how fast the jukebox rose. The more defending players the faster the jukebox would rise. This system encouraged players to stand their ground and defend the ship together, rather than camping off to the side of the other team’s base.

However, enemy players could reverse this process! If an opposing player entered the radius, the jukebox’s beam rate slowed. Enough enemy players would reverse the jukebox’s trajectory, bringing it down towards the enemy. Each player was weighted with a different increase percentage. This system created engaging combat after the flag had already been captured, which is one of the hardest parts of developing an intense CTF map.

Gameplay Video

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