Monster Mash is a 4-Player local Co-Op game designed to be a different take on the game "OverCooked". You play as assistants to a mad scientist, where you must create monsters for their lunatic boss, and using teamwork to overcome physics-based obstacles & unique game mechanics.
I created all of the design, code, and pre-production art for this game.
Game Design Example
et in a dystopian future, HAX is a marriage between a Sim Management game combined with a Turn-Based RPG battle game. Players grow a crime empire by selling illicit EXE's
(virtual experiences to the brain).
PURPOSE OF THIS EXAMPLE
This is simply an example of my thought process, competency in game mechanics and systems design, as well as my "design personality", if you will. I hope to show how I intuit the psychological motivations of players, and turn those motivators into game mechanics.
I will showcase game design fundamentals, but force myself to describe a massive, broad-ranging design that demands synergies across design, programming, art, advertising, and monetization departments, but a design that lowers the work-hours need from those departments to achieve fun, addictive gameplay experiences.
This example of game design is not a short, concise document that I would use as a game pitch. It is obviously not a cohesive design document. It is a preview of a product's value to a customer. In this case, you the customer, seeing value in investing in me.
BUDGET AND DEVELOPMENT COSTS
In this fully-fleshed out example, the budget for initial development, and for ongoing development of the released game would be millions of dollars.
If virtually all of the design festures were removed, leaving the core gameplay, the game could be achievable by a small, driven, and talented small-to-medium team. A feature-light Sim game, and a combat system that requires no AI, limited/reusable animations, but admittedly a demanding amount of art assets.
The budget for a small team would almost certainly require shipping an offline-only product. Online play introduces potential showstoppers for the development team, an unknown amount of bugs before and after launch, and the infrastructure costs would be out of reach at this budgetary level.
At the Sim level of gameplay the player travels to and from locations in a node-based map. In this level of gameplay, the player is a glorified icon, moving from node to node. Each node would be represented as a property or location the player is visiting (a building, docks, Corp security center, etc). Hereafter I will refer to these locations as "buildings" as a shorthand.
The visual implementation of the game world would be 2.5D, but all in-world assets would be 3D (Unity / Unreal engine). For the most part, UI/UX appears as standard 2D UI, but it is actually a combination of 2D and 3D assets.
The purpose of having 3D assets used in UI/UX is not simply subverting the player expectations that all the UI/UX is 2D, but can be used to visually convey urgent or nuanced information about gameplay and events without cluttering up the screen with menus, icons, or walls of text. Of course, it can also be used for cinematic "wow" moments.
Example: What appears to be a 2D icon of a schematic that represents a building upgrade item the player just bought, rises up into a holographic 3D icon of a futuristic building when moused-over. Any number of visual cues (height, area, color, shape) can instantly convey to a player rarity of the upgrade, statistical attributes, powers or abilities, or the type building that can equip the upgrade.
This is a one-time cost for development of this UI/UX interaction, and a recurring demand for the art team, but this mixture of 2D and 3D UI/UX assets could be re-used over the lifetime of the title, and increase player satisfaction with the nuanced, concise conveyance of what would otherwise be dense and cumbersome amounts of 2D and literary information.
SIM CORE GAMEPLAY
Core activities include purchasing and selling EXE's, engaging in roleplaying decisions, upgrading their overall "city" with global upgrades, as well as eventually purchasing and upgrading buildings.
Player retention comes from the motivation in strategizing how to maximize the efficacy of their activities and acquisition of in-world income/items with synergies between building upgrades, city upgrades, and the outcomes of the risk/reward roleplaying events.
The long-term goal of the game design department will be to introduce new factors or conditions to gameplay that cause perpetual changes in what players, and the player community at large, view as the most effective ways to obtain growth (upgrades, in-fiction currency, weapons, and items).
SIM & TURN-BASED UPGRADE INTERACTIONS
City upgrades will have synergies many of the equipped building upgrades, and some building upgrades will synergize with other building upgrades, but there will also be synergies with characters primarily used only in the Turn-Based level of gameplay. The acquisition and upgrading of the upgrades for Turn-based characters in some cases can also affect the Sim level of gameplay.
The upgrades in the Sim level of gameplay specificall will focus on a very limited aspect of the Turn-Based gameplay (See Holo-Beast characters in the Turn-Based gameplay section below). The Turn-Based character upgrades will vary wildly in where they affect the Sim level of gameplay (Building & City synergies, particular interactions with Roleplaying events, quotas of the sales of particular type of EXE, etc.)
A supremely complex matrix of "cross-pollination" of synergies between the Sim level and Turn-Based level will be boiled down to simple choices because the complexity of these upgrades will be much less than their Sim-Only and Turn-Based only counterparts. Often this class of upgrades will provide less net benefit to the respective level of gameplay, but with the right strategies, provide more benefit to the player's overall success in either category of gameplay.
All of this cross-pollination can lead to dramatic changes of the player's upgrade usage with things as simple as a time-limited event we are hosting, or a new goal for guilds to achieve this week, or even the release of a new character, new side-quest map, or a new cross-pollination upgrade. The variations are endless, and many variations do not require work hours from the programming or art departments.
Example: The player decides to equip a City-Holo Beast upgrade that triples the income from Holo-Beast fights in the Turn-Based level of gameplay (Holo-Beast characters are described in Turn-Based Gameplay section below. Just assume a Holo-Beast is a type of fighting character used only in the Turn-Based level of gameplay).
In doing so, they are un-equipping and sacrificing the benefit of a City-Only upgrade that increases the chances of a roleplaying event where they discover a "Super Sale" of cheap EXE's. In addition, because the player invested in-fiction resources in leveling up this City-Only upgrade, it also has the ability to provide an increase in the player's profit margins of EXE sales after the player's 20th EXE purchase for the day.
Why would a player do this? Because we are hosting a game-wide event where income from victories in the Holo-Beast fights that are normally tripled by this City upgrade, are septupled (x7) by equipping a Holo-Beast with an upgrade that corresponds with the City upgrade. This event is also a Ranked Ladder event with players not only receiving rare items & in-fiction currency used to upgrade both Holo-Beasts and buildings, they also earn a currency we use specifically for guilds to unlock Guild only side-quest maps.
Of course, the upgrade on the Holo-Beast that corresponds with the City upgrade is not only moderately-massively weaker than a Turn-Based only upgrade, it also does not synergize well with many of the "best" Holo-Beasts the community views the strongest Holo-Beast characters. But this cross-pollination upgrade does synergize well with Holo-Beasts the community views as second-tier "best" characters.
The player is risking defeats in the Holo-Beast fights they normally would not incur. The player is using Holo-Beasts they would not normally use. They are motivated to increasing one or both of these upgrades during the event, as well as this second-tier Holo-Beast.
The urgency of the limited window of the event being active will motivate certain psychological profiles to expend massive resources, possibly encouraging a purchase with real-world currency (IAP). We promote the players and guilds with the best results with notoriety and positive reinforcement from our social media tools (see Social media section below).
At every aspect of gameplay we are encouraging change from the status quo, encouragement to spend vast resources, to use upgrades or characters they normally see as "unprofitable" or weak. There is in-fiction economic benefit, as well as real-world boosts to player ego, drive for success and notoriety, and increase of community fan worship of the best players (once again, see Social media section below).
At the very least we have encouraged many player's to change up their static, rote strategy or even completely reset their views of how "fresh" and new the game feels. This is all accomplished by TWO upgrades, and one special time-limited event.
This is another example of two to three game mechanics with a one-time development cost from the programming department that can be used by game designers to change the player/community's experience, but just as importantly, keep distracting their focus on upgrading any one upgrade to the point that they feel the steep grind that fully upgrading items will eventually have to happen in all games like this.
Other examples of causing dramatic shake-ups to the player/community's "best strategies" comes in the form of daily/weekly challenges, unscheduled special events, scheduled or unscheduled special side quests, time-limited guild only quests, or simply changing the goals and rewards for player guilds from week to week.
TRIGGERING TURN-BASED COMBAT FROM SIM LEVEL
The majority of Turn-Based combat will be triggered by the Sim level of gameplay. Maybe even the player simply moving from node to node may trigger a random encounter.
But for the most part we want the player to have agency, and control of when Turn-Based combat begins. Our core demographic will be strategists, Min/Max players who despise chaos and feeling that they lost from being ambushed or put at a disadvantage that amounted to the impossibility of success, no matter the strategy. They expect a predictable series of actions that they initiate to launch Turn-Based combat.
Roleplaying events at the Sim level involve that may trigger either roleplaying risk/reward decisions, or trigger Turn-Based combat include dystopian futuristic themes such as Street-Vagrant Intel, special deals on EXE's or equipment, and most definitely entering a node that shows an enemy icon over it, or entering a building hosting an underground Holo-Beast fight.
Often roleplaying events can chain together. A visit to a Holo-Beast fight incurs an intel offer in exchange for some credits. Possibly the informant tries to stiff the player and escape with the money, and surely we will have upgrades to buildings or characters that catch that informant. Or the intel proves to be good and the player scores a deal. Or the deal turns into an ambush.
That is core gameplay, but we can easily introduce variations to the static gameplay experience by denoting an area of the map as a combat hot-zone. Often a hot-zone with a particular "race" of characters (Robots, Androids, etc), and players will want to engage in those battles because the enemies drop upgrades or items to be used to upgrade the buildings, characters, Holo-Beasts, etc.
The Sim level event of underground Holo-Beast battles allow player's to enter into kind of Pokemon battle situation. The normal map view would be replaced by a clandestine and cybepunk venue, but under the hood we are just using whatever trick the art team wants to use to overlay/obfuscate the map. The game state has not changed to some wholly new game state the programming team needs to develop. All smoke and mirriors.
Players can wager on fight outcomes, and eventually earn enough Holo-Beast currency from core gameplay to own their own Holo-Beasts (some thematic Cyberpunk name like "Holo-Disks"). Afterwards, the player will engage in "Pokemon" game mechanics of acquiring and upgrading their Holo-Beasts, using the same methodology used for upgrading buildings, and the same mechanic that will be applied to Turn-Based characters (In Turn-Based section below)
The in-game gambling currency used for wagers is not related to real-world currencies. There is no way for a player to obtain more of this currency by spending real-world currency. This is done to avoid real-world government restrictions on gambling.
CLICK THE IMAGE TO SEE THE 3D SPEED RUN VIDEO
CLICK THE IMAGE TO SEE SHIPPED 3D MAPS
CLICK THE IMAGE TO SEE LEVEL DESIGN METHODOLOGY
CEO / Creative Director
Gas Powered Games
If I were to describe Brian in a single word, I would say it's passion. In all my years of designing games, passion is the heart and soul of what it takes to make a truly world class game, and Brian exemplifies this beautifully.
He works to the bone, until the job is done better than could be expected in the time allowed. His insight into people and leveraging their motivations into rewarding experiences can be seen in everything he touches.
Brian embodies fanatical passion about the design, development, and socialization of games. His natural talent to dissect, learn, adapt, combine, and reinvent the systems that make games, and the gamers who play them, have benefited us greatly.
He explored new territory, and fed his discoveries back into the levels and mechanics he built for the team. If you seek someone to fearlessly blaze a trail into the future of gaming on your behalf, hitch your wagon to Brian, and prepare to be amazed at how quickly he can cover ground.
TURN-BASED COMBAT GAMEPLAY
The Turn-Based level of gameplay involves the player using teams of 5 characters to battle other teams of 5 characters in either PvE or PvP combat. The characters will be arranged along a line, with the opposing team lined up and directly facing their counterpart.
The Turn-Based game mode is an entirely different game mode from the Sim level. Most of the game systems and art assets will not be able to be reused at the Sim level of gameplay.
Published game titles that can quickly convey the gameplay experience here would be any Final Fantasy game before Final Fantasy X. Star Wars Galaxies (the mobile game) could be considered to be the template that the Turn-Based gameplay is based around.
With the exception of UI, everything in the Turn-Based game mode will be 3D gameplay. The requirements from the art team will be to creat dozens of low poly characters with detailed textures, non-interactive 3D environments & props, all all other aspects of #D gameplay (lighting, particle effects, etc)
If this title is released on mobile it is important it is vital to reduce the minimum hardware requirements to play the game smoothly.
The camera will be located above and to the right of the player's team, positioned high enough and rotated down enough to see both teams. Art and game design departments will be involved in the final viewing experience for the player.
The camera is static in both position and rotation, and nothing from gameplay will "rumble" or "shake" the camera. We do not want to alter the stability and predictability of the view of the combat scene, and decrease the ability of the player to take in changes/results of attacks.
Each character is unique and will convey their role or even specific abilities just from their visual appearance and thematic styling. Imagine the clearly differentiated characters of 80's cartoons such as G.I. Joe and Transformers, or the cartoon Star Wars series "Clone Wars".
This level of gameplay has characters separated into "races" and "jobs". Examples of races would be Robots, Androids, Haxxers, Corp Agents, etc. Examples of jobs would be Leader, Attacker, Healer, Tank, Support, Debilitators, etc. There are strong synergies within races, or among jobs, but the game design will foment effective team compositions that do not require teams made up of just one race, or just one job.
Much like every other mechanic in the game, Turn-Based characters have abilities and base stats that deeply synergize with other characters. A small example of team compositions that can be created would be teams that increase damage, increased speed or critical hits, debilitating enemies, AoE attacks, potent healing, and many other effective strategies.
This should allow for hundreds of team combinations, with about 20-30 considered "the best" by the player community. The community's generally accepted "best" team compositions will hopefully get shaken up by the release of new characters, special events, guild events, new upgrades, or simply via tuning and fixes to character functionality.
Swapping out just one or two characters will completely change how a character interacts with their teammates, and how effective they are against the synergies of enemy groups.
These synergies gain another level of complexity with certain units designated as "Leader" units. These units impart passive changes to the team's abilities, statistically alter the team, or unlock unique game mechanics only available by equipping this character into the "Leader Slot". Leader characters can still be used as normal characters, and are not required to be equipped in the Leader slot.
Gameplay Example: A leader has a passive ability to increase the chance for critical hits for the entire team, in addition to the standard 3-5 abilities any given character has. This passive synergizes with a team already focused on critical chance, critical damage, and adding buffs to teammates when one of them scores a critical hit.
If this leader's passive ability only increases the critical damage of the team by 2%-10%, the Leader's ability does not intellectually stimulate players. It just adds on a lump of stats the player cannot do much with.
The next step would be the Leader's passive ability allows the entire team to be healed by x% of the leader's maximum health. Providing value to critical hit teams are usually have characters with low amounts of maximum health.
An example of powerful Leader ability showcases that increases in synergy and efficacy come with more and more restrictions.
For instance, a leader could have all of the passive effects listed above, but the final passive ability unlocked could be that critical hits by team members who shares the same "race" (Robot, Android, etc.) and/or share the same "job" (Attacker, Healer, Support, etc.) with the leader has a 50% to inflict a debuff that decreases an enemy's protection versus enemy critical attacks.
Of course the enemy team could be comprised of strong healers/support characters who remove debuffs, or characters that increase in damage and speed based on the number of allies that are debuffed.
These type of synergies will be the focus for the gameplay for the Turn-Based level.
The total number of characters in the game that can be acquired and upgraded will be an extensive list to keep player retention. The total time to acquire and upgrade all aspects of these characters will take months to complete. In conjunction with acquiring and upgrading buildings and Holo-Beasts, players may take years to achieve fully upgraded units.
Distracting players from focusing on improving just a few select units, will be the other major mission for the game design department. Just a few examples of how to distract players could come in the form of special in-game events, side-quests with character restrictions, side-quests with additional benefits to certain classes, temporary additional benefits during an event to upgrades that the community view as not the most effective upgrades.
Player retention will be particularly effective for players motivated by growth mechanics, PvP competitions, teamwork and social interactions, as well as players attracted to strategic efficacy never becoming stale or rote.
A huge focus of the game's ongoing development, nearly one-third of all work-hours spent in the game design, art, and media departments, will be on social media. Long-term developmental initiatives will involve in-game video updates from the game launcher app or home menu, a simple phone game app with mini-games that provide benefits in the core game, and in-game rewards for player involvement in voting (see below).
Social promotion of popular Twitch and Youtube personalities will be supported by our company to the point of "hero worship" for these players. The player community will be given the ability to vote on the direction of development of new units & game mechanics. They will also be able to vote on the upcoming deals and packaged content that requires purchases with real-world money (IAP).
This will provide a sense of ownership in the community while providing us with valuable data mining, as well as the reduction of budget expenditures spent on creating content that players literally told us they do not desire.
Senior Game Designer
Machine Zone Inc.
Brian is an extremely passionate and driven designer. After jumping straight into the Design trenches of Age of Empires Online (AOEO), he immediately undertook major responsibilities that required immediate mastery of new skills and tools.
Brian met such high demands through dedication, passion, and plain hard work.
His ability to receive and act upon constructive criticism led to the contribution and shipping of dozens of high-quality missions in AOEO.
Senior 3D Artist
Super X Studios
Brian is an incredibly dedicated, hard-working individual who puts a profound level of detail and quality into his work. One thing I admire about him is his consideration for the player at the other end of the controller. It may sound commonplace for designers, but I have found not all designers remember this.
He dedicates himself to the project and the industry like no one I know, and he works hard to find the "fun", which is invaluable.