3rd Person Co-Op Shooter

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Gameplay Trailer




As part of our preparation for the games industry, BUas’s IGAD study program put us through a year long game development project and encouraged a full and proper development cycle.

As Game Designer on the project, I was generally responsible for coming up with various gameplay systems and pushing them to implementation

Body of Work

Concept Phase: Researching and Designing Systems

  • Researching Cooperation
  • Core Loops and Progression
  • Systems Design
Understanding the Nature of Human Cooperation

We were tasked with making a game that had cooperation at its heart. To help do this effectively, I tried to understand the essential nature of the behaviour we would try to encourage in our players.

I conducted extensive research. I looked at a large variety of sources that explored prosocial behaviour in different contexts. Therein I drew connections in order to puzzle together the nature of human co-op.

One source compares chimpanzee vs. human cooperative behaviour by exploring the unique features of both.

Another source lets us know which fundamental human capacities for co-op we could challenge by exploring how prosocial behaviour evolves in toddlers.

A source on Behavioural Evolution explores how the environment shapes cooperative behaviour, and how competitive behaviour can be cooperative.

An interview with the creator of ‘One Hour One Life’ sheds light on how he conceptualised cooperation, the systems he built to realize it, and the causality behind their successes and failures.

I later transformed all that info into three lenses through which we could look at game systems and see if they offer meaningful co-op experiences and how that happens.

Referencing Core Loops and Progression Systems

As this was to be a 40+ week project, managing risk was doubly important in all areas. To contribute to that process, I gathered references on how various co-op games realise their core loops and progression systems.

I looked at a large variety of sources – from articles written by industry veterans to scouting subreddits where players vent their thoughts and frustrations. I supplemented that with my own manual analysis of a sizable sample of co-op games.

At the end of the research documentation, I made sure to outline what course of action is prescribed by the sum of all findings. We were moving away from exploring possibilities and into forming concrete prescriptions.

Systems and Ideas about Systems

It was time to transform all the research into concrete concepts. I played to my strengths and knowledge and decided to focus on designing systems rather than entire games.

We generated an extremely large amount of ideas. My contributions generally revolved around systemic design concepts that aimed to deal with specific problems outlined by my sizeable research documentation.

As we diverged in our brainstorming process, I generated a ‘gallery’ of modular gameplay systems (and design tools) that dealt in a specific issue (identified through research). Though this was to help the team and myself create more robust concepts.

As we converged, we split into feature teams that would settle on the final concept details. I was responsible for the combat and controls.

Pre-Production Phase: Scripting Mechanics with UE4 Blueprints

  • The Basic Mechanics
  • Experimental Mechanics
  • Balancing Paint
Prototyping and Implementing Basic Paint Effects

We used prototypes to decide on the gameplay effects of different colours.

I prototyped/implemented 3 basic paint effects:

  1. Damage Over Time – chips away at characters’ health
  2. Slow – makes characters much slower and more impotent
  3. Speed – makes characters faster and more maneuverable

To realise the effects, I worked closely with a programmer who handled the fundamental implementation in C++, then I took over in blueprints.

Experimenting with Advanced Mechanics

We used prototypes to explore wilder options and find the fun.

I experimented with 4 paint effects:

  1. Knockback Paint – shoves characters away
  2. Zero-G Paint – makes characters float
  3. Sticky Paint– tethers characters to the ground and pulls them like rubber
  4. Detonation Paint (not shown) – simply explodes and kills characters

At this point we were looking to create synergies and anti-synergies between paint effects in order to both challenge and encourage cooperation.

To realise the effects, I worked closely with a programmer who handled the fundamental implementation in C++, then I took over in blueprints.

Balancing the Shooting and Basic Effects

To close off Pre-Production, a balanced first-playable had to be presented.

I was responsible for tuning the fundamental combat mechanics:

  1. Standard Shot Damage
  2. Damage over Time Rate
  3. Healing Rate (not shown)
  4. Speed Boost Modifiers for Slow and Speed effects


Production Phase: AI Design

  • Design
  • Enemy Implementation
  • Balancing Enemies
Improving the AI Design

At the start of Production, I actualised our designs and introduced a new structure within which we could test and expand.

I placed sensible short and long-term goals for our AI. It started with thinking about what the enemies needed to do in order to support our target experience.

My approach was to clearly draw the line between how the enemies present their behaviour to the player and what the AI actually does. This drove me to think about ‘Back-End Design’ where we hide all the compromising info about how the magic happens.

Additionally, I designed several enemy archetypes. To adjust for scope uncertainty, I conceptualised them to work either together or separately. More archetypes on the field at once would equal more depth.

Implementing Enemy Designs

I worked on implementing the behaviors I designed as well as other features that work in favour of player-enemy interactions.

I tried to implement a ticketing system for controlling enemy distribution per player. Couldn’t get it to work.

I implemented a feature where enemies would prioritise attacking players who stand still for a period of time.

I added a pain reaction to enemies that would take effect after one has been shot – they would slow down and jump a little.

Enemy pain reactions and crosshair feedback.

Balancing Enemies

For about half of production I was tuning up the gameplay features that had to do with enemy combat.

I (re)tuned the movement speed for Player and Enemy Characters to facilitate the AI meeting its goals.

Using the tools provided to me by the AI Programmer, I mapped enemy spawn rate to player session progression.


The Final Product

Though at the time of writing this the game is still in early access, it already has gameplay value to offer.

The product boasts:

  • Paint blaster
  • Full online Co-Op support for up to 4 players
  • Time-based score system designed to work with a massive level

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