Team of 12
Things that went right:
The team worked pretty well together.
With the gameplay being as simple as it was, we were able to work on extra aspects of the game that we had designated as lower priority.
All departments got good portfolio work out of this project.
Things that went wrong:
A large majority of the team faced burnout near the end of the project.
Although the simplicity we sought was beneficial in some ways, it was also a hinderance on the experience that the design team could create for gameplay.
What I've learned from this experience:
Help develop a better workflow to keep productivity up while avoiding burnout.
Communication is key to a cohesive team and strong project.
September 2019 - April 2020
Pogo Pirate was a game that I worked on from September 2019 to April 2020 for the GAM200 and GAM250 courses at the DigiPen Institute of Technology.
I worked on Pogo Pirate as a gameplay designer, system designer, level designer, and UX designer. My focus was on gameplay, getting it to feel engaging in our Unity prototype and then re-creating the gameplay as closely as possible in our team's custom engine.
The majority of our work and collaboration took place in-person, but near the end of the project we transitioned to working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
My goal with this project was to create a simple platformer collect-a-thon, so that re-creating it in the custom engine wouldn't be difficult, and so that other departments could work more easily around the design of the game.
Prototyped gameplay concepts in Unity
Designed core gameplay loop.
Designed overall level structure.
Designed and iterated on levels 1 & 3 and assisted with iterating on levels 2 & 4.
Assisted the Tech team with implementation, iteration, and bug-fixes.
Wrote LUA scripts and edited JSON files.
The Main Constraint:
When I was interviewed to join Unicode Snowman (the student team that made Pogo Pirate), the team approached me with a pre-existing idea, one I would have to work with if I was to join the team. The idea was a platformer where the player character is stuck jumping. Definitely an interesting mechanic, but it did introduce many issues that needed to be kept in consideration.
How did this core mechanic get to where it is?
As this is the primary core mechanic, it has certainly had the most iteration with jump height, jump speed, move speed, and coyote time. The mechanic itself never really changed, as I chose to work with it as if it was a constraint given to the team by someone funding the project.
Double Jump & Super Jump
Double Jump propels the player upward when they jump while airborne, Super Jump is purely an optional mechanic that affords players to get the height of three jumps by timing a jump button-press when they're grounded.
How did both Double Jump and Super Jump get to where they are?
Double Jump was essentially a necessity in this, as it is a game where the player is always jumping. Double Jump helps give the player a stronger sense of control. Initially I'd prototyped both a Charge Jump and a Double Jump in Unity, and the Double Jump was decided upon as it doesn't break up the flow of gameplay as much. We also considered a glide mechanic but felt that double-jumping allowed for more verticality. Super Jump evolved out of playtesters unintentionally pressing jump while grounded out of habit.
What do Double Jump and Super Jump contribute to the sandbox?
Double Jump gives the player more agency with their movement, as well as vertical mobility. Super Jump affords more skillful play through timing.
The first main environmental mechanic introduced; Brambles are a simple hazard that "knocks out"(kills) the player character in one hit.
How did the Brambles hazard get to where it is?
Brambles were quick to implement but had to receive a lot of tuning as it is one of the only dangerous elements for the player. The amount of hitbox tweaking for the Brambles was immense, and as it was a custom engine project, each hitbox had to be placed and tweaked by hand.
What do Brambles contribute to the sandbox?
Brambles add skill checks for the player by requiring them to move more deliberately through the space, and also create a way to block the player in a more significant way.
The second main environmental mechanic introduced; Moving Platforms are exactly that, Moving Platforms. They move within a pre-defined range, either vertically or horizontal.
How did the Moving Platform get to where it is?
Definitely the easiest mechanic from a design perspective, although implementation was slightly tricky. It began as an offshoot of its older brother, the one-way platform.
What do Moving Platforms contribute to the sandbox?
Moving Platforms also add some skill requirement with the player having to stay on them while constantly jumping, and when combined with well-placed Brambles it can make for some tricky traversal.
The final main environmental mechanic introduced; Wind Updrafts push the player up when the player is in their region.
How did the Wind Updraft get to where it is?
The challenges with Wind Updraft came through tweaking how quickly the player gained velocity and what the maximum velocity is.
What do Wind Updrafts contribute to the sandbox?
Acting as a pushing force, Wind Updrafts are usable for tricky traversal as well as affording the creation of one-way paths, useful for level design.
If you're interested to know more about my process, or you wish to see a breakdown of the development of Pogo Pirate, click the button below.