At the last semester of my graduate program(Entertainment Technology Center at CMU), we had a group of EA designers as our client and the task was to design a living room TV gaming experience with mobile as controllers. We went on designing a collaborate 4 player shooting game in the space and received pretty positive feedback in our playtest sessions with our guests.
Visual/ motion artist
Apr 2017 to Feb 2018
Game Designers, Artists, Engineers
When I put the activities we did against the design thinking model, we can find that this game design project falls largely on Ideate, Prototype and Test(which is typical for game design) We were given a project scope by the beginning of the project, so we just did some light research on collaborative games in the empathize step.
There're a lot of competitive living room games out there, but there were not many that are collaborative. It's usually considered that highly competitive games can be pretty addictive because players want to beat each other and game result can be randomized by how you play against each other. On the other hand, collaborative games, is more difficult to build, as the whole team either wins or lose— the game needs to be pretty randomized in order to increase replayability. We decide to go for the more difficult challenge—design a collaborative experience.
The shooting game mechanism did not come to us in the first round of ideation. At the initial sketch stage, we were trying to explore types of collaborations there can be and we were fixated at a conjoined Quadruplets idea. Looking back to it today, obviously we were not brainstorming hard enough at the beginning— we converged too early to a simple mechanism without diverging enough.
We gave up on the initial idea after actually prototyping and testing it internally. The players were too limited in terms of movement—because they're tied up together. We shifted our focus to let each player control their own fate — starting from having their own body.
The game designers brainstormed more on ways to collaborate and we dot voted to select the best idea— we were to design a collaborative shooting game. The target audience are for families with kids around 8 to 12 years old.
The story is like this: Jelly pirates are on a spaceship, and they're going across the space to their final destination—the jelly planet. They have to defend their ship from incoming delicious enemies like toasters, macaroons, ice cream monsters, etc to survive.
We started from 3 players and added one more "captain" role who controls the whole ship's vertical movement and also the shield, which protects the ship from incoming attacks. The captain is also responsible for fixing the gunman's cannons when they're broken. The three gun mans, each controls their own cannon, rotates around the ship to attack enemies. At this stage, we were thinking of not only regular bullets but also special skills that has a long cool down time.
Through first round of playtest, we found out that the game mechanism was too complicated. Especially that different players has different special bullets/skills and that caused too much of a mental load on the players. We simplified the mechanism by introducing matching color coded bullets and enemies. For example, only yellow bullets shot by yellow player can kill yellow macaroons. When Players rotate to overlap on top of each other, they shoot multi-color bullets, and can damage multi-color or more powerful enemies.
The final build of the game received positive feedback during a open night event at EA campus. It is rewarding to see players doing high-five after they successfully completed the game collaboratively. Although it didn't go into actual production, I was pretty proud of what we achieved in the end. It was also an awesome experience working with some designers from EA directly.