Grim Trials (Hellevator):
The game we have created this semester is a third person, single-player boss-rush called Grim Trials, in which the player must ascend through each level of hell and conquer the boss of each level.
The game world is set in the ‘Nine Circles of Hell’ from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, as seen through a child’s warped but charming lense of innocence.
Players take control of Lil’ Death, child of the Grim Reaper, after he has mistakenly tripped and tumbled all the way down to the icy bottom of the pit and is talked into a deal by the imprisoned Lucifer.
The objective of the game is to beat all nine bosses and escape Hell without letting character health drop to 0.
- “Cute-grim” aesthetic.
- Repetitive by difficulty curve design for players to learn from failure.
- Story communicated through character dialogue and embedded narrative.
- Compact boss-rush genre where players face varied boss challenges in succession to progress to next level, throughout the game.
- Players shown to have become driven in playtesting after several failed attempts to defeat boss and report extreme satisfaction.
My most notable contributions:
1. Boss AI, movement towards player
2. Jump attack, triggered by distance and targeted at location
3. Shockwave (attack phase 1, playtesting feedback)
4. Homing projectiles (attack phase 2, playtesting feedback)
Prototype video footage
5. Text in-game, immediate feedback for players
6. GIFs to represent Combat Mechanics
In early prototyping, these gifs were able to give the panel and our playtesters an idea of combat – where it was, why it worked that way and where it was going to go.
We were able to complete a deliverable prototype of the Heresy level by Friday of Week 13 with all three phases of the boss attack complete, player combat mechanics implemented and most environmental assets and models imported. We spent a lot of time bugtesting and playertesting so we were able to pick up and squash any problems with our game as we built it.
As a result, I am proud of our ‘finished product’, I feel it is polished given it is a feasibility prototype and that the work I have contributed and my team have contributed to the project was indicative of our dedication to the project.
My overall assessment of the process is definitely positive – I have learnt an incredible amount in a very short time!
In the first 8 weeks I learnt a lot about planning and conceptualising – after the first 3 I had gotten into the groove of picking up and dropping ideas, themed brainstorming sessions but most importantly I understood the value of iterating the same idea a million different ways.
I learnt how freeing and productive it was to conceptualize without becoming attached to ideas before they had even fully-formed. I do, however, feel that the conceptual period stretched for too long and ate too much into the development time.
Once in the weekly pitches and presentations stage I found the panel’s feedback every week very useful and they were always very receptive to any changes we to our work according to their feedback the next week. Very occasionally situations arose where panel members disagreed on a vision or advice between each other and then provided conflicting feedback to our team.
I really felt the time constraints and pressure put on the team in the prototyping stage.
- This was due in part to our small team size (5 people in total),
- In part to the walls we kept facing as we were using Unreal Engine 4 for the first time,
- In part due to having only one (albeit skilled) animator
- In part due to an unequal contribution by some team members.
I also struggled with producing assessment due to the minimal criteria and learning resources available. The GDD especially was difficult for me as I have never written one before and there were no example essays, no comprehensive criteria, no task sheet, just 5 headings and a word limit.
In the future I feel students would benefit from:
- Informative task sheets for all marked assessment
- Instructive criteria for all marked assessment
- Clear breakdown and allocation of marks for unit
- Examples of assessment from previous years
I enjoyed the smaller challenges I faced every week once I was assigned by my producer the functionality to produce and I found I learnt an incredible amount in a very short and condensed period of time.
The least satisfying tasks assigned to me were usually the ones I volunteered for – writing functionality in UE4 with tricky implementations. There was no telling how long a task could take before starting it, and some of the more frustrating ones could take upwards of 8 hours with no results or would need to be scrapped and restarted several times.
The tasks I undertook that most used my skills and abilities, outside of the programming I was assigned, would have to be putting together the PowerPoint presentations and presenting them. I feel that being the presenter for my team this semester has helped my confidence speaking to a panel in a professional environment because it has given me the chance to practice my skills but knowing that if I make mistakes it is a ‘safe’ environment that I can learn from so I don’t make those mistakes in future presentations.
In regards to time management, I feel it is important but I personally found it difficult to do for this unit due to the erratic hours I kept. By the end of semester I found that I would have to start my week’s work by Tuesday at the very latest and be prepared to block off at least two mostly full days for programming and an extra half a day for team meetings and team discord sessions. Thursday evenings and nights were also blocked off every week of semester to create and edit the PowerPoint and update my workbook with that week’s content ready for our Friday morning presentation.
In regards to task planning, this was an incredibly useful tool and I can safely say that we would have dropped shed-loads of marks had we not kept weeks up to date and planned for weeks in advance task planning, management, allocation and then the constant refactoring and checking in to track progress. The burndown chart has been invaluable to our success and I 100% would use the same or a similar tool in the future to drive project work.
Team processes were a somewhat of an obstacle for us – the main obstacle was conflicting creative vision, especially when different team members felt passionately about an idea they did not want to compromise on or forfeit. All issues were thankfully resolved sensibly as we all took the time to communicate extensively with each other throughout semester. Bob has done a wonderful job of the producer role, organising and delegating so that we were able to complete everything we have up until that point. It’s really shown me that a great producer completely changes the dynamic of team process.
For the next development phase of our project, our team plans to build upon Heresy by working throughout the holidays and through next semester to deliver Grim Trials with its Tutorial level, Treachery, and an additional boss battle for Greed by the end of the year to a polished and professional standard that we would be proud to present to industry.
I just want to say a big thank you to our panel of tutors this semester. A lot of my grievances with the unit are internal to the team and needs to be managed among ourselves. We can, have and still will deliver because we are very passionate about delivering a game we are proud of and that we hope you are proud of too. Thank you for all your work, incredible feedback and time spent managing us students!