K.E.X.

Summary

The gameplay is all about killing robots while using the environment as cover from the enemy shots. The player can steer the ship with the WASD keys and the mouse.


In order to kill larger crowds of enemies, the player can pick up power-ups which function as different types of boosts for the player during limited periods of time.

Specifications

  • Shoot 'em Up Game
  • Created in 8 weeks
  • Created by two level designers, five programmers and three artists

My Contributions

  • Level Design
  • Puzzle Design
  • Producing levels using the Tiled Editor
  • Trum (Scrum) Master

The Team

Design Philosophy

Early on, we chose to aim low in terms of scope. This meant, first of all, creating the core features we needed for the game to be fully functional and later polish those features. After that we could move on to creating new things if we had extra time.


We felt this approach would yield the best results since this would guarantee a solid base for the game. Everyone would then have dedicated time to polish the core of the game without having to be stressed out over various less important features. We hoped this method would also continually make us question what we needed to prioritize based on what we felt was the core of the game throughout the development process.

A gameplay mockup created by Anna-Maja Bergman

First Time Using a Level Editor in a Group Project

The first thing we level designers did was to analyse and break down various shoot 'em up games to see what made them good and what made them bad. With that in mind, we started to create some sketches in Photoshop of what our levels would look like, and how they would be played.


We used an application called Tiled to create our levels. Tiled is a tile map editor which enabled us level designers to place out tileable square textures on top of a grid in order to create levels. In order to make things easier for ourselves while working we first created a hand-painted map in Photoshop and then used that map as a background layer in Tiled. After that, all we had to do was to place out tiles on top of that Photoshop map and save the file.


Once we had saved the tiled file, the programmers would use the data created in that file to create levels in their own engine.


What the level looked like in the editor...

...and what it looked like in game

Iterating Based On Feedback

At first, our levels were almost empty with a few enemies, a few doors and some rooms. After extensive playtesting towards the middle of the development process however, we decided to radically change our levels, implementing tons of enemies and power-ups as well as adding plenty more rooms and lots of pick-ups. This changed the game drastically for the better, replacing empty spaces and fewer hard to kill enemies with tons of action and rewards around every corner of the game. Our testers and team members agreed that this made the game a lot better than before.


Although more content within the levels made the levels more fun to play, this change also made navigating through the levels increasingly difficult. Many doors in the levels had buttons connected to them and always placing the button next to the door just to make navigation through the level easier made the buttons feel redundant. In order to tackle this issue, we asked the artists for power lines connecting buttons to their respective doors. Using those power lines, the player had no trouble navigating through the level and as a result, the flow of the maps was improved.


The yellow power lines connect buttons to doors in game

Critical Reception

The final product was very well recieved by our playtesters and among the seven shoot 'em up games created at The Game Assembly during that time. Our game was considered to have the best gameplay and was voted the first runner up shoot 'em up game of that year.


A lot of the people who played the game said that they thought the game was polished and felt really good to play, which I like to believe was due to the design philosophy we decided to go for early on in the pre-production phase.



The final result of our hard work

Closing Thoughts

Up until this point at The Game Assembly I had mostly created games and levels which heavily emphasised functionality and core features. Since we chose to first of all focus on those things and then polish those features to near perfection, we as a team had much more time to think about what we did and why we did it. During the polishing phase, when I recieved most of the feedback, I learned so much about level design and I still feel I have use of that knowledge today while making levels for games that are completely different from this one.


Asking for no more than the core features, and presenting something amazing using only that, is according to me the definition of a great level designer and I constantly push myself to keep this in mind when I make my levels.

Screenshots


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