Level Design - Technical Game Design
College Capstone - Aug 2019 to May 2020
Lead Designer Responsibilities
Ensuring game’s direction matched Product Owner’s vision
Acting as a servant leader who completed remaining work each sprint
Creation of core gameplay systems
Tutorial and Time Trial implementation
Creation and iteration of the map
Ability ball prototyping
Ensuring merges processed correctly in the repository
Production Period: August 2019 - Present
Just Golf is a networked sports-action game where players utilize golf to score points and disrupt opponents. Armed with three clubs and an assortment of weaponized golf balls, players compete in a chaotic 2v2 setting. The team that makes the most holes is crowned champion of this combative variation of golf.
Just Golf didn’t always start out with golf as the main mechanic, or as a team of 14 developers.. In the first four months of development, Just Golf was a golfer-shooter, where players were equipped with a putter that transformed into a gun in a four-person free-for-all setting. The goal was to have the lowest stroke count by the end round. You could lower your stroke count by killing other players, and score your stroke count by putting into a centralized hole.
For those first four months, the team consisted of myself, Mark Botaish, Marc Bonilla, Stefan Marshall, and Parker Staszkiewicz. My main roles during this time were being the team’s producer, main level designer, and co-systems designer. In addition to the gun and stroke count system, our game also had item boxes. Players could use item boxes to cause a few seconds of chaos for their opponents. The biggest issue we faced leading into November was the balance between golfing and shooting. Some players loved to shoot rather than put their ball and score, as it required less effort.
The original version of Just Golf. Players had a putter that transformed into a gun to kill opponents.
Balancing golfing and shooting was a challenge we faced the first four months of development.
At the end of November, our team presented to our peers and faculty along with the other 22 games created in our year in hopes of having our game move on to the next semester. After a presentation and faculty play-through, we were lucky enough to be one of the eight teams to go forward into next semester. Within a few days, we had expanded our team from five to 14 developers, each eager to bring something new to our game.
With the new semester came new challenges and new responsibilities. In a lead position for the first time, it was a welcomed challenge. Each sprint, it was important for me to ensure everyone was getting enough hours in their work, and fix impediments for the designers as they were found. Alongside managing the designers, I also had to manage my own tasks for reworking our game.
The trailer for the original version of the game.
The first few weeks of the second semester, our biggest challenge was balancing golf and shooting. Was it possible to balance these two opposite systems? After brainstorming and testing prototypes, we came to the conclusion that you can add golf mechanics to a shooting focused game, but you can’t add shooting to a golf centered game. Our team felt that we wanted to still be focused on making a arcade-style golf game rather than a shooter, as we wouldn’t have the proper time to make a FPS that would hold up to industry standards. To dive deeper into the golf, we gave the player three clubs: a driver, wedge, and putter. This gives the player multiple new ways to navigate around the map, and gave the level designers and I ideas for creating a new map using these mechanics. We also transitioned to a 2v2 team-based game rather than free for all, where the teams compete to score a shared objective ball the most times.
With the addition of these new clubs, a new map was in order. We originally planned to have two maps themed around commonplace mini-golf themes, but we settled on creating a single map. We wanted to put our efforts in focusing on making one exciting and enjoyable level, rather than two levels that require more assets and more time to perfect. We chose an underwater theme for the map, and added a day-night cycle to allow players to experience an evolving map over the course of a match.
The addition of two extra clubs (a driver for long range shots and a wedge for high-arc shots) allowed the level designers and I to add more verticality and unique obstacles that challenged the player to make use of all their clubs.
To replace item boxes and disrupting opponents, we introduced weaponized golf balls that players could use to attack their opponents. Each player gets a set of storage (ammo) balls, which can home onto enemies when using a driver. In addition to these, each player got to choose from four ability balls. With our shift to a team-based setting, we gave players the ability to choose an offensive ball to attack enemies with, and a support ball to aid their allies. Each of these crazy ability balls still captures the semi-chaotic atmosphere we wanted for Just Golf, while creating new opportunities for players to team up and take control of the objective ball.
Above are two examples of ability balls: the shield ball and the bomb ball. The shield ball protects players from one hit of any type, and the bomb ball deals lots of damage in a fairly large radius. This was also taken in night segment of the map, in which coral and other features of the map light up with neon designs.
Once the second half of March came around with COVID-19 striking the world, our team rose to the challenge and kept pushing forward. Since our game was created for networked LAN, we tested solutions to try and get our game to play over multiple IP addresses so we could still test the game. To give people a way to try out our game before downloading it for their friends, we started work on a tutorial and time-trial mode. I was responsible for their full implementation to keep the programming team’s focus on polishing the game. I worked with the systems designers to come up with steps and objectives for both modes, and then created the managers for the respective scenes.
In the tutorial, the player learns the basic controls and rules of the game. They walk through each step on
a modified version of the map.
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Richard Hardy - Lead Designer
Connor Little - Systems Designer
Marc Bonilla - Systems Designer
Parker Staszkiewicz - Lead Programmer
Stefan Marshall - Lead Artist / Product Owner
Ashley Corrado - Animation & Prop Artist
Jaymee Fulcher - Producer
Bradley Ellis - Level Designer
Devon Roberge - Level Designer
Mark Botaish - Lead Programmer
Anthony Pascone - Programmer
Alexis Wilson - Rigger & Animator
Zoe Hammonds - Prop and Material Artist
Max Blake - Producer