Personal Post Mortems are brief self evaluations of projects I’ve worked on. They’re focused on my personal design goals, design successes/failures, and my takeaways.


My Role – Lead Designer

  • Designed combat system, character attacks, core mechanics, AI, bosses, upgrades, minigames, and progression
  • Directed level designers, character animators, and battle scripters
  • Implement character attack data, voice over
  • Develop, and communicate, and maintain project vision

Personal Design Goals

  • Design a combat system that:
    • Allows for extensive, free-form combo exploration
    • Emphasizes the license’s transformation concept
    • Is intuitive and satisfying for young players
  • Design AI, game objects, and systems that:
    • Interact interestingly with combat
    • Provide level designers with inspiration
  • Motivate and direct the development of the company’s combat engine
  • Never mandate using specific aliens for progression
    • Motivation to choose an alien should be internal
    • If the player never wants to change characters, something is wrongB10_1_a

What went well

  • Combat system was well received by playtesters
  • All 14 playable characters felt unique in combat and platforming
  • Basing each character’s attack design off enemy trajectory sequences lead to combat that was dynamic, varied, and unique to that character
  • Forcing players to transform when unlocking a new alien reinforced transformation input and encouraged experimenting with the new alien
  • Voice over successfully used to accentuate meaningful moments in gameplay and kept characters lively
  • When transforming mid-attack, automatically performing an attack with the new alien lead to smooth, interesting combos.

What didn’t go well

  • AI did not provide enough variety
    • Too many walking AI
  • Poor gameplay feedback for:
    • Hidden dart traps – Players took hits without seeing the source
    • Smart bombs – Exploded too quickly upon reaching the player
    • Activation platforms – Mismatch between mechanics and visuals
    • Character upgrades – Some had no visual feedback
    • Elemental attack types – Went unnoticed in gameplay
    • Final Boss – Unclear when this boss is vulnerable
  • Not all super attacks were equally satisfying
  • Several upgrades rendered other mechanics impotent
  • Inconsistent unit sizes between DS and 3DS versions lead to much bug fixing and unintentional level variation
  • Lack of repeat playtesters meant no data on experienced players
  • Upgrade unlock menu was near impossible to understand
  • Accelerometer minigame was neither fun nor related to the core gameplay

Lessons Learned

  • Varying only attack design in AI is not enough – explore as many ways to differentiate them as possible
  • Standardizing the distance units across all platforms makes life easier
  • Target playtests at new features to uncover poor feedback
  • Upgrades should change the way the player views game challenges rather than make mechanics insignificant