Invasion Cute

Invasion Cute was a group project for Game World Design. It was a large team project. (see credits below). Invasion Cute is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with shooter elements. It is a children’s game for the Nintendo DS.

On this project, I did a lot of work designing the mechanics and abilities, coordinated a lot of the team, served as lead designer, co-project leader, interface designer, retooled enemies, and managed the project wiki.

Treatment Download

This treatment illustrates many of the desired features of the game and the earlier designs of the mechanics and a business case with competitive analysis. I contributed content throughout the document but contributed most in the sections on features, controls, and game concept.

Pitch Slides Download

We prepared these slides to go along side our pitch. We sought to emphasize the syrupy sweet cuteness of the game in this presentation and sell it as a children’s game. We even dressed up in cute outfits rather than traditional business suits to underscore our point.

Design Document Download

We coordinated the content for the design document with a project wiki built on a MediaWiki framework. I administrated the wiki and coordinated much of the design document. Different sections of the team worked on various sections. I contributed to sections 2 - Game overview, wrote most of section 3 - Mechanics and Gameplay, with the exception of the section on AI, retooled the enemies in section 5 – Levels (see enemy design below), and contributed to section 6 – Interface.

On top of contributions of content, I decided what would be in many of the sections and worked to organize the document. As the project wore on, there were more changes I would have liked to have made with regards to the way the document was organized but the document was too unwieldy to change the structure of.

The design document was converted from the wiki format to a more printer-friendly format with Adobe InDesign. Towards that end, various sections (most noticeable in section 5) lost some of the formatting available on the wiki. One of the secondary goals of my independent study on the use of MediaWikis for design document development is to make them easier to convert to a printer-friendly format, so we don’t run into these issues.

Wiki Admin

Drawing on my experience with MediaWiki and wiki organization from my time as an administrator on GuildWiki (see my resume), I was in charge of managing the wiki for the project. I designed templates, organized content and worked on a system for coordinating the wiki content with the physical design document.

Working on this project gave me a lot of insight into document organization and the needs of a design team when working with their design document as well as ways to utilize the advantages of the MediaWiki framework for design document development. This inspired me to pursue an independent study in the use of MediaWiki for design document development (HeatherWiki).

My Contributions & Experience

When designing Invasion Cute, I expanded on the original ideas of the creator (Kelley). I took into account the way we could have each character’s abilities unique without any of the characters being dominant. I instructed the level designers in how the characters should move, what their critical paths should be, and how they would be different and unique.

In retrospect, I learned that I should have spent more time sitting down with the level designers and making sure they were following my instructions and shared my vision. Towards the end I got better at communicating my ideas and gained a better understanding of what I need to manage a team. I would have liked to spend more time with the design team but, because there was so much work maintaining the wiki (there was no established methodology for using a wiki for that kind of work at the time, see my work with wikis) I wasn’t able to.

This project also gave me a change to refine my own design techniques and especially my techniques for leading a design team. I guided several design sessions with leading questions, forcing the team to consider how we could make the characters unique, how to keep it from becoming too complicated for a young audience, making the mechanics specific and all around brainstorming.

One of the reasons my design techniques didn’t carry through to the level designs were that the structure of the class. Two teams competed for the chance to be the design for the final game. All three members of the level design team were in the other group so they were not in on the earlier planning sessions. As such, they were less familiar with the earlier team’s vision of the game and less enthused about the game because they were working on the game that beat theirs.

Enemy Design

Towards the end, I took a closer look at the enemies my team had designed and was frustrated that some of my instructions for what the enemies would need were not followed. I ended up going through them all and correcting them for the final design doc. While the numbers would need to be tweaked for balance issues, it was a great way for me to see what my team came up with and build upon it. I had fun working with a variety of enemies and their behaviors. I clarified details that I knew needed to be included that my designers had left out.

I learned quite a bit about how specific I have to be about training my team to use MediaWiki and explaining to them what needed to be included in these enemy descriptions. Again, I would have liked to have more time to sit down with the team and plan all these things out but because of differing school schedules, much of our communication was restricted to email correspondence.

Here are some enemies that I refined:

Digger, enemy before I got to it
Digger, enemy before I got to it.

Digger, enemy after I got to it
Digger, enemy after I got to it.

EagerBeaver, enemy before I got to it
EagerBeaver, enemy before I got to it.

EagerBeaver, enemy after I got to it
EagerBeaver, enemy after I got to it.

The original concept was by Kelley Piering. The treatment and pitch were prepared by me, Kelley Piering, Sela Davis, Joseph Pietruch, and D. Michael Moore. After the pitch, Kapish Rawat, Jay Austin, Chip Hilseberg, Andrew Kane, David Huynh, and Rushab Shah were added to the team.