Process

Info: Feral Arena is an arena fighter where 2-4 players enter a coliseum as armed mercenaries. At the start of the match, one of them will transform into a violent beast, and must fight against the other players to win the match.  
Team: 3 Members
Time Constraint: 3 months
Role: Character Concepts, Weapon Art/Effects, Sounds, and Trailer 
Conception

During one of our last Game Lab classes, we were set to make a game with our only constraint being that we had the rest of the semester (~3 months). My two classmates and I decided that after some brainstorming, we would focus on a multiplayer party game. We didn't want to do anything too niche or complicated gameplay wise, just something grounded that players can enjoy and have fun with each other while competing. 

After looking through some brainstorming suggestions, we ended up working with wash the theme being giant monster related. With that in mind, I suggested that the game would play like the original Rampage arcade game but with a twist. 

The game would consist of fights between four players, where one would play a giant monster like those in the Rampage series, while the other three would play as military vehicles such as tanks, planes, and helicopters. The monster player's goal would be to destroy the city block while fending off the other three players. The match would end when either the monster destroys the city block or the military vehicles kill the monster. The gameplay would work the same as the original Rampage as well, with the exception of only one of the players being a monster while everyone else is a vehicle with different 2D movement movement patterns. 

After some peer reviewing and asking around our class, we found that a more "Castle Crashers" style of gameplay would be more fun to play. So we kept the monster theme but needed to adapt it to the gameplay of the 2D Beat 'em Up genre, so military vehicles wouldn't work here. My teammates came up with the idea of using mercenary type characters as the regular humans, and we decided to use rifles as their base weapons while other weapons like Flamethrowers would be temporary upgrades. To have a fitting narrative of randomizing which player is the monster, we made it that each player starts as a human before one of them transforms into a beast as part of some "mutation."

Art Development

With our theme and gameplay in place, I began to work on character concepts while the base prototype of the game was being developed. For both the human and monster characters, I went for a hard black line design, where the characters would also have blank eyes, similar to a lot of characters in Behemoth games such as Castle Crashers. I wanted the characters to have a simple look and even somewhat rough look, allowing the characters to fit the crude nature of the gameplay as well as keeping them simple to animate once made in pieces. The mercenary was pretty straightforward with the design, as we already agreed to have mercenaries be the character for the non monster players. The main monster being a Minotaur came from the constraint that the first player monster would be a simple brute play-style as to keep at least the base of the game simple. 

After more of the game was finished and my partner's illustrator re-creations of my Minotaur and Mercenary were added in, I tasked myself with creating more future concepts as well as sounds and weapons while one partner constructed the environment and the other tuned any bugs he could find. While making new poses for the head and hands for the Minotaur, I also created concepts for a Bat monster. The Bat would work for a different arena that would focus on its flying abilities. Unfortunately, the alternate frames for the Minotaur were never implemented and the Bat monster itself couldn't be given a level. My extra concept work had to stay in the concept stage as we were running out of time and needed to fine-tune what we already had to make sure the game was fully playable.

Post-Mortem 

While Feral Arena was for the most part a successful project for three college students that were given three months to make a game, there were quite a few things I felt should have been done differently. Firstly, I should have made the actual animation pieces for the Minotaur and Mercenary characters. Too much time was wasted having my one partner wait for me to make concepts while my other partner had to wait for him to recreate my work in pieces. I easily could have given our other artist the responsibility to create weapons while I took his responsibility of making the animation pieces that appear in-game. 

Secondly, I feel the game should have been fully 2D in how it was played. Too many bugs and clipping errors occurred due to the game's 3D movement with 2D animation sprites, and the gameplay itself was a bit more complicated since the players would have to focus on three dimensions (x, y, z) instead of just two (x, y).

Of course, despite these regrets, I enjoyed working on this game and am glad it came out as good as it did! While we had some disagreements, my group still worked well together and we all did our best to cooperate and civil with each other. I feel all of us grew during the development of this game, and I hope to use what I've learned in future projects.

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Email: matthewrickards01@gmail.com

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Twitter: @rickards_matt

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