Monday, August 18, 2008

Ben 10 Bounty Hunters

Ben 10 Bounty Hunters, the CN Games Studio's biggest game ever! Ben 10 Bounty Hunters is an 8-player multiplayer battle. (Sorry IE only for now)

The Idea
Inspired by games like Soldat and Gunster, I wanted to make a 2D free-for-all battle game that was kid friendly. Kid friendly means, no real guns, no killing, etc. I also wanted to simplify and add some light auto-balancing features.

The Design
Ben 10 is an awesome property but it was impossible to use the main aliens from the show. The sizes are too radically different for a multiplayer game (Humongasaur vs. Gray Matter would be pretty unbalanced) and the show was moving towards the new Alien Force brand. We needed a setting that worked for story and game design.

The Mythos
We spoke with the show creator about the idea of 2 factions of bounty hunters (Six-Six is a favorite) that constantly wage battle to keep the other from finding the Omnitrix. While we were not using the core Ben Aliens as playable characters we highlight the setting of the Ben universe. The 2 factions of bounty hunters, Steglocks and Zyllids, fight on Wildvine's home planet among the ruin of a Gray Matter city or on the volcanic homeworld of Heatblast.

The Weapons
Kid friendly means no killing so the bounty hunters use "capture gel" weapons. Players are suspended for a moment is a bubble of goo. The weapon designs were tough. We wanted them to be recognizable as the core battle weapons (e.g. rifle, shotgun, SMG, etc.) but not look like real guns. I think they turned out perfect.

Players only have 1 primary weapon at a time and a backup weapon if primary weapon runs out of ammo. Primary weapons run out of ammo quickly. If a player is dominant with the shotgun, they run down to their backup weapon and give other player a chance to take them out at least once.

Weapons are designed for player skill and balance. The rifle does good damage but is hard to use due to the required precision. The shotgun does crazy damage but you have to be right next to your opponent. Both these weapons can be difficult to use so we have the spread gun. It is a mix of shotgun and rifle; it does a bit less damage but it easier to use.

Oh yeah, we have 2D sniping.

The use of the "capture in place" mechanic worked out well. Players are released right where they are captured stacked with a few seconds of invincibility. This means no spawn camping. No area camping either because if you capture someone in a well-defensible area (or next to the rocket launcher spawn you were camping) you better run because they will be coming at you with invincibility in a few moments.

I was fretting over level design from the beginning. That was a big mistake that hindered the game in the early stages of design. I was focused on making a really flexible system for level design. In the end it didn't seem to matter as long as I followed a few simple rules (no dead ends. mix open and closed areas, etc.). Placement of items was used primarily to affect the level design as needed.

One thing I am really proud of if the level cropping. The levels are designed for 8 players but they are also designed to be cropped smaller for 2 or 4 players. No more running around a huge 8 player level looking for the 1 other guy on the map.

What's Next?
We couldn't simulate the kind of traffic brings so some unexpected bugs have popped up. We are fighting stability issues and making updates as fast as possible.

A great many things were cut for this release (what is that XP bar for?) but keep an eye our for all those goodies in a future update :)

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