Genre: Topdown Multiplayer Party Game

Engine: Unity

Platform: PC

Development time: Seven Weeks

Team: Three Designers/Programmers, Four 3D Graphics Artists, Two 2D Graphics Artists

Role

  • Lead Designer
  • Scripter
  • UX Designer

In Jawbreakers, some great catastrophe caused every single adult to disappear. The children, of course, realized that this meant no more school, bedtimes or limits on candy, and proceeded to enjoy themselves every day. Jawbreakers is about a group of children that decided to move into Candy Land, and abandoned theme park. There they like to play a game to see who can collect the most candy in the allotted time, using wits, toy weapons, and a special map that lets them control the old machines, including bridges, carousels and a train ride.

For this game I was lead design. I was the primary holder of the vision, and made sure that we all worked together to create what we set out to do: A couch multiplayer party game where we wanted players to compete and to form pacts against each other. We also wanted the feel of the game to be whimsy, with a bit of a darker feel if you looked closer. Every design decision was approved by me, but I had a talented team behind me that really helped in realizing this, in my opinion, really fun game.  For our efforts we won Futuregames ‘Gamers Choice’ award out of 10 student projects.

Responsibilities

  • Designed the game’s core mechanics and altered them according to testing feedback
  • Handled testing and recruitment of testers
  • Balanced the game to allow for different playstyles
  • Worked with artists to ensure assets kept to our specific artstyle
  • Designed and created the level
  • Miscellaneous scripting, such as the loading screen

Trailer

 

Process

We wanted Jawbreakers to be a fun party game with a dark underlying feel. Initially the plan was to make the story about survivors of an apocalypse fighting over resources in a desolate world. However, the darkness of that setting overtook the party feel of the game and made it feel more brutal than fun for the characters, regardless what weapons or abilities we gave them. The setting was liked by quite a few testers, but ultimately it wasn’t what was intended for the game, so it was scrapped.

The main design priciple for Jawbreakers was that we wanted ‘Co-op without Co-op’, meaning players should be teaming up against one another without the game telling them to explicitly. We achieved this through meticulous balancing to make sure that players would not be able to collect points without interacting with other players. Minor UI elements also helped, such as the leading players’ point counter growing and moving to draw other players’ eyes to it, alerting them to big leads. The pinata was also a way for us to ensure that players would be interacting with each other to make sure nobody got the entire point bonus.

Another principle in the design of Jawbreakers was that players should have a limited map awareness and the ability to mess with each other from far away. To this end we created a map that players can use to activate level elements and hamper other players progress. Players that use their map gain an advantage both by knowing where other players are, and by collapsing bridges and spinning the carousel while other players are on it. It also ties into ‘Co-op without Co-op’ in the sense that players can team up to stop another from collecting candy.