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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Siehl

Production II Blog | Creating Game Modes

Updated: Sep 21, 2020


On Tuesday, February 26 at around 5:30 PM, I met with the three other designers on my team to discuss possible game modes we could implement in Snowball Showdown. Our intention was to better flesh out the game and provide a more complete play experience. It would also give players more things to do in-game, keeping them invested for a while longer. Thus, the four of us - myself, Wes Weitzman, Zach Phillips, and Aiden O'Connor - got together in the Center for Communication & Creative Media for around an hour and a half, intending to pump out as many modes, systems, and mechanics as possible before 7:30 PM.


Creating Game Modes:

After we arrived and finished exchanging pleasantries, we began drawing up ideas on the nearby whiteboards. We came up with a wide variety of different game modes, ranging from simple ideas like "1 vs. 1" or "2 vs. 2" to more complicated ones, such as a "Hot Potato" mode where the players have to throw a snowball back and forth without letting its fuse die. Other modes include "Push of War," in which two players have to throw snowballs at an otherwise-stationary "payload" object to force it into their opponent's base, and a "Horde" mode where one to four players fight off an advancing stream of enemies. I also threw out the idea of a game mode that plays similarly to basketball as a joke, and while my teammates seemed excited at the prospect at first, they quickly lost interest after we realized the lack of player movement made it less interesting than we had first hoped.

Wes Weitzman writing data for the "2 vs. 2" mode on a nearby whiteboard.

A great deal of time went into figuring out the exact design for each mode. We had the basic ideas planned out by this point, but we wanted to make sure of two things: first, that we were all on the same page, design-wise, and that none of us were falling behind; and second, that we would have a complete idea of each mode so we could be certain that they were all feasible. We thus dove into each mode, drawing up more complete data as we spoke with one another at length.

By the end of our meeting, we had come to a consensus on all of these matters. For example, we decided that for now, we would focus on making the "Free-For-All" mode only allow four players at most, rather than the intended 16. This is because, as Champlain College students, we have a very limited pool of people who can help us test this game, along with lacking that many headsets. Four players alone would likely prove challenging, yet we could manage it with the proper setup. 16 players, on the other hand, would be borderline impossible.

We also decided how we would handle matters such as the "Hot Potato" and "Horde" modes, which diverge heavily from Snowball Showdown's typical gameplay. The "Hot Potato" now uses a timer that counts down when a snowball lands in a player's base, and when it hits zero, the player loses. Throwing it into the other player's base resets the timer, which hopefully makes it impossible for players to hold onto the snowball until it is just about to explode - a matter that, Wes feared, was extremely common in hot-potato-type games. For "Horde" mode, we came up with three different enemy types that can charge and attack the player's base at any given moment, varying in terms of speed, tankiness, and the ability to launch projectiles.

Wes and Zach Phillips writing down information regarding the "Hot Potato" game mode based on team input.

Finally, when we finished with the games modes and realized that we still had plenty of time before 7:30, the four of us sat down and decided to work on something that had left us running in circles since the first day: the player character's design. Over the span of roughly 15 minutes, we created an outline for the head (a sphere wearing a hat), the body (a rounded rectangle), and the player's hands (a pair of "techno-mittens" that let the player grab objects from far away). We also discussed the possibility of letting players recolor these items in future iterations of the game to give them more creative freedom, but we ultimately threw that concept on the backburner due to us wanting to get the rest of the game finished beforehand.

The design information surrounding the player character. Also present: the altered design for the snowblower (now more of a snow cone machine) and the fort-builder (now a laser emitted from the player's "techno mittens").

With that, we called the end of our meeting, and the four of us gradually exited the work-space.

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