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Game Design Examples by Michael Ferraro

Feature Designs
Lowered Reticule
  • A game set outdoors with tall enemies looks better with a low reticule: a lower horizon puts less of the ground on the screen and more scenery. It's not as simple as it may seem to change the aim angle, as that angle is a variable based on the camera's variable FOV. I created the math equation for the engineer.
    [click for DESIGN]
Adaptive FOV by Aspect Ratio
  • Unreal uses a horizontal FOV number, so a 4:3 image shows more top and bottom. This is bad for composition, clipping bugs, target size, and performance. Again, I did the math myself.
    [click for DESIGN]
Levels and Preproduction
Brachiosaurus Level
  • To pitch a level, I quickly built this mockup myself:
    [Click for VIDEO (password on request)]
    The prototype was to establish pacing and layout in general, to be handed off to the art team to turn into something beautiful. The prototype was built in 2 days, using existing assets and tools.
  • Production process: The animation is a placeholder I made; an existing walk cycle placed on a path. After level pacing and layout is locked down, the gameplay floor would be completed, and then an animation would be completed that has the creature's feet landing accurately, as well as his body rubbing up against the walls, triggering dust, etc.
  • Scripting: [click for KISMET SCREENSHOT]
    Each footfall is tagged with an event, leading to a set of event triggers per foot:
    • Camera Shake (falloff over radius from epicenter)
    • Damage on/off (planted feet don't harm player)
    • FX, dust, etc, would be added as level production continued.
  • Tunability: There are only two Brach animations, one on each side of the path, offset in time.
    • Difficulty can be tuned by adjusting the offsets between each Brach, and thus the density and evenness of their spacing.
    • Their walks can be universally sped or slowed with the PlayRate.
    • The density and speed can be tuned even after the level and animation are completed, with no impact to the assets.
    • The Kismets share their data node, so if timing of a footfall or effect is adjusted, it is adjusted for all copies of the Brach simultaneously.
Real-Time Strategy Maps
  • We started playing coworker games of C&C Generals at EA, but I wasn't happy with the gameplay we were getting out of the provided maps. So I created these:
    [click for Generals Maps page]
3rd Person Camera
  • A big feature of the game was 3rd Person creature control. We wanted an "over the shoulder" camera system, so I designed something flexible to allow a designer to place the camera wherever he desired, with the ability for the camera's position to change based on speed and direction, while allowing the user to orient the camera in any direction the same way the 1st-Person camera controls work.
  • After mocking up the idea in Maya to figure out how to maintain composition with the user orbiting the camera, I drew up the design.
    [click for DESIGN]
  • Working directly with the engineer, he programmed the system while we tuned the behavior, and finally I tuned the cameras using the exposed variables. Other designers were able to adjust the cameras for the different creatures with ease.
    [click for VIDEO (password on request)]
Other Scripting
No-AI Creatures with Kismet-driven behaviour
  • When various "fauna" creatures such as Pteranadons were cut, after we already had models and animation for them, I made them work as believable creatures strictly through Kismet scripting. For example, Pterandons could perch (playing a looping animation) until the player reached a proximity trigger, or fired upon them, at which point they would take off and enter a looping flight cycle. If shot while in the air, they would flap away again, until they took enough bullets that they died, entering ragdoll via our death animation system. No engineering required.
  • More intelligent targets could spy on the player, until a narrow "line of sight" trigger makes them duck out of view, making it feel like they hide only when aimed at.


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