Hey everyone! My name is Tim, and I’m a Level Director here at TT Fusion.
Jay and I sat down and had a long chat about his Electromech.
I’m here to talk about Mechs! Mechs (giant robots) are a huge part of the Ninjago universe. From the very first series there’s been a wide variety of Mechs that both the Ninja and their enemies have used to battle each other – and let’s face it: they’re super cool. Being super cool there’s no way we could leave them out of Shadow of Ronin, and today I’m going to take you through our design process for my personal favourite… Jay’s Electromech. That’s right: Jay’s Electromech is a playable Mech in Shadow of Ronin! As someone who loves Mechs, I was very lucky to be chosen for the job of designing the game play (and levels) for them.
So where do we start?
When we got to the point of designing the Mech gameplay (and Mech levels) we’d already had the toy set design and box art for the Electromech from the LEGO Team, so we knew how this Mech looked, but now comes the hard part: how do we design great game play for it?
Our approach starts with what’s called a “high level” direction – it’s something we can use to guide us, keep our vision in mind, and help us answer the design questions we’ll be asking about our ideas (the devil of design is *always* in the details!). At TT Fusion we apply this approach to our mechanics, our levels, and our game structure – high level direction guides everything we do.
How did we decide the direction for our Mechs?
…this part was all about research. We looked in detail at every part of the Toy set: how big is it? How dense is it? What parts does it use? How is it built? Do any of the parts move? If so, then how do they move? We looked at other references: does it appear in the TV Show? How is it depicted in the box packaging? Has it been in any other games? Does it appear in a trailer for the toy set? We looked at other games: what works and doesn’t work in other Mech games? And we looked at the direction and structure of Shadow of Ronin: do we know what levels these Mechs are going to be in? If so, are there any specific features in those levels that will determine how best each Mech is used?
From lots of research, and considering the action packed game play of the Ninjas themselves: it was clear that we wanted the direction of our Mechs to be “an extension of the Ninja”.
So how does that help? Well, taking Jay’s Electromech… we start asking ourselves lots of questions:
How does it move?
Determining how something moves will dictate everything it can do, so we start with that.
…as an extension of the Ninja themselves, it should be: fast, agile, and very mobile. Not a slow lumbering Mech like something from MechWarrior or Steel Battalion, but something fast like Gundam, Macross, or Titanfall.
…and it should be able to jump and dash, just like the Ninjas can.
See how that high level direction is helped us answer questions? We’re now starting to form the ideas/image of the how the Electromech will play :-)
What does it do?
Now we know how the Electromech will move, what will it do in the level?
…as an extension of the Ninja themselves, it should have: swift melee attack combos using the spear blade it carries. Powerful long range attacks, using the blaster on its left arm. Jump attacks and dash attacks, just like the Ninjas.
…all the attacks should be powered with elemental lightning, the same as Jay.
…it should also be able to build (Mech sized) LEGO models, because the Ninjas can build LEGO too.
…and because it’s powered by lightning, it should be able to charge up electrical generators, just like Jay can.
(The same can be applied to all our Mechs, but making sure we refer to our research on them instead.)
Also, we often get inspiration from other games, films, experiences, and music, and apply that to improve our design. For example, the ranged charge attack for Electromech - where it builds up a huge ball of lightning before firing it out - is similar to Megaman’s Charge Shot, combined with the Giant’s chest weapon from the Iron Giant. It’s often very useful to include references like this to explain to other members of the team exactly where you want a feature to go.
How does it look and sound when moving and attacking?
This part is where the “cherries on top” start coming in to the design!
…as an extension of the Ninja themselves, it should have: huge, powerful, elemental visual effects (like lightning!) coming from its spear and blaster.
…and as a huge Mech it should make the screen shake as it walks and attacks, with the sound of heavy motors whining and grinding as it moves swiftly, and huge booms and cracks of thunder as its elemental weapons land on enemies.
To be continued…..Check back next week for Part 2 of this blog