GAMEPLAY & TECHNICAL DESIGNER
Physics System Programmer
ENGINE: Unreal Engine 4
DEVELOPMENT TIME: 4 weeks
TEAM SIZE: 5
A Physics-based Racing Car - Surplanted it with a Levitating Frog in the Desert!
“A floating, Spider-Man (tongue) swinging Frog on a
Gameplay & Concept
You are a frog... in a desert, you’re floating, and... Your tongue is the only way you can move. The game mechanics are the heart of this physics-based, tongue swinging trip.
Our idea was straight forward: Physics based, unpredictably fun movement - that was still reliable enough to be mastered. We wanted a sense of exploration while swinging around on this trip!
GAMEPLAY FOCUSED MOVEMENT CENTERED PHYSICS WITH A TWIST PSYCHADELIC
By being gameplay focused and returning to key words like ‘pleasure’, ‘playfulness’, ‘accurate inaccuracy’, and ‘trippy’, we harnessed our creativity and made a tight and consistent experience.
One of my main tasks was designing the movement, feel, and physics system, as well as implementing it. Early in the process, I had to be very precise about how the frog should move.
I needed to approach movement by first designing the world as if physical laws were a carte blanche. My goal was to create playfulness - coupled with a sense that you could master the movement if it was balanced enough.
Like a Physics Based Car with a Tongue for Traversal
Approaching the movement like a physics-based car poses a lot of design questions. For example, should it roll down hills? Probably not, because this frog floats!
As you can see in the example below, I calculate the ACOS in degrees to get an angle between two vectors. That way, I can apply an opposing force to the slope of a hill. By getting the direction of the frog’s velocity, I have the direction of said slope, effectively removing rolling down - while maintaining bounce and physics.
Journey Style Camera System
A good Camera System should enhance the gameplay and allow for fluid execution of mechanics.
- The camera should guide the player
- Enhance movement
- Give a sense of breath to the environment
- Flow in navigation and overview
By using Unreal Engine’s collision system to trigger camera angles, I could craft a cinematographic approach with precision and smooth blending.
My idea was that the player should never have to bother with the camera, but be free to move it if needed - creating a hybrid between guidance, environment display, gameplay enhancement, and player empowerment.
Frog On A Trip came about during a period where I was exploring what it means to push dynamics, mechanics, and gameplay - rather than a getting stuck with what might seem logical. I believe games give us this freedom: To find new and exciting logic in our desire to play, explore, and immerse ourselves in the unknown. That process meant stripping down the game to its fundamental building blocks and really looking at what makes a game fun, interesting, and worth while. In such a short project like Frog On A Trip, that was one of the big strengths in our product, as expressed in feedback from the jury who reviewed our game. It was rewarding to see the jury smile as they played the game - leaving behind rules and sense-making. To ‘PLAY’ is the game.
What I Learned
When mechanics, core gameplay, and central ideas are clear, there is a synergy happening and ideas blossom. Complexity can emerge out of simplicity.
Sticking to one core idea can work to open a world of possibilities. By just imagining a floating frog but designed like a physics-based car and letting that behaviour inform our decisions, we were able to make a consistent experience that afforded us time to iterate on and play around with. In a short project like this, this boundary-driven approach set our creativity free.