DON'T DRINK THE COOLANT

Whack some sense into the Sluperslugs to keep them away from the coolant tank!

Occasion:  Game Project 1

Engine:  Tengine

Project Time:  5 weeks 

Team:  2 Designers, 4 Artists, 1 Programmer

Contribution: Game Design (concept and enemies), 

 Level Design (battle map)

ABOUT THE GAME

As the spiritual successor to Grail Guards this cooperative hero defense game puts you into the role of two engineers who have to keep a bunch of greedy slurperslugs from drinking the power core’s coolant liquid.

OUR FOUNDATION

Since this was to be our first big project and we only had one single programmer available in our group I decided that I’d rather err on the side of caution than run into the risk of over scoping an idea that would not be finished after the five weeks - which brought me back to an idea I was involved in during an earlier game jam: a game called Grail Guards were two players defend the grail against raising waves of enemies (you can read more about the development process of this game here). Ever since we presented our game in the jam I had wanted to create some kind of spiritual successor where we could implement all the ideas that we had to cut due to the game jam’s time constraints. And with the game from the game jam, we already had some kind of tried and tested prototype for the core gameplay that we could build upon. All of these factors led to me deciding to pitch the game concept for our first project and after some in-group discussion, we decided to merge my idea for core gameplay with the futuristic cyberpunk setting from my co-designer’s pitch. And thus, Don’t drink the Coolant began to take shape...

EXPANDING THE IDEA

What I found most interesting is how Don’t drink the Coolant is a prime example of how focussing on a specific aspect can completely change the whole game and even though its hero defense core gameplay was based on the pre-existing formula from Grail Guards I would still say each of them can stand on its own as a game. Grail Guards as a base had many features that we could expand upon: there was the idea of giving the players different power-ups or maybe even different but complementary combat skills for each player to add more variety. Furthermore, one idea that we had discussed during the game jam but had to cut was introducing different enemies with individual behavior patterns. Last but not least, the map for Grail Guards was an empty plane with the grail in the middle - once again an aspect that we could change to give Don’t drink the Coolant its individual style.

 

While the individual player skills (a close-combat weapon and a ranged projectile weapon) had to be cut pretty early we still managed to expand on quite a lot of the features that have been listed before:

 
 

A COMPARISON

As a person who has been part of both development processes and tested both of the two games, it made me glad to observe that each one plays differently and is still able to stand on its own, even if they use the same core gameplay.

Due to its open map, and centralized point of defense Grail Guards has a much faster pace than Don’t drink the Coolant and can even be hectic at times. The fact that enemies can spawn from everywhere outside of the map and have an increasing number and spawning rate the player is more vulnerable and the difficulty curve slower but rising higher during the end when the player is literally bombarded with skeletons. Furthermore, the healing item has a stronger risk-reward element to it since the player can collect two of them but is unable to attack while holding the items, something we cut from the other game.

Don’t drink the Coolant had much more time for reiteration and balancing and it shows both in terms of difficulty curve (steadier and not as steep) and the cooperative aspect. Overall, I would say that this game demands more tactical planning because of the divided level map and the different enemy variants. And since there is a short buffer time between each wave the players have more time to communicate and arrange their tactic as well.

If you want to read more about the development you can check my design diary.

 

And if you like to know more about Grail Guards you can look here