A PLAY SESSION
The two players are knights of King Arthur’s court and have to defend the Holy Grail that stands in the middle of the battle map. While the knights themselves are invincible, the Grail has a health pool and can be destroyed when it reaches 0 (which results in a Game Over). A steadily increasing number of enemies will spawn randomly from the outside corners of the map and try to attack the Holy Grail. In order to kill those enemies, players have to defeat them with their knightly Virtue, a glowing sphere around the player character that defeats an enemy on contact.
If the Holy Grail has been damaged, its health can be restored by the Faith item, a glowing cross that spawns on the map in random intervals. A knight who carries the Faith is not able to attack and has to rely on his partner to defend while he brings the items to the Grail. Both players have to communicate and work together in order to keep the Holy Grail intact until sorcerer Merlin has gathered his power to perform a cleansing spell that will wipe out all the enemies (and makes up the game’s time-limit).
Design Notes - the Theme
This game is the result of a game jam that was initiated as a kick-off event for the first school year. It has also been the first collaborative game project that I have ever participated in and it was an immensely rewarding and fun bonding experience. Over the course of 48 hours, each group had to produce a game with the theme “Legends” and after a longer brainstorming session I came up with the idea of a game that was set around the legend of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. We also agreed that the game was supposed to be for two players and preferably cooperative.
EXPANDING THE CORE GAMEPLAY
Once the core mechanic was established we pondered about potential items and came to the conclusion that an item that restored the health of the Holy Grail would be a good addition. Once more inspired by the legend we decided to make Faith the required healing item for the Grail and symbolize it with a cross. After some additional discussion, we wondered if we should add some sort of risk-reward element to the Faith item, especially since the game might lack challenge otherwise due to its nature as a two-player coop. The result of our second brainstorming session was as follows: a player would be able to collect as much as two Faith items to restore 25 HP each - but would not be able to attack an enemy while holding the item (“What reason should we give for the lack of attack?” “Uuuuhm… the knight is PRAYING?! He is so deep in prayer that he doesn’t mind the skeletons!”).
Once I was finished with this task and still had a decent amount of time I asked the rest of my team if the project would have room for cutscenes. Once I got their okay I started to write some dialogue between the characters which would explain the setting but also the basic game objective. Just doing a simple set of instructions would have been possible but in order to increase the player’s immersion, I decided to phrase the words in old-timey lingo. For example those two key elements
defend the Grail until Merlin has prepared his spell (winning condition)
don’t let enemies corrupt the Grail (losing condition)
were phrased as follows:
“I shall prepare a spell to banish these undead fiends back to hell where they belong. But that will take some time. Brave knights, you have to defend the Holy Grail at all costs! Don’t let the evil fiends taint its radiance, or we all shall perish!”
Once the instructional part was written I busied myself with drawing some pictures to illustrate the cutscenes. In the end (so basically during the second day) we were even able to add some audio which ended up with me speaking all the roles (even the male characters) because everyone else in the group was still occupied with their art- or programming tasks. The results of my short-lived career as a voice actor ended up being pretty hilarious because there was not enough time to properly tune the male voices.
Design Notes - Immersion vs. Practicality
Clothing the game instructions in an archaic style that would fit the medieval setting has been especially fun for me since I was able to make use of my previous study subject. However, looking back I have to admit that the description might have been a bit too wordy at times.
The end result of our short game project was very simple but functional. Although the main game mechanic was very basic - it consisted of running - the fact that it could be used for different functions (killing enemy, defending Grail, collecting health items for the Grail) made the game far more strategical than previously expected. The addition of a second player enriched the gameplay even more despite the fact that both characters have the same move-set available. They can communicate to divide their tasks, e.g. one is in the outer field, preemptively killing enemies while the other one stays close to the Grail on a more defensive position which once again makes the game more strategic and varied.
Design Notes - Personal Reflection
Overall I think it has been a very interesting and enriching experience for me, especially since I entered the game jam as a complete novice and did not know what to expect. I think what I enjoyed most was the fact that every member of the team was able to work according to their strengths and everybody brought their unique skills to the table: those who already had done 3D modeling did cool models of the grail knights, the programmers and second-year designers worked together to write the scripts needed for the gameplay and I had the opportunity to contribute with my language and literature background to make the game more coherent and rounded.