ANIMAL HEIST

Animal Heist is a fun, colourful, cartoony stealth game made by myself and 8 other students from Algonquin College as a year-long final project.

THE PROJECT

In the final year of their program, Game Development students are instructed to create a game from start to finish within a short, 8-month. Teams are formed and each is instructed to develop their game without the use of third-party assets (models, textures, sounds, music, etc.). This project is intended to simulate the high-pressure, multi-disciplinary, teamwork-focused environment of the Games industry.

Roles & Responsibilities

Lead Designer

  • Creating and maintaining the game's Game Design Document (GDD)

  • Working with Level Designers to optimize the teaching and enjoyment of core game mechanics

  • Collaborating with Programmers to ensure the implementation of features was feasible at conception and they followed the specifications of the GDD

  • Communicating necessary assets to 3D modelers, animators, and sound designers

  • Modifying to the game's mechanics according to user testing feedback, quality assurance testing and scope considerations

Co-Project Manager/Scrum Master

  • Ensuring that our team stayed on track with the Agile Scrum framework (Daily Scrums, Sprint Planning, Sprint Reviews, and Sprint Retrospectives)

  • Creating and maintaining Release Contracts to openly define each of our 4 releases' deliverables

  • Resolving group dynamics issues like pipeline reworks, re-prioritization, conflict resolution, and miscommunications

  • Managing Project Scope expectations while promoting accountability

UI Artist

  • Developing a Style Guide for the game's UI assets to ensure consistency

  • Creating all UI assets for the game, including the HUD, Menus, etc. in tandem with the game's  mechanics to ensure that the interface was communicating necessary information to the player

  • Collaborating with the Graphics Programmer to implement unique and engaging effects for the UI

  • Continuously updating existing UI assets according to usability and feasibility

Marketing and Cinematics Artist

  • Creating marketing materials (flyers, posters, t-shirts, etc.) for our game's booth at the Level Up showcase in April 2019

  • Creating marketing materials for the game's itch.io page (banners, screenshots, descriptions, etc.)

  • Storyboarding and creating cinematic cutscenes between levels to display narrative & level design elements and at key points in the game

Tools

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe After Effects

Unity Engine

Autodesk 3DS Max

Substance painter

Visual Studio (C# & C++)

Trello

Assembla

THE DEVELOPMENT

Mechanics

Upon conception, Animal Heist had a deceitfully simple premise: You control Ferris, small ferret (formerly a raccoon) who is stealthily infiltrating the mundane world of humans while solving puzzles along the way. 

After months of scope reduction, learning opportunities, and trial-and-error, the game's mechanics were as follows:

  • Ferris can walk, sneak and jump his way around the levels

  • Ferris can interact with certain objects, such as indoor plants, to hide from humans

  • Ferris can pick up a certain amount of items to throw at or near unsuspecting humans as a distraction

  • After collecting a specific list of items, Ferris can call on one of his animal friends for help

  • Ferris can crawl through vents to access parts of the level he otherwise couldn't

User Interface

As the team member responsible for all things User Interface, I leveraged my UX Design experience to ensure it was usable and my Graphic Design background to ensure it was unique and engaging.

 

I decided to adopt a fun comic book-style aesthetic to elevate the mundane visuals of our game's settings (warehouse, grocery store, etc.).

This style included bright colours, bold shapes, and a ton of personality.

THE RECEPTION

As a part of the project, every team in the program showcased their game at two large events: the Level Up showcase in Toronto in April 2019, and the Algonquin Grad Show at the end of the year.

Although Animal Heist didn't win any awards or mentions, it was an invaluable experience that confirmed that our months of effort were well spent creating something we were proud to show.

YouTube "Let's Players"

After school was over, my team and I collectively agreed to upload our game on itch.io so that we could all access the final build from anywhere. Much to our surprise, once the game went public, people really liked it!

The reaction from “Let’s Players” on YouTube and commenters on itch.io has been overwhelming. To this day, Animal Heist has been downloaded 360 times!