The Cure is an Isometric twin-stick shooter set in a cartoon city plagued by an airborne zombie virus. A scientist dashes across the city looking for parts to a cure, picking up various pieces of trash and MacGyvering them into weapons and defensive gear. The scientist’s health ticks down when exposed to the infected air or by taking hits from the walking dead.
The Cure is a PC game developed by a team of 18 over a 16 week period in Unity. It can be downloaded here for free on Itch.io. An Xbox controller is recommended for play.
What I Did:
- Designed a scaling, modular gun-crafting system for different playstyles with respect to increasingly difficult game levels
- Designed enemy behavior and stats, aimed at creating a chaotic-but-manageable combat pace
- Scripted enemy behavior trees and encounter systems to spawn different groupings of enemies depending on player progression
- Tuned gameplay elements and collaborated with designers and artists to upkeep a cartoon-like theme
- Wrote art and design documentation that was referenced by all teams throughout development
Tasks in Detail:
The Gun Crafting System
My first goal with The Cure was to design a modular gun crafting system that would provide a variety of solutions to different kinds of enemy waves. Each gun would be made up of 3 parts (a barrel, receiver, and stock) that could be mixed and matched at the Workbench. The parts had 3 gameplay variables each that, when combined together, made up the complete stat array for a weapon.Newer gun parts unlocked in later levels would have increased stats and more consistent firing rates to account for more difficult encounters. I designed the gun parts, their stats, when they would be introduced in-game, and how new parts would scale with the changing encounter difficulties.
Encounter and Gameplay Design
Throughout development, I designed and tuned elements of gameplay through peer feedback and playtesting. I designed the zombie types, their combat behavior, powerups, bosses, level progression, and narrative elements all with the mindset of keeping gameplay intense but lighthearted. The zombie types were designed to have memorable behavior and appearances so players could make mental paths around mobs of varying threats. As levels progressed, I designed more aggressive behavior trees and ‘squad compositions’ of zombies (instead of flat increases to damage) that required more tactical approaches to wave management. Powerups and gun parts were scattered through the city and placed after milestone achievements in combat (fighting a boss or exceptionally tough enemy wave) and exploration (checking behind specific objects like trash cans and cars).
Directing The Cure
The Cure was my first serious game development project, as well as my first time in a leadership position. I learned a great deal from this game, mainly in interdisciplinary communication and decisiveness. Each week I ran multiple meetings with each team and always had to be prepared to understand new kinds of technical or people-related issues. While I was familiar with audio and art pipelines, learning how to understand more intricate programming bugs was a new challenge for me.
The best part about leading this project was breaking down the elements of what makes cartoon media fun and having that theme permeate every part of development. I was in charge of the documentation that would guide the art and design teams in creating assets and tuning gameplay variables for a Looney Tunes-like game feel. The GDD I wrote for The Cure is available to view or download below, and explains the core mechanics, UX/UI, zombie types and behavior, modular gun part stats, and the game’s narrative.