Das Roboterfabrik

Summary:

Das Roboterfabrik is a topdown shoot 'em up where you play as a robot rebelling against the factory that created it. The game has a fully functional online co-op mode and a lot of mechanics and weapons to demolish your way through the four levels of the game.

Specifications:

• The game was developed  at The Game Assembly in 2016 with a custom in-house engine in the span of 8 weeks, part-time.


• The student team consisted of 6 programmers, 3 artists, and 2 level designers.


• My responsibilities included set dressing, designing and balancing levels, features and mechanics with a custom level editor and JSON scripting.

Below I will go into detail about the design of the third level in the game "Military Base", which takes place after the player has fought their way through a freight train.

The player starts off at the train terminals and is presented with three ways to proceed, either going west, east or north. This is a recurring theme early on in the level as I wanted to have as many choices to go as possible to make the base feel large and also promote exploration. The east and west roads leads to some loot areas and the north path progresses you onward.


Right of the bat if the player progresses north I have introduced a new mechanic: Standard enemies that jump out of boxes! This adds a fun new element to the game as it creates unease every time the player sees a crate from this point onward. I made sure to scatter some empty crates around the map to add to this sensation.

The Start

An overview of the map.

Introduction to enemies that pop out of crates. 

After that small encounter the player is now in the Entrance Hall and at another three-way crossing. In this area there are 4 Standard Enemies hanging around to take care of before proceeding to whatever direction feels the most tempting.  You can either go to some more loot areas to the west or to the more challenging conveyor hallways to the east. 

Conveyor Hallways

Just by seeing conveyor belts to the east, the player has more of a sense what's going on here than the other paths. This could potentially lure the player a little bit. As you jump on the conveyor belt you get ambushed by spiders.


Spiders are a faster melee unit in this game that can do a lot of damage when close. The conveyor belt leads straight to a horde of them as standard enemies takes some shots at you. Continuing up leads to more standard enemies and then finally some loot as a reward.

Spiders ambushing the player on the conveyor belt. 

Continuing north from the ambush there are more standard enemies and then finally some loot as a reward. The only way out of this section of the level is through a conveyor belt hallway with firebolts coming out of the walls. You're greeted by more standard enemies when getting off the conveyor belts and that ends the "Conveyor Halls" adventure.


The player navigates the firebolt conveyor belts.

Everything up to this point could've been done in whatever order you'd like. Clearing out the entrance hall first would've made it so you wouldn't have to fight more standard enemies once you were off the conveyor belts. Which is a way to reward you if you had explored a bit more before jumping on the enticing conveyor belts.

Safe Zone

Before reaching the "Safe" Zone the player has to pass by two crates, that breaks and two angry standard enemies hops out. There is two there, only to progress the difficulty of that mechanic, as the previous crate only had one in it.


The Safe Zone has a repair station in it which is this game's name for checkpoints. The checkpoint is protected by a giant robot however. Giant robots are enemies that has more health and do more damage than a standard enemy.  It can be considered as a small mini-boss before you reach a repair station and finally get to breathe with your progress saved.

The mini boss encounter before the checkpoint. 

Opening the Gate

When you reach the Gate Entrance you fight a small group of standard enemies but you also go by a locked gate. You can however see there's stuff behind the gate so it now becomes your quest to unlock it. The tiling on the floor is also in the shape of an arrow pointing to it, to signify it's importance. But for now you have no choice but to pass by it.


South to the Gate Entrance are two ambush rooms. You have to face some crate enemies in the first room and access a pressure plate to unlock the door to the second ambush room. This time there's four crate enemies at once so that this enemies progression has led to something more challenging. 


The second ambush room also have hidden enemies in it but this time they're just hiding behind props. I wanted to vary the gameplay as much as I could by making each encounter unique in some way. By using props as enemy cover instead of cover for the player felt like a good way to do that in this particular room. Espiecially with enemies hiding.

The player gets ambushed by hidden standard enemies.

Following the the ambush rooms is a long hallway and it has some charger enemies, which are enemies that freeze up and then charge towards you for a big amount of damage. It has made some appearances in the optional areas of the map as well as in the earlier stages. In the middle of the hallway is a room with some spiders and a pressure plate in it. Pressing it finally opens up the gate from the Gate Entrace section!


There is a locked door and a pressure plate at the end of the hallway that leads back to the gate. The door is locked just so the player can't sneak in without  venturing forth the ambush rooms.

 


Beyond the Gate

Passing through the unlocked gate leads you straight to a new enemy introduction. Kamikazebots!

Leading south is a giant conveyor belt. That's partly there to build some tension as what's to come. But also so the player don't try to make a run for it when they see what's ahead, as the conveyor belt is going south so fast it's impossible to go north.


In the room below there are two robot bosses. One of them is a bigger and meaner version of the miniboss from before, in the Safe Zone area. He uses ranged attacks and more advanced shoot patterns. The other boss is a bigger version of the charger enemy. The room have three pillars in it so that you can cover from their endless assault.

The Boss Battle

Introducing Kamikaze bots.

The Kamikazebots hop towards you and explode! The first time around they announce their self destruct sequence so that the player would hopefully get what they're all about. They are also far enough for the player to react. But if you died from that encounter, you'd start at the checkpoint in the safe zone room. The placement of that checkpoint is there because it's fairly close to all the ambush rooms and Gate Entrance. So you would always start pretty close to where you left off. 


Next up is the ending stretch, which consists of hallways with a couple of fireballs and standard enemies, Kamikazebots, chargers and more! The player can choose to go by some standard enemy encounters or try their luck in a fireball-filled shortcut instead.


I still wanted each encounter to feel unique to one another so towards the end of the hallways there is a room where fireballs are leaking in from the shortcut hall as you battle two chargers. After that you meet two Kamikazebots and you reach the last checkpoint.


Designing this boss battle was a lot of fun and I feel they have a good dynamic with their different specialties, making the battle a bit challenging! Defeating the bosses unlocks a door and the player is rewarded by getting access to the final level of the game!

Ending Reflections

The player fights the bosses at the end of the level.

I enjoyed working with this level a lot. Especially the pacing, where to put each enemy encounter and things like that. I believe the different encounters make for a nuanced experience. However, the biggest fear when making this level was that the player might get lost. But in the end I think each area looks distinctive enough so that you can tell where you are through propping or tiling. I also feel there is a good amount of semi-linearity in the level. Most of it is created by optional loot areas and only one path is a shortcut. If I were to do anything differently I would've added more shortcuts and maybe made some areas smaller. Other than that I am very glad with the end result and I hope you enjoyed reading about the level and my thought process!