Destroy All Humans!: Path of the Furon

Project Highlights

  • Destroy All Humans!: Path of the Furon is an Unreal 3 based 3rd person open world shooter.
  • Designed levels, systems, and balanced player skills, weapons, cameras, enemy and boss design, and solved several technical design challenges.
  • Gaming review websites that highlight areas I designed and tuned:
    • "Each of the game’s eight weapons has a unique function, and thanks to numerous upgrades that you can
      • purchase throughout the game, each one is capable of dishing out loads of bizarre destruction...They are all more powerful and
      • easier to use than in previous games in the series" - G4 X-Play online review
    • "As you progress through the game you get some genuinely fun weapons... Combine these with the semi-sandbox nature of the game and you have a great way to blow off steam after a lousy day as there's really nothing more fun than leveling an entire city block with one button push or pickup and throw cars and tanks at crowds of civilians. The psychokinesis powers are also fun as you can stop time and manipulate objects before restarting time." -GamingNexus online review
    • "Crypto’s Furon abilities feel a bit more balanced in Path of the Furon and the four paths of Enlightenment are clever ways of upgrading each power." - GameZone online review

Level Design and Mission Scripting

One of the invasion sites, which is the size of an island in Grand Theft Auto, did not have a level designer assigned to it when I started at Sandblast. During a period where boss design lacked support resources to iterate, I took the initiative to implement several missions in Unreal and build out Belleville, a city based loosely on Paris. When I started, the level had a rough lay out and very basic mission block in.

  • Implemented several missions using Unreal’s visual scripting language, Kismet, and iterated on them with feedback from the team.
  • Placed hundreds of path nodes for sidewalks, pathways, and intersections for both pedestrians and vehicles.
  • Created whitebox environments for indoor level and directed concept artist on previsualization.
  • Created whitebox environment and iterated on boss arena located underneath Eiffel tower.
  • Built layout in greater detail and revised central landmarks of the city along with primary environment artist.
  • Defined unique districts and improved level flow by iterating on placement of mission critical objectives.
  • Created several side missions.

The following images are final renderings of Belleville. I was responsible for laying out districts, major landmarks, and key battle locations. I inherited a rough lay out of this level and added path nodes, implemented mission scripts, placed mission givers and triggers, and built the boss arena located at the Eiffel Tower.

Interiors and Boss Arena Design

  • Built whitebox geometry for all 3 boss arenas and one interior combat mission.
  • Created prototype scripts and matinees to mimic the scale and behavior of the dragon boss as it moved through environment.
  • Directed concept artist on desired theme and look of environments based on playtest results of rough block-ins.
  • Placed gameplay assets such as props, spawners, platforms, triggers, scripts, dialogue cues, and mission related objects.

Whitebox and final renderings of the chateau.

This chateau is owned by an elite French business man. It is used in the second mission of Belleville to host a party, light investigation gameplay, and a battle. I created this geometry and worked with concept and environment artists to define the look of the space. Being European born, I wanted to create a space that invoked the sense of awe one gets from visiting historical palaces. I also wanted to create an interior space with vertical gameplay to make the battle more interesting.

Dragon Environment Concept Drawings Jet pack gameplay version of dragon battle

Initially, the dragon boss battle was supposed to take place inside a warehouse. Once I prototyped the battle with an appropriately sized dragon, the warehouse didn't fit the combat design. When getting feedback from the team, everyone agreed that next-gen bosses should be larger and more animated than those of years past, so the size of the dragon continued to increase. A large flying creature needed a more open space to roam around in. I defined the gameplay space we wanted to develop with a concept artist and settled on a mystical themed series of rock formations off the shore of the city. These were the concept sketches she made.

In the process of defining the look, I wanted to test out another gameplay idea. In order to integrate jet pack gameplay and to add a heightened sense of drama into the battle, I created a ring structure where the bridges in between the platforms would be destroyed by the dragon during the battle. The rocks would then collapse, narrowing the number of places the player could stand on. In addition, the glowing tops of the platforms would light on fire when the dragon performed a special attack under the ring structure. While this idea made the battle unique, playtesting revealed that a long flying enemy was too difficult to hit with the player camera settings we had settled on. The battle and level were simplified to make the dragon a fixed target.

The Destroy All Humans! series is also recognized for spoofing pop culture in each decade. DAH!:Path of the Furon is set in the 70s. The emperor boss arena is a spoof of a very popular sci-fi movie released around that time. I created a whitebox version of this boss arena that featured a collapsing floor so that the second part of the battle could feature aerial jetpack fighting. Time and resources did not allow for jetpack play to be developed, so the battle was constrained to being on foot and the room was adjusted to reflect that.

These are images of the final dragon and emperor boss environments. For the dragon envrionment, the look of the stones was maintained and a city skyline was added, but the player now stands on a single platform that features several rocks for taking cover behind when getting shot. This environment set up was better received by players.

Combat and Enemy Design

Boss Combat Design

  • Designed, tuned, and directed development of 3 large boss encounters from concept to ship.
  • Organized design meetings to discuss boss design and review iteration notes.
  • Created design documents to detail boss behaviors, art requirements, technical concerns, and sound requirements.
  • Directed concept artists to design the look of each boss.
  • Constructed prototype boss levels, behaviors, and evnironments.
  • Iterated on boss designs throughout development.
  • Worked closely with modelers, animators, and gameplay engineers to iterate daily on the development of these bosses.
  • Organized regular playtests with team members to improve player feedback and mechanics of boss encounters.
  • Tuned AI, data, movement, and gameplay associated with bosses via UnrealScript, Kismet, the level editor, and Maya.

Boss Design: Saxon's Dragon

Dragon fires missile Player stops time and redirects missile Dragon gets hit and stunned Dragon fire breathing attack

  • This boss requires the use of a key ability in the game, time stop. The dragon will fire missiles at the player. It has a shield that protects it from taking normal damage, but the player can stop time, grab the projectile with Psychokinesis, and unfreeze time to send the projectile back to its master.
  • If the returned projectile successfully hits, the dragon becomes stunned and the shield will temporarily drop, allowing the use of standard weapons to damage it.
  • Once the dragon has taken enough damage, it will submerge and then reappear closer to the player to use its flame thrower attack.
  • The environment features several small rocks that can block damage from missiles or the flame thrower temporarily. These rocks did not initially exist in the level, but playtesting highlighted the fact that players wanted a specific place to dodge attacks while fighting on the platform.

Boss Design: Crousteau's Squid

Eat trash and recover health Projectile Attack Tentacle Smash Electric Fence Attack

  • The player fights the squid boss under the Tower of Belleville.
  • This boss fires projectile attacks and use its tentacles to smash the player. In some cases, the squid is able to use its tentacles to perform one attack while the body engages in a different behavior.
  • The squid dives under the water and reemerges at different points around the tower. While it is submerged, it uses an electric fence attack with its tentacles. This attack is meant to encourage use of the jetpack and the fence has varying heights that allow the player to walk under it, move between the beams, or fly over it. When I originally pitched the idea for this attack, I described it as a lethal jump rope. The attack was well received by the team during the conceptual phase and after it was implemented, with little change other than an improvement in presentation.
  • In addition to melee and projectile attacks, the squid has additional behaviors:
    • It lets out a mighty roar when it resurfaces after taking a lot of damage.
    • The squid also has the ability to dig up buried sea trash and eat it to recover some of its health.

Boss Design: Emperor, The Final Boss

Using psychokinesis to throw bomb Ice Stream Attack Wind Stream Attack 3 Stream Attack in final phase

The final boss, the emperor of the Furon empire. We created a large floating head to ease concerns about how many boss animations would need to be made. Once this direction was set, the art focus shifted to the environment, physics technology, and special effects. The original proposal for the boss involved using Psychokinesis as the primary means to defeat the first part of the battle. All standard weapons were stripped away. Originally, the tubes that connected the emperor to the ceiling would shift positions and change the elemental attack it used. The player would then have to catch one of the elemental projectiles it fired and shoot them back at the correct tube. After playtesting and feedback, this gameplay element proved to be unintuitive to players. The battle was modified so that the tubes stayed in a fixed place and the emperor cycled between attacks without reconnecting them.

  • The player still has to catch projectiles and throw them back at the tubes, but they can successfully damage any tube with the projectile, although the proper element does more damage.
  • The emperor uses a number of elemental stream attacks during both stages of the fight. The emperor alternates between the streams for the first stage.
    • The are ice stream slows down the player and does damage for a few seconds after the initial hit.
    • The fire stream deals a larger amount of burning damage over time.
    • The wind stream pushes the player back with a strong force.
  • For the final stage, the emperor attacks with all 3 streams at the same time and tracks the player as they move around the room.

Enemy AI Design

  • Iterated on movement properties, health, spawner settings, AI states, damage values, fire intervals, and dozens of other parameters for over 20 different AI.
  • Balanced behaviors, spawner settings, and difficulty of these enemies and their variations across 5 large open world cities.
  • Tuned enemy settings for driving and exiting vehicles.
  • Edited animation trees to improve AI responsiveness.

Alert level 1 - Police Alert level 2 - SWAT Alert level 3 - Military Alert level 4 - Nexo warriors

These are images of the human levels of enemy AI used for the alert system. Here is how the alert system works:

  • For the first tier, police arrive on foot or in cop cars. They are relatively weak and use a slow firing pistol.
  • The next tier features SWAT who arrive in groups of 4 in SWAT vans. SWAT use a combination of a shield and pistol or a shotgun. The shotgun wielding SWAT do heavy damage while the shield bearers are invulnerable from the front unless players rip off their shield with Psychokinesis or an explosive weapon.
  • The third tier includes a combination of military tanks and soldiers that arrive in helicopters. The soldiers travel in squads and use rapid firing M16s.
  • The fourth tier brings the powerful alien Nexo enemies. The Nexo Walker is a large spider like creature that stomps around the streets. It fires a long range death ray and seeking projectiles. It can be damaged anywhere but has a special vulnerable spot behind its head. The danger in getting close to the walker is that it can use a melee stomp that causes a lot of damage. The other enemy shown here is the Nexo Warrior. These combatants chase the player very quickly and can use a jetpack to fly over obstacles. They use a combination of melee, rapid fire laser shots, and heat seeking missiles, depending on range.

These images depict the aerial combatants - military helicopters and Nexo Saucers.

The helicopters use rapid fire bullets as well as missiles. They are slow to turn but chase players at relatively fast speeds. The Nexo Saucers have rapid fire plasma projectiles as well as a long range explosive Quantum bomb. The saucers make quick strafing passes around the player.

Sandbox Alert and Escalation System

  • DAH!: Path of the Furon includes a multi-tiered player alert system similar to the police escalation in Grand Theft Auto.
  • The alert combat system is also used as the baseline battle system in missions in conjunction with custom spawns.
  • Tuned the automated alert level that kicks in when the player causes destruction in the sandbox environment.
  • Balanced data set for 6 levels of alert in both on foot and in air methods of travel across 5 different invasion sites.
  • Tuned the mix of enemies at each alert level, rate of entry and exit, vehicles used, length of spawns, and alert degradation.

Systems Design and Tuning

  • Responsible for tuning and balancing the open world/sandbox gameplay experience.
  • Tuned firing rates, damage, range, projectiles, upgrades, cooldowns, targeting cones, ammo, and several additional parameters of each weapon.
  • Tracked and tuned data and difficulty diagnostics across 5 large open world city environments and tuned data based on playtests.
  • Managed data in Excel and constructed custom equations to determine expected completion time, weapon DPS, upgrade economy, and survivability.

Weapon Design and Tuning

Ion Detonator Zap-O-Matic PK Magnet Venus Human Trap

  • The Ion Detonator is an sci-fi grenade launcher. I focused on tuning the blast parameters, camera shake, and the balance of ammo distribution and clip size.
  • The Zap-O-Matic is a lightning gun, and is also the first weapon given to the player. It was underpowered for a long time. I focused heavily on improving its presentation to make the impact stronger as well as balancing damage over time, recharge rate, targeting properties, and the way it chained to additional targets.
  • The Superballer is a gag weapon inspired by the well received disclocator from DAH! 2 (which is also in Path of the Furon). It bounces targets several times and sends an impulse to nearby victims that get hit by the bouncing object. While tuning it, I focused on making the physics entertaining for different classes of objects (people, world props, and vehicles).
  • The other ability shown is PK Magnet, which allows players to grab and magnetize several objects in the world. This screenshot also demonstrates the tuning I performed for the Psychokinesis camera, which offsets the player and changes the field of view to make the ability feel more dramatic.
  • Body snatch allowed the player to take control of almost any NPC in the world, and I had to balance the data sets of 20-30 enemies to account for this fact
  • The Venus Human Trap (VHT) is a man and vehicle eating plant which went through several iterations.
  • We faced interesting design challenges with the VHT such as the fact that we wanted the player to carry enough ammo to fire several VHTs but performance didn't allow us to place more than one on the ground.
    • We solved this issue by tying ammo to the health of the plant and allowed players to "summon" and "unsummon" it as if the VHT was a pet.
    • Changing ammo types solved another design problem. Initially you shot a spore that walked along the ground and found a hole to burrow itself into. While seeing the spore walk around was fun, sometimes it took a few seconds to find an unobscured location. When the plant was made "summonable", we added a targeting reticule that clearly indicated where the VHT could sprout and provided instant feedback to the player.

Disintegrator Ray Plasma Cannon Black Hole Bomb Anal Probe

  • The Disintegrator ray is a rapid fire weapon used on foot. The saucer equivalent is the Plasma Cannon. Most people enjoyed the quick firing properties of these weapons. I focused on tuning the rate of fire, damage per shot, shot spread, victim impulse, clip size, ammo recovery rate, wind up time, and cool down time.
  • The Black Hole Bomb (BHB) is a massive destruction weapon acquired late in the game. The BHB sucks anything near it into the black hole and destroys it. When balancing this weapon, I largely focused on ammo cost and recovery rates as well as performance and visual impact.
  • The Anal Probe is a heat seeking weapon that sends victims running in pain. When tuning this weapon, I focused on instant impact damage, damage over time, seeking acquire time, targeting cone, projectile velocity, and seeking aggressiveness.

Death Ray Seeker Missiles Quantum Deconstructor Tornadotron

  • The Death Ray is the first saucer weapon acquired and carves a path through buildings and terrain. My balancing focus on this weapon included wind up time, damage over time, and cool down rate before it can fire again.
  • The Seeker Missiles have multi-lock on quick firing capabilities. During playtesting, we noticed that it was heavily preferred to lock onto several targets and launch a barrage of missiles. As a result, I focused my balancing efforts on time it takes to acquire targets, target acquisition cone, ammo use, damage per missile, and projectile velocity. I wanted to allow for a barrage of missiles to be fired, but I didn't want the seekers to become overwhelmingly powerful.
  • The Quantum Deconstuctor is a large ball of energy that can level several large structures at a time.
  • The Tornadotron sweeps up vehicles and tears away pieces of buildings.
    • These 2 weapons are somewhat impractical for destroying enemies due to targeting inaccuracy, so tuning them was about presentation and performance. This meant focusing on their damage and impact radius, particle settings, ammo clip size, rate of ammo recovery, and velocity.

World Object and Vehicle Tuning

  • DAH!: Path of the Furon has hundreds of different props and world objects with physics properties
  • Psychokinesis ability allows players to pick up and throw virtually any object, and they must all be fun to use in this way
  • Tuned parameters for each world object such as mass, throw magnitude, and destruction behavior and effects

Spawner and LOD Tuning

  • One important gameplay goal for Path of the Furon was next-gen density of objects, vehicles, and people.
  • Defined spawn parameters for optimal gameplay and visuals under performance constraints.
  • Iterated on several versions of spawn systems to create one that felt just right.
  • Tuned settings for LOD thresholds on visibility of pedestrians and vehicles.
  • Created a specification for the environment artists and level designers to follow when adding these spawn points to the world.

Images depicting vehicle density from the saucer and pedestrian density on foot.

Notice that you can see cars in almost all directions. I was responsible for optimizing spawning algorithms alongside the AI engineer and tuning data sets for each of the five invasion sites to create maximize density while minimizing pop in for vehicles, both on foot and in the saucer.

These images represent a range of circumstances under which the spawner settings had to hold up. We had a combination of long streets with very long sight lines and a character who could jetpack, as well as streets that featured junctions of much shorter streets. I iterated on each invasion site with many different data sets to produce results that worked best for each city.

Player Camera Settings

  • Path of the Furon features distinct game cameras for walking around, using mental abilities, using body snatch, jetpacking, and saucer play.
  • Tuned the field of view, depth of field, position, and movement of the camera between each of these player states for both the on foot and saucer parts of play.
  • Tuned the settings for player and object fading for the times when the camera view would become partially obstructed or pushed into a wall.
    • Settings included how close to geometry the camera could get before fading began, how quickly fading happened, and how much blending was done.
  • Iterated on the balance between highlighting character detail, making each transition feel dynamic, and intelligently reacting to obstructions in the environment.

Game Economy, Player Progression, and Difficulty Tuning

  • Game progression used a combination of purchasable upgrades and use-based skill advancement.
  • Designed upgrades for all weapons and abilities in conjunction with another system designer.
  • Tuned over 60 upgrade statistics, properties, costs, and order of unlocks.
  • Established base values for economy across all enemy encounters and missions rewards.
  • Balanced and tuned a variety of ammo consumption models for each weapon along with ammo regeneration system.
  • Balanced how often skills had to be used before they could be upgraded.
  • Created mission specific enemies when stock AI behavior was undesirable.
  • Responded to feedback from playtests and rebalanced difficulty accordingly.
  • Collaborated with QA to better understand pacing issues and followed up with changes.

Multiplayer Polish

  • The multiplayer portion of DAH!: Path of the Furon was largely designed and developed by two designers who left the project prior to ship.
  • Took ownership of the multiplayer maps and modes from the beta level they were left at to final shipping production levels.
  • Tackled all content side bugs and worked with engineers to improve performance given the design constraints of split screen multiplayer.

Feedback testing

  • Organized a weekly gameplay feedback meeting that was open to anyone in the company to facilitate continuous improvement of gameplay.
  • Motivated people that didn’t regularly play the game or didn’t consider themselves core gamers to participate in these sessions.
  • Collected notes and feedback from each of the sessions. A different piece of the game was shown each time.
  • Encouraged the group to talk about things they liked and disliked after each session and challenged them to propose solutions.
  • Sent the collected notes to mission designers to highlight areas where people got stuck or confused.
  • Used notes and feedback to guide systems tuning and combat iteration.

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