Technical Designer

Game Design and Review

Key Kingdom Souls: Critical Analysis

Title Screen of Key Kingdom Souls

It's been about 4 months since the Media Arts and Game Development Expo where Key Kingdom Souls was first shown off.  It's always crazy to me to think back to it, the development cycle seemed so much longer than it really was.  We worked on it for about 3 and a half months but it seemed so much longer.  Now that I've had time to digest the award and the game itself, I'd like to look back on Key Kingdom Souls and see what I think of it from a development standpoint.


Game Time

I know Key Kingdom Souls was created for the MAGD Expo, but I really wish the time frame for the game was a little longer.  We focused on a much more polished experience which I still believe was the correct decision, but showing the game off gets a little more difficult.  In situations other than the MAGD Expo people expect longer game-time with more content.  When I went to the Wisconsin Science and Technology Symposium many of the people who played the game felt as though it was just a taste of the game, and I feel the same way.  If I were to give Key Kingdom Souls another round of development, I would be sure to find ways early on in development for longevity in game time.  I most likely would have done a semi-random dungeon generation, or something of that nature.


Game Feel

One of my most proud work with Key Kingdom Souls is the movement of the Character.  Movement is snappy and feels responsive overall, which only came from a few weeks of tweaking the movement system until it felt the way it does.  Though I'm fairly happy with how the movement turned out, there were several gameplay elements which I believed to be problematic in the final build. 


The Dash

For example, the dash as it is should probably just be scrapped as a whole.  It didn't feel great, and it was confusing for most players until they had a basic understanding of how it worked.  The dash was conceptualized as a quick movement in any one direction from where the player began.  Because of the R&D time I would have needed to figure out a system for this, the current system lets the player have full control over their movement while in the Dash.  If I were to go back and work on Key Kingdom Souls again, this would be my first change.



The middle frame of the Attack hitbox at its peak.  Notice how the corners can still hit enemies when the sword could not hit there.

The middle frame of the Attack hitbox at its peak.  Notice how the corners can still hit enemies when the sword could not hit there.



Sound Effects

It's no secret that Key Kingdom Souls did not have a sound designer or musician on our team.  Therefore, it was on Cole and I to find a lot of suitable royalty free music, which ended up taking quite some time.  Finding music also meant that we needed to find our own SFX which was a much bigger issue.  There were many effects we wanted that we were just unable to find a good sound for.  Cole and I spent hours looking for a good weapon hit sound, and still to this day the one we chose wasn't the greatest.  In a game focused on fighting from start to finish, sound effects are incredibly important to make the game feel better.  A hit will be much more satisfying to the Player if it sounds the same way it looks and feels.

An example of the Dash ability, and how the Player is able to move it around at will.



Our character had a massive weapon just in general.  That was kind of his quirk, was that he had an awkwardly long weapon to use in a 2D space.  This ended up being problematic for both art and integration.  The main issue with his size was that the sword hitbox was difficult to create and tune.  In the current build the hitbox is very lenient to the player.  The top corners of the weapon have hitboxes standing out, and I'm quite unsure why they were kept that way.  My only idea was that it allowed for a higher difficulty for the Player.  More so I believe I was misunderstanding that idea of giving the Player leniency in game feel.  As I now know, there is a big difference between slight Player leniency and an unfair advantage to the Player.  Most people playing the game will notice the difference between the two, and it can very easily ruin the feeling of the game.

These were all of the Sound Effects in the game, and a little more than half were actually used.

These were all of the Sound Effects in the game, and a little more than half were actually used.



The enemies of Key Kingdom Souls were created to work well with each other, and to create gameplay which would create tension for the Player.  Though the enemies were quite simplistic, they worked.  They looked interesting and did their job.  but one of my favorite parts of the game was designing Keyvil, the end boss of the game.  Keyvil was very inspired by many bullet-hell styled games.  he did not physically attack, but more so sent a lot of "key magic" to attack the Player. While this spiked the difficulty of the game forward, it created gameplay which forced the Player to use all of the abilities they have learned from he previous levels.  I very much wanted to focus on a memorable final boss, and with the help of Cole creating new assets for phase two of the fight this was possible.  I took my knowledge and study of bosses from MMORPG's like World of Warcraft to create a challenging but doable final experience for the Player.


Final Thoughts

At the time of its release, Key Kingdom Souls was the best project I've ever thrown my heart into.  It gave me a real taste of game development, and excited me for the projects to come.  I feel that it is very important to look back on previous projects and critically look at them.  What I missed on this game will for sure be completed in the next project and the one after that, so on and so forth.  I've seen people enjoy the time they spent with the game, found people online who play it and feel to share that experience with the world.  It's really excited me for the next projects, as I just want to do what I can to bring that feeling to more and more people.  

-Zach McCormick