Level Design: Expresso

When we were first given the task to create an “autobiographical shooter game”, I was initially at a loss. How could I take something from my relatively peaceful life and adapt it to a shooter? But as I spoke with my classmates and heard about their ideas, I was able to come up with one of my own.

Image result for gimme java coffee shaker heights oh

In high school, I worked as a barista at a small stand-alone coffee shop that was stationed on the edge of Shaker Heights, Ohio. While many of the customers were perfectly pleasant, there were still others who acted inpatient, entitled, or generally inappropriate. Of course it is often frowned upon for employees- or anyone for that matter- to chuck coffee at a customer, no matter how rude they’re being, I often fantasized about it; thus the idea for Expresso came into being.

Expresso did not grab me in the same way Catnip Quest did. For this project I didn’t veer off the path and instead did my best to directly follow the syllabus and the textbook. I drew up my paper game, which closely if not exactly ended up resembling the, uh, “finished” product. The player would play as a hand (a hand belonging to a poor, tired barista) and have to defend themself against agitated customers by throwing mugs of coffee at them. I drew a road lined with trees as a background (influenced by the general look of Shaker Heights), and placed the player at one end of the paper and a small herd of angry cartoonish bald men (I am not much of an artist) at the other. The player would have to dodge the scaling hot cups of coffee the unsatisfied customers would throw and defend themselves by throwing back equally hot cups of coffee at the assailants. The idea was that as the screen scrolled down, the player would be able to collect blueberry muffins, aka “lives”, to replenish any lives they’d lost to the customers.

I quickly set to work on making the game, following along with the textbook and the sample shooter game as best I could, but found this to be a lot more challenging than the collection game. Creating the base of the game was easy: getting the player to move, factoring in the explosion animation, and getting the player and enemies to shoot was all fine. The problems arose with getting the enemies to move correctly and to get them to shoot more than 3 cups of coffee each. I also had wanted to be able to make the screen scroll, set up a UI for the lives counter, and place collectable muffins throughout the game, but I felt inclined the fix the problem of the enemies first before moving on to these tasks.

Ultimately, I ended up with a product that I wasn’t very happy with. Though Catnip Quest was far from complete, it did what it was supposed to do. There were problems in Expresso that I ran out of time to fix, and had I had the time and knowledge to do so I think it would’ve turned out to be a cute, fun little game. I had a few more ideas for it that I didn’t get to implement: for example, instead of a traditional explosion when the coffee would hit the player or the customers, a little splash of coffee would erupt. I really wanted to do more and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to, but I plan to work on the game more over break both for fun and for the sake of learning. Though I didn’t get to accomplish all I wanted, I’m glad I was able to present something and I look forward to furthering my education in game design next year.

Image result for hand holding coffee mug