Game, Systems & Level Designer
Grenadier is a First Person Shooter concept where there are no firearms, only grenades.
I've always been very good at using grenades in FPS games and I've always love the variation of Frags/Impact Grenades etc and knowing when to use what.
So I started working on a concept in 2018-2019 whilst recovering from surgery to figure out how a game like this would work on paper and mockups before I started putting stuff in engine.
This concept allowed me to understand that I needed to go get the education to put things in place as Tutorials on YouTube would only get me so far. It was what pushed me to seek industry professionals and ask for their advice as to what I needed to do to get into games including GCAP 2019.
It also allowed me to get into AIE as it was part of my entry portfolio and it also increased my overall understanding of level design tools in engine.
- PC (Windows)
On this page I will discuss the overall Game Design choices that I made for this project as well as important lessons that I learned during my time on this.
Here are the key features of the game design as they were presented during my entrance to AIE.
There are lots of fascinating types of grenades through history from the high-tech Rheinmetal Shgr 09 (a grenade that lands, sets itself in a vertical position then fires the rest of the grenade into the air before exploding), all a way down to the humble Molotov Cocktail.
The way I had laid out the grenades was that you could take any number of grenades from any category, you could go full offensive with only lethal grenades or entirely tactical grenades like stuns but the best option would to be balance the needs to your own specific playstyles and potentially the map.
Fragmentation grenades can actually send their fragments large distances in a line of sight manner, so it made for a risk versus reward to use them in open spaces if you didn't have cover. Concussion or Blast Grenades have limited fragments from the body of the grenade but the force of the blast and shockwave can kill enemies within the blast radius, great for smaller rooms in buildings or to ensure you don;t take a bunch of frag from your own grenade.
Gas and incendiary were designed to have their pros and cons. Gas can irritate enemies as a tactical type grenade or could be lethal but could be countered by gasmasks if the player is wearing one or has it in their loadout. The Incendiary grenades would be great for area denial but unlike most shooters they would actually set fire to things, so use one when you're in a dangerous spot and you might kill yourself.
The ability to change how you throw from Overarm to Underarm throwing was something I really loved from my time playing PUBG competitively.
With Underarm you could throw a grenade out the window to land just outside where you know there's an enemy or put a smoke just in front of you.
The Overarm traditional throw can be used to lob grenade high up over structures or for distant throws.
The Distance that a grenade would travel would be determined by weight, too light and it won;t go very far, too heavy and it'll fall to earth quicker, with the ideal grenade being somewhere in the middle.
The grenade type would also be a factor in how far you can throw. Stick grenades due to their tumbling end-over-end would be able to go further than rounded grenades of the same weight.
The type of grenade would also effect its behaviour on landing with rounded grenades bouncing and rolling where as stick grenades would not really bounce and don't roll.
Impact grenades would immediately detonate
Character Equipment & Loadouts
One Aspect i wanted to explore in this game was a loadout system that allowed the players freedom of control of their look and loadout but that every decision they made would actually effect gameplay in some way or another.
Simply the number of grenades you could carry was determined by the kit you wore but this would also effect your movement speed. You could add more armour to reduce damage but that would effect your speed and even depending on the armour how you can throw.
So it became a trade off of weight for speed, armour for protection and the number of grenades you could carry.
You could wear no armour and just a chest rig to be the fastest person on the battlefiedl but would die instantly and would only be able to carry a handful of grenades on you forcing you to rely on Procure on Site weapondry or scavenging off dead enemies.
You could go super heavy with the armour until you are a slow walking tank that can barely move their arms so throws won't go very far and your movement speed would make painfully slow but in a game where the weapons are mostly thrown grenades that might not matter if your enemies can't put throws directly at your feet to negate your armour.
I always loved giving choice back to the players on how they want to play within the sandbox I create as it will create new metas and if it's properly balance should allow multiple methods to success.
For a game that is made for explosives and the fragments that those explosion produce it felt natural that this game would involve environmental destruction.
The example I used was Battlefield V's terrain deformation and destruction where craters would form in landscapes which gave new areas to seek cover in when trying to avoid grenades or their fragments.
For building destruction the plan was to have a system where certain types of explosions could effect certain types of building materials. A frag grenade might pepper up a brick wall with surface holes/dints/crates but won't blow out the wall but it will for a plaster/dry wall wall.
I also wanted to see if the rubble from those buildings could form rubble piles and become part of the environment instead of just disappearing in like most games with destruction.
Looking at the BFV examples below the terrain looks like it's been in a battle but the building ruins still feel unattural as they are ruins but with no rubble or dust etc.
One other aspect i realised i would need to get correct for this to feel like a game with varied and realistic grenade performance is to fix incediary grenades.
In most FPS games the incendiary grenades cause a small fire or light up and will instantly light a player on fire but then put themselves out without having lit anything on fire long term in a handful of seconds. that's not how fire works and to make it a truly interesting weapon with pros and cons i feel like we have to treat it closer to reality.
Fire won;t instantly light you on fire, but you might get burns from it, long exposure might set clothes on fire and if you get the fuel on you are in for a bad time.
Fire doesn't discriminate it will kill you, friendly or foe.
The idea is that fire is an uncontrollable chaotic force you've unleashed on the battlefield, the fire source will act as they should where the fuel will burn on surfaces including water but the fire itself can catch onto new fuel sources in the level. set fire to a field of dry hay, it'll start to spread across the field with concussions, rain or wet surfaces putting the fire out.
Starting a fire on already burnt surfaces will work with the new fuel source but might not catch on anything if there's no fuel left.
My reason behind this was that in games fire is used as an area of effect tool to delay enemies or force them into a different approach. With this you could force enemies out of a preferred path, remove occulison/soft cover and the smoke might also hid your movement.
For Grenadier I really wanted to simulate proper Fragmentation on grenades as most grenades in video games are a damage range fall off in all directions that really is about the size of the blast radius of grenades but in real life fragments are the real danergous aspect and can go in all directions for up to 100 metres.
The idea of simulating this even if i have to reduce the ranges means that one time you might be withing the fragment distance and be lucky enough to avoid it but the next time cop some frag to the face and be sent to the respawn screen.
The idea would be to have a blast radius and have projectile based fragments sent out from the explosion which would cause damage with a larger radius with falloff for fragmentation.
Having now seen this done in games like War Thunder, Enlisted and Gunner Heat PC (as shown in the image below) leave me optimistic that this could have worked and is the right way for this game to go if i'm able to come back to it one day.
Some of the mechanics I could work on before being taught the in engine aspect of design was progression. This section will show some mock ups and my design choices regarding the games progression and unlock systems.
For the main game progression I wanted to do one of the leveling systems that you would unlock grenade trees or equipment. These grenade trees could unlock further grenades via using that type of grenade in games.
The Rank Unlocks would also unlock new cosmetic equipment that would be only used for cosmetic reason such as the grenade pin necklace that would be something to show off your rank on your player themselves.
I wanted to keep equipment unlocked to players from the start and only have weapons and cosmetics available as rank unlocks. Having played many FPS games it always annoys me when someone has an ability you haven't unlocked as yet cause it doesn't feel like a fair fight.
I get that still having grenades being unlocked doesn't make for a 100% fair fight but the grenades are still as effective it's minor change sin how they are used but having superior armour or the ability to carry more grenades is a distinct advantage which is why I had them unlocked from the start and used pros and cons to make players choose how they wanted to fight, knowing the strengths and weakness of their loadouts.
Grenades from the same family would be unlocked via a grenade tree with kills (or points so assist are included) with a weapon unlocks a new variant.
One aspect of these unlocks I wanted to avoid was the newer call of duty style of unlock challenges where it's get only headhunts whilst crouch jumping into a 360 no scope. they should be things you don't have to p[lay the game differently for that just happen over time.
Kills with a grenade in your arsenal should happen over matches when you use them for whatever purpose they fit best, not try to use one specific type over and over even if it doesn't fit to get the unlock.
Procure on Site & Hidden Unlocks
One mechanic I had since the beginning was an answer to the question of what happens if someone does so good in a life they run out grenades.
They procure weapons on site that feel like they belong in that environment.
If the map is set on a farm they're fertiliser IED's or for a golf course a bunch of Golf Tees in a can an an improvised fragmentation grenade.
These weapons only found in levels would also be able to be unlocked if players got enough kills with them so you could show off how good you are with the golf ball claymore mine by using it on a map that doesn't even spawn them.
The Final aspect would be hidden unlocks that could be found on a map and unlocked like the M420 Grenade on Maize Maze where there's a hidden Weed plantation or the MK-Ultra Grenade found in the out of bounds crash crop duster.
These grenades would both create pyschadelic effects on their opponents as a tactical grenade but would require exploration to find them.
Status as of 2019
As of when I stopped this game in Late 2019 I was enrolled to return to study as a mature age student at AIE in Melbourne and I was beginning to understand that this project was well outside of my abilities at that time.
I had began to use Unreal Engine 4 for level deisgn purposes learning the terrain tool including terrain material blending and the general placement of items etc. The Image below shows off one of my first personal creations in engine with the simple task of trying to create a believable forest landscape.
This the in engine stuff was really just a way of dipping my toe into game engines whilst i was super excited and preparing for class.
Once I had that I then tried some blueprints using tutorials but I didn't understand how to apply what was done in tutorials into the actual mechanics I wanted to create so without that I had to rely on people creating tutorials for the exact mechanics or trial and error as to what variables I could change to get the desired result.
Relying on other was one of the reasons I chose to go back to study as it felt like i was waiting, passively once my designs got to a certain point for others and it was immensely frustrating. It's the same reason i started a personal project again at the end of 2023 after working on a side project for most of 2021 that was ultimately shelved.
The level designs I tried something completely different to previous level designs with trying to create realistic looking satellite imagery like I'd seen in recon photos from the Cuban Missile Crisis etc.
This was very time consuming as I had to source things from google maps or hand paint to match what I wanted using colours sourced from google maps.
These are some of the best looking 2D levels I've designed and give an accurate representation of what the level will feel like but I also think that the reason I haven't come back to this style is the fact that the other ways I sketch maps/level are effective enough and that this level of detail only really needs to go out to the public themselves and not internal developers.
From a gameplay point of view I stuck with open areas in larger battlefield scale maps with defilade, micro terrain and long sight-lines.
This was due to the fact that in grenade warfare just cause you can see them doesn't mean you can hit them which i felt made for this loop (before I knew the term loop) where you would see a player and make a mental note of where they are then look around or kill another player before going back to see if they had entered the range of which you need to actually engage them.
Future for Grenadier
Grenadier is a project I very much look forward to returning to at some stage.
At the time I wasn't able to build temp meshes or code the actual gameplay needed and now having studied and being able to do both of those things I realise this project will take a lot of time to get the fragmentation, destruction and fire simulations to where they need to be and will likely need people who can program systems of such sophistication and not my designer code.
Once my team had decided to post-pone Project Siuren due to it's scope i toyed with this concepot as an idea but i still thoguht the scope for even the most basic version of this was too large for a team that was not really making a lot of progress which is why we settled on the current concept for our side project.
So for now the future is to continue with that and then one day come back to this idea and give it a red hot go as i think it'll be one of those niche games that some people love and other people dismiss out of hand not understanding the tactical choices you'd need to make as to which grenade when.