Game, Combat & Systems Designer
Modern Combatant is an arcade shooter set in the modern day in a version of Earth where firearms technology never passed muzzle loading percussion cap weapondry.
Inspired by the Tactical Arcade gameplay of the realism modes introduced in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). This was a game where reloads are deadly and having access to a loaded weapon can be the difference between life or death.
This project was started in 2020 as a prototype project for First year University at AIE, I then reused the concept for a UI/UX design unit in the 2nd Year before continuing to work on the idea as a personal project.
I have always love the idea of an FPS with a twist, something new and challenging so this idea really stuck with me. I was looking to turn it into a side project with friends but we decided to go with a brand new concept as this idea would need the fidelity of COD MW 2019 to have the impact of the joke and gameplay.
(Single player Campaign)
University Project (x2)
Continued as Personal Project
On this page I will discuss the Game Design choices that I made for this project, limitations during the time as a university project and the project's current status.
Here are the key features of the game design that made it into the Initial Prototype and the subsequent UI/UX design documentation.
Basic Player Controller Functions
As this prototype was done during early First Year University (even as a mature aged student) I was still new to actually implementing my designs in code so the expectations I set myself for this prototype for me was to learn to make something that gave the idea of what I'd want the real game to end up like.
I wasn't ready to be making character controllers and gunplay that were able to match the Call of Duty level of polish that would be needed for this concept.
So I was happy with the basics, Mouse Look and WASD Movement, Aim Down Sights and Hip-fire, Crouch and Jumping.
Whilst I think this game would also need vaulting, prone and crouch sliding, these were outside scope for the time available for the prototype.
Overall for a first attempt at the skill level I was at the time, this was a successful prototype, something i'd like to return to in the future.
Shooting & Reloading
My Intent for the shooting and reloading in the prototype was to get them working with projectile rounds, ammo inventory/pickups and have both UI and the hammer animations working as an indicator of the state of the weapon (Loaded/Unloaded etc).
This would require me to check if the player had ammunition before the could reload, pickup ammunition, have it drop from the red explosive barrels and code in the weapons states.
Whilst this was satisfying to play as my own creation it would not hold up as an actual game, if I were to return to this I'd have to make the gunplay a lot more egnaging with under barrel pepperbox or ducksfeet attachments, akimbo, weapon throwing, melee, discarding firearms after shooting and so on.
The plan was also to have reload states so that you could do one small section of the reload and have it count when you next continued reloading (so you might insert the paper cartridge and ram it down the muzzle but not add the new cap).
The idea was that this could be used tactically or punish players who were not on top of their weapon management when thery swithc and fire the trigger but haven't finished reloading.
Inventory & Equipment Pickups
This was the first inventory system I had ever written code for and looking back at I'm still Impressed at how well I did, the player can drop any of their weapons and pick it up again equipping itself to whatever slot is free and have that weapon stay in the same state it was before it was dropped (Loaded/Unloaded etc).
The plan behind the inventory and equipment system was that player sin the heat of combat were more likely to pickup any firearm on the ground and see if it was loaded. I could imagine tense battles where two players go through weapon after weapon trying to find one with a shot only for them to miss it anyway.
This would also allow for weapon pickups in the levels such as loaded rifles leaning against barrels or in crates that needed to be unlocked during the heat of battle.
It gave high skill players a way to get kills and keep fragging out even if they are half way through reloading one of their weapons (like every barrel on a Volley Gun)
One of the Mechanics I liked from Modern Warfare 2019 was the gunsmith and being able to tailor a gun to your play style and even using multiple build in completely different playstyles.
So when we had a UI/UX unit in year 2 i wanted to see if I could implement something similar and see where i thought the improvements could be.
One thing that annoyed me was the limit on attachments, Whilst i understood it was to balance gameplay it often felt like 5 or 6 attachments were needed to make weapons work correctly. So I thought about this for some time and decided that a weight system would be the answer for this game that I'd like to explore, this way it became a player choice to bolt on every attachment they could with the added weight that would remove ADS and movement speeds but might make it more effective in combat/allow for follow up shots etc, or run it barebones for the movement buff etc.
So I wanted it to be a true pros vs cons system that makes the standard weapon itself an actual option in game instead of a hindrance or handicap to the player.
I also wanted to use actual names instead of what feels like arbitrary bars, opting to have both for those who prefer visual feedback and those looking to min/max their setups without guessing or using third party sites.
I used Adobe XD for the first time during this UI/UX project and it has been a useful tool in my arsenal ever since.
Loadouts were a focus during both versions of this game where the player had options to set up their character how they wanted to enter this percussion cap battlefield.
The idea was that the players had the option to use preset loadouts or customise there own adding holsters, webbing, slings, pouches so that they came prepared with whatever they thought they would need.
This included the location and "Hand" of the holster which would affect the draw/holster speed and the conditions in which a weapon could be equipped in battle.
The Gunslinger Preset would have you use Gunhand, Crosshand, Chest Crosshand and Back Gunhand holsters, meaning all of the pistols had to go through the right hand and there would be a preferred order in which to draw your next pistol if time was of the essence.
The Akimbo Preset is a mirrored set in every available location but as you can fire each firearm individually and aim down sights on each of them (one at a time) this meant you had to keep up on which hand was the next to fire and whats holster sets you were using but you had the benefit of a high rate of fire if you got it right (then needing to set up a tent and camp whilst you reload an entire armoury of pistols.
Custom Holster Loadouts
For Custom Loadouts the player was able to select specific holster and the drawing hand (the hand that you draw/unholster the firearm with and then use to shoot it).
The concept behind letting people choose their own alongside presets is to open up playstyles or tactics that players will find naturally as the games meta evolves over its lifetime.
I can see players a hip sling and a back sling for two rifles all on the right sid of the body but then using a hip and thigh holster on their left side for quick drawing with their offhand for follow up shots or in close quarters combat.
I can also see people wanting to load up with ammo pouches, a sidearm and a rifle then try to hold everyone out of their snipers nest.
I think customisation like this would allow for metas that even after years of playing I might not ever think of, that allows for high or even esports level plays and meta whilst having the presets it means casual players can join the game and not get locked out of equipment that is going to get them killed round after round until they grind there way to unlocking it.
CURRENT STATUS & NEXT STEPS
Continue with Current FPS Side Project
One of the reasons we ulttimately went to work on another project (Project Siren) when I went to make a side project with friends was that this game would have had many of the similar mechanics (gunsmithing, team based multiplayer etc.) but that Project Siren was more likely to be a commercial success if we continued passed the planned prototype stage.
Ultimately whilst moving from pre-production to production on the Project Siren prototype I came to the conclusion we needed to move onto a more achievable project as it was outside scope and progress was slow.
I feel if we continued with this it might have been more achievable than Project Siren but that our current project (an FPS Party Game) has lots of small achievable aspects that allow us to make good use of our time in 2024.
Simply put this game is one I want to return to but I don't think it's anytime soon at this stage and that whats best for this game is for us to continue an deliver on our current project after a disappointing year together on project Siren.
Prototype Version 2.0
The first thing we woulds need to do is rebuild the Character Controller from the ground up in a new engine and we'd spend the time getting it right before really going into a full prototype build.
In an FPS movement and shooting have to be fun, otherwise the game is dead in the water.
The original prototype was a necessary stepping stone on my development pathway but it has lots of flaws, and that's even after fixing the fact that the capsule the player was using would slide whilst trying to aim, making a game where your single shot counts harder than it aught to be.
We know that we can make character controllers that feel good to move and shoot the trick will be making a controller that works for slower tactical gameplay and rushing at the same time whilst making shooting single shots feel impactful and fun, worth the reload times.
Implement the Gunsmith & Loadout System
After the character controller is implement the next step to making an accurate representation of the intended gameplay would be to get at least a single weapon or a pistol and rifle working in the gunsmith and loadout systems.
The ability for players to tailor their loadout and weapons based on weight and firepower will allow us to test the game and see if the idea is actually fun in practice or a novel idea that will need to go into hiatus once more.
I imagine having smaller 4v4 matches as a test with us trying to break the balance over and over until it truly feels like each choice you make as a pro and con.
Want to add an under-barrel pepperbox revolver, well you get extra shots before reloading, but it's super heavy and take forever to reload. Feel like going in as light as possible with a pistol drawn and empty pockets, well you'll be as fast as superman but miss you shot and you are in a world or trouble.