Wyrmwood is a 2D Deckbuilding Hack n slash game created over the course of 8 months. You play as a moth named fig exploring the ruined civilization of cicadas, collecting and building a custom deck of abilities to fight off strange creatures.
Role: Project Manager / Level Designer
Team Size : 5
We created this game in response to a self imposed design challenge, that being combining two genres of games that we have not really seen before. For Wyrmwood this ended up being deck building and hack-n'-slash games. We wanted to be able to combine the fun of building your own deck of abilities with that of an action game.
We want the player to be drawn to exploring the playspaces, finding things around corners and discovering the secrets of the ruined cicada civilization.
Hybrid Genre Combat
A seamless combination of both deck building and hack-n’-slash combat mechanics that is fun to play and has depth.
Give the player choice and agency over how they are going to build out their deck of abilities, customizing their gameplay experience to their tastes.
The First Pass
Once we did preliminary design and I knew what kind of environments we were going to go for, I started working on some of layouts for the world. However, some of the questions that we needed to answer were:
- How many environments are we going to create?
- How are the areas going to be connected? Hub and spoke?
- What kinds of environmental hazards are we going to include?
Our starting “map” had 3 different zones, but due to scope issues we decided to focus on one area that we could polish. For the area we were going to start with, I decided to use a cork board and que cards, in order to quickly move items around and figure out a layout.
We did this a few times, being able to move the cards around let us easily iterate on the layout, and set a solid foundation for moving forward with the design. When we were doing these layouts we had to keep in mind our pillars, as well as how we were going to teach the player our different mechanics and systems, keeping room for tutorialization etc.
While this was a good start to the world design and layout, we didn’t have a good way of showing how the rooms were going to be connected or how the rooms were shaped. It was only offering us a high level overview of the layout. To continue with the design and figure out these challenges we took it digital.
Going Digital and Starting to Simplify
We needed to continue to iterate and digitize this flow chart, specifically focusing on the connections between rooms and their flow.
The first pass on our digital flowchart had us grouping different areas into themed zones. These included: Swamp Ruins, Deep Swamp, and Swamp Forest. As well, taking advantage of the digital space we were more free to play with unique and more natural shaped rooms to fit the swamp environment.
We quickly realized that with the limited amount of time we were going to have, three different themed areas with different aesthetics and assets was going to be way out of scope.
Our Art Problem
Our team would not have the manpower to create that many quality assets and after having a meeting with the team we decided to cut one of the areas. After doing more designing and coming back to the room layout flowchart we decided to cut the deep swamp area cutting down on the amount of rooms that we had to create.
We started doing more art asset tests and it showed us just how long one area was potentially going to take. With this second iteration I also included more NPCs as we really wanted to push more world building into the game, as well as creating more opportunities for players to acquire cards.
Although we continued to scope down and streamline the world design, it started to seem like we might not have enough time to create even this smaller version of the layout.
The Big Scope Down
We had a discussion as a team to re-evaluate our progress and what we thought we might be able to achieve for the project. We realized that if our final goal is to create a showcase build for out game then why bother creating so many assets and environments. With our current design the length of the showcase build was going to be far too long. We also discussed that while we wanted to create different environments for the player to explore, just having a very highly polished single environment might lend to a better experience.
We took a step back from the flowchart and instead created a list of elements that we knew we wanted to the player to experience in the demo showcase.
By having such a streamlined version of the world, we hoped that it will allow for more time to be able to polish the game, allowing us to create as good a looking and feeling world as possible.
We can go smaller
Even with the scope as small as we made it we had to make the decision to go even further. We settled on just having a single area for a short tutorial and opening (the tutorial temple) and an arena style area where the player would fight waves of enemies.
We wanted to highlight the combat systems and deck building and having a wave based encounter would allow us to do so. This as well would show better as a demo for the game as we planned to showcase it at a convention type setting.
The player first finds themselves in the tutorial temple, having fallen through the ceiling. The main goal for this area, as hinted to by its name, is to teach and introduce the player to the game systems.
The primary things we wanted to teach the player were:
- Movement (walking/running, dashing)
- How to use cards
- Destructible objects and mana orbs
- Deck building
This was also an area we really wanted to use to do some world building, giving hints as to what this cicada civilization was once like and what their cultural practices were. Towards the end of the area the player gets to interact with a strange entity that allows them to draft a deck of cards to fight with.
As the player emerges from the tutorial temple they find themselves trapped in the swamp arena. The player has to battle it out through waves of enemies, receiving a choice of cards to add to their deck when they complete each wave of progressively more difficult enemies.
We wanted to have this area be a playground for the player to explore and fight enemies in. As we were introducing the player to enemies for the first time, we made sure to give them extra room to move around with. We did not want it to be too confusing or complicated so we kept the area simple, somewhat circular with only a few puddles of deep water to potentially fall into.