A game about heists and high speed getaways
Team Size: 15
Development Time: Began 2019, 8 months
Tools Used: Unreal, Blender, Adobe Suite
Cash Force is a high-octane arcade VR shooting game where players take the role of an undercover cop gone rouge fleeing the scene of a heist in a colorful 70’s crime film esque setting. Players must defend their stash of cash from pursuing thugs using an assortment of highly intractable weapons, shooting their way through waves of pursuing enemies while engaging in combat out of the back of a moving heavily armored van. Carefully plan escape routes before fleeing the scene of the crime, but remember, the higher the risk, the higher reward! Earn cash from performing skillful shots on enemies and purchase upgrades to improve weapons and the van.
I joined the Cash Force team soon after their initial prototype had been completed. I was brought on as a Combat and Systems Designer to design new weapons, overhaul the enemies, and make combat more engaging.
Diversifying the player's arsenal with new weapons that each feel unique to handle.
A late game generalist military rifle that’s effective against armored targets. Its two round burst allows players to remove an enemy's helmet and head in one trigger pull. It's greatest weakness is its high price tag.
Handling Distinction: Two round burst fire, charging handle on the back of the weapon, extended magazines require magazine flip. Accuracy is most controllable when shouldered and held with two hands.
New Enemy attacks to make more engaging, rewarding, and fair combat
Enemies appear that they're constantly shooting their weapons at the van but only occasionally will a shot actually have a chance of damaging the player or van. Damaging attacks are telegraphed by a brief visual flash before damage is dealt --giving the player a chance to quickly dispatch the enemy or duck for cover. Flash before attacking allows fast firing weapons to still give the illusion of the player being under heavy fire while still allowing the player to react to threats.
Charge Up attacks are single attacks that require enemies to “aim/charge” for several seconds before firing. When enemies reach a certain range to the player van they begin charging. When charging/aiming the enemy's weapon or weapon scope slowly begins to glint brighter and brighter, when the shot is nearly charged the scope briefly flashes and then the attack is made. Charging attacks can be interrupted by dealing an amount of damage to the attacking enemy in a short window of time. This type of attack gives the player time to respond to a significant threat --giving us a way to create powerful sniper-like attacks without it feeling unfair to the player.
For projectile attacks enemies fire/throw a slow moving projectile (such as a missile or grenade) towards the player. These projectiles move slowly enough that the player has a brief chance to shoot and destroy the projectile before it hits them. Projectile attacks provide variety by giving the player a target that moves strangely and requires tracking a fast moving target.
The ease of destroying projectiles from this type of attack is largely based upon weapon choice which adds another factor to weapon choice.
New Enemies to challenge the player and promote a diverse weapon loadout
A tankier, larger version of the base Mafia Sedan. Boasts higher health, armor, and passenger count at the cost of speed. Passengers in the Mafioso Limo pop in and out of the different windows of the car making hitting them more difficult and adding to the vehicle’s tankiness. The Mafiaso Limo sports bullet proof windows that must be destroyed before the driver or passengers can be damaged. On the most dangerous mission up-gunned limos equipped with a top mounted machine gun or rocket launcher may spawn.
Motorcycle (with sidecar)
A fast, aggressive, close range enemy that pressures the player to react quickly to new priority targets. Motorcycles are an easily killable swarm unit that can deal high damage if they can reach the player van. Solo motorcycles are often equipped with close ranged weapons such as grenades or shotguns while sidecar motorcycles equip more powerful weapons but are slower and even more vulnerable
Cash Force was developed under the Champlain Game Studio Capstone program. Senior students spend their first semester of the year in small teams working on game prototypes. At the end of the semester said prototypes are shown off to the faculty and fellow students, then a few of the most promising prototypes move forward to be worked on in the next semester. Teams whose games did not move forward are then drafted to work on the remaining games --creating larger teams. As my initial Capstone project Yggdrasil did not make the cut I was drafted to join the Cash Force team, Holo Hexagon. While I loved my previous project, Yggdrasil I'm glad I was able to join Holo Hexagon as it gave me experience in onboarding and a chance to work under a lead designer! Cash Force is the biggest project I've worked on and while 15 people isn't exactly huge it was enough to give me a chance to practice my ability to communicate between department leads and their members.
A defining piece of Cash Force's development was the COVID-19 virus. While in the moment it wasn't a exactly welcome challenge it ended up preparing me for any future online work. While the team maintained fantastic professionalism and showed tenacity as people were bounced between dorms and homes we lost a significant amount of development time and had to scale back on some features. Many of the cuts were made in the enemy and AI department as between some of its complicated backend systems and the amount of art assets required it was our bulkiest system. While it was hard to let some of the complexities of the enemies go it was for the best. Even if I wasn't able to bring the AI above the level of "janky" in the time we had the core gunplay of Cash Force was able to stay polished and feel fantastic.
During this time my role in the project pushed me to get deeper in the code and work side by side with our programmers. I was still a novice with blueprinting at the time and I was able to greatly bolster my coding skills as programmers specializing in a variety of areas helped me battle through many a bug or complex system. While designing weapons and enemies I made sure to always be in close contact with artists. Due to Cash Force's focus on weapon handling in VR there were especially distinct visual features and layouts weapons needed to have. This reinforced my ability to articulate how even minute details of design can be best intertwined with art. Due to how stringent some aspects of the weapons needed to be I took time to focus on designing weapons in ways that gave artists space flex their muscles and take things to the next level. I found this built a rappot with the art team that helped make developing weapons and enemies fun.
Cash Force gave me many experiences I hadn't had previously as I had never worked in a complex team setting with more stratified roles. I didn't have to just communicate to individuals but instead needed to connect and stay organized between multiple sub-teams. The onboarding process and pipeline adjustments I experienced have given me confidence in my ability to merge into pre-existing teams with diverse dynamics --something I had previously feared.