Thursday, January 21, 2016

3:07 pm

Project Overview: Deserts of Kharak
Project InformationResponsibilities
Game Engine: Unity3D• Created and maintained thorough design documentation
Genre: Real-time strategy• Scripted engaging gameplay sequences using custom, in-engine systems
Studio: Blackbird Interactive• Married narrative with mission design goals to craft a compelling experience
Team Size: 60+• Collaborated with studio team members of varying disciplines to deliver a high-quality product

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak


Taking place over a century before the events of the original Homeworld, Deserts of Kharak is a prequel that puts players in the midst of where it all began.

Incorporating familiar mechanics and features from the Homeworld series, Deserts of Kharak infuses them with new and engaging concepts, resulting in a truly unique real-time strategy experience.

Utilize organic and varied terrain to your advantage: place units atop towering dunes of sand to grant them a tactical advantage, or use natural formations to break line-of-fire with your enemies. Tactical awareness is key to a successful campaign.

"Lead the expedition that uncovers the ancient history of the kiithid, buried deep in the Great Banded Desert of Kharak"


Originally incepted as Hardware: Shipbreakers, Deserts of Kharak was borne out of Blackbird Interactive's love of the Homeworld series. In my role as campaign designer, I created and maintained design documentation, scripted multiple single-player campaign missions, and iterated on the implementation of these with artists, mechanics designers, and producers.

Mission design in Deserts of Kharak required many more skill sets than I originally anticipated. Beat charts, critical player path flowcharts, and the implementation workflow were all givens. However the breadth and depth of the narrative, lore, and their exposition in-game far exceeds what many other titles in this genre generally achieve. It was important to consider this when crafting the player experience from mission to mission, as pacing of gameplay needed to match pacing of story delivery in order to facilitate an immersive experience. Writing dialogue, timing audio cues, and balancing gameplay to create challenge for all skill levels were difficult and rewarding experiences.

Gameplay was of course the focus of mission design, and there is a grand amount of variation from mission to mission. One of the more interesting examples of this is an initiative at the studio, internally known as "skunkworks". In it, designers came up with as many unique and original ideas or mechanics for implementation in the campaign, to give each mission a certain "style" or "character" the player would remember playing and thinking about. One of these implementations is the control towers alongside the heavy turrets in one of the later missions. I custom-scripted these towers to respond to a hit from a hero-unit-only ability. The heavy turrets are deadly, but putting your mission critical hero unit in the line of fire could result in a huge payoff; something players enjoyed immensely in testing, and remembered when quizzed about the campaign afterward.

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