Author Archives: jpbenge

Mechanics Study – Barrel Blitz

A while back I did a mechanics study to try to recreate the barrel cannon mechanic from Donkey Kong Country.  I recreated the mechanic  from the mechanics in UDK using a whole mess of Kismet.

The barrel cannons operate pretty much exactly as they did in Donkey Kong Country.  Red Barrels shoot you automatically, while the blue ones fire when you press the ‘f’ key.  There are moving barrels, collectable goodies throughout the level, and eventually obstacles that you have to avoid using precise timing.

While doing this study I learned a lot about how Unreal works, and how to really dig deep with Kismet.  I also learned that most of the things I had to implement with complex Kismet sequences I could have accomplished much easier by modifying the player package.

In doing this project I also learned a ton about the design language of the DKC games.  There are a number of elements that I noticed in the original levels that I was able to implement in my own example.

Take The Plunge

Barrel Blast

Barrel Blast



Placing items right at the edge of players’ vision is an effective way of luring them to areas they might otherwise perceive as dangerous.  As long as you provide a hidden means of safety, this is definitely a fun way of hiding secrets.  This is used all the time in DKC.


Give Them What They Expect

Barrel Blitz

Barrel Blitz






This is something I didn’t foresee.  I placed a hidden item to the left of this cannon at the top of a vertical crevasse.  The cannon shoots the player right, but if you jump over the barrel to the left, you can find a secret.  The interesting part is that everyone that found the secret stopped searching to the left immediately after finding it.  The arbitrary pickup was enough to satisfy players’ curiosity.  Up until this point in the level I had been training players to look for these hidden spiky things, so once they found this one they were satisfied and moved on.  Smaller secrets can be effective means of concealing larger ones.

Follow the Glowy Things

Barrel Blitz

DKC does this all the time.  Notice how the next barrel the player should fire themselves towards is nowhere to be seen.  The only indication of direction is the trail of glowing things.  By this point the player knows these things are good, so sometimes that is enough to lead him or her.

Accidents Will Happen

Barrel BlitzBarrel Blitz






Surprising the player with a secret when he or she expects to fail can be really fun.  Here the player has to fire the rotating cannon to reach the next barrel.  If the player fires straight up instead of to the right, either by accident or by intention, he is rewarded with a secret path and a huge haul of goodies.


Non-Digital Zelda

Non Digital Zelda

I did a bit of non-digital game design.  I was given an assignment to convert an existing digital game to a non-digital analogue while still keeping the spirit of the original title.  I chose to convert The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords to a four player board game.  I really like the cooperative/competitive dynamic of the game in its digital form, and wanted to touch on that with my non-digital counterpart.  Players work their way through various dungeon tiles while competing ot collect the most rupees.

Looking at the final product, I think it needs some revision.  It plays a bit too slow and combat feels a bit tedious for my liking.  It was a great project to work on though, and I’m still working to improve it.  Zelda is a series I have a lot of passion for, which really motivates me to make this adaptation do the series justice.

Take a look through the design document for a full breakdown of the rules.

Game Design Doc

Wave Trekker

Wave Trekker


Wave Trekker GDD

I created a complete design document for a theoretical game called Wave Trekker. The document covers pretty much everything short of actually making the game. It’s a 3D open world style boating adventure in which the player travels around an open ocean in search of massive sea monsters to defeat. It was really liberating being able to design a game without having to actually make it at the same time. I really had fun working out the systems, writing out dialogue, and mapping out the areas.

Take a look at the design document to view the details of the game.

Selected Systems Breakdown

To demonstrate some of the finer aspects of the game, I’ve selected a few of the game’s major systems and broken them down below. For a much more complete explanation, take a look at the design doc linked above.


There are a number of items in the game that the player can collect. These items do various things, from loot that the player can sell to upgrades for the player’s boat. Below is table of all the items in the game. I also made a Google docs version which can be found here

ITEM Usage Location Buy Value (in scales) Sell Value (in scales) Purchasable from Dropped By Drop Percentage (%)
Repair Kit Restores 75 health points purchased, found, pirate common drop 100 60 Tidewind, Ebshore, Antra, Pluthe Pirate 60
Fuel Reserve Tank Restores 75 fuel purchased, found, pirate rare drop 120 75 Tidewind, Ebshore, Antra, Pluthe Pirate 20
Sailfish loot Sailfish drop – – – 10 – – – Sailfish 100
Chomper Scales loot Chomper common drop – – – 20 – – – Chomper 60
Chomper Fin loot Chomper rare drop – – – 40 – – – Chomper 20
Sawray Teeth loot Sawfish common drop – – – 30 – – – Sawray 60
Sawray Gel loot Sawfish rare drop – – – 50 – – – Sawray 20
Salt loot Brine common drop – – – 20 – – – Brine 60
Nautilus Shell loot Brine rare drop – – – 70 – – – Brine 20
Engine Parts Allow player to access rougher areas, allow player to boost Galmalok drop – – – – – – – – – Galmalok 100
Advanced Hull Armor Increase player health to 150 Manja drop – – – – – – – – – Manja 100
Advanced Ammo Loader Decrease all reload/cooldown times by 20% Hispaniola drop – – – – – – – – – Hispaniola 100
Fuel Tank Expansion Increases fuel to 150 Purchased at Ebshore trader 400 – – – Ebshore – – – – – –
Advanced Torpedo Launcher Increases torpedo capacity by 4 Recieved from Oflora High Council OR purchased from Antra Trader 700 – – – Antra – – – – – –
Advanced Booster Module Increases boost speed to 3.0, increases boost damege to 15 Purchased from Pluthe thrader 800 – – – Pluthe – – – – – –

Fuel and Boosting

The primary way the player moves around the game world in Wave Trekker is by boat. One of the key decisions I had to make was whether or not the boat’s engine would consume fuel. The most obvious concern I had was what would happen if the player ran out of fuel in the middle of the ocean? Additionally, I didn’t want players to have to keep track of a constantly depreciating resource that would ultimately bog down the experience and draw focus away from the more important elements of the game such as exploration and combat. I did end up incorporating a fuel resource, but it is only consumed when the player uses the boost ability.

Part way through the game, the player’s boat gains the ability to boost. This can be useful as a means to travel across the world more quickly, evade enemy attacks, or ram certain enemies. This boosting ability consumes fuel, limiting how often the player can use it.

Fuel Consumption Equation:

Fuel Consumed = 5+(10*t)

where ‘t’ is the time in seconds that the boost button is held down

The initial cost of 5 units of fuel as soon as the button is pressed ensures that boosting has an up front cost followed by a slower burn. This makes it more cost effective for players to utilize longer, more carefullly thought out boosts rather than quickly tapping the button. Initially, the player can hold a maximum of 100 units of fuel, meaning that a single boost held down for 9.5 seconds would completely drain a full fuel tank.

A normal boost doubles the boat’s speed. However, the player can collect an upgrade that will increase the boost speed to 3 times the normal boat speed.

Damage output equation:

Boost Damage Output = 100*(Boost Speed)

This means that boost damage is increased along with speed once the player collects the advanced boost module.

Bombs Away

Bombs Away

Software Used: Maya, Photoshop, Unity

Role: Lead Programmer, Designer

Bombs Away is a competitive action game for up to five players. The project was planned as a game played on both iPad and PC together, but we ended up finishing the standalone PC version and a separate version for iPad. There are four bots all competing to be the last bot standing. They do this by picking up bombs and throwing them at other robots, or picking up other bots and throwing them into bombs or spikes. There is also a player called the overseer. He controls the environment by moving spikes around, rotating the environment, or placing additional bombs in the arena.

Bombs Away Gameplay

This was the project I worked on for my senior project at Drexel. I served as lead programmer on a five person team.  Due to the size of the team, we all had to contribute to pretty much every aspect.  In addition to programming I had a strong influence on the design of the game.  Though it was tough working with this team at times, and the way our senior project is structured was frustrating, I still enjoyed working on this project. It was nice to get pretty much all the functionality we wanted working in the game. I learned a ton about Unity through this project.  Most of my scripting skills come from working through this project for six months

Here’s a video explanation

Hello and Welcome

Welcome to my blog. Here you can expect to find things related to what I’ve been doing and thinking about. Most of these posts will probably be related to game design concepts, but I expect there’ll be a few development updates and such here too. Feel free to comment on anything you may find interesting.