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.