Iron Horizon

Unreal 4



What is it?

Iron horizon is a third-person shooter with a heavy focus on movement. It is a Rookies game of the year finalist, where the player’s goal is to take down a massive flying dreadnaught. I worked on this project on a team of 9 over 5 months, with my role being that of both a systems and game designer. The development of this project was a rigorous learning experience that resulted in something we are all immensely proud of. It is that tumultuous experience though that has made me a better developer, having to adapt and problem solve as our game shifted directions.

What did I do?

Due to my passion for unique and satisfying character gameplay, my role on the project quickly found its focus in that. The player character, especially in movement, became solely my responsibility as I tested and responded to feedback from the rest of the design team. The main difficulty of this project though was largely due to a hubris or naivety about working on a project of its size. Our original idea was certainly over scoped and underdeveloped, but as a result, many of us learned to be adaptable. We were able to demonstrate our ability to pitch new ideas and redesign old ones in ways that analyzed what worked and what didn’t. Culminating in every new form of the project being better than the last.

How did I do it?

From the beginning, we understood the aesthetic or feeling we wanted to achieve in this project. The mechanics used to get there however changed several times throughout development. In the end, our character could walk, run, fly, and thrust, with their thrust also being a powerful attack driven by their fuel system. This fuel system is filled by the player's siphon ability, which allows the player to steal fuel from canisters or melee enemies. Though seemingly simple enough the challenge was in getting every part of the process to be both cohesive, satisfying, and simple. Things such as keeping the flight controls on one stick, where rotating the characters roll would use that angle to determine the intensity of a turn. It also includes making sure that going into a nose dive or pulling up felt accurate and fair based on the current speed of the player. In this process, I learned about the delicate balance of giving the player as much control as possible without having them lose a sense of flow if they mess up.

Left Stick

Why did I do it?

The whole idea behind this final system and why it felt so crucial to get it right was how important it was to our core gameplay loop. Unlike most other games we had decided by adding flight that movement would be a significant part of our loop. Our development process then was simultaneously a process of understanding how flight fits into that loop. Concurrently with other issues in our game, we also had dealt with the thrust attack being unsatisfying until the addition of fuel. By adding in fuel use to the thrust attack it made it a resource able to be spent on flying faster or dealing high damage. Treating it in this way, as something special, shifted the focus towards more ground movement. This made flight act as more of a way to get between places, with fuel being the resource that could help you be destructive or safe. 

Right Stick

Gameplay Video