Trap house

Summary:

Trap House is a 1-8 player top-down competitive push ‘em-up where players MUST leave friendships behind in order to ensure their own escape. You play as a Pusher – a fully-customizable, pixelated terrorizer who’s been possessed by a soul residing in the Trap House. Each room is filled with fire, blood-covered spikes, pitfalls, killer bees, monsters, iron maidens, and more. The only means of escape is to ensure you do not meet your demise at the hands of your friends. It’s push or be pushed, but in the end, the house always wins

My Role and Experience:

Trap House was an original concept I came up with in the attempt of making an easy to play but hard to master competitive couch game. I pitched the concept to my classmates for the upcoming global game jam. Our 7 man team composed of Full Sail Graduates (currently enrolled at the time) managed to knock out a prototype that was well received at the game jam. When a Professor of mine showed interest in furthering the game, we decided to pursue the game's completion ourselves. We spent several months trying to secure funding and managed to attain it by means of a co-signed loan. We finally funded our small indie studio, Hive Mind Studios. Three months later we were Greenlit on Steam, and 3 after that we released Trap House!

The full GDD.

Trap House is currently Available on Steam!!

 

During our 7 month production period, I acted as Lead Designer and Art Director. As Lead Designer, I managed our design team (of 4) throughout several tasks including Level Design, Game Mode Design, play testing, and QA. Maintaining proper documentation was key in helping our programmers share our design vision, so it was a weekly design task to update the GDD based on changes that had occurred. We faced several design challenges during production, mostly due to the variety of diverse Traps found in the game (19 total). Each had its own set of values, behaviors, and visuals that could vary from map to map. This was designed so that player created levels could vary drastically at the creators whim. Another challenged we faced was due to our inevitable scope creep. In adding game modes and functionality we pulled focus away from the core of the game, which was to push your friends. Though it is still the core of the game, players now find themselves utilizing the pushing mechanic in different ways throughout a variety of game modes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Art Director I manged our Art Team of 3. We had two artists in house (including myself) and an external resource in Brazil. This required constant communication in order to establish the proper direction for the art style as well as the required file types and sizes preferred by our programmers. We had a few deviations in art style that I was forced to accept due to time constraints but we did manage to fix a majority of them. 

While working at the hive, I also worked on Level Design (over 50 levels in game),  Web Development, Quality Assurance, Character and Promotional Art, Video Editing, and Marketing. Balancing all these roles was not easy, luckily I had my team's support if I ever faltered.

 

Here is the Press Kit, which I only had time to work on after the games release.

Post-Mortem:

During the full production of an Indie title from conception to release, I learned several important lessons. First and most importantly, I discovered the importance of marketing a game thoroughly, before its release, as it was an aspect that was overshadowed by the rest of our work. This was one of the key factors of our low sales numbers as we could not attract sufficient attention to our release (which was around the same time as E3....)

Which brings me to my second lesson, plan your release date according to when it will best suit the game, not out of necessity. Due to our small funding, we only had less than six months to release the game and start having it bring some income back to the company. The game had reached it's most stable build around June, and out of necessity we had to release the game (with little to no publicity besides social media campaigns). We had attempted to get on Steam Early Access but the approval process took several months, time which we could not afford. We all wanted Online Multiplayer for Trap House, Hell, the game was designed around it. But between our programmers lack of experience with  online multiplayer, the abundance of bugs still left to fix, and an ever imposing timer for when our funding would run out, we simply could not. 

Another vital lesson learned was the necessity of constant communication with the team, without interfering too heavily with work flow. It was important to set time away every couple of days or less for our team to better understand their varying roles and methods of approaching them. Working full time in a small, tight- knit team while living under the same house for 7 months has been the experience of a life time. 

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