TT Games Studios have gained a reputation of creating family friendly experiences combining highly acclaimed franchises with LEGO. Fun, humour and accessibilty are the core values that TT Games Studios aim to represent, and align closely with my own values. As a member of the Quality Assurance team, it's my job to thoroughly test the game and inform the developers of the current state of the build. Each game is packed with content, so this requires a high level of attention to detail, a good knowhow of the intellectual properties involved, and a general knowledge of good game design, user experience and game mechanics.
I perform various tests on the video games like destructive testing, soak testing, performance testing, stress testing, quit tests, sweeps etc. Due to being multilingual I even touch upon some localisation. I have worked on various consoles and handheld machines, like Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Vita, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo Switch. I report bugs and regress these, and give feedback to developers. On some projects, I also gained more of a shift lead role, where I would liaison with developers and publishers and set out tasks to the team to ensure deadlines are met.
I have been credited on the following titles;
The games can be purchased at various retailers.
I have also done a Design Test for a position within Tt Games Studios for a Hypothetical LEGO The Simpsons game.
DISCLAIMER - The following work is my own and was used in the recruitment process. This does not hint at any (future) work being done within Tt Games Studios.
The design brief asked for a level that uses all the designed mechanics, feature at least one set piece, concludes with a boss fight and has no more than 3 areas. It also had to include Homer, and at least two more characters chosing out of Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Mr Burns, Smithers or Ned Flanders. Each character could have up to 4 mechanics which were also to be designed.
The theme was as follows; "Mr Burns replaces all of his employees with robots. Homer is the only human employee left and is the robot's supervisor. The robots malfunction and turn on Homer. Homer, along with at least 2 other playable party members, must escape the Nuclear Power Plant."
Below is an excerpt of my design. The full document can be downloaded here.
My main goal was to have the same humour we are used to from the Simpsons as well as from LEGO, and use LEGO game established mechanics as well as new ones to create a new experience that fits within the LEGO game library. Most importantly I wanted to incorporate what LEGO is all about; the power of imagination, building/rebuilding, creativity, no right or wrong, thinking with your hands and most of all, play.
I started with a level mechanic that would be central throughout the game. LEGO Building. Similar idea as the Build-it in the LEGO video games, except instead of an animation, the player actually places the LEGO bricks themselves. This allows for more creativity and imagination and feels less linear.
The idea is that there is no right or wrong way of building. What the model looks like is not important, but the meaning attached to it is what makes it valuable. The LEGO bricks are a tool and means to an end. To make this work in a video game concept there are a couple of rules to adhere to. 1) It uses the most basic bricks and no SNOT (Studs Not On Top) techniques. This limitation opens up creativity. Basic bricks enables the user to think in metaphors. Think like small LEGO Classic builds. 2) No matter what is build, it should work. For example, if you need to build something to cross water, no matter what is build, code will make it float. It doesn't have to adhere to a specific shape or form. 3) The LEGO bricks used for this mechanic are always climbable. A character can always interact with it. 4) Give the player a goal. If you can just build anything there is no meaning to it. Ask the player to build something specific, but it's up to them how well they adhere to it or what it looks like.
For example; the player comes across some water they can't cross (a river, lake etc.). There is a prop nearby of 6 basic bricks that can be broken. Once broken, the revealed loose 6 bricks can now be used to create something else. Player is instructed to build a duck ("How do we cross this water? I wish Stewart Duck was here...").
Out of the 6 bricks many Ducks can be formed. They don't even have to look like a duck if the player doesn't care. Once the player is finished, their build will float on the water (maybe make quack noises too). This can also cause some humorous situations if the build doesn't look like a duck. The player can now ride their "duck" to the other side.
The player-built "duck" could even re-appear later in water areas elsewhere in the game, allowing for customisation.
With the main mechanic decided upon I focused on the characters and their key abilities to base my level design on.
Burp - A Short Range Attack. Hold the [EAST] button to drink from a can of Buzz Cola, release the [EAST] button to burp. The more drink, the stronger the burp, the stronger the attack.
Plug - Due to Homer's size and durability, Homer can "plug" holes / doorways and bridge gaps in levels for various reasons. Be it stopping deadly gas out of pipes, enemies coming through a doorway or creating a bridge for the other characters to cross. This can be done by pressing [WEST] at specific locations in the game.
Funny Weapons - A Range Attack. Press [EAST] button to pull something small and funny out of hair, press [EAST] again to throw the item or hold [EAST] to aim. These items are small and comical, and randomized. Animation should be fast, like an equip animation.
Clean - Marge can clean places by holding [WEST] at specific locations in the game. This can either clear a way or make a floor slippery, leaving enemies to stumble / slip or give characters an extra speed boost to make it over large gaps.
Charles Montgomery "Monty" Burns / Mr. Burns
Radioactive Bar - A Range Attack. Hold [EAST] to aim and release [EAST] to throw. Can also tap [EAST] to auto aim. Could also be used to hit certain targets in game. Very powerful weapon, in return his standard melee attack is weak.
Hounds - Can summon hounds by pressing [WEST] at specific locations in the game. These can fight enemies for him or cause a distraction.
Mr. Burns' Switches - Can activate trapdoors, hidden passages or open doors by pressing [WEST] at specific locations in the game (specifically at the nuclear power plant or his home).
Waylon Smithers, Jr.
Malibu Stacy Dolls - A Range Attack. Hold [EAST] to aim and release [EAST] to throw a Malibu Stacy Doll (LEGO Statuette). Can also tap [EAST] to auto aim. Could also be used to hit certain targets in game.
Stepladder - Press [WEST] at certain locations in the game to act like a stepladder for other characters to reach higher places.
More Characters and their abilities, as well as a full table of all mechanics can be found in the full design document.
With all the Mechanics decided upon I created the following Level Design. Do note that the maps and sketches are not in scale and things can be slightly moved around to better accommodate the game play. This is the mere foundation of the level, and things can easily be added like props and set design, as well as Freeplay elements should that be needed. Also note that the doors between the 3 areas do not literally have to connect the rooms, there could be a small cutscene between them where they walk through a hallway for example. They simply show the entrance and exit of an area.
First Area - The Chase
Homer and Marge (who was being shown by Homer the Robots at work) discover the Robots have turned against them and run to Mr. Burns for help. Robots are already there in the office and Smithers is fighting them off Mr. Burns. They even took over the escape pods and are in the trap door! The four manage to run out the office and head towards the lift but are being chased by the Robots. The level starts here.
The player is not stuck on a rail and can move freely, including backwards. However the army of Robots is in hot pursuit and will push the player forward. The player will have to solve puzzles quickly to be able to keep moving forward and stay out of the hands from the Robots. The party will have to split up and help each other along the way. This level section is more about co-op and time pressure, the puzzles are short and quick to understand. Studs can help guide the player.
As a little Easter Egg, this level area has signs hidden that combined spell "If the plant yee wish to flee, go to sector 7-B", referring to Episode 16 of Season 4 of the Simpsons, where Homer ducks out of work to go on a tour of the Duff Brewery.
The first part is just outside Mr. Burns and Smithers' offices. The area is nice, with carpet on the floor and pillars along the walls. It's a slim, long hallway that leads to the lift at the end.
The player starts a bit away from the door. Out of the door comes the robot army that walks forward, pushing the player towards the lift. An "El Barto" tag (yellow) is in front of the door. In Freeplay, the player would have to use Bart Simpson for this, and is required to walk towards the robot army. They have to be fast once the level starts to get this one. The player runs forward passed the pillars. The first one is safe, but when reaching the second pair a robot bursts through the floor. Unfortunately for the robot, it jumped too high and gets stuck in the ceiling, its legs dangling out. The party is safe, but now there is a hole in the floor, with no way around it. Characters can jump over it, but Mr. Burns can't. The player has to use Homer's Plug mechanic (blue) to plug the hole so that Mr. Burns can walk over it. After this they reach the lift. The player has to use Mr. Burns Switch mechanic (green) to open the door. Once all characters are in the lift the lift door closes.
The second part is the lift. The player is temporarily stuck in this small room. They think they are safe for a moment, but then Robots crash in through the ceiling. The player will have to brawl. After a certain time the lift reaches the bottom and the player can exit the lift. If the player defeats all Robots before then, they are awarded with a Collectable.
The next section of this level area are in the Nuclear Power Plant Hall. It's a messy, broken area as Mr. Burns doesn't like to spend money on the plant. In here you'll find leaking pipes, open vents, radiation etc.
The party runs out the lift. They can't get too far as there is some green goo leaking out of a pipe. The Robots start emerging from the lift forcing the player to move forward.
The player has to use Marge's Clean mechanic (orange) to mop up the goo and clear the area so it's safe for the party to cross. The player then encounters another door. It's a safety door that's been shut due to the Robot's attack. There is a Mr. Burns Switch (green) on a higher level that can open the door, but Mr. Burns can't jump up the higher platform. The player has to use Smithers' Stepladder mechanic (purple) to lift Mr. Burns up. Then they can use Mr. Burns to press the switch and open the door.
The party can move forward but when they do the floor breaks (due to lack of maintenance in the area) dropping them below. Homer, Marge and Smithers can jump out, but Mr. Burns can't. There is a locked door in the lower area.
In the upper area is a leaking pipe that omits deadly, green gas. The player has to use Homer's Plug mechanic (blue) to seal it. Now Marge and Smithers can move on and use the Valve (red) to open the door for Mr. Burns. On the other side of the door is a large fan. This blows the characters up to the upper area again. The next area consists out of 3 large propeller fans, that the player has to navigate the party through.
Behind the propeller fans is a large metal barrel filled with radioactive stuff.
There are 3 twirl poles (orange) above it that the player has to use with Marge to get to the other side. Here they'll find a lever switch (red) that Marge can use. This activates a bridge that rolls out over the massive barrel. The characters can now all safely cross. At the end of the way is a door that reads "7-B DO NOT ENTER". There is a Mr. Burns Switch (green) next to it. The player can open the door using the switch with Mr. Burns. Once the player enters the door this level area ends. The door closes behind them.
The Robots look confused in the area around the door. The door says 'do not enter' so the Robots believe they have not gone that way, nor that they can enter.
Second Area - Sector 7-B
The party managed to stay ahead of the Robots and have locked themselves in a room in Sector 7-B. Marge asks if Mr. Burns knows a way of stopping the Robots, and he informs them there is a central A.I. computer controlling them all. Smithers knows of a way to de-activate the A.I. but they have to gather some items for this. The next level section starts here.
The player is in a large area with various puzzles that will unlock the required Items needed. There are no enemies in the room, giving the player a time to breath after the Chase and heal up for the next section, the Boss Battle. However, a Robot can pop up from time to time to keep the pressure on.
The 3 Items can be gathered in any order.
Item 1 - (Purple) In the area the party finds a large purple spider in the corner. However, on closer inspection it seems to be not moving and looks dead (Homer has taken it out before in Episode 16 of Season 4). The player can destroy it with a melee attack and Brick Pieces are revealed. The spider sat in front of a pyramid of boxes. The player is tasked to build a tower they can climb to get to the top of the boxes where they will find their Item. Note that it does not matter how the Player builds the tower, as long as it has the required height. For example:
Item 2 - (Green) High on the wall the party finds a target that can be hit with a range attack. When Marge, Smithers or Mr. Burns hit it with their range attack a box drops down. When this box is destroyed they find their Item.
Item 3 - (Orange) Along the walls are various parkour mechanics creating a route climbing up to the top of the room where lots of overhanging pipes and vents decorate the ceiling. Marge has to use her parkour manoeuvres to get to the top and get the Item. It starts with 2 twirl poles on the back wall that lead the player up a higher platform. They have to jump over a box and move towards the ledge in the corner. At the end of the ledge walk they can jump to a grab handle and another one, elevating the player more towards the ceiling. Here two balance beams hang from the ceiling (pipes or lights). Once the player has reached the end of these the player can jump to the final platform where the item will be.
Once all Items are gathered, Smithers explains they need to use it directly on the central A.I. computer. After his dialogue a few Robots burst into the room through the wall. This causes the upper area to collapse and covers the hole they just created by placing a push block in front of it (Blue). The player can brawl with these Robots. When the push block is moved it reveals the exit.
Third Area - Boss Battle
The party makes it in the room that contains the central A.I. computer. The A.I. comes to life as a large hologram. It realises the party is here to stop it. The A.I. gets angry and calls for its Robot army. The Robots that burst into the room click together to form giant hands, controlled by the A.I. The boss battle begins here.
The player's goal is to get the Items gathered in Sector 7-B into the control panel. However, the 2 large Robot hands are defending it. The Player has to beat up the hands first until it falls apart in Robot minifigures again. Once the hands are beaten up, the A.I. takes time to recover. The player can now gain access to the control panel and beat up the goons as normal. Once the player reaches the control panel they now have to break the top layer by smashing the prop. They can then insert the Item. There are 3 of these. After 1 Item has been inserted the A.I. will recover. More Robot goons will walk in and hands will be formed again. The player has to repeat this until all 3 Items have been inserted. Then the A.I. is defeated, the Robots stop working and the Simpsons' characters are saved. This is the end of the level.
A more thorough walkthrough with map layouts, setups and reference material can be found in the full design document.