Mashing Up and Diving Down: Techniques for Innovation in Lethal Wedding
As we’ve scaled and evolved as a team over the years, a near-limitless number of things has changed. Constant process improvements, internal discussions about what our company culture looks like, and refinements to our recruitment process have impacted every other facet of our company. One element that’s taken a surprise turn is how we describe ourselves since we cover such a wide scope of services, activations, and gaming initiatives.
I’m just going to get right into it: We are a creative first company.
At Mega Cat Studios, that means we put the total value of the project above the bottom line, whether it’s an internal R&D project or a client engagement. This isn’t just a pitch, it’s imbued to every part of our organization - who and how we hire, what types of projects we take, and what our strengths are. So much of this realization has come from post-mortems and client testimonials, where we get feedback on our strengths and weaknesses to move forward from. Having some creative anchors early on helped a great deal, and there’s no question that hiring a narrative designer has made our universe-building more cohesive, deeper, and easier for everyone to get excited about.
With Lethal Wedding, we wanted to do more than simply merge the best of classic games with new game design. Our goal was to do something truly innovative, to break new ground with integrated game systems and revitalize stale genres.
We started by taking a familiar genre: the top-down shooter. From retro hits like Zombies Ate My Neighbors to modern masterpieces like Nuclear Throne, this style of the game promises hair-trigger action. We mixed this blistering combat with another treasured species of game, the RPG. These two genres of games complemented each other, as the fast-pace of top-down shooters kept players engaged, while the story, multiple player characters, and progression of an RPG gripped them for the long-haul.
Genre-blending like this is a good starting point, but it’s not enough. We’ve found that smashing two types of games together will only get you so far - to truly create a following, your game needs to have some stand-out features.
Therefore, we amped up the replayability and player progression with persistent upgrades. Lethal Wedding rates the player’s performance based on several metrics (time to level completion, their dodge roll agility, kill count, and more) and rewards them with experience points which they can spend on a variety of upgrades, like Tactical Combat High Heels and extra damage against certain types of enemies.
However, upgrades in shooters have been done before. In fact, many games have implemented RPG-like features to promote some kind of player grind. To make Lethal Wedding special, we integrated a new method for earning upgrades - the Vow System.
Just as a couple about to take the blissful plunge into married life pledges their eternal vows to one another, Lethal Wedding presents players with a handful of risk-reward situations before every level. These can be anything from “Player health is reduced by 50%” to “All enemies can teleport”, and force the player to change their strategy or playstyle completely.
Vows are completely optional and provide a significant challenge. However, they also provide essential bonuses. Several high-power upgrades can only be unlocked through the Vow System, and the number of total upgrades a player can have equipped is also determined by the Vows.
This skill-based risk-reward system was exactly the special sauce Lethal Wedding needed. It took the game from a fun shooter with a funny story and satisfying combat to an innovative, genre-blending masterstroke of design and gameplay.