Lethal Deal is a fast-paced, FPS Deckbuilding game. Inspired by Doom and Slay the Spire, it presents arena-style levels with intense combat coupled with strategic card play, which affects the player's damage and other elements of the gun to create a unique gameplay experience.
Lethal Deal takes place in the city of Warren - a sci-fi robot civilization where sentience thrives through the power of Psyche, to provide power. However, this essence becomes corrupted, slowly turning everything within the city into pure madness. You are tasked to venture into Warren, find the source of corruption and stop it from spreading further, to restore the city and its workers.
The player first arrives in a small factory room, where goods would be transported in, before immediately dropping down to a large data building. The first impression given to the player was to create a sense that there used to be life within these walls, but one that was cold and empty - a kind of "life" that a robot would have if they were to have sentience.
The player finds themselves in the city's train station, the center of commute, but everything has halted to a stand still. The citizens - either lifeless or corrupted to madness.
The environment within the game is progressively divided into separate parts to show seeping corruption. The further the player ventures into the city, the more corrupted it becomes, with underground corridors and boss arenas being the most overgrown. The corruption is displayed as this organic, living animation in juxtaposition to the cold, hard objects around the city - it does not belong there. The atmosphere it creates is similar to that of underwater plants overgrowing sunken ships - imposturous, but beautiful in its own way.
After fighting through the corrupted corridors, the player finds themselves overlooking a large waiting area, where the corruption is slowly seeping in. But, things are not how they used to be - this area is now a large open arena - a playground.
After a success in cleansing the area, the player then follows the path into the deep underground, where the Warden of the city is found and the source of corruption is seeping through the walls..
The character design in Lethal Deal follows to immerse the player into the narrative as simply as possible. The enemies, although look menacing, were once simple citizens of a city - mere workers before the corruption, and this posed a challenge in design.
Unfortunately, the animation that is the corruption is much more malicious and overtaking, changing as much as the whole silhouette of that which it grows into.
The character design within Lethal Deal is all about contrast played with the lights. Anything that is corrupted will show itself in a red light, which makes enemies easily noticeable in the dark corridors.
Our art workflow was heavily adapted to our capabilities to scope accordingly. Due to not having an environment artist, the role served only as a part time job, therefore speeding up the process was crucial. This was achieved in a couple ways:
- Procedural materials with world aligned-noise to create seamless detail, which meant we only had to UV for lightmaps. This also allowed us to utilise auto UVing and auto packing.
- Material ID-focused style.
With the environment heavily relying on lighting, using simple meshes such as boxes allowed adding a large variation through materials, whilst keeping a consistent art style. Utilising this workflow allowed us to cover many more areas in the environment with assets, making them fuller while still following the same aesthetic.
The player having to utilise cards as ammunition is the game's unique point. Designing the traditional idea of deckbuilding into the world of video games can prove challenging, therefore multiple design decisions were considered.
Firstly, cards of the same nature share a similar colour, which makes them easier to recognise. Additionally, the crucial words (Damage, Consecutive, etc.) use capitalisation for easier readability - all of this was implemented thanks to feedback followed after playtesting sessions of each game patch.
Lethal Deal was developed based on the foundations of three design pillars:
- Advanced Movement
- Strategic Card Play/Deckbuilding
- Enemy Chess/Push Forward Combat
Cards were designed to promote synergistic combinations which evoke a sense of achievement and make the player feel smart. No one card should be worth the same when paired with the right combination of cards, and with this philosophy, engaged players can see their damage skyrocket in a firefight.
Micro iterations like the one above were fundamental to the design process of Lethal Deal's arena levels. We wanted to give the player as many movement tools as possible outside of the character's kit, and we did this through the level design.
However, we also wanted to avoid overwhelming the player with information and possibilities. Through user testing and iteration, small changes were made like the movement of pillars and the addition of boxes to hide launchpads, until the player progressed further into the level.
Lethal Deal was a 12-week project for a final-year University module by team Inline 9.
- Niall Crabtree (Games Design)
- Daniel Scott-Wilson (Technical Art, Technical Design, Lighting, Environment Art)
- Migle Ignotaite (Character Art, 2D Art, World Building)
- Liam Bradbury (VFX, UI)
- Aspen Thompson (Gameplay Programming)
- Wes Etherington (Enemy Programming)
- Salvatore Tarantino (AI Programming)
- Rebecca Emmett (Audio)
Our biggest challenge within this project was scoping the project towards not having someone who specializes in environment art. With the project being heavily focused on gameplay, we still managed to create a consistent, unique art style for the game, learning from each other along the way.