Dev Blog #14: Vulture, the challenges of his development.

Hey, Metal Gladiators! This is João Ousado, and I’m the Game Designer and Product Owner for the development of Vulture.


Vulture is our newest Interceptor, which is bringing lots of new features to the arenas with his mechanics. He is different than anything we have ever seen so far in Heavy Metal Machines. Because he’s the first character exclusively made to appear piloting his machine, also his machine is the first motorcycle in the game and with the most challenging mechanics so far.


Stargazer was the character with more depth of development in the HMM so far. But considering the fact that she’s a Support, not all the players would pilot with her. Then we decided to propose a more profound and complex experience for the players. We brought this challenge to an Interceptor, that is the most popular role in the arenas.


Here at Hoplon, we have two ways to start the implementation of a new character. One of them initiates with a visual in our mind, usually a machine. After this, we create the entire mechanic design of the character that matches with the chosen machine, as we did with Icebringer and Peacemaker, as examples. In another process, we do everything in reverse, creating a mechanic design to the character according to our objectives. So after this, we choose the mechanic to create the visuals. We used this second method for Vulture, from a brainstorm, we selected two possible mechanics for him. Then we passed to a phase where we iterate and test these prototypes extensively to improve them. After a lot of tests and changes, we make a decision and move to the artistic development phase. At this stage we created lots of concept art for the pilot and his machines, matching with the mechanics previously selected.


Vulture early concepts.


Vulture concept art.


Developing from the example of this pilot, we reached to a motorcycle as a vehicle for Vulture because we could see through his mechanics that he plays as a hunter, like a “predator” species. From this concept, we decided that he must have a visual of a hunter, and a motorcycle could fit in this purpose.


Vulture’s machine early concepts.


Machine concept art.


We didn’t run out of difficulties in his development. Starting with the mechanic previously chosen for him, even though it sounds simple on the plan; it was extremely complex in practice. These difficulties happened because of two circumstances. First of all, his blades had different states that communicate with each other. So on the implementation of this weapon, during every moment each blade needed to know their own state. So then, it would know where it must go according to the events during the match. The second circumstance was the fact of being a character that has weapons communicating with each other a lot. We made something similar with Stargazer and despite being complex, what changed was how she used her weapon, based on if she was attached or not on the other machines. For Vulture, the complexity was on each weapon needing to pay attention to other weapons to act in the right way.


Examples on how Vulture’s weapons work.


And how Wildfire’s work, as she is not-so-complex character.


Despite the mechanics complexity, we had many challenges to develop his visuals, both for the pilot and the machine. We brought a lot of challenges at the same time with the Vulture, which is the first character specially developed to appear piloting the machine. In Vulture’s case, he needed to be responsive to the use of weapons and moves. The second challenge was the motorcycle, we never had a motorcycle in HMM, and the challenge was to build the movement to match that aspect while having a good quality. Until that moment, all the machines were much similar to regular cars. The motorcycle needed to be different, and the players needed to feel like piloting one.


Vulture piloting his machine.


Vulture’s pre-production happened on 25/02/2019 and finished with the QA tests on 09/07/2019, to launch him along with the Metal Pass season.


I worked on this project as a Game Designer and Product Owner. However, it was necessary that Bruno Freitas, another Game Designer, helped in this implementation. As we had some mechanic additions on the game’s interface, Marcelo Bernardo helped as Interface’s Designer to implement new feedback to the character. Also, we had the 3D Artists Caio Imero and Cris Hil modeling both pilot and machine. The 2D artists Lucas Salvador and Raqsonu doing the concept arts for the weapons, machines, and pilots. The VFX Artists Pardin and Paludo developed all the visuals of Vulture’s weapons. Beatriz Guedes helped as a Technical Artist, making sure all the visual would work with his mechanics accordingly. We had three Programmers on this process, Victor Fernandes and Joe Junior to develop the gameplay of the character. Also, Allan Camargo who helped the artistic squad on developing new tools to create the character.


I hope you enjoyed it. Best regards and we’ll see each other in Metal City’s arenas!