Thomas Iu

Game Designer




Fairy Frenzy

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Fairy Frenzy Design Document

"Fairy Frenzy" is a game I worked on with a team for the UC Irvine Video Game Developers Club Game Jam, Spring 2011. My team had to make a game in one week based on the theme of "shadow."

This is an arcade-style survival game in which the player is a magical shadow creature trying to defeat as many waves of enemy fairies as possible for a high score.

I was a game designer, level designer, producer, and effects artist on this game.

My Work On This Game:

  • Collaborated with design team to design game

  • Managed development team

  • Wrote documentation specifying game design

  • Defined player and enemy abilities and properties to create engaging, balanced combat

  • Designed and scripted player and enemy attacks in Unrealscript

  • Designed and placed enemy spawn progression in Unreal level editor

  • Designed and integrated particle effects with character behavior and attacks

  • Set up materials for characters, particles

  • Integrated animations into character behavior

  • Determined and integrated audio for music and characters

  • Managed asset library

  • Cooperated with programming, art, and audio teams to implement features


The game is designed so that the player is weakened by torchlight, losing health regeneration and magic regeneration, and taking far more damage while within the light radius. Conversely, the enemy fairies take more damage from the player's shadow magic while they are in the darkness. Fairy portals that spend more than a few seconds without torchlight will collapse, preventing fairies from invading through it.

Of the three fairy types, the melee fairies move quickly and can light torches to help stabilize their portals. Ranged fairies can attack the player from the relative safety of the light radius. Support fairies can create persistent zones that damage the player and inflict a damage resistance penalty. These zones will also heal fairies and give them a damage resistance bonus.

The player can snuff out torches to starve the fairy portals of their light, but only by moving right up to the torches and getting exposed to their harmful effects. All the while, portals will still appear, and fairies will try to light torches to establish footholds for their invasion. The player must act quickly while within a light radius to extinguish its torch, or be forced to retreat back to the shadows to recover health and magic. If the fairies manage to light too many torches, the player will find fewer places to replenish the magic necessary to fight back.

For the player's attacks, I wanted to make them feel more like magical powers to the user, rather than the first-person shooter guns that they are obviously based on. To achieve this, I made each attack have its own individual and very small energy meter. Each attack can only be fired for a few seconds before its energy is completely expended, forcing the player to switch powers often and not continuously fire the same attack like a gun. My observation was that attacks that can be used continuously start to feel mundane and less magical. If a particular power is not used for a few seconds, its energy completely recharges.

The final effect resembles that of the cooldown systems used for magic spells in many contemporary MMORPGs, except that each spell may be used a few times in a brief barrage before waiting to recharge, instead of being limited to one shot. Allowing a couple consecutive uses of a spell offers the player more flexibility in choosing the timing and targeting, and being able to fire series of rapid-fire magical blasts lets a player feel more powerful.

In addition, the attacks in this game may be powered up by spending more time casting them, allowing the player to produce greater effects for the same energy cost. The player then must decide whether casting speed or having a stronger effect to energy cost ratio is more advantageous at a given moment.

I enjoy designing games with significant tactical features. Unfortunately, many of those features were not implemented within the week the team worked on the game. Half the team's programmers wound up lacking the time during the week to learn how to work with our development tools. The game we actually produced is a fairly basic shooter, since the fairies lack the artificial intelligence and special abilities that would let them light the torches and complement each other in combat.