My name is Ryan Hickman and I am a Game Designer. I have an analytical mind with an artistic skill set, along with technical understanding, that allows me to be a flexible, diverse, team player can that work and communicate with all disciplines. Please feel free to browse my site as I discuss some of my experiences. Check out my Portfolio for a projects index or Design Topics for a more detailed look into my design process.
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(Game Designer on Pirates of the Caribbean: Isles of War)
(Jr. Game Designer on Armies of Magic)
(Lead Game Designer on Deity)
As part of the strategic depth to Pirates of the Caribbean: Isles of War, one aspect we pushed for was a soft Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS) relationship between hull class types of the same tier strength. As part of that relationship, the primary classes were Light, Standard, and Heavy. In our ideal RPS model, our goal was to make a relationship cycle that supported what you see in the image above. The initial assumption I made when attempting to create this relationship was that speed had the highest impact potential in a given combat scenario, as faster speed allowed for both maintaining a steady rate of damage, as well as surviving longer by dodging enemy fire range. In theory, this made sense, and initial playtesting demonstrated this to be a fair assumption. However, once the game went live, players were ultimately drawn to only the Heavy class hulls, and concluded that both Light and Standard class hulls were ineffective. I came to realize that because of our unique combat gameplay, that the drawback to having speed, as a direct result of our firing range system, was that it was actually more difficult to deal sufficient damage without being overly risky.
After taking time to consider all viable options, and discussing the issue with my team, I came to the conclusion that a new stat needed to be added to the game: Evasion. Evasion would reduce the accuracy of oncoming attacks by X%. By adding in evasion, it would not only add a new way to survive outside of health and armor, but also thematically created the survivability aspect of having speed and agility. In addition to evasion, I gave both Light and Standard more maximum potential firepower, specifically by allowing each of them to hold an additional cannon. This way, faster moving ships could have more shots per pass, and ultimately deal more damage during the course of the battle. After adding evasion into the live game, players quickly became aware of the strength that evasion provided, and started to use not only Light and Standard classes, but all other secondary classes in the game as well. Additionally, new hulls that were introduced into the game, or prizes awarded from events, became highly desirable by all players, and ultimately created far more strategic depth and a richer experience for Pirates of the Caribbean: Isles of War.
(Level 1 Playthrough on “Look at That Free Game”)
When it came to Level 1: “The Invasion”, the team and I recognized that this level would be the very first impression of the game for the player. This meant that we needed to make the level fun and engaging almost immediately, while still allowing for the player to learn how to play in a low threat environment. The biggest issue was making sure the pacing between each new piece of information was a graceful transition in order for the player to not feel overwhelmed. This was solved through the concept of bundling key information with subset information with a time delay between each. Each time we went to teach the player something new, we created a period of rest where the player could take the time to learn and have an isolated experience with the new mechanic. Afterwards, we would increase the tension and general threat levels by adding enemies and more challenging paths. In this way, the player could not only use what they just learned, but what they had learned in the past, and use everything together. This combined with directional flow provided a strong sense of progression and overall understanding of the core gameplay.