A few years into my game industry career (working as an audio freelancer, before I went to SMU Guildhall), I picked up Earth Defense Force 2017. I delighted at both the crazy Godzilla-type craziness, but also the brilliance of Japanese developer Sandlot’s level design and game design. Being a Japanese IP, I had no expectation that I would get to make a game in the series. Imagine my surprise when, during my interview with Vicious Cycle Software, I found out that they were developing a new Earth Defense Force game (Earth Defense Force is an IP owned by D3 Publisher, who at that time owned Vicious Cycle)! I was thrilled, and I threw myself headfirst into this project, designing seven of its fifteen levels!
Grey boxing levels was a complicated process, due to the technical demands of creating large, fully destructible environments that had to support both large numbers of AI and online cooperative play (a first for the series). To accomplish this, we used SketchUp as our grey boxing tool, instead of 3D Studio Max (Vicious Cycle’s usual work flow). This enabled us to construct levels with precise measurements for sidewalks, curbs, and streets.
Having created a large amount of pre-production prototypes and by careful study of previous games in the series, I understood the need to create variety in the environment, to prevent it from being an endless series of mostly flat terrain. I designed levels with features such as large craters, ditches, and underground sewers to create world variety that would be unaffected by the destructible buildings.
As a scripter, I prototyped a level where you flew in a gunner’s chair of a helicopter type vehicle (which became the gunship in the game), similar to the Call of Duty IV mod level I had created earlier (Operation: Righteous Eagle). This made an impact in the studio, and this idea was utilized to start level one, helping us create a thrilling introduction to the game.
Developer: Vicious Cycle Software
Release Date: 2011
Publisher(s): D3 Publisher
Console(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Steam
Genre: 3rd Person Action