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Umbral Arena

A 2D Fighting Game With Swappable Abilities

ROLES: Game Designer | Lead Programmer | Artist
TOOLS: Unity | Aseprite
 March - April 2019 (1 Month) | October - November 2019 (+1 Month)

Anchor About


Umbral Arena is a 2D fighting game where players equip Abilities from the environment to replace their own, mixing and matching to counter their enemy while their opponent does the same.

This project was developed with a small team for an assignment over the course of a month. I was responsible for programming the functionality of the abilities, designing the systems, and creating all the art.

After the assignment, I spent another month on the project to improve the feel of the game, fix bugs, add content, and work on new systems. These additional changes will be reflected on a separate page (still WIP!), explaining the design process and feedback response behind them.

Anchor Conception


For this assignment, I wanted to create a Super Smash Bros. inspired game that incorporated some form of aspect that is common within RPGs. From leveling and skill trees to exploration and resource management, I found it quite difficult to pinpoint what I wanted to include. Ultimately, I pitched to my team to incorporate an equipment inspired system. As much as I wanted to add many different RPG elements, it was obvious to scope down to only one given our time restraint.

Similar to other equipment systems, equipment would be categorized into a gear type. This would be akin to a helmet and chest plate type. At the same time, we didn't want the player to be completely restricted to having one of each type like those systems, so we also wanted to be able to equip any amount of each type, up to the maximum equipment space.

Anchor Process


Equippable Attacks

In Umbral Arena, the goal of the game is to kill your opponent until they run out of lives. This is accomplished by using the abilities players start with or pick up during the battle. Players start with three basic abilities -- two different melees and a ranged attack -- that fill up all their ability slots.

Over the course of the match, "Ability Boxes" will spawn containing a random ability. Whoever collects it first will store it into their "Inventory", which is only a single slot. That player can then choose to replace one of their 3 abilities with this new one. Since you cannot pick up new Ability Boxes while your inventory is full, players need to think and move carefully so they don't pickup an unneeded ability.

Process of equipping a new ability

Thematically, every ability derives from a base character idea and must be categorized as either 'melee' or 'ranged'. We decided to create them this way for the purpose of our third rule of design: "Ability Sets".

Every thematic character will always have one melee and one ranged ability derived from them. If a player has equipped both of them, they will gain passive bonuses as a reward for completing that Ability Set, which would correlate to their playstyle. For example, if the player has equipped both the melee and ranged ability of the "Bloodreaver" (the red abilities), then all their attacks will hemorrhage, applying additional damage over time.


This idea was inspired from games that use a set bonus system for their equipment, rewarding the player for putting in the extra effort to match their gear together.


The ability icons arranged to their associated character theme and attack type.

Anchor Takeaways


Playtesting this project came with a lot of unexpectedly positive reception in terms of enjoyability. Though there was a lot of unpolished features (rushed animations, janky movement, etc.) and bugs, players had a lot of fun on the raw gameplay loop. The most surprising thing I learned is that unexpected functionality can make the game better, even if it feels unpolished.

For example, if a player threw a projectile and then turned around before it hit their opponent, the knockback would be reversed and instead invoke a pulling effect on them. Even though it would be a quick fix, we decided to leave it in anyways because players found it enjoyable to try to master this unintentional mechanic. Ultimately, features like these added a lot more depth to our gameplay loop, which was a big factor in why players really enjoyed their time with the game.

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