Designer / Producer

The Legend of Al Dente

 
 

The Legend of Al Dente

 
 
 
 

The Legend

Inspired by the idea of a Spaghetti western, a subgenre of Western films produced in the 1960’s and called such because they were produced and directed by Italians, The Legend of Al Dente is a humorous 2.5d side scrolling shooter.

The player's aim is to kill all of his enemies, the Macaroni Gang, and reach the end of the level and his wife Spaghetti Betty, with the fastest time and highest score.

The unique element of Al Dente is how his current health affects how a player aims their weapons. If an enemy collides with Al Dente, they explode with boiling water, cooking our spaghetti hero. The more cooked he becomes, the more his spaghetti arms flailed about, making his aiming more and more erratic.

This project was my first-year major work at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment.


My Contributions

Lead Game Designer

  • Created and maintained our Game Design Document
  • Mechanics Design
  • Level Design
  • Narrative Design

Production Manager

  • Created a production schedule, with periodic milestones
  • Conducted daily stand-up meetings
  • Created and implemented a testing plan and schedule
  • Assigned tasks to the appropriate party

Sound Designer

  • Found appropriate sounds/music
  • Created and implemented the voice lines
  • Changed and modified sounds, music, and voice lines using Audacity

Project Information

Project Length
9 weeks

Engine Used
Unity

Team Composition
2 Artists,
2 Programmers,
1 Designer

My Roles
Lead Game Designer, 
Production Manager,
Sound Designer


The Challenge

With only 9 weeks and several unknown factors, combined with this being my first experience as a designer and production manager, I was somewhat nervous going in to this project. Very quickly though the team became a cohesive and productive unit, ending up with a product that we were proud to present.

The main challenge faced though was how to add an element of humour to almost all aspects of our game. We had to find a way to imbibe a sense of humour throughout our game that wouldn't quickly become stale and annoying.

The Humour

Several forms of humour were implemented throughout production and those humorous elements were continuously tested to find what fitted best. In the end one form of humour ended up appealing to all testers over almost all demographics.

Turns out that people love puns.

Thankfully, combining the worlds of spaghetti and westerns provided plenty of opportunities to use puns. For the most part these puns were lines uttered by Al Dente during gameplay such as, "Why you running away? You Alfredo?" and "I'm gonna lock you boys up in the Penne-tentiary".

As many pasta-themed elements as possible were also placed in the backstory of Al Dente, such as referring to the head honcho of the Macaroni Gang, Papa Papardelle, as a "dried out piece of macaroni art" and his gang as "2nd rate alphabet-pasta-wannabes". 

Lines such as these never failed to get a laugh and that is really what I was aiming for.

Otherwise it was decided to really reinforce the humour through the gameplay mechanics. Al Dente uses his trusty "meatball shooters" to take down bowlegged macaroni villains to avoid them dousing him in boiling water, cooking him till he falls apart.

Finally, more as a nod to the spaghetti western origins of our idea, certain parts of the level where created to resemble sections of a movie set, with old school filming equipment placed around, and stage pieces scattered throughout.


Outcome

So we had the gameplay, and the humour, but we realised that we didn't have any reason for players to come back to our game. So to encourage replayability we added leaderboards that measured both points and the time it took people to complete the level. Turns out speedrunners really enjoyed the more challanging aspects of aiming while trying to progress through the level as fast as possible.

At the end of the day "The Legend of Al Dente" ended up as a great cross-section of an intensely humorous game, that provided players with both a challenging and an enjoyable experience.