Game Design and Development
Josh Lee is a game designer and developer with a broad range of skills and experience. His work has been featured everywhere from the Wii to the MOMA. Josh is dedicated to the creation of play experiences that are fun and accessible to people with a broad range of skills and tastes. All he really wants is for you to be happy.
If you are interested in working with Josh, you can get in touch with him at Floor Is Lava, or at any of the contact links below.
Sifteo cubes are a set of cookie-sized computers that respond to each other when you place them together. By neighboring, tilting, and pressing on the cubes, you can play a wide range of games that would be impossible to imagine on any other device.
A trailer for Sifteo cubes, featuring Chroma Shuffle, Mount Brainiac, and more.
I was hired as Sifteo's first game designer and creative director to explore the potential of Sifteo cubes for play and games. As the product evolved from an MIT Media Lab research project into a commercial system for playing games, I worked with the development team to create a wide variety of games that explored the design space afforded by the cubes.
Games developed for Sifteo (as designer, programmer, and sometimes artist) include: Chroma Shuffle, Mount Brainiac, No Evil Monkeys, Gopher Run, and many more. Plus a lot of unpublished prototypes.
With their unusual form factor and distributed nature, Sifteo cubes offer unique challenges in interaction design. In addition to making games fun and engaging, I worked with the team to create interfaces that would allow users to perform basic tasks with a minimum of training. Things we take for granted in other systems, like choosing from a menu, had to be totally reimagined on the cubes. Through extensive prototyping and intensive user testing, we were able to establish UI design patterns that allow the user to focus on the task rather than the interface.
Game portfolio and product management; hiring, direction, and support of developers and contractors; conducting and observing playtests; product and developer support; numerous production tasks, from creating web graphics to deploying builds.
March 2011, PC MMORPG, Trion Worlds
RIFT is a massively multiplayer game set in a world of dimensional rifts and factional intrigue. Rift features a dynamic event system that throws players into huge battles with multitudes of monsters.
A party battles the final boss of Deepstrike Mines in Rift.
I worked on content design for Rift as the team explored ways to make the game's population feel more lively and dynamic. One of the ways in which we achieved this was to design a system for mob migration that enabled us to create a wide range of vignettes and pull puzzles; we even created situations in which mobs would fight each other.
Another area I worked on was dungeon design. A primary goal of the dungeon team was to avoid boss fights that boil down to little more than a check on the strength of the player's gear. Working with engineers to get the most out of our scripting tools, we created battles that require players to plan carefully, execute skillfully, and adapt quickly.
Prototyping dynamic events; scripting and puppeteering of gameplay for trailers; tutorial design.
October 2008, Xbox 360 and PS3, SEGA/Secret Level
A modern-day update of the classic arcade game Golden Axe. As Tyris Flare, players use sword, beast, and magic to defeat hordes of enemies on their way to a showdown with the Death Adder.
A fan-made trailer for Golden Axe: Beast Rider.
Coming onto a project late in the process is always a challenge. My role on Golden Axe: Beast Rider was to design and tune the AI for a wide range of enemy NPCs — and to do it quickly. With a combination of high-level state machines and mid-level scripting in Lua — and a lot of coordination with other designers, animators, and engineers — I was able to assemble a library of reusable attack abilties and controllers, which allowed the team to build a full range of melee, magic-using, and mounted enemies with both orthogonal and scaled differences, to keep the player challenged and engaged.
The bosses in the game used standard enemy abilities as a leaping-off point, but presented the additional challenge of environmental interactions. Working closely with the level designer and environment artists, I worked on creating scenarios in which the player has to use the entire level in order to defeat the boss: knocking them into flaming towers, destroying healing beacons, and flushing them out of burrows. The result is bosses that offer a break in pace from the hack-and-slash of regular levels, and allow the the player to feel like they've overcome a special sort of challenge.
Planning and implementing the game's survival mode; integrating animations using Havok Behavior; maintaining a library of visualization tools to help designers diagnose and tune AI in real time.
November 2006, Wii, Nintendo/Monster Games
An offroad racing game that's about more than being first to the finish line. Perform stunts like catching air, drifting, dodging trees, and hitting other cars for points. Make the most of the game's large, open levels to maximize your score.
A high-scoring playthrough of the "Canada: Winding Road" level from Excite Truck.
My primary role on Excite Truck was to design and tune the AI. In addition to making sure that computer-controlled trucks could drive around the track successfully, I needed to come up with a strategy that would be forgiving to novice players (an important target audience for Wii) while putting enough pressure on expert players to ensure a good, hard race (as opposed to gaming the race by hanging back and racking up stunt points).
In collaboration with the AI programmer, I worked out a system that was a little smarter than typical "rubber-banding" logic. Rather than simply trying to stick close to the player, AI cars drive with varying degrees of aggressiveness according to the desired difficulty of a specific level. A given car's level of aggression will change over time, which gives rise to dramatic passes and collisions over the course of the race, and keeps the AI from becoming too predictable. The overall effect is the impression that AI cars are really racing with the player, whether he or she is a beginner or an expert.
Designing the Crush Challenge mode; tuning the Gate Challenge mode; designing and writing tutorials; designing sound effects; managing the game's overall audio mix.
A block-dropping puzzle game with a twist. Rather than matching colors or filling lines, you connect blocks to form closed paths of ever-greater length. Break large circuits to maximize your score, or string together a chain of breaks for a big multiplier.
There’s a certain tone I try to go for in the games I make, and I think Circuit Drop hits it reasonably well. For the most part, gameplay is pretty mellow, and you can play at whatever pace you like. Succeeding — forming circuits and breaking blocks — is relatively easy, but excelling — large breaks and chains — can be extremely challenging. Layering challenge and depth over a core of simple, accesssible play is at the core of all my designs.
Implemented in Flash and Actionscript 3. Graphics produced with Photoshop. Audio produced with Soundbooth and the Korg DS-10.
Play Circuit Drop.
Take the text of your Twitter posts and scramble it into "magnetic" poetry, which you can shuffle and rearrange as if your browser were a refrigerator door. Take your everyday tweets and turn them into something more exciting, or take your friends’ tweets way out of context and use their words against them.
Most social games play with a person's network of friends in one way or another, using them as opponents, data, or targets for viral propogation. Twagnetic Poetry takes a different approach, using a person's own words to construct the play space.
Assembling the words for a magnetic poetry set from words that the user has already written has multiple advantages: it increases the number of useful and desirable words in the set (after all, the user picked the words out themselves!); and poetry posted to the user's Twitter stream reads to followers as "real" content, rather than just generic notifications.
Play with Twagnetic Poetry.
A five-way, Rock-Scissors-Paper-like collectible card game that doubles as my business card. Pick one of the two characters on your card to play, and see if it beats your opponents choice.
Having learned little from my previous attempt at desiging a game that fits on a business card, I decided not only to repeat the exercise, but to make it even harder on myself. Moo prints high-quality, full-color calling cards at a reasonable price, and I decided to use their service for these cards. The twist: Moo's cards are half the size of a normal business card, which means that I'd have that much less space into which I could fit a play space and instructions.
I decided to make a variant of Rock-Scissors-Paper-Spock-Lizard, using some original characters that I had lying around in one of my notebooks. The simple gameplay is supported by cute visuals and silly descriptions. The result is a multiplayer game that's much more entertaining than the average business card.
An action game that fits on a business card. Mark a path by pushing a pencil out on the surface of the card. Get from one end to the other without hitting a block.
When I set out to draw up business cards for myself, it was only natural that I would want to make a game out of them. I set some constraints on the exercise that made it more challenging: it had to be a game, not a puzzle; it had to be a single-player game; it couldn't interfere with the practical functions of a business card (no damaging the card or obscuring my contact information); the rules had to fit on the card itself.
Since a business card doesn't contain a computer that can track game state, I looked away from video games for inspiration, and instead thought about the simple pencil-and-paper games with which children have whiled away boring study halls for generations. After settling on the pencil-flick mechanic, I drew out a level that supported the natural motion of a sliding pencil, and allowed for multiple paths across the card.