/curtis_mckinney

/about

I bring the technical and the artistic worlds together to create something unique. I've been doing it in the games industry for over a decade. Most recently I went indie and created my own game development studio called BIT ROT. We released our first game in May, 2022, and it's gone very well. Here's some of what I do:


  • Owner/Studio Lead at BIT ROT
  • Game design
  • Programming
  • Sound design
  • Music composition
  • Procedural art
  • PhD in creative technology

/portfolio

Recursive Ruin

Developed by BIT ROT, Published by Iceberg Interactive, Released May, 2022 on Steam, EGS, and GOG.
Roles - Studio lead, game design, programming, art, sound/music, almost everything.
Team - Chad McKinney (Star Citizen), Micah Holland (Sable), Corey Johnson (Star Citizen), and Stacy Chan.
Description - A kaleidoscopic narrative puzzle game in which an artist comes to terms with their grief. Explore an infinitely recursive world of strange fractal beauty and solve mind-bending puzzles. Created with Unreal Engine 4 and C++. Currently rated Very Positive on Steam.

Recursive Ruin - Game Design Overview

Recursive Ruin's gameplay is founded upon a core concept: An infinitely repeating fractal world.
Every facet of the game, from the game's emotional narrative, to its mind-bending puzzle mechanics, are designed to work with this core aspect of the game. This proved to be a significant challenge which required:

  • Building specialized technology capable of infinitely cycling through nested worlds.
  • Designing levels capable of recursively looping back on themselves at different scales.
  • Forming a strong intuition for designing gameplay in non-euclidean geometry.
  • Creating gameplay mechanics that operate recursively and teach the player an intuition for recursion.

Design Spotlight - Fractal Cubes

I initially explored a more constrained and logic driven design for Recursive Ruin, to attempt to focus the puzzle aspects of the game. This version of the design featured limited ability to travel through the infinite space and did not include physically simulated interactions. Playtesting revealed that this felt too constrained and lacked basic fun. With this in mind I developed something much more open and free, allowing for arbitrary movement in the infinite space and for physical interactions.

    Physical objects were initially added simply because they were fun to throw around in the infinite space, but they eventually became one of the cornerstones of the game's puzzle design. Traveling through the recursive space was mind-bending itself. Requiring the player to move and manipulate a seperate object in the labyrinthine space increased this spatial complexity and interest, and proved fertile ground for puzzle design.

Design Spotlight - Recursive Lasers and Launchers

When designing Recursive Ruin I wanted the game to have a curated set of mechanics that maximally emphasized the recursive aspects of the infinite world. It became apparent that mechanics that allowed for objects in one "iteration" to interact with objects in another "iteration" of the space were a good manner of encouraging recursive gameplay. Intersecting geometry, physical objects, and shadows are among some of the mechanics in the game that exhibit this kind of interaction.

    One simple but effective mechanic that exhibited this behavior was a laser that could be used to power things. Lasers can easily travel across the recursive world and power something in a different "iteration". They could also be redirected any number of times (like classic mirror puzzles). Most interestingly, they could be manipulated recursively, such that a laser you were aiming far away could in fact be pointing that laser recursively right next to you. Once prototyped it became obvious that this was both quite intuitive and interesting. I decided to take the concept further and use the underlying mechanics as the basis for a complimentary set of mechanics of launching the player themselves across the infinite world. This had the bonus of being both interesting and fun, something I'm always on the lookout for. And, of course, who doesn't love turning their game into a kind of directed cyclic graph?

Recursive Ruin - Final Thoughts

There's enough to say about the design of Recursive Ruin and everything I learned along the way to fill a book. I took on a lot of roles and responsibilities. There were times it was quite difficult. But, in the end, it was all worth it. We ended up being published by the fantastic Iceberg Interactive, selling more units of the game than I thought possible, and reviewing very well. Most importantly to me, there were players who connected deeply with the game. I'm very proud of it and the work our team did.


With all that said, check out this second trailer. It's really good!

Older work: Infinite Overdrive

Developed by Kuma Games 2013-2014, released on the Apple app store and Google Play Store.
Roles - Game design, programming, prototyping, sound design, music.
Description - An infinite runner with a novel twist: multiplayer gameplay. Infinite Overdrive includes power-ups, curses, missions, bosses, and a global leaderboard. As part of a larger team I took vision and design direction from lead designers and project leaders. I also created a unique multi-part musical score, with different musical tracks playing in synchronicity across each player's phone. Created with Unity and C#.

Older work: Evil Magic Finger

Developed by Kuma Games 2014-2015, released on the Apple app store and Google Play Store.
Roles - Game design, programming, prototyping, sound design.
Description - A spellcasting take on the traditional card game 'War'. Each card may be cast as a spell with unique effects. Elemental damage, locations, and bluffing add further interest to the game. Play against AI or other players. As part of a larger team I took vision and design direction from lead designers and project leaders. Created with Unity and C#.

Flow

Developed by myself, 2010-2011.
Roles - Design, music composition, vfx, programming.
Description - Installation sound art piece. Flow was a live musical sequencer driven by beach balls floating down a stream. Passerbys threw beach balls into the stream, which floated down and activated infrared sensors affixed to the stream banks. These sensors triggered electronic sounds and visuals projected on a large outdoor screen. Originally installed in the town center in Bournemouth, England, the piece was later installed at Tate Britain. Funded by a generous grant from the Bournemouth Arts Council. Created with SuperCollider, Processing, analog electronics, and beach balls.

Leech

Developed by myself, 2011-2012.
Roles - Design, music composition, vfx, programming.
Description - Installation sound art piece. Leech downloads music via bittorrent in real-time and then uses that music as the basis for audio processing and visualization. Leech also sonifies network traffic by spawning sounds for each packet of information that is received. The holographic map visualizes all of the seeders and leechers in the bittorrent network that were sharing data with the computer during the performance. Created with SuperCollider, Processing, and pirated music.

Hellgate: London

Developed by Flagship Studios, published by Namco Bandai, initial release 2008, rereleased 2018 on Steam.
Working as part of the music composition studio Infinite Improbability.
Roles - Studio owner, music composition, sound design.
Team - Chad McKinney, Trey Beauregard
Description - Our music composition studio, Infinite Improbability, worked as a contractor for Flagship Studios to produce sound design and music composition for their game Hellgate: London. The contract lasted a year. During that time we composed about an EP's worth of music and sound design for Flagship. We worked alongside two other music composition studios. In collaboration with the other studios we jointly developed a musical style which gave the emotional impact that Flagship desired for the game.

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