Richard Terrell Portfolio Richard@designoriented.net

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Richard Terrell (a.k.a KirbyKid) is a game designer, consultant, and critic. He is also a writer, musician, artist, and teacher. Currently working on a startup he founded. He previously worked at Gunfire Games on Remnant: From the Ashes and an independent project about learning called enLIGHTen. He was a lead designer on BaraBariBall, a fighting-sports hybrid found in Sportsfriends. He wrote over a million words on his game design blog: critical-gaming.com. He is also the founder of Design Oriented, a games criticism company that explores the intersection between gameplay, criticism, and community. His portfolio includes....

Remnant: From the Ashes is a third-person survival action shooter. Available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Remnant Contributions

Below are four MiniBosses I worked on for Remnant: From the Ashes. I created the concepts for the encounter, the AI for the bosses, created and scripted their unique attacks, and made adjustments to the environment. Though I worked on many aspects of Remnant including most of the enemies, these MiniBosses exhibit my design style the most.

The Barbed Terror
  • One of the goals for the Barbed Terror was to design a boss without adds (additional enemies that are generally fodder in the encounter). To make things more challenging, I had to design a mini boss that wasn't very "mini" and that didn't move. Under these constraints, the Barbed Terror would have been a very unique Remnant boss. But there was one more constraint I had to tackle.
  • The final contraint was to design a boss to have gameplay like the classic top-down, aircraft shoot-'em-ups (shmups).
  • To pull this off the arena was designed like a small amphitheater where the main attraction sits in the front, center. In one wide screen view, players can almost see the entire boss arena. This high level of visibility (no occlusion) was an important step because shmups typically let the player see everything clearly on one screen.
  • From here I lined the walls with projectile barb launchers. Then I scripted a system to identify and coordinate these launchers to create a wide variety of patterns. It was important to arrange the launchers high along the walls to create 3-dimensional threats. Shmups may be 2D and flat, but Remnant is a 3D, 3rd person shooter. Designing in 3D is essential.
  • The projectile patterns are designed to push the player around the arena. There are safe spots and unique ways to avoid incoming projectiles. Players can get out of the threat zone, dodge through the barb projectiles, or seek a safe spot within the barrage.
  • Unlike many shmup bosses, the Barbed Terror's projectile waves are more intermittent. For technical reasons, there are moments of flying-barbs and moments of no-flying-barbs. To compensate, the Barbed Terror tracks the player throughout the room and uses its giant claw to attack. The timing of projectile waves and giant melee attacks are independent and can layer for a deadly combination.
  • All together, the Barbed Terror is a challenging mini Boss that stresses a unique combination of player skills (complex timing). The tactics needed to survive are fairly common "Remnant tactics" (e.g. dodging, shooting, and avoiding melee hits). Yet the combination brings a distinct experience to the game that allows shmup veterans to shine.
MiniBoss: Canker
  • In this mini boss fight, Zombies (regular enemies) spawn from the muck around the player's position. This makes it harder for the player to be ambushed from out of nowhere. It also gives the player a chance to react and reposition or get in some easy damage on the enemies.
  • Zombies take a lot of damage, but each of their four major limbs can be shot off sending them into a temporary stun state. Shoot off the legs and they crawl hidden under the surface of the water. Shoot off the arms and they grow tentacles with an even longer reach.
  • Canker is a large target. But unlike other enemies, when it takes too much damage it will run in a mindless panic to one end of the long narrow arena. Indirect movement like this adds a much needed tactical spatial element that is missing in Remnant combat when all enemies constantly close in on the player.
  • Whether Canker attacks or runs in panic, poisonous pus balls are flung from its body. These projectiles give corrosive damage which can stack up on the player. When the pus balls hit the water, they swell and become dark brown mines that explode on contact from the player or enemies.
  • Standing back and taking aim outside of its melee attacking range will not keep the player safe from harm. With a mighty clap of its hands, Canker can send a dangerous wave of water that travels the majority length of the arena.
  • The wave will kick up any of the dark brown mines from the water and sweep them along the current. While this makes the wave even more treacherous, it also clears the watery lanes of excessive hazards.
  • Throughout the fight, the water level will rise. And as the level rises it becomes harder to see the brown mines, crawling Zombies, burrowing Diggers, and downed Relentless knights. More water also means the wave can more easily travel forward leaving fewer dry places for players to seek safety.
  • All of these simple elements work together to create a dynamic fight where players have many meaningful choices to deal with the treats. There are also many roles players can take on in co-op play. E.g. kiting enemies. Tracking the boss. Clearing the mine field.
MiniBoss: Scourge
  • The first thing to understand about Scourge is that it has an attack that launches homing insect projectiles from its head. These projectiles are slow so players can see them coming and avoid being hit without using dodge rolls. This fine control movement interplay is rare in Remnant.
  • The second thing to know is shooting its head causes homing insects to launch automatically. This design creates an interesting trade off between doing more damage and releasing insects by shooting its head versus safely doing normal damage with limb shots.
  • The third thing about Scourge is that its melee attacks have incredible range and punch through solid objects. So even though its clamber is relatively slow, it has ways of constantly being a threat from any distance.
  • The additional enemies in this fight come from the fringes of the stage. They absorb a lot of damage unless you hit them in their glowing face. This is harder than it looks. Players are often surrounded by enemies.
  • Fortunately, defeating one of these additional enemies results in a radiation explosion. This explosion hurts friend and foe alike. Engaging with groups of these enemies results in dynamic consequences depending on if head shots are hit, if limbs are hit to drop them to the ground temporarily, or if defeating one results in an explosion that chain reacts to other enemies.
  • Scourge's projectiles can also hit enemies. And Scourges melee attacks can easily sweep and knock around enemies saving the player from needing to deal with them directly. Enemy friendly fire creates a dynamic play space where players have more interesting choices with their movement and positioning alone.
  • Scourge's special attack is its Swarm Shield, a swirling dome of insects that prevents all ranged damage from penetrating. While inside this shield, it is immobile. However, the entire arena swarms with hundreds of homing insect projectiles from the hives that infest the walls.
  • Regardless of how many healing dragon hearts the player has, eventually the the radiation status will build from radiation attacks until the player is "irradiated." When this happens, the player's stamina is cut in half. So while it may be relatively easy to dodge enemy attacks early on, make too many mistakes and you'll feel it.
  • Staged in a very large arena featuring pillars that block many sight lines, it would be easy for players to lose track of each other in co-op. However, because the projectiles only home in on players, it's possible to follow the swarm to regroup with allies. Even when one's vision is compromised, the insect projectiles are a glowing beacon.
MiniBoss: Raze
  • This flying eyeless obelisk launches a shotgun-like fire blast when it spots a player.
  • Players can hide behind the many stone and metal pillars in the environment. Raze will investigate the player's last known position.
  • Evade its sight long enough and it will retreat and summon skull enemies to draw you out of hiding. After summoning skulls it dives into the center radiation pool where it can't be damaged.
  • When the skulls emerge from the radioactive sludge scattered around the stage, players can shoot them down like a 360 degree shooting gallery.
  • The arena is riddled with 5 differently shaped radiation pools of sludge. Falling in isn't so bad. The damage is minor. But the player's radiation status will build.
  • A common problem with Remnant's co-op play is one player drawing the attention of the boss while the others shoot it in the back. Raze has unique armor so that it takes greatly reduced damage when shot in the back.
  • When Raze attacks with projectiles it opens its mouth. To counterbalance the back armor, the mouth is a super weak point, taking more damage than regular weak points.
  • The result is a dynamic cat and mouse game of flyers versus foot soldiers. Players jockey to find hiding places, yet they must venture outwards to get the best sight lines against the summon skulls. Players run and dodge out of the way of Raze's attacks, yet they must hold their ground and take the shot when Raze's mouth is open. Players have to keep their eyes on the sky while also watching their step.


The Critical-Gaming Blog

The Critical-Gaming Blog printed into 3 hard back volumes. 650+ articles. 450+ design terms defined. 700,000+ words of analysis, reviews, interviews, and more.

Mario Maker Workshop

The Mario Maker Workshop (MMW) is a free, online game design school I founded that operates like a community. We use Super Mario Maker 2 as a platform to rapidly test and share ideas. The workshop taught level design and game design lessons using a unique communal learning method. The semester was active from May-December 2019.

A precursor to creating the Mario Maker Workshop. I created a video series where I played user levels and adjusted them to be more in line with Nintendo's design principles. The series is called "Super Mario Fixer."
An example of a user course I diagrammed with my adjustments.
The first assignment for the Mario Maker Workshop was to create an interesting course only using blocks. This diagram shows my course, "Race Through The Golden Desert," and the way the structures facilitate smooth continuous motion.
A revised version of my blocks only course with the addition of coins and a Super Mushroom powerup. The course now has a 120-coin clear condition. This diagram shows why finding a route to gain 120 coins the fastest is a very complex challenge for players.
Assignment #4 challenged the workshop to create stages designed to be played twice in a row with the first pass as small Mario and the second pass in a powered up state. The courses are designed to highlight the difference between the two laps.
Though the length of this assignment #4 submission appears short, the density of challenges and gameplay ideas is rich. The diagram shows multiple paths for both small Mario's first pass and powered-up Mario's second pass. With Yoshi Players can explore the course vertically and find new, nuanced challenges that recontextualize the obstacles below.

In total the workshop...

  • earned 17,738 workshop points with the highest member scoring 3,617 points.
  • submitted 235 courses for analysis. 3895 individual points of feedback were filled out for these courses.
  • collected 603 individual pieces of knowledge about Super Mario Maker 2.
  • collected 433 unique gameplay ideas ranging from small gizmos to complete course concepts.
  • devised from experience and extracted from study 184 design principles.
  • completed 15 collaborative, asynchronous course projects using our task management system called the Workbench.

BaraBariBall is a sport-fighting game hybrid indie game that is part of the Sportsfriends compilation. This is my first published game title.

As a lead designer on BaraBariBall I focused on solving complex emergent gameplay problems. For example, at one point in development it was very hard to grab the ball, very difficult to land attacks on other players, and very easy for a player to gain a small lead and run away to stall out the match. I analyzed and tweaked the frame data for the characters, gathered feedback from playtesters, and facilitated team communication to target the source of these gameplay issues. Solid design principles provided a great guide to cut down on unnecessary iteration through blind trial and error. It also helped to have the experience to ignore temporary or perceived tactical imbalances. In other words, knowing which problems would work themselves out when other problems were fixed was essential when working as a small team.

After we reached a strong combat core, all the stages in the game were redesigned. I removed unnecessary interactions like grabbing onto the ledge to keep the gameplay simple. I smoothed the edges of stages so character bodies wouldn't be abruptly held up. And I maintained enough wide open space so the most interesting combat scenarios had the best chance of occurring.

Design Oriented (DO) is a game design community I founded that focuses on game design and related skills. We teach design through communal learning and our proprietary curriculum. We also offer professional feedback for game projects. Our ultimate goal is to redesign our world to improve the quality of human interaction..

Our game design community discusses games on a deeper level than anyone else. We keep the conversation focused by sticking to twelve "DO Topics." This atomic level of organization helps us focus on digestible chunks of information and present clear examples.

DO Topic Wheel

The DO Topic Wheel is an interactive web-tool of game design terms organized by the color-coded DO colors. This color code system is used throughout DO from our streams, to videos, spreadsheets, diagrams, and more.

Video examples of the deepest level design analysis.

The 5 part article series below breaks down the level design of the classic game Pac-Man.

Article 1 — Article 2 — Article 3 — Article 4 — Article 5

2017 Talk: Foundations of Game Design


enLIGHTen is a game about learning how you learn and how to improve it. The game houses many prototype learning tools I have devised. It also doubles as a research project as it tracks detailed player stats and stores all the data automatically in my cloud server. Scripted entirely in Game Maker using GML programming language. Key Features Include...

  • A robust, challenging puzzle mode featuring 100 levels.
  • Innovative and experimental learning tools for use during standard play.
  • Level creator and other customization options.
  • Advanced filtering of data to aid in boosting curiosity and finding answers.
  • Lectures to thoroughly teach a new learning model.
  • Quizzes to stimulate curiosity.
  • Social features to share progress and ideas with friends to stimulate growth.
  • Ultra detailed stat keeping so insights about effective activities can be extrapolated.
  • Online cloud saving.
  • A visual scripting system to create macros/AI to solve puzzles.
  • An adaptive AI that learns the player's puzzle solving style.


I created Drawn Together, a communal learning experiment. We used an online workshop format to explore how to draw and improve as a community. Whether we used digital drawing pads or traditional pen and paper, we found ways to share our art, learn from one another, play drawing games (we're game designers after all), and keep the inspiration flowing.

More of my artwork....

Game Critique Project

Starseed Observatory is a mixed-media video games criticism project that critiques the indie video game Starseed Pilgrim and presents the ongoing discourse around the game. The site provides a comprehensive look over an overlooked game. I assembled a team and lead the project.

A Record of My Gaming History

My "KirbyKid Gaming History" spreadsheet features...

  • List of all games I've ever played (1300+)
  • A list of Design Issues found in various games (230+)
  • A list of Design Awards given to outstanding games (200+)
  • A list of original Design Ideas collected over a decade (240+)
  • Games Ranked by Series (30+ series)
  • Games Ranked by Genre (20+ genres)


One Smash was a community and website dedicated to supporting the Super Smash Bros. community by providing constructive information and creating resources to help Smashers learn. Many of the features were designed using my communal learning model. We conducted a long term research study on how Smashers learn. We did this primarily by creating surveys and analyzing match footage. We maintained a small discord community for Smash players looking for a new way to train through drills, analysis, and reflection.

One Smash is best known for their "Tech of the Week" YouTube video series, "Tech Tree" of gameplay techniques, and the searchable "Smash Tech" database. We also researched techniques and answered questions through Twitter. Features include...

  • An automatically updated database that collects Smash Tech from twitter via the #Smashtags
  • An advanced search for the database.
  • Dojo Notes: An online, searchable, and publicly accessible note taking system.
  • Match Tracker: A table to track personal matches. Tracks wins and losses for casual and tournament play. Collects data over time regarding perceive match up advantages. Includes an area to take notes.
  • Dojo Drills: A searchable collection of bite sized drills to focus Smash practice. Each is like a mini game with its own scoring and score tables.


Narrative Works

A trailer I made for an upcoming game Hunternet Starfighter by Fernando Zapata.

I cut this trailer from basically a random collection of combat gameplay clips. I requested a few shots of the large capital space ships to establish the setting. The challenge was finding a way to define unique characters and to tell their stories through flight-based combat. By color coding the text to match the three main ship types, I was able to create a story where each character demonstrates different aspects of the core gameplay. The sound pass was very satisfying to do. I spent roughly 15-30 hours on the trailer.