Product Owner & Lead Designer

Champlain College Thesis Game – Unreal Engine 4

Team Size: 4 (Fall 2017), 8 (Spring 2018)

Toybox is a fast-paced co-op twin stick shooter utilizing bounce shots and special abilities in short, frenetic levels.  The core gameplay loop focuses on quick communication between the two players while still maintaining physical skill through aiming and the use of special abilities.

Toybox won 2nd place at RPI’s GameFest 2018 Competition 

Game Download Link


About Toybox

Toybox is a top-down twin-stick shooter that bridges the gap between the top down shooter genre and the local co-op genre.  The main game experience is entirely cooperative and heavily relies on communication between the two players in order to complete each level.  The game is split up into three chapters that introduce four different special abilities and a multitude of enemies, interactive objects and environmental hazards that the player must work around.

Toybox was created as my final capstone project at Champlain College, and I played multiple roles for the team dynamic including acting producer, lead designer, audio designer, level designer and programmer.

Conceptualizing Toybox

When creating Toybox, I went through the prototyping process with the main goal of having a well polished game that includes a multitude of systems and mechanics that form around a fun to play core game loop.

Toybox shooter gif
First Prototype. I designed and programmed it in a week
Next Iteration of the Toybox Prototype

One of the earliest mechanics for the game revolved around bouncing bullets off walls, which gave the game a very unique high skill cap that gave the player a strong “feel good” moment.  I also implemented a color system where player 1 can only destroy the enemies that have the same color as them and player 2 can only do the same to the enemies their color.  This design decision forces the cooperation between the players to not allow for a “good” player to simply carry a worse player.

As development started, once we had picked this prototype to continue with (I had made 6 other prototypes), we chose the Toy aesthetic to really play into the player’s nostalgic factor as well as being able to keep the art style simple enough to rapidly create content.


The Team:

As this was my capstone project, our game started out with 4 members

  • Product Owner and Lead Designer – Ethan Loewald
  • Lead Programmer – Charlie McGarey
  • Lead Character Artist – Colton Orr
  • Lead VFX and Animations Artist – Bryce MacDonald

During the first semester, we competed against the other teams to make it onto the next semester and upon making it through added 4 more team members.

  • Producer and Designer – Michael Walker
  • Lead Level Designer – Matt Rhine
  • Programmer – Aaron Millet
  • Environmental Artist – Rachelle Bish

My Role and Responsibilities on the Team

In the first semester, I had much more to juggle for the team as I was the only designer and also the acting producer. In the first semester we finished with the Toybox vertical slice. to get to that state I preformed tasks such as:

  • Prototyped different game ideas in engine (Unreal Engine 4)
  • Brainstormed mechanics and different game styles
  • Led team meetings and giving weekly update presentations
  • Created game documentation and team wiki
  • Brought the game to QA sessions to hear feedback and test the game weekly
  • Created Sound and Music creation through Fl Studio from the ground up
  • Level design work for the initial 8 levels
  • Designed and programmed the base 3 enemies
  • Designed and programmed the base 3 special abilities
  • Designed the layout for all UI
  • Designed and formatted the progression system
  • Pitched the vertical slice of the game to the school

In the second semester, I led our new team of 8 as the product owner and lead designer with the creative direction of Toybox as we took on full production. I preformed similar tasks in this semester such as:

  • Completed UI layout and programmed functionality
  • Altered the target market and pivoted crucial game flow to follow
  • Worked with each team member to create tasks each sprint
  • Led full team meetings and smaller ones each sprint
  • Followed scrum practices with one week sprints
  • Re-designed the progression system into an upgrade and ability system
  • Designed and prototyped the new enemies
  • Designed the interactive environmental objects

Programs used

  • Unreal Engine 4
  • Unreal Engine Blueprints
  • Visual Studio (C++)
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Google Docs
  • Google Sheets
  • Google Forms
  • Google Slides
  • Lucidchart

Toybox Media