Zuberi is a 2D metriodvania game that takes place in Ancient Egypt. After a disastrous misunderstanding our titular character, Zuberi, must navigate her way through the Egyptian underworld in order to restore peace. On her journey she will fight various corrupted denizens of the underworld while seeking boons from the many Egyptian gods.
9/3/2020 – 11/18/2020
My role on Zuberi was Systems Designer. My job was to think and iterate on the systems and mechanics that the player would be able to use in our game. We started out development wanting to make a game that fit within the Metriodvania game genre. Additionally I took on the role of UI designer to help create the menu layouts and the layout of our prototype inventory.
For Zuberi I had to shift my design process since the game was being developed with narrative as its focus. Part of the project was accurately representing the culture we were using in our game, Ancient Egyptians. These two details required a lot more attention to detail than I had previously done up until this point.
Creating the mechanics and systems for the game was a very different process. Mechanics had to make sense within the world as did their acquisition. You couldn’t just get awesome power from a random chest in a random dungeon. Because of the importance of the narrative and representation lots of research had to be done. The setting’s time period, our main character’s status in life, and other seemingly small details really add up when it comes to making the mechanics work.
The weapon you see our main protagonist uses, the Khopesh, was a weapon we didn’t initially plan on having. The weapons used in Ancient Egypt, according to the sources I read during development, were mostly made of bronze and often further made in ways that weren’t very durable. This posed a problem because most weapons used in that time of our game would not have lasted throughout the entire game. Additionally most of the weapons looked very generic and didn’t really have a uniqueness from the other weapons of the time.
I found the Khopesh during my research and pitched it to the team. I had found a very identifiable shape and would help flesh out her character as well. The Khopesh was used by upper class Egyptians such as nobles and priests. This fit well with our main character who was the daughter of a priest, someone who would have owned a weapon such as this.
As for creating the power-ups, those were based on the Egyptian Gods of the time. There were a great many gods to choose from when designing. The most important part of the process was choosing an appropriate god for the situation. We needed mobility power-ups and it wouldn’t make sense for our character to get a power-up of that type from Osiris the God of the Underworld. Instead it would make sense to get the power-up from Shu, God of Air. The double jump and dash ability make contextual sense with Shu since his role in Egyptian mythology is to hold the Sky and the Earth apart. A double jump fits this narrative well because a double jump is something that helps prevent you from touching the ground.