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Hellfire Cathedral

Project Type:            Independent/Group

Engine Used:          Unity

Language Used:    C#

Primary Role:          Technical Game Designer


Hellfire Cathedral is a game created as a part of my master's thesis project and serves as a proof of concept for using heart rate in dynamic difficulty adjustment systems. The game was created over six weeks by a team of two Northeastern University students. The first-person shooter game is focused on moving through levels while battling hordes of enemies and is heavily inspired by games like Left4Dead2 and the Call of Duty: Zombies game-mode.

Here's a link to the game's page! -


  • Designed the core game-play loop while adhering to the constraints of scope, and the need to acquire complete data sets over short play sessions for research.

  • Designed and implemented the following systems:

    • Movement including sprint, crouch and jump.

    • Heart-rate calibration screen to acquire the players average heart-rate.

    • Event-based gameplay progression, progression meters, objectives and score system.

    • Enemy systems:

      • Enemy AI using the unity animation controller as a finite state machine.

      • Enemy pathfinding using Unity NavMesh.

      • Enemy item drop on death.

      • Wave generation / spawning system.

    • Weapon systems:

      • Weapon switching.

      • Weapon/Item pickup.

      • Reloading.

      • Script with features that allow for control of firing mode, number of bullets fired per shot (shotguns), number of bullets fired in a burst, whether the gun is automatic, magazine size, etc., for modularity.

    • Feedback systems:

      • Audio feedback through audible fast breathing, and heart-beat sounds when low on health.

      • Directional Damage Indicators that point in the direction that the player was attacked , when  attacked by an enemy outside their field of view.

    • Audio sequences.

    • Designed and implemented the different difficulty scaling systems that are regulated with and without heart-rate data.

  • Implemented the settings menu and development tools screen with features such as mouse-sensitivity sliders, dynamic difficulty adjustment mode selection, and URL entry for the hype-rate plugin.

  • Implemented the UI elements and their functions such as health, objective, wave tracker and ammo UI elements.

  • Organized playtests and conducted semi-structured interviews to acquire player data. Also created a survey based on the Game Engagement Questionnaire (GEQ) to evaluate flow in players.

  • Created Design documents for all of the systems and mechanics of the game, the narrative design and the overarching theme.


  • The game systems could be created to be more scalable by reducing scene dependencies due to the use of singleton classes. Shifting toward the use of Scriptable Objects in the game would create more modular features, allowing for feature based testing, improving overall scalability and enabling more quality of life for in-engine design tasks (I am currently doing this for a weapon system on a different project).

  • The current difficulty model scales to the extremes in its values too quickly. Having slower difficulty progression, especially in the conditions that make use of heart-rate would enable greater player engagement.

  • Work closer with level design to highlight gameplay mechanics, and to create level sections that loop to allow the player greater flexibility in spatial navigation through the level while reducing dead-ends.


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