John Swisshelm
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Double Fine Productions


  • Project Lead
  • Concept, Design, and Tuning
  • 2D Art and Logo
  • Fan-Favorite Pitch Video

Project Highlights:

  • Time: 2 weeks
  • Team: 15 developers
  • Fully animated, playable horse character
  • Bi-directional combat
  • "Storybook" illustrated narration
  • 12 part development documentary by Two Player Productions

Steed is an action-adventure prototype where you play as a courageous horse in a fantasy land full of bumbling heroes.

  • Twig may be riding, but Bellefire is in control.
  • Aesthetic goal: "California gold meets Disney"
  • Jumping by the river.
  • Grex attack from all sides.
  • Bellefire can kick forwards and backwards.
  • Trouble ahead.
  • Stomp attack.
  • Surrounded by Grex.
  • Narrative is told through storybook scenes.
  • The waterwheel breaks off when Bellefire jumps on it...
  • Waterwheel combat!
  • The waterwheel sequence gives a new perspective on the level.
  • Racing through the forest with a magic book.
  • Stylish results from the depth buffer.

Pitched for Double Fine's Amnesia Fortnight 2014 gamejam, Steed was voted as one of the top three out of thirty pitches, which meant I would lead a team to create a playable prototype in two weeks and the entire process would be recorded in a series of online documentaries.

Above: Original Pitch Video with art by Emily Johnstone and myself

Throughout development, I led daily meetings, coordinated engineering and art teams, directed look development, designed the level layout, wrote a script, tuned combat mechanics, and directed voice acting for Twig and the narrator.

Prototype features:

  • Playable horse character
  • Dynamic riding and combat cameras
  • Front, back, and AoE attacks
  • Jumping / Jolt rider mechanic
  • Fantasy world inspired by California's golden hills and Disney films Tangled and The Sword in the Stone
  • "Waterwheel" setpiece
  • Horse actions: stamp, whinny, eat, and poop. Yes, poop.

Above: Full Prototype Playthrough

"What immediately stands out about Steed is the sheer attention to detail the team have put into Bellfire. Every animation has been well crafted to fit somewhere in between horse realism and Disney’s Tangled, and Bellfire’s design evokes a distinct level of personality without seeming over the top. It’s also surprisingly fun to steer Bellfire, something I was unsure about when I heard the original pitch, especially when so many AAA games have shipped with clunky horse mechanics." - Gizorama


2014 John Bernhelm (formerly Swisshelm)
Massive Chalice images and logos © Double Fine Productions