Cosmic Weedkiller: The Game

Source: shaunnortonAU on Vimeo

I took a day off on my birthday this year to delve into my new Vive and Unity. I had an idea a few days ago where the player would "grab" incoming balls and rapidly release them in a line to eliminate enemies. I wanted it to feel like a smooth, constantly moving sequence of actions in which the player doesn't need to click or hold any trigger.

The morning started with a quick brainstorm on theme. I settled on an idea of a "Cosmic Weedkiller" in the vein of Bard from League of Legends - a character who has the job of maintaining balance. I wrote a short design doc outlining the core loop and identifying entities and actions or "verbs":

Core Loop
- Player picks up 2 lanterns
- A flower is vulnerable for a time, then grows the plant further
- Balls are fired from beacons on the map
- Player grabs 2 balls, activating a link between lanterns
- Player releases the link and it moves in a direction
- The link can destroy multiple flowers
- Link can ignite shrines to activate a checkpoint
- When the plants are all cleared, a boss emerges

Entities
- World
- Plant
- Flower
- Beacon
- Ball
- Player
- Lanterns (type of Prism)
- Link
- Shrine

I took some detours through the day to explore shaders and hinge physics. By the end of the day, I had something that could be called a "game" - see the video above. It is interesting, challenging, and it has a win state. I will need to fine-tune the alignment of the lanterns (the beam is difficult to aim because it is off-center relative to the hand). The next step is to make the level more interesting. I recently watched a talk by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild developers, which has opened my eyes to the exponential options a player is given when the game is designed with several basic actions that interact; another talk by the developers of Journey made me think about how to approach game design with player emotion at the core; finally, a talk by the writers of Portal 2 reminded me that prototypes and old ideas can be recycled later.

video game art print based on concept art for video game journey for playstation

I've almost finished reading Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. The magic systems in his books are very logical and provide plenty of action. When I was first getting into Unity 2 weeks ago, I felt like I was both designing a magic system, and feeling what it's like to use it. I've now designed energy balls, shields, swords that fire slices, and swords that fire homing missiles. I think I may keep going, and build a library of cool interactions and effects. I briefly considered whether I should come up with a "studio" name, and .Do(magic) popped into my mind.


Digital purchases to support Overwatch teams

The home screen of Overwatch was today updated to show playable heroes wearing the brand & colours of Overwatch League teams San Francisco Shock, Los Angeles Valiant, Shanghai Dragons, Dallas Fuel, Seoul Dynasty and Los Angeles Gladiators.

Rather than get stuck into a session of Overwatch, I thought this is an easy start to my new blog. Although there are scores of topics I’d like to write about, to be honest this is my first blog in a long time, and I’m going to start with easy topics.

As part of the Overwatch League franchise model, ordinary players can purchase character “skins” to use while they play the game. Some of the revenue from skin purchases goes directly to the teams. This is essentially the equivalent of supporting a sporting team by purchasing a jersey, and builds awareness of the team brand by letting the player wear it during their own gameplay.

Skins will be integral to the AR economy

I believe that cosmetic purchases will be a vital part of the business model for the future of physical games. Furthermore, I am reminded of a prediction by Brian Sullivan, creator of Age of Empires, currently working on an AR game at Monsarrat: in AR, we will buy “skins” to make our home look like a medieval castle. This helps reinforce the idea that games of the future will be played literally anywhere, which I’ll write about another time.

In a sport/game application, the playing environment could be changed to look like a jungle, desert or urban dystopia. Players could purchase not only skins for their personal appearance - they could skin their ability effects, their territory. Skins could even be focused on audio, in collaboration with musical artists, as with the DJ Sona skin in League of Legends. The coffers will reap the benefits of subscription fees.

Physical gaming will unlock revenue for both digital and physical merchandise.