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  • DunkRatz Design Blog: Path To The Cheese Cannon

    - Ozzie Smith
  • Hi, my name is Ozzie Smith and I'm the designer and programmer on DunkRatz, a local multiplayer game for 2-4 players where each player is a rat on a team that fights over a ball of cheese to feed to their team's giant baby rat to score a point. We started working on the game back in 2017, inspired by all the fun we had playing the resurgence of great local multiplayer indie games like Nidhogg, Towerfall, and Videoball.

    The core mechanic in DunkRatz is the movement and throwing system, where players can only move around by dashing with the A button, but if they touch something else (like the cheese) they will pick it up and then they have to throw it with the A button before they can dash again.

    Early on (well before we established the rat theme for the game and it was just a prototype of blocks throwing a ball around) we really liked the idea of a dynamic goal that could be picked up and moved around just like the ball. It was really fun and gave the game a unique flavor (we quickly escalated the idea to allow players to pick up and throw other players around too). However, this led to a design problem that was harder for us to solve than we first thought: how do we add in another ball of cheese to the arena after a point has been scored?

    DunkRatz is a ball-and-goal game, so first we looked to how other games continue play after a goal is scored. In Soccer or Rocket League the action stops and the game is reset: everyone goes back to their starting positions and the ball is moved back to the center of the field. We quickly decided against this as goals could be scored so quickly and so often in DunkRatz that it totally broke the flow of the action.

    In Basketball the team that was scored on gets to check the ball back in from their side of the court, but that also wouldn't work with DunkRatz since the dynamic goal locations means no team really has a "side" of the court. And in Videoball (the closest design to our own) the ball is automatically respawned in the center after a few seconds. We decided against that as well: with this mechanic the game just became about crowding the center of the map trying to get the respawning ball as soon as possible (or constantly moving the goals to the center of the map). We needed a new solution.

    Iteration 1: The bumper

    In the early prototypes I was inspired by the quick, casual "ball respawn mechanic" in foosball where the losing team throws the ball back into the table. So I added a "bumper" in the top middle of the map that needed to be touched by a player to spawn in a new ball. I liked the idea of players being able to decide when the new ball came into play, and I wanted to reward teams working together and so the ball would spawn far enough away from the bumper that player that spawned it wouldn't be able to immediately grab it.

    Iteration 2: Two bumpers

    A problem we had with the bumper was that it ultimately wasn't too different from just spawning the ball in the center automatically, as once players knew what was happening they would still just camp where the ball would spawn. So a second bumper and ball spawn location were added, and now teams couldn't camp the single ball spawn location.

    Iteration 3: Moving spawns

    The respawn mechanic was a lot more fun when there were 2 bumpers but we knew it could be improved. We tried making the spawns move back and forth to make it more dynamic. Now timing was required to get a "good" spawn.


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