Battle Splash will let up to 32 players battle it out in intense, class-based water gun battles, duking it out with guns, rocket launchers, grenades, and other water-based weapons that will leave its combatants soaked, rather than bloodied.
Siliconera spoke with Hưng Mai, the developer of Battle Splash, to talk to him about the work he’s done to put together a shooter without the violence, and also to find out more about the unique programming challenges that working with water provides.
What made you want to create a nonviolent shooter? Why did you choose squirt guns for your shooter combat?
Hưng Mai, Developer of Battle Splash: To me, 3D games are awesome, especially shooter games. I love the idea of running around a 3D environment and doing stuff. It doesn’t have to be open world where you can literally roaming inside a vast place and do anything that you want – I just want to be a part of a world and its story.
A multiplayer game is even better since you can compete or cooperate with your friends inside that world together. Thus, I was attracted to many great shooter games (like Doom, Half-Life, Team Fortress 2,…) because they provide an immersive environment to explore, the gameplay heavily relies on the player’s skills as well as team tactics, the awesomeness when you actually win fair and square, and the actions. Through time, games are getting better and better, with steady improvements to graphics, audio, gameplay and even communities.
However, there is one thing that bores me: almost every game nowadays contains killing, death, and intense violence. Almost every game that you encounter today contains an idea about killing or dying (monsters, some bad dudes…) even if it’s not violence. And when it is, it will makes it as brutal and as “fun” as possible.
That makes me think: is killing really that necessary? Is the idea of dying actually “fun”, and is it a right thing to reward players with glorified killing moves/effects? Because it’s the right thing to kill some evil beings, I guess?
Therefore, I want to get around that. I want to make something that is fun to play and accessible to everyone, without the idea of glorified violence, without the mainstream “Evil must die” cliche. Thus, Battle Splash, a game that combines Third Person Shooter and Arena Shooter while using Water as the main theme, was born.
You mention that the game will have a class system. Can you tell us more about the classes and their special powers? What do they do?
At the moment, there are 4 classes that available in Battle Splash. The First class is a Scout/Sniper class with high agility and accuracy for distance support. This Class can deploy Poles that will Scan and Detect any nearby players or their abilities, and sharing this information with the whole team.
The Second class is a Technician/Assault class with moderate stats. In return, this Class provide Turrets that can stick on any surfaces, and shoot at any nearby enemies for a limited time, as long as its user does not get taken down. The Third class is a Medic/Neutral class with balanced stats. This Class can deploy Disks, which quickly dries a teammate or completely revives them.
The Fourth class is a Heavy/Tank class with slow speed, but it can withstand lots of damage. This Class’ Shield helps deflect any water balloons that collide with it, while keeping its user dry during activation.
What sorts of weaponry will players be using? How will squirt guns differ from each other, and how will they be used in a shootout?
Currently, there are four weapons and four types, which are accessible by all Classes. The Water Sniper Rifle has a medium firing rate, a medium weight, and fires tiny balloons with great water damage that produces some additional splash damage. The balloon will travel straight forward, very far and very fast. It is best suited for the Scout/Sniper class.
The Water Pistol has a very high firing rate, is light weight, and fires tiny balloons that do a little water damage while also producing a little additional splash damage. The balloon will travel pretty fast, but with a ballistic effect (i.e falling down over distance). It is best suited for the Technician/Assault class.
The Water Balloon, which is the regular balloon without any weight, deals high water damage and produces a great deal of splash damage. This Balloon travel slow and has a low range. It is The Medic/Neutral class’ weapon of choice.
The Water Bazooka has a very low firing rate and is also the heaviest weapon of all. However, it fires a very fast balloon, just like a cannon ball, that deals a lot of water damage and splash damage that covers a large area of effect. It is The Heavy/Tank class weapon of choice.
Despite these initial designs, Weapon stats and Class stats will affect each other, resulting in different play styles. In other words, mixtures of class and weapons will yield varied results, creating some opportunities for high-risk plays or powerful builds, encouraging players to experiment with their class and weapon combinations.
Does using water as a weapon create any difficulties for you, as a developer? Any neat opportunities?
There are many unspoken difficulties when designing weapons and mechanics, which almost made me think that it was my mistake trying to make a water-themed game.
First, the ballistic nature of the balloons. Some will fly straight, others will fall down, some are fast, some are small, etc… So, I have to use the physics engine for everything happening with the gameplay, including players’ movements, balloons’ movements, interactions amongst objects, and more. And since there are so many balloons at the same time, an old CPU cannot handle this much with a high framerate.
So, I have to reduce physics calculations to the point that it is no longer accurate without any supporting scripts or careful designs. It’s not a “ray-cast” bullet like some other shooter games, so it actually takes time for the balloon to reach the target, which means players would miss a lot of the time, thus need another script for correction.
Secondly, the splash mechanics are a challenge. Upon contact, some water will bounce off the surface, dealing additional splash damage to anyone nearby. It’s like a deformable sphere: imagine a splash inside a small alley, the splash will then spread out and cover the entire alley instead of a spherical shape like a normal grenade. That requires physics calculations, and there are lots of splashes like this. More accuracy means more calculations, and it will affect the entire balance of the game.
This doesn’t even touch on the balancing of the game itself. 4 Classes, 4 Weapons, and they can be combined together. I have to make sure that the stats are carefully calculated so that players can compete and cooporate with each others at the same time. This also affects the designs of Special Abilities as well.
What challenges do you face when creating a game where 32 players will be fighting at the same time?
Bringing 32 players into play is a huge struggle, both in design and techincal aspects.
The balancing issues are so great that I almost have no time to think of any other weapons or other classes. Imagine if a group of players decided to choose only one Class, then that would be a disaster. Thus, I spent most of the time thinking about that problem and trying to balance those weapons and classes.
Map design is also a problem. A map should provide many alternative routes for players to explore, yet still make use of the game’s mechanics and maintain balance. In addition, Battle Splash supports up to 4 Teams on the battlefield, so it’s another thing that needs to be paid attention to.
32 Players on an old PC rig was a huge challenge. Due to the fast-paced, Splash Mechanics nature, it’s even harder. There is “Friendly fire”, and it’s a feature that makes player think twice before they decide to pull the trigger. That put a lot of stresses on the AI system: when to fire, where to fire, what to fire? And those AIs must think fast, move fast and fire fast. But it’s unnatural to make them too perfect, so they have to make mistakes too. Thus, if poorly designed, such a complex system will probably consumes lots of CPU power.
Another thing is that the graphics also need to be optimized. In the trailer, you probably noticed that the environment models were very rough, and that’s because Battle Splash‘s area is so big, so the models must be fast to render. Right now I’m remaking environments (since they were more than 3 years old) using better methods for “faking” the entire scene without draining much FPS.
And I meant “fake” because I actually have to use some “tricks” that simulate lighting, scene atmosphere, and some properties of Physical Base Rendering. If I had a better rig, precomputing the scene might help a lot, but I don’t. There are other things like networks, animations, memories and stuff, but it’ll be very long to cover.
What thoughts go into creating maps when so many people will be playing on them all together?
To be honest, it’s a simple thought: I want everyone to enjoy the game in whatever way they like. Battle Splash is indeed a competitive game with tight rules and stuff, yet casual players are welcomed to join in and just pick up a water gun and fire.
A big enough map might create some places full of people firing at each other, yet also include some areas that people rarely visit. That’s where the scenery comes in. Players can fight intensely at one point, and when they’re tired, they can slow down, looking at a calm environment, and then back to the chaotic water fight.
For competitive players, the big map might be both advantage and disadvantage: Classes are mostly fast enough to cover the entire map in no time, but every second counts, and player needs to think twice before they charge right into the battle or take an alternative route for guerrilla tactics.
Apart from big map design, I also want player to experience different mechanics too. Each map is an unique experience, as there are different designs as well as additional mechanics. For example, in the Medieval Map, the area is pretty much easy to navigate, yet for another area, Small Town (from the Modern World), will feature lots of alleys, which is very easy for ambush. Some other maps might contain a lake or a river that reduces players’ HP (or WP – Wet Point) as well as slowing them down, and so on.
You had mentioned before that you were thinking of adding a co-op mode? Is that still being planned?
I’m still planning this, but it will take a long time. A 4-player co-op mode is planned to be a full campaign that tells the story of Battle Splash, why it was created, as well as the stories of the 4 heroines. It might be something like Left 4 Dead without zombies, blood, and gore, of course. Right now, I only have a rough design for this mode, and I’m kinda busy with the graphics upgrades and the upcoming Beta, so it would take a miracle to bring this idea into reality this year.
Is there a back story for Battle Splash? If so, can you tell us about it?
Inside Battle Splash‘s universe stands a teenage girl called Trianga Polyga, who was a genius weapon maker. She wanted to make a simulation system that could be used to test any scenario possible. That system was called “BOSs” (Brainwave-Oriented Simulation system), and it creates an area enclosed by beacons and manipulates any person’s experience who stays inside.
Inside that system, the people would play Battle Splash, a simulation featuring high speed water balloons and splashes where water is your only enemy. The reason behind all of this is that she did not want to create something that harms others any more, yet she cannot just throw away her genius nature, thus giving birth to BOSs and Battle Splash.
Her final testing stage was a multi-user testing, so she decided to invite her cousin (Pentaga Polyga), her older sister (Quadra Polyga), and her best friend (Temiko Kangara) to join in. The testing was smooth until a bug occurred, damaging the fail-safe protocol, trapping the group inside. There is no way to get out of the simulation area, as when users almost reach the border, the system tricks their brain to believe that they have reached a wall, forcing them to go back inside the simulation.
Now, only two options remain: One is to wait until the system runs out of batteries, which may happens in couple of hours, but the system might trick the users to believe it will take months, or even years. Two is to finish the entire game, which brings them back to the BOSs’s main interface, and may be they can use that to get out. In the end, they were tired of waiting, decided to push themselves through the game, where lots of surprises lay ahead.
What do you feel the playful combat of Battle Splash adds to shooters, which are traditionally a more violent genre?
I think Battle Splash is a soothing and exciting experience rather than a glorified violent one. There aren’t many explosions or much blood, gores, or destructive things, but the core of Battle Splash comes from its gameplay and mechanics. As I’ve tested this game with some friends, they don’t seem to be irritated whenever they lose. Something about it calms the rage that can come from online shooters.
The players won’t be blown into pieces, bleed to death, or get headshot and leave a corpse lying around, humiliated. There is only water, players playing with it, using it as an advantage, trying to create a new way to play a game, and witnessing their glory moments when they (alone) take down a group of players while evading incoming balloons, or charge right into battle, disrupting the opponent’s formation, and then sacrifice themselves for their teammates to finish off the remaining opponents.
This might be a casual shooter at first sight, yet the more you play, the more you will discover the hidden mechanics (like rocket jump, auto recover, and more), the usefulness of the splash, how weak you are when facing an entire group of enemies, and how awesome it is when you can actually take down that fearsome group you encountered before. It’s all the fun of shooters, yet without the death and violence.