May Design Challenge – Winner Announced!

May 28, 2021 By Amy Green

When you’re playing Splatoon, the type of paint gun you choose determines your unofficial role on a team. Our May one-button design challenge gave participants an opportunity to think through the roles a one-button player could take. We asked for submissions that designed a paint gun or tool that can be played using just one button.

We were so impressed with the creative solutions our community came up with, they were fun to read, and we suspect that each one of them would be a blast to play. This month’s winner, Jonah Monaghan, has entered the monthly design challenges three times now, but this was his first win. We’ve enjoyed watching his submissions improve as he continues to consider players with accessibility needs in new ways.

Our other two entries received tying scores and were both recognized as honorable mentions. One of these second-place entries was created by a team. We loved the idea of a team approach to the design challenge since designers never work in isolation on a game development team.

Here are all three entries, along with feedback from our judges, including our guest judge, Blake Schreurs, a previous winner of the one-button design challenge.

Here is the winning entry from Jonah Monaghan.

Splatoon 2 – Parasite Support

 

Introduction

Splatoon 2 is a heavily complex game with a variety of game modes:

  • Turf War
  • Splat Zones
  • Tower Control
  • Rainmaker
  • Clam Blitz

Each mode has its own rules and objectives, so it’s important to ensure that the role is adaptable to each game mode without a significant change to how the role needs to be played. The one thing that stays consistent between each of these modes is that they are team-oriented. It takes the whole team to win, unlike other team games, there is no 1v4 clutch. This is due to the fairly forgiving respawn system as well as the fact that objectives lead to victory while kills only assist in the victory.

 

The Role

The role I’ve chosen to design is a support role where you can attach and rotate between players providing support and long lines of ink. As long as the player has a line of sight with a character (and the character is within the specific version of the gear’s range) they can attach to that character. In the example below, the player is attached to an ally, but then has a line of sight with the enemy. When the player is aligned with the enemy, they can press the button to move to that enemy, inking the ground along the way. Once they reach the enemy, they make a small splash of ink dealing damage relative to the level and specs of the equipment.

Ink Zone Diagram 1

Ink Zone Diagram 2

Now that the player is attached to the enemy, they need to be sure they have someone else to attach to, or else they’re in danger. This encourages team play and strategic movement from the player as they shouldn’t attach to an enemy if the enemy can run away with them.

When using this role, ink is generated by switching between players, so if you attach to an enemy and they run with you into their ink color, you’ll pop up and be vulnerable just like any other player would be.

 

Equipment Details

Each piece of equipment in Splatoon 2 has three stats:

  • Damage
  • Range
  • Mobility

This equipment can still work with the designated stats:

  • Damage: Damage dealt by splash
  • Range: Range of lock-on between players
  • Mobility: The speed that the player rotates around their host, and the speed of moving between new players.

 

Camera

This role will be able to utilize its position on the player on the host to change the camera. This allows the role to not require a joystick. This would be done from a more overhead angle to show the range and reduce motion sickness but make sure that vision isn’t unfair.

 

Signifiers

Similar to the tenta missiles, there will be a lock-on signifier showing which player they can move to.

Lock On Signifier

 

Multiple Parasites?

Since Splatoon doesn’t let you change gear after a match starts, how does the game progress if there are more parasites than hosts? Or even only parasites? Well, first, more than one parasite can attach to a host, including other parasites. In this case, two or more parasites would need to work together to chain each other.

Multiple Parasites Diagram

While this solution may lead to a confusing match, it’s improbable and would probably be an enjoyable match due to the oddness of it, in the same way that having multiple snipers in a team makes for a challenging match.

 

Rainmaker?

Since the game mode Rainmaker relies on players holding a different weapon, how can parasites contribute? First, the rainmaker shield can be targeted like a player, allowing for the shield to be damaged by parasite splashes. Additionally, the rainmaker itself can be attached to like a player to be picked up, we want to avoid press-and-hold mechanisms since the Rainmaker is a charged weapon. To bypass this, we apply the Rainmaker effects to the player’s splash attack, increasing both splash radius and damage while also reducing movement speed.

 

Clam Blitz?

This mode also has players picking up items; however, it’s much easier to manage. The parasite will have its limits on how many clams it can carry just like any other player. Upon reaching a goal point, the player will still have to throw clams in using their one button, as a lock-on symbol will appear on the goal or bump-to-goal. These rules also apply to power clams. 

When Playability Initiative developer, Mike Perrotto, reviewed Jonah’s entry, he gave this feedback: 

Mike from Numinous Games

“The parasite is an incredibly creative idea and provides a very unique role to a game with a lot of depth already.  I really like that this design requires no joystick control for the parasite. Instead they navigate by hopping from character to character and being strategic in how they traverse the play area to apply the most paint at a crucial moment.  This role also feels like a saboteur, so to speak, in that the enemy player wouldn’t know where they are taking the parasite until maximum splash is achieved well behind enemy lines.  Balancing that with the parasite planning their next move makes for some very interesting match mechanics.”

Blake Schreurs, the winner of our first one-button design challenge and a valuable contributor to the Playability Initiative community, gave this commentary on Jonah’s entry: 

Blake Schreurs

“This is a really creative way to bring players into the game. This seems like a very fluid mechanism to integrate into the existing modes. Hopping between players is not a common mechanic, and especially not for a player! The overall mechanic is conceptually clear, and it could even be easily worked into the game thematically (lamprey or similar). I also really like how the mechanic emphasizes team play: with this type of navigation, the parasite is a team-centric player!”

 

Our next entry was recognized as a shared honorary mention and created by Quentin Deberdt. We hope you enjoy reading through it as much as we did.

 

Pillars and setup

It is important to say that I didn’t have the chance to play a game of the Splatoon series. However, I still identified some important game pillars to respect.

  • Dynamic: Each match is a “non-stop” action moment. The weapon-tool has to allow the player to be directly in the action.
  • Space management: In addition to the classic draw and withdraw mechanism from the shooter genre, space management is in the core concept of the game with the goal to cover the map with the team’s paint. The proposition has to keep these principles.
  • Team-base: Each weapon-tool proposes a way to be complementary with the members of the team, mostly by focusing either on the elimination of the opponents or by covering the map more efficiently with the team’s paint.

I mainly focused on a weapon-tool for the Turf war mode online. Some adjustments may be necessary for other online modes. I didn’t design based on one particular game of the series.

 

The Brush-sub

Visually, it looks like a giant brush (like the inkbrush) but with a big handle where we can find a driving spot where the Inkling in his/her squid form can take place.

When the match begins, an animation shows the Inkling transforming into his/her squid mode, going to the driver seat and, after spreading a little color on the ground, diving into the paint. 

It is the initial state of the Sub mode.

Sub mode:

In Sub mode, the player has a top view of the map. Each time the player triggers this mode, two icons appear with a “scan and select ” interface to choose between two behaviors :

  • Offensive
  • Defensive

After the choice, the icons disappear to let the player see the map. 

The player has to choose in which area of the map he wants to appear. For that, a scan and select is displayed. The selection goes through every “room” (area with a minimum of space defined by the level design team) where there is some paint of the player’s team. 

An additional feedback can highlight some rooms when :

  • In Offensive behavior, a room is currently painted by the opponents and there is only one or no ally.
  • In Defensive behavior, one or multiple allies are taking damages.

This way, players can have additional information for their choice.

An icon is highlighted after each complete scan of the rooms if the player wants to go back to the behavior selection.

When the player has pushed the button to select a room, the brush mode is triggered.

Brush mode:

In this mode, the Inkling appears from the paint of his/her team and retakes his/her human form. The avatar takes the Brush-sub and triggers attacks/effects depending on the behavior selected.

  • In Offensive behavior, the character automatically launches big projectiles causing heavy damage (like a charger weapon) to the nearby enemies by swinging his brush. Each attack animation is slow, which helps the ‘sign and feedback” for the opponents and also gives them a window of attack. Each projectile also paints the trajectory. When the avatar has no more paint or there are no more enemies in the area, the brush mode stops.
  • In Defensive behavior, the avatar uses the brush to paint the ground around him. It has two purposes : color the room and offer a defense boost effect to the allies in the room. The animation and effects are quicker than the Offensive behavior but still offer opportunities for the opponent to take the player’s avatar down. When the avatar has no more paint or the entire room is covered by the team’s color, the brush mode stops.

In any case, the player can trigger back the Sub mode by pushing the button.

Sub Mode and Brush Mode Diagram

 

Sub and Special weapons

In addition to their actual rules of using, the sub and special weapons will have a cooldown after which it will be automatically triggered at the next corresponding Brush mode.

Sub weapon, Glowing Paint:

When the player goes in Brush mode with a Defensive behavior, his/her avatar uses a special glowing paint. This paint boosts the attack and defense for the teammates who are in the room for a limited time. The effects are limited but longer than the classic Defensive behavior and can stay even if the player with the Brush-sub is taking down or is changing mode.

Special weapon, Quantum Can:

When the player goes in Brush mode with a Defensive behavior, a can of paint is dropped on the floor. This paint can acts like a vacuum and takes every Sub weapon that the teammates could throw at it. The can disappears when the player goes back into Sub mode.

Next time a Brush mode in Offensive behavior is triggered, the player’s character opens the can and frees all the sub weapons in it that are automatically thrown to the nearby enemies. If the avatar is taken down between these two actions, the can stays “loaded.”

The Special weapon has a priority over the Sub weapon if both are available.

In reviewing Quentin’s entry, Mike Perrotto said,

Mike from Numinous Games

“Overall, I love adding a Real-time Strategy (RTS) element to games as well as a support role.  What I really like about this design is the ability to switch between the behaviors depending on the needs of the team.  I can also see additional behaviors being introduced in the future, like additional offensive or defensive actions.  These also strike me as almost “Ultimates,” similar to game-changing boosts in games like Overwatch.”

Blake Schreurs added, 

Blake Schreurs

“I really like how the player is able to choose a behavior and then go into a room with intent. This allows the brush-sub to be a more strategic player, which is a nice complement to the often tactical gameplay of Splatoon. With a little bit of work, it should be possible to switch offensive/defensive roles fairly quickly. The big concern is that many of the offensive/defensive actions seem scripted, which means that in time players will learn how to anticipate/defeat players using the Brush-Sub.”

 

Our final submission shared the recognition of honorary mention. It was created by a team of first-time entrants in the monthly one-button design challenge. Damien Fargeout and Brice M created the design, and they tapped Mathieu Sancho to create some impressive art!

 

The Pangolin Supersuit

(for Splatoon 2)

 

Here [is] our submission for the PlayabilityInitiative May Challenge :

Design a tool/weapon with one button in Splatoon 1 or 2

One button weapon concept sketch

©Mathieu Sancho

Intentions

We wanted to offer the closest experience possible, allowing for an adaptive pace.

 

Game feel

We’ve based our design on videos to understand the game feel in Splatoon 2.

 Splatoon 2 is a fast-paced multiplayer third-person shooter playable with two joysticks. There’s shooting everywhere with two mains objectives :

  • kill everyone
  • paint everywhere

It’s a team-based game, so team-play will have an impact on the dynamics, and each player will have to adapt.

 

Gameloop

Gameloop Diagram

 

Group dynamic / Tactics

Each game will induce group dynamic, behaviors in teams :

  • Other weapons give four actions at the same or close (jump, aim, shoot, move)
  • One team = 4 members = 4 simultaneous actions
  • Aiming and avoiding projectile by moving is key
  • Positioning your character allows you to cover more ground with paint
  • Fast-paced, mutual coverage

Objectives, Ammo cost/replenishment, spread, range, and rate of fire are balanced to push players toward an evermoving gameplay (as opposed to static/covering/camping gameplay).

One-Button weapon needs to take into consideration these group dynamics.

 

One-Button Gameplay: opportunities and constraints

Can the game require press and hold? Answer: No press and hold. (Holding pressure on a button for specific lengths of time may be challenging for people who are using adaptive buttons/switches.)

Does pressing a screen count as a button? Answer: Yes, tapping on a screen can count as a button, so long as tapping the screen accomplishes the same thing no matter where you tap on the screen. No targeted tapping to accomplish different objectives (As this would essentially create unlimited buttons.)

Can the design utilize the joystick as well as one button? Answer: No, everything the player needs to do should be able to be accomplished with a single switch or button.

Can the design use a double-tap feature? Answer: No. Players who have low motor control may not be able to tap a button quickly enough a second time to have it register as a “double-tap” instead of as a second single-tap. Design that relies on double-tap bars users with slower response times from ever choosing the “double-tap” option.

Our proposed solution to control the character in the game is an action wheel.

 

Action Wheel

Action Wheel Diagram

 

Invulnerability

It’s important to say that during the “picking an action” phase, the player will be invulnerable to any attacks from the front giving him/her the time to choose.

This is a way to counteract the slower selection dynamic for one-button player, and give them the extra time they need with an action wheel in multiplayer mode.

 

Moving 

The player is still in movement all around the map so they do not become an easy target. When he/she activates the action wheel, the character’s position will induce a specific angle of camera/aiming.

 

Diving into Paint, Diving off the paint

When the character is on paint, the player has the possibility to dive into it via the action wheel.

Same with diving off, when already in the paint, this action is available in the action wheel.

 

Primary weapon

The Pangolin Supersuit is an uncommon weapon like the Noisy Cricket in Men In Black. Don’t be fooled by its size; it’s a very destructive weapon, able to kill everything and throw paint in its passage.

It’s playable by two taps on the button:

  • The first one to begin the charge of the weapon
  • The second to shoot 

Width of Paint Beam Diagram

The width (A -> B) of the beam is defined by the time between the two taps.

The amount of paint used when shooting depends on the width of the beam.

The length is the entire map like the fake screen following:

Map with Paint Length Diagram

This mode is more for long-distance shoot/kill compared to the sub-weapon.

 

Sub weapon

The sub-weapon is more of a secondary weapon. It can be used as a flamethrower for enemies in contact.

As the primary weapon, the time between the two taps defines the power of the weapon:

  • on the first tap, the flame thrower begins
  • on the second tap, the flame thrower stops

The longer the amount of time between the two taps, the bigger the flame will be.

 

Special weapon 

For the special weapon, we see where the “pangolin” part comes into play. Using the special weapon will give the player the ability to throw paint around and be protected just like a pangolin rolling into a ball.

 

Weapon Tactics

This weapon offers a new dynamic for the player and for the team. It’s not about aiming but about anticipating the movements of enemies. The player using this weapon is a powerful ally but still weaker than the other players, so each member has to keep an eye on him. He/she can be a game-changer but with a big cost, so this encourages a positive and caring behavior between team members.

While considering this entry, Mike Perrotto commented, 

Mike from Numinous Games

“The art is fantastic!  I really like the concept of this tool being used less as a standard gun, because it focuses more on strategic placement based on where the player predicts other players will be.  Targeting across the entire map could yield a very satisfying direct hit when used precisely.  The “FlameThrower” effect is also an excellent sub-type to help protect the player in close-range situations.  If the character is more like a glass cannon, then the invulnerability while selecting an action makes sense.  The opponent would need to time their own attacks effectively to take down this new role.”

Blake Schreuers added, 

Blake Schreurs

“Wait… was that art made for this challenge??? Impressive! I especially like how analysis was done to consider both opportunities and constraints. I think the larger impact of a player of this type may change much about the team dynamic, allowing for new interactions and new ways of playing existing maps. I also think there’s a large amount of complexity, which may make using this character in the heat of a paint fight challenging.”

We hope reading through these entries helps you think about video game accessibility in new ways while inspiring you to think about the players who would like to join you in gameplay if they were given mechanics they could use! 

 

We will be announcing our next one-button design challenge next week, on Friday, June 4th. We’d love to have your participation and the participation of your friends. Join our community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ThePlayabilityInitiative to participate.