A giant monster is on the loose! March 12 marked the invasion of the giant 100-foot shark monster, Omegalodon. Built on the Unity engine, Omegalodon is an open-world third-person multiplayer action title, featuring the title character rampaging around a vast city filled with hapless humans.
Taking traditional multiplayer combat in a unique direction, players choose between the soldiers/police defending the city or the giant monster Omegalodon and the crazy Enviros trying to protect him.
This fishy fiend was unleashed by North of Earth, otherwise known as the one-man development team named Alex Allen. Allen founded the company a year ago in Chicago, taking the reins of North of Earth’s many duties himself. He seeks to follow his mission statement, a goal of “creating games that capture the ethereal, immersive quality that everyone recognizes, yet few can quantify.” While Allen confesses that he’s not entirely sure what that entails, he’s confident that Omegalodon follows this philosophy.
I took a moment to ask Allen about the monster and its origins. “Omegalodon, a 100-foot shark monster and the last of his kind, finds himself washed up on the shore of Myrantius, an island at the heart of global conglomerate Pressworth Multinational,” said Allen. “He finds himself urged by Trudy, a naive and slightly psychotic scientist, to destroy the nuclear reactor at the city center.”
This premise helps set up Omegalodon’s multiplayer objectives. “Gameplay-wise, Omegalodon is a bit like a backward, free-roaming tower defense game where dozens of players fight to take down a rampaging monster with masses of health,” Allen said. “At their disposal are around forty unique vehicles including cars, trucks, jets, tanks, helicopters, and ships.”
With each group of humans having picked a side, the question of who gets to control the monster arises. Only one person can tear down the city Godzilla-style, but Allen hopes to make the humans every bit as enticing to play. “Each class is attractive in its own way,” explains Allen. “So right now, while the game is small, I’m trusting people to play nice. Once the round ends, the monster slot frees up again. If necessary, I will add an auto-balance feature and random selection.”
Most multiplayer titles have their share of balance issues and Omegalodon is no exception. I asked Allen what kind of balance problems he ran into. Surprisingly, most of the problems involved the monster being overwhelmed. “Early versions of the game had the monster facing off alone against the humans. It was fun and hectic, but felt irritating as Omegalodon struggled to hit moving targets. The humans tended to crowd around him and things quickly became monotonous.” With the monster outnumbered, Allen decided to even the odds a bit. He adds, “At this point I decided to add the Enviros, a support class who can also man vehicles to fight other humans at their own level.”
Players controlling the monster are rewarded for destruction with health boosts. Interestingly, Allen found himself needing to tweak things further in favor of the monster after some of his testers proved themselves to be a little too clever. “Another decision was to make every act of destruction heal the monster,” explained Allen. “Originally, only buildings felled by Omegalodon himself would provide a health boost, so the Red team would zoom around destroying the city and depriving him of any way to regenerate. Now they are equipped with explosive weapons that deal collateral damage, making anti-monster combat a more strategic affair.” In other words, look out for friendly fire!
Remarkably, Omegalodon’s development was primarily a solo effort, with the exception of the music and voice acting. Allen points out some of the advantages to solo development, noting, “One of the advantages of working alone is being perpetually aware of all the interacting parts of the machine. I knew how changing one piece of code would affect another, and the game is relatively simple, so thankfully there weren’t a monumental number of bugs.”
Of course, Allen is only one man and that can make testing a multiplayer title a challenge. Fortunately, Allen had some help and a good feedback system to get around this. “Testing was conducted by friends, and inadvertently by the fans during the first hours of release,” said Allen. After receiving early feedback, Allen notes that most issues have been taken care of, stating, “Everything is running smoothly now!”
Now that Omegalodon has been released to the public, Allen has some ideas for post-release content. He also notes, however, that popularity will play a factor into whether it sees the light of day. “I have a lot of ideas in mind – vehicles, scripted events, maps,” said Allen. “Whether or not I add them is a matter of how popular the game becomes.”
Allen is already hard at work on North of Earth’s next game, but is keeping those details under wraps, for now. The immediate future will see him supporting the Omegalodon community. Those looking to get a look at Omegalodon can purchase the game for PC and Mac for $9.99 from the game’s Desura and Indievania.
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