Oddbird co-founder talks about bird-centric, arrow-focused gameplay in Arrow Heads.
Have you ever wanted to play an archery game, competing against your friends while playing as a bird? Of course you have. Like an isometric, arena-style version of Towerfall, Arrow Heads is all about eliminating your foes with arrows. There are a variety of arrows to use and it’s even possible to flop into your enemies when dead. Yes, really.
GamingBolt spoke to Brendan Muir, co-founder of OddBird, to learn more about Arrow Heads especially with the game heading to Xbox One and PS4 in early 2018.
"We have witnessed many different styles thus far but I’ll only focus on 3 types right now — deflectors, dashers and runners."
With the party multiplayer space filled with many different titles, what inspired the concept for Arrow Heads?
A member of the team, Zack, is a fan of archery. His interest encouraged us to explore creating a core mechanic around shooting an arrow.
When designing the game, how tough was it to get that perfect balance of casual fun and skill-based play?
We did a lot of playtesting. Using the right stick can be pretty tricky to shoot with at first. We had to play around with the aiming speed, movement speed, and arrow homing to find that sweet spot for any player, casual or hard-core, to be able to pick up a controller and start shooting people successfully. The goal was to allow everyone to experience the raw fun you get from playing. But we also wanted the skill growth for the more hard-core gamer. That comes from things like deflecting, dashing and jumping, which players can use to create their own strategies or styles of play.
How do matches usually play out in Arrow Heads, especially with the ability to deflect arrows and flop around as a corpse?
It really depends on the type of players who are playing. We have witnessed many different styles thus far but I’ll only focus on 3 types right now — deflectors, dashers and runners. Deflectors focus their game on deflecting arrows. This means they won’t avoid arrows but attempt to deflect the arrow. Usually in a shoot first, then defect pattern. They are usually high targets but they are not moving as much; instead, they are waiting for arrows to come at them.
Very offensive. Dashers are all about getting away. Taking a dash and shoot approach. Runners typically try to avoid the chaos and focus on shooting players from a distance or from a quieter area of the map. Typically though as players increase in skills they will move farther away from each other. A game with new players will see a ton of close range arrow spamming whereas a game with experienced players will see more long range shoots.
Corpse flopping starts off as a way for new players to have fun after they die. But as the match heats up, it turns into a fierce attempt to annoy the heck out the the player in the lead.
"We have 5 additional birds to unlock including a university cardinal, a posh crow and our favourite, a penguin in a mech-suit."
What are some of the different weapons that players can use to get the leg up on the competition?
Well, every player is handed a standard bow and arrow. So there is no advantage there. Just player skill. But as you play, arrow power-ups will fall from the sky. There are five types of arrow power-ups: fire arrows, scatter shot arrows, tesla arrows, bear trap arrow and rocket arrows.
Fire arrows will set a player on fire along with eliminating them. However the fun doesn’t stop there. A missed shot will create a bonfire. If a player runs into a bonfire, they will catch on fire and be sent into a frenzy. After 3 seconds they will be eliminated. However, if they are able to run into another player, they can spread the fire and receive a point for eliminating that player. Scatter shots are our shotgun blast arrow. Upon firing the arrow it spreads out into 5 arrows. It is a great way to eliminate multiple players at once or eliminate a player with armor in a single shot. A task which usually takes 2.
Tesla arrows offer a lot a strategy to your play. Each tesla coil links up with a beam of electricity. It is a great way to trap players into a small area. But it is also a dangerous trap for those not paying attention. Pro tip: the coil can also explode. Bear traps are exactly as they sound! Your arrows are bear traps! You can use them like standard arrows for the one hit elimination or you can place a trap and have your opponent flail frantically for 5 seconds while you line up your shot.
Last but definitely not least are the rocket arrows. They are heat seeking and explode. Not even armour can stop them. If you see them on the battlefield, I recommend a mad dash to pick them up!
Could you tell us some of the different challenges in the co-op mode? Can players have different modifiers or difficulties if they want to play for extended periods of time?
The co-op mode is a wave-based challenge where you take on menacing bears. It is a 25 wave challenge that increases in difficulty as you progress. Currently, it only has the one challenge type. We have been working on some designs for modifiers, but don’t want to make any promises.
What can players unlock with bird seed? In terms of special bows and cosmetics, what are some of the items to look forward to?
The bird seed can be spent on player skins, bow skins and arrow skins. We have 5 additional birds to unlock including a university cardinal, a posh crow and our favourite, a penguin in a mech-suit. For the bows, there are 6 extra to unlock. 4 match the bird skins and the rest are zany — specific examples are the fishing rod bow and the super mystical invisible bow.
The custom arrows are not quite arrows… If you have a fishing rod bow, then you’ll definitely need to switch your arrows for fish! But you can also choose from guitars, mailboxes and rainbow unicorns. Each “arrow” has a matching arrow trail and unique whooshing sound effect.
"The biggest issue we faced with match-making had to do with regions. Arrow Heads matches players based on what region they are in."
How many maps are there in the game and will there be any new maps in the future? What are some of the challenges you faced when trying to balance the maps and make them unique?
There are 10 maps in Arrow Heads — 7 for arena mode and 3 for arcade. Pathing and space were probably the biggest considerations when designing the levels. The maps need to encourage the players to move around, otherwise a player could become trapped and an easy target. That was often a challenge because we were dealing with a stationary camera so the entire map had to fit on the screen and we only had so much space to work with.
Making the maps unique was the fun part! We wanted every map to be interactive in one way or another. For example, the rooftop map has a fan you can hover on, the ruins map has a mischievous laser eye that can stun you, and on El Polo, you can get hit by a car.
In terms of online matchmaking, what are some of the issues you had to work out and improve upon? How will online functionality be improved in the coming days?
The biggest issue we faced with match-making had to do with regions. Arrow Heads matches players based on what region they are in. Unfortunately, there was a conflict between the region Steam was assigning players and the region our servers were assigning players. This made it difficult for players to either connect to a server or find players once connected. Fortunately, we were able to catch this bug fairly quickly so players can now successfully connect with one another.
Can players look forward to more content like new cosmetics and weapons, new modes, etc.?
While we do have ideas for new content they are on hold at this time. If we receive enough requests from our fans then we may proceed with them. We’ll have to wait and see.
What has the response to Arrow Heads been thus far?
The reception has been pretty good. As mentioned, we did ship with the match-making bug which attributed to some negative reviews. It still is a little difficult to find people online due to the current number of active players but those that are playing are really enjoying it. We have witnessed this with streamers who have covered us and the fans that come to play repeatedly at the shows we attend.