Image courtesy of Odyssey Interactive

Odyssey Interactive, a new studio composed of former Riot Games devs, talks about creating multiplatform game Omega Strikers

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Founded in 2020 by ex-Riot Games developers Dax Andrus, David Capurro, Eric Lawless, and Richard Henkel, Odyssey Interactive is an independent Canadian game development studio that strives to develop competitive games that would break the stereotype of such games having toxic communities. Equipped with years of experience they got while working on such titles as League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics; the developers aim to inspire players from all over the world by delivering exciting PvP games and building welcoming communities around them.

In recent weeks, the team also secured $19 million in a Series A funding round led by Makers Fund and released their debut title Omega Strikers, a multi-platform, free-to-play competitive 3v3 knockout striker, in beta, planning to integrate the beta players’ feedback into the game to “hit the aspirational height.” The upcoming game is powered by Unreal Engine and is set to release in February 2023 on PC, consoles, and mobile devices.
We spoke with Odyssey Interactive to better understand their approach to developing games and learn more about the upcoming release, Omega Strikers’ main gameplay mechanics and art style, how the Riot experience influences their vision, and how Unreal Engine helps them turn their creative ideas into reality.

Can you tell us more about how Omega Strikers got started?

We left Riot not really knowing what genre of game we wanted to make, but we knew we wanted to build a game with specific attributes. We wanted it to feel approachable and intuitive, have a meaningful depth of mastery, and have unique gameplay.

We started by looking to merge the attributes of games that we thought met those goals and ended up with something that felt a little like a combination of League of Legends and Smash Bros. It was a little like the old Dota mod Pudge Wars, and it was a lot of fun, but it felt like it could use something else to spice it up.

We experimented with different mechanics to try and get that spice but quickly landed on the ball/puck. It added a feeling of approachability to the game while also adding another layer of depth, having players need to balance their focus between fighting other players and knocking the ball around to score.

We spent a few months prototyping the “ball mode” and began testing it with college students from across the country—we found they had resoundingly positive feedback and got more and more excited to make that game a reality.

How did your Riot experience influence your initial vision?

We learned a ton during our time at Riot–it’s the best place to work to understand modern live-service game development. Riot has an unrelenting focus on the player experience and an earnest belief that if you do right by your players, they will do right by you.

We got experience managing live gameplay, developing cosmetic content, building prototypes in R&D, and publishing games in a player-focused way. To be honest, we wanted to take most of these principles and apply them to what we were doing.

We want to develop games that have the same level of player impact as those at Riot – where decades from now, players will fondly remember the time they spent, the skills they gained, and the friends they made playing our games, just like we do with League of Legends. That’s been at the core of the studio, and Omega Strikers, since day one.
Image courtesy of Odyssey Interactive
How would you describe Omega Strikers’ art style?

The game’s art style is strongly anime-inspired. I’d call it a blend of Genshin Impact, Overwatch, and Splatoon. We’re huge fans of anime at the studio and believe it’s an aesthetic that is only going to grow in impact and prominence, especially globally.

We set out to develop an art style that would be hopeful and energetic. We wanted the overall style and creative direction of the game to feel like it accentuated your highs when you performed well and blunted your lows when you had a tough game. The personality, color, and overall feeling of the characters and the world we’re building should feel like an optimistic view of a future world where people are united behind a passion for play.

What can you tell us about Omega Strikers’ gameplay mechanics?

The mechanics of Omega Strikers are a little familiar and a little wild. It took us a while to land on the exact blend of ingredients we have now. The main mechanic you notice immediately is the core, our word for the ball or puck. It bounces around at high speeds and keeps you on the edge of your seat. We decided to treat it more like a puck in air hockey than a ball in soccer and keep it detached from players to make the game more dynamic, or as we say internally, “raucous.”

We wanted the primary actions a player takes in the game to feel cohesive and fluid, so we also built out a PvP combat system focused on knocking players back rather than draining a health bar to K.O. them. We thought this was important because it created consistency between actions a player takes to move the core and actions a player takes to fight opposing players. We liked this combat system because we felt it had a lot of the dynamism of Smash Bros, where positioning in a fight really matters and knocking opponents off the arena feels a little over the top.
Image courtesy of Odyssey Interactive
What influenced your decision to choose Unreal Engine for the project?

Our first major technical decision as a studio was whether to choose Unreal Engine or Unity for our games. Based on our experience operating League of Legends, there were a few critical features that we felt our engine needed to have in order to let us quickly build out a live service game with a small, design-led team: solid networking foundations out of the box, visual scripting to allow designers to build and iterate on the core of the game itself, a complete and coherent UI framework to allow non-engineers to prototype and build out features, and the ability to change the engine itself in order to fix bugs or make customizations to support our designs.

From our perspective, Epic Games’ experience shipping their own games made with Unreal Engine has led to great outcomes in each of those areas and produced extras like the Gameplay Ability System, which allowed us to focus on building actual gameplay from day one.

Why did you decide to make the game free-to-play?

For a competitive multiplayer game, free-to-play is the way to go, at least in our opinion. This is something we learned at Riot, and I believe it is something that has been learned widely throughout the industry. The health of competitive multiplayer games depends on matchmaking time and quality, which is easier to manage with the larger player bases that free-to-play games allow for. Beyond the pure mechanics of running the live service, free-to-play games also enable anyone around the world to dive in and have fun, which is a big motivator for us. We don’t want anyone to feel locked out of playing Omega Strikers due to a price tag.
Image courtesy of Odyssey Interactive
How did you make sure that Omega Strikers’ characters look and feel unique?

When designing characters, we focus on three core attributes—gameplay fantasy, visual or thematic identity, and narrative background. We tend to start with a gameplay fantasy and attempt to develop a kit that either feels like it delivers on a playstyle that’s underserved in the game or introduces new mechanics and interactions in ways that enrich the core gameplay. Then, we play the character and start asking ourselves how it feels to play as them, against them, and such.

From there, we take those insights and start developing an identity for the character. We think through thematics or backgrounds that seem to build on the feeling of playing them in-game. Once we have some rough ideas, we start thinking through how they interact with other characters we’ve built to make sure they’re inhabiting a unique space. In that process, we usually create a few options, kick them around with the team, and see what sticks.

Then, all the finer details of the character start coming together, and their visual identity begins to take shape. We’ll develop them in a lineup alongside other characters to make sure they stand out uniquely.

When designing gameplay, how did you achieve the right balance making sure it feels competitive yet not frustrating?

This is always something that’s pretty difficult to do. Competition can pretty easily bring out those feelings of frustration if not managed right. From the beginning, we tried to design the whole creative vision for the game around the idea that the visuals, the audio, and the gameplay should all give you positive vibes. We wanted to have the creative direction reduce the feeling of intensity rather than heighten it–Splatoon is an awesome example of such an approach.

From the gameplay perspective, the biggest win for us here is the game duration. We’ve had countless players tell us that, even when they lose, they just want to slam the “Play Again” button because the game duration is so short. I think this allows wins to feel better than losses to feel bad, which helps players stay out of being truly frustrated.
Image courtesy of Odyssey Interactive
How difficult is it to do cross-platform multiplayer that works and feels right?

It’s definitely not easy! We’re relatively new to it, so we took an approach that felt like it would help us learn how to do cross-platform development right. From day one, we playtested our game across platforms, with 50% of the team playing on mobile and 50% on PC. We kept to this throughout the development of the game to make sure that we weren’t ignoring parts of the experience on one platform, which would later come back to bite us.

This helped us stay on top of the major challenges you normally face with cross-platform multiplayer development—camera and controls. It allowed us to stay honest about our constraints and make sure that the experience felt strong across platforms.

Do you plan to collaborate with other franchises to prepare fun content for players, or do you prefer to focus on new Omega Strikers-focused content in the future?

We’re pumped about the future of Omega Strikers—we think our brightest days are ahead of us as we move out of beta and into our full cross-platform launch, and we’ve got exciting plans for the future.

We’re definitely going to focus on developing more of our own IPs—new characters, lore events, skins, and cosmetics. Building out the Omega IP is important to us because we want it to live across multiple games and, hopefully, different creative mediums (we’d love to make an anime one day).

That said, we’re looking to collaborate with the right franchises for the future. They’d have to be IPs that have high resonance with our players, but we’ve got some in mind. The anime style of the game opens up a lot of possibilities for collaborations with anime studios in ways that feel authentic to our players.
Image courtesy of Odyssey Interactive
How difficult is it to find the right motivation and reward for players to ensure they have enough motivation to keep playing?

This is probably the most difficult part of game development. There aren’t any simple tricks, but there are some frameworks you can apply to help build a game with great retention. First, think through who is playing your game and why—what do they get out of the experience? Then think through how you intend to meet those needs, as their motivation to play is likely connected intimately to those needs. That can be the core of the motivation for your players and should probably be something intrinsically rewarding (for example, I’m growing my skill, I’m enjoying time with my friends, and such). Once you’ve got that in place, you can supplement with extrinsic motivators to help give little nudges to play more (for example, login bonuses, battlepass rewards, and such).

What are your current plans? Where can we follow the progress?

Currently, we are focused on preparing for the full launch of the game! We’re getting it ready across mobile and console and preparing a large-scale update to the game to celebrate the full launch. This will mean new characters, updates to gameplay systems, a new ranked season, a new battlepass, and tons of quality-of-life improvements across the game. That’s all looking to drop in February of 2023 and if you want to stay on top of the progress with it, follow us on Twitter, join our Discord, and wishlist the game on Steam. We’d love to have you in the community!

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