DEV Blog: Spirit Cleanser Game Mechanics

All the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master. They should reward the first quarter and the hundredth.

— Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, on the subject of video game design.

This particular aphorism is oft repeated, yet it’s still a statement I agree with. As a designer, one of my main goals is to create mechanics that are accessible to everyone, but those who truly understand their limits can push the ceiling as high it can go.

Let’s use Overwatch as an example. Overwatch is a team-based FPS shooter, with a character called Lucio. Lucio has the ability to ride walls, and speed boost his team. Not too difficult to understand. I thought I grasped the idea pretty well. But then you have professional streamers: they show complete mastery of these elements, using them to be untouchable murder machines riding rings around the enemy team.

Wall riding can be difficult to learn…
A great Lucio example
But you can use it to great effect.

That’s why in developing this prototype, my intention is to have game mechanics that can be combined for riveting gameplay. I’ve been calling it “Non fare malocchio”, since it’s inspired from the Italian folklore about the evil eye, but “Spirit Cleanser” is a bit more to the point. Essentially, in this game you can project your spirit out into the world to “possess” and “cleanse” evil spirits from enemies.

There are three core mechanics to the gameplay that can be combined: spirit projection/dashing, enemy cleansing, and spirit leaping. Here’s how they work, and how they complement each other:

Spirit Projection/Dashing

The player project their spirit and traverse the world with it, leaving their body behind. When projecting the spirit, it will dash out into the world at a fast speed. It can be projected in all directions.

Spirit Projection
The player can project their spirit.

Enemy Cleansing

If the spirit collides with an enemy while dashing, it will “possess” them, and be able to “cleanse” them. This is done through a series of button presses.

Enemy Cleansing
The player’s spirit can cleanse enemies.

Spirit Leaping

To reunite the body and spirit, the body leaps from its current position to the spirit. If the leap button is held down, extra momentum will be added to the body once the spirit is reconnected.

Spirit Leaping
The player’s body can leap back to the spirit.

Combining the spirit dashing, enemy cleansing, and leaping to spirit mechanics makes for a game experience that is easy to learn yet difficult to master.

The game mechanics combined
Combining these elements makes for complex and rewarding gameplay.

I’m hoping that these base mechanics are enough to carry my idea while I flesh out the prototype more. No doubt, they will need to be revisited, and then revisited again, but for now the building blocks of what I’m trying to achieve are in a playable scene: that ticks the box for me.

My next goal is to create some more enemies to really test the mechanics and create captivating game moments! These elements seem to be fun now, but they have to hold up to a multitude of different enemies and environments.

Until next time!

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