When people visit Google.com, the Doodle team has a few seconds to entice them to interact with their games, illustrations, or historical facts. Google is inviting people to play an online multiplayer game similar to the arcade and classic phone game “Snake” this Halloween.
The new Google Doodle, like “Snake,” allows players to move across a map, collecting pixels that follow their character and grow longer. To participate, anyone can click on the Doodle to form two teams of four players with other internet strangers and try to collect as many “spirit flames” as possible while moving a little ghost around with a mouse. Teams can steal flames from each other as an added twist. After two minutes, the team with the most flames wins.
It’s a reimagining of one of Google’s most popular Doodles from 2018, “The Great Ghoul Duel.” Google has added new maps, characters, and a power-up this time. Players can also earn small hats for their characters as achievements. The Google Doodle was supposed to be reinstated in 2021, but it was postponed for a year. Google employees cited concerns about the number of people expected to visit the site and play its multiplayer game.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Jacob Howcroft, lead engineer on the Google Doodle, said, “It was just making sure that the servers were going to be reliable enough to launch for the huge amount of interest.”
Making a Halloween costume Aside from server issues, Google Doodle for the internet presented challenges: Children use Google, so the Doodle couldn’t be too spooky or frightening.
“You want it to stay very strictly in the fun zone,” said Nate Swineheart, the Google Doodle’s creative lead. “One of the early ideas for a new level was to create an abandoned amusement park.” It had great art and was a lot of fun, but it was a little risque. And we’re also coming off of a pandemic, so the idea of abandoned things may not strike the right tone.”
Instead, the Google Doodle team added a level set in a museum at night.
Despite the similarities to classic arcade games such as “Snake” and “Pac-Man,” Google Doodle employees insisted that they were inspired by popular, more elaborate multiplayer games such as Nintendo’s “Splatoon,” the online battle arena game “League of Legends,” and indie adventure game “Journey.”
“The unexpected inspiration was ‘Journey,’ which does a really good job of having a multiplayer aspect that rewards you for being with other people,” Swineheart explained. “To encourage cooperation, we added this buddy bonus where if you travel with someone else, they’ll reward you with more spirit flames.”
Googlers also learned from “League of Legends'” powerup system, which allows players to become stronger over time, and from Splatoon’s fast-paced team strategy.
Swineheart claims that Google’s Halloween Doodle is modeled after the far more complex progression system in “League,” in which players level up their champions, earn gold, and purchase items over time.
“When you collect 50 flames, you can go faster and through walls,” Swineheart explained. “As a reward, your power is increased as you play.”
Swineheart explained that the mechanic of having the chain of spirit flames grow longer and follow players around — making it easier for the opponent to steal them — was inspired by the battle mode in “Splatoon 3,” in which players can be followed around by a trail of clams. The “high risk, high reward” gameplay “balanced really well,” he said.
“However, it had nothing to do with ‘Snake.'” “I would never do it,” he said.
The Google Doodle is available from October 30 to October 31.