In the '90s I used to play a shareware game called Capture the Flag, a turn-based version of the sport that was pure and literal—two teams running across a field to steal each other's flags. Later, capture the flag turned up as a mode in multiplayer games like Unreal Tournament, Halo, and Quake, but even the oddest Quake mod didn't reinvent capture the flag quite as strangely as Oh My Godheads.
Spanish indie studio Titutitech (with help from the Square Enix Collective) have turned it into a local multiplayer game that has more in common with Towerfall than an FPS, or the stately turn-based game I played against the AI when I was young. In Oh My Godheads the flags are Easter Island-style statues, each one the cranium of a god like Zeus or Bastet.
Sometimes the godheads turn on you as you race back to your base (Zeus blasts lightning, Bastet reverses your controls). Your opponents, which may include a skeleton and a fancy penguin in a top hat, can collect weapons like exploding pies or a foot that summons a giant leg from the sky to stomp everyone. The levels are temples in exotic locations that look like places Indiana Jones is about to swing through.
Oh My Godheads is very over-the-top and while I didn't have as much fun playing it solo I did with that DOS shareware game, as soon as I convinced someone else to join me it turned into the kind of messy brawl that, like Gang Beasts or BattleBlock Theater, has you shouting at the screen.
I talked to developer Federico Sauret about the origins of Oh My Godheads, and why it has giant feet as well as heads.
PC GAMER: What was the initial idea? Was it the godheads?
FEDERICO SAURET: When we started our game we wanted to be couch multiplayer, it was just about the flag—actually it wasn't the flag, it was a trophy because it was the one asset we found on the internet for free. We were carrying trophies here and there and when our artist started to sketch ideas, I don't know why, he decided to put eyes on the trophy.
Then we thought, "Hey, how about the trophy plays against you and is evil and after a while carrying the trophy it will eat you?" That's how the whole idea came out. We decided because it was working, it was fun, we decided to have different ones.
The gods having different effects is interesting. Bastet is the one I hate—I hate having my controls reversed.
Now most of them are against you, but originally we wanted to have half of the gods evil, half of them good, so you will sometimes gain an advantage when you carry the god. We realized through playtests and especially going to game shows that people loved when they were getting screwed. The harder it was, the more they laughed. Even the people carrying them. We always start teaching the game with Bastet.
Talk to me about the power-ups. They have a lot of personality too, the foot especially.
Everything we did, including the heads, we say is "play-centric design." We add things and if it's fun, keep it. If it's not, remove it, then keep going. We had hundreds of ideas for gods and for items, and kept trying, kept trying, always trying to do something funny. At some point we were really ambitious, probably over-ambitious, and we wanted the game to have big gods over there doing things and all that. We designed the leg to be there as, I don't know, the leg of Zeus? It's especially funny when people don't know that it's there and then all of a sudden a giant leg will appear.
What makes it especially funny to me is it reminds me of the Monty Python foot.
Yeah, I have to say we are big fans of Monty Python.
You mentioned taking the game to shows—it does seem like the kind of game that would go down well at a convention. What's the reaction been?
Reaction is really good. Actually for us it's been the key element for this game to be able to go to shows—thanks to Square Enix we could go to many, also we went to others on our own—and see people playing. We could develop a lot of the game based on their reaction to things. See where they were having problems, what type of heads were fun or not and so on. It was also really good for us in terms of raising our energy, because we are only four people on the team working on this game. We are putting in a lot of hours, always focused on the thing. Being able to go out and see people playing and reacting to the game—usually people laughing and shouting, sometimes insulting each other.
We are still learning new ways of playing. What surprised us a little is that even parents will enjoy with their kids. In shows especially you get a lot of teenagers that go together or kids can go with their parents. Often it was like one parent and one kid, the kid wanted to play, the father or the mother didn't want to play. We convinced them to play, tell them it's easy and you're gonna get it. They do and they have fun, and they end laughing and with a smile. It's really, I don't know how to say the English, but it's really making us happy to see that.
Do you play a lot of multiplayer games together as a team?
We actually came up with this idea because we were already playing a lot of local multiplayer games, even sometimes gathering with other friends and playing super old games, like Nintendo 64 multiplayer games. When Towerfall or Nidhogg came out we saw it was possible to do a multiplayer game nowadays and to make it your project as an indie. That gave us the courage to say, "OK. Let's do it. Let's lift our safety net and do this."
You mentioned Nidhogg, and one of the trials that it and other indie multiplayer games face is going beyond local to online. Is that something you would like to do for Oh My Godheads?
At the moment no. We designed the game to be offline. Making it online of course would expand the audience and we get many people asking us, "Please make it online!" We would love to but the game is designed to be offline and we think the best fun is offline at the moment.
One other thing I wanted to ask you about is the trailer and especially the country song that's in it because it seems like such an unusual choice.
One of our collaborators is an American guy who loves country and making music and the funny thing about this trailer, which actually has worked really well, he did everything. He did the script, he did the music, he did the singing, and he even did the trailer—the composition of the images. He did that using a Nintendo DS. There's some application that lets you do little videos so all the preparation for the trailer he did with a Nintendo DS.
He's not with us now—he's alive, he doesn't work in the company. He's a collaborator, but any other project we do the first thing I will do is ask him, "Can you please make us a trailer?" Because that trailer has opened many doors to us.
It's definitely memorable. So are things like the crashed UFO in the pyramid level, and the eye on the pyramid. Do you have stories behind odd things about the levels like that? Is there 'lore' to Oh My Godheads?
Yes and no. The game is inspired by action movies from the '80s and '90s, especially things like Indiana Jones and everything around treasure hunting or even games like Tomb Raider. We wanted to go with funny stereotypes from those movies and then add our own crazy touch to it. We decided to come up with different places in the world and of course Egypt had to be there. The eye and the aliens around the UFO, it's just to make it more crazy, party, funny. There's a good number of little surprises or details that are in the level but pretty much never show, just when the camera happens to show them.
Things like the fossils underneath the ground.
Every level we tried to do something different in terms of gameplay so there is one simple level, which is the pyramid, that level is where people are supposed to learn to play, and then we have one level where there's just one base and you have to fight for a switch to change the color of the base. There's another level with giant boulders that make it really hard to traverse. There's levels that play with height and you have to keep jumping or take shortcuts and stuff like that.
What's next for you? Oh My Godheads comes out next month, do you have an idea for your next project already?
Our idea when we began as a company was to make local multiplayer games and focus on that, specialize on that. We are moving onto online because we see the audience really wants it but we want to keep specializing in offline, so we will try to do something—we are starting the next project now and trying to see if we can bring the two worlds together into something.
Aside from that we really hope Oh My Godheads will work well because we do have lots of ideas that we would like to keep adding to the game if things go well. We also hope to have some collaborations with other game developers to have characters based on theirs or godheads based on them. We are in talks here and there with things like that and we hope to keep adding content. But it will depend on the success of the game.
Oh My Godheads is in Early Access and will be released in full on December 5.