Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 2020
We got the chance to speak to Gwenael Limpalaer from the team at GrosChevaux about their upcoming competitive party-game Unspottable:
How would you describe Unspottable to someone who had never heard of the game?
Unspottable is a competitive multiplayer game for two to four players, where you have to blend in with a group of AIs whilst also trying to spot the other players. Once you are confident you have spotted a player, you have to discreetly get close to them and take them out with a punch!
The game is played in several rounds across different environments, with each usually lasting a couple of minutes where players can earn or lose points. A full game can be played in 10, 20 or even 99 points depending on how long you want the game to be!
At the start of a round, you don’t know which player you are controlling – any indication would give the information away to all the players, so you have to figure it out by seeing which character is responding to your controls.
That can be a bit weird for people who have never played to get their head around, but usually after one or two rounds, they are able to find their character very quickly, and that specificity introduces really good mind games – we always see new players pretending they don’t know where they are while sneakily approaching their target.
How many levels will there be in the full game and which one would you say is your personal favourite?
There will be at least twelve levels, as we already have them at different stages of completion, from ready to just prototyped.
Then we have a long list of ideas and concepts we still want to explore. If we don’t have time to do that, we’ll probably add some after release.
My personal favourite is ‘Gym’. It takes place in a sort of aerobics class where an instructor periodically shouts ‘3..2..1..Go’ and then throws a forward punch, with all the bots doing the same with a slight random delay.
It brings a few elements to the gameplay:
- A rhythm game aspect to the level, where players have to punch more or less in sync with the instructor or they’ll be obvious.
- Some very quick intense moments where everyone punches at the same time, so players have to position themselves, avoid punches and observe everywhere in case someone is not following the instructions.
- A lot of strategy and anticipation in the placements. Everybody punches forward on the ‘Go’, so you have to make sure you are facing someone you want to punch but also avoid being in reach of anyone else.
There is also a really cool lighting ambience with mirrors in the background and the character design and animations are really fun!
One interesting feature I saw listed on the game’s Steam page was that there are ‘different side quests and mechanics with each level to create new strategies.’ What exactly are these and how do they change up the gameplay?
The side quests are something the player can do to win a round without necessarily spotting or punching the other players.
For example, in the ‘Sushi Bar’ level, there is a conveyor belt going around the game area with sushi plates on it. There are four specific types of sushi that the player can collect – if they get all four of them they can then win the round by leaving the sushi bar and that gives them two points.
So they are usually quite tempting as you can get more points and don’t have to take the risk to punch anyone, but other players might see you grab the sushi so it can also give you away!
We see different kinds of players with this mechanic; some really focus on the side quests and some ignore them and are just playing for the punching. Personally, I like to do a bit of both – collecting sushi carefully and also observing the other players.
As for level specific mechanics, we introduce a small new concept in every level: it can be bomb dropping from the sky or AIs starting to punch. These can take out a player and make them lose a point. Or just environment objects that let the players trick each other or force them into acting a certain way, like moving obstacles which they can hide behind and punch in discretion or spotlights moving around the game area that reveals whether a character is a player or an AI.
The AI of the robots itself is something that affects the gameplay differently with each level. If the robots are not running much and standing on the spot a lot, the players can do the same and observe more. On the opposite, in some levels like ‘Factory’ the robots are faulty and always running erratically, changing direction all the time and walking into walls, so the players are forced to do the same and it makes it much harder to spot your opponents while doing that.
I’ve noticed there’s a ‘distract’ option in-game too. How exactly will players get to distract their opponents in Unspottable?
The ‘distract’ mechanic is there to give a second chance to players. After a player punches and misses, the other player will know exactly which character they are controlling, so there needed to be a way to reset that, otherwise every mistake would be fatal. To distract the attention of all the players, we came up with a few different ways:
- Something happening on the side of the game area and the camera zooming on it for a few seconds, so people don’t see their character anymore but can still control and change position.
- In a level the lights turn off, so it becomes very dark and you can barely see the eyes of the characters so it’s quite hard to keep track of one.
- In another one, a group of five identically looking characters come around the player, so instead of tracking one, opponents then need to track six characters.
Chaotic party games like this are a LOT of fun to play when you’ve got friends around (and maybe a few beers). Some people can’t always get together with their friends locally all the time though – do you plan on adding an online component to Unspottable to help solve this or will it be local play only?
We grew up playing multiplayer games all the time and even now we always prefer meeting to play together rather than online, so that’s why we designed a game perfect for that. There are a lot of mind games at play and we are absolutely encouraging a sneaky look at your friend’s controller to see if they actually are the character that has been standing still for two minutes!
That being said, we have also worked to make sure the game runs smoothly using streaming services like steam remote play or Parsec and it does work very well.
The gameplay is not altered at all by the streaming, there is just a bit of loss in terms of graphics for the people streaming depending on the connection. We used that as a proof of concept for an online mode and are now considering it, but it probably won’t be included in the first release.
Which member of your team is the BEST at Unspottable? Has it been fun developing a party game like this together?
I think I was the best for quite a while as I’m the one who was in charge of the AIs. It’s a bit obvious for me when a character behaves in an odd way. But now that we have a lot of different gameplay mechanics and that the
other two members of the team have also spent a lot of their time seeing these AIs, I think it’s pretty much level.
It’s been great working in such a small team with long-time friends – we can be very open about every aspect of the project. The fact that it’s a party game with separate levels really lets us explore any game design and environments ideas with very few restrictions, so we end up with levels in very varied places: Prison, Sushi restaurant, Schoolyard, Spaceships…
It’s also quite intense to work with friends, so we make sure we take time for breaks and play games together. These days we play Don’t Starve Together during our breaks and we also have a daily challenge where we pick a fictional character from our childhood (cartoon, comic book, video games) and we have to draw it from memory, just to make sure we stay friends and have fun while working together.
When is Unspottable releasing and on what platforms?
There isn’t an official release date yet, but it is planned for October 2020.
We are currently working on the Xbox One porting and if all goes according to plan, we’ll release simultaneously on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Finally, can you tell us something about the game that no one outside of the development team knows?
That’s a difficult one, there are a quite few mechanics we prototyped and shelved for various reasons, but for something that is in the game, all the different avatars people can select are based on people we know. Some of them are obvious, like three avatars look a lot like the development team, and some others are more private jokes for us such as the dinosaur face.