Super Animal Royale’s line of sight mechanic has a subtle visual impact on the game, too: the direction of light changes as you move around the map, which not only affords you a visual clue as to where enemies might be hiding, but also gives the 2D environment a greater sense of volume and depth.
Work began on Super Animal Royale in October 2017, with Silverwood and Pixile Studios co-founder Chris Clogg taking inspiration from other battle royale games they enjoyed, like H1Z1 and PUBG. The idea of having scowling cartoon animals blasting away at each other came about early on because, Silverwood says, he “really liked the juxtaposition” of 64-player violence and pastel-shaded whimsy.
“A lot of prototypes didn’t see the light of day, and then this one – we really liked how it was feeling,” Silverwood says. “So we decided to leave our jobs and go all-in again and try to do another game.”
Before Super Animal Royale, Pixile Studios’ first game was an iOS title called Stratosphere – a 2013 tower defence game that Silverwood and Clogg made while they were still studying computer science in high school. For a few years, day jobs intervened, but the pair never stopped playing around with various game ideas and prototypes – even Silverwood’s move from Vancouver to his current base of San Francisco didn’t stop the two collaborating remotely. Indeed, Super Animal Royale is something of a global operation these days; character artist Amy Deng is based in Los Angeles, while animator Erika Signini is based in the Milan area of Italy. Together, the team have spent the past year or so working on Super Animal Royale across separate time zones.
Super Animal Royale was built in Unity, while the neat line-of-sight lighting effect mentioned above was achieved by repurposing an existing Unity plugin. “That was really helpful because of the performance,” Silverwood tells us. “It can be a pretty taxing thing to be constantly calculating line of sight and doing the lighting that way, and so Unity definitely helped there, in making all that work.”
Currently in its beta phase at the time of writing, Super Animal Royale has a single last-critter-standing mode to its name, but Pixile has plans for lots more online play options, including a co-op mode and squads. As it stands, though, the game’s already an absorbing and tense little shooter; the range of weapons, from samurai swords to sniper rifles, are satisfying to use, while the game’s sole vehicle – a hamster ball – allows you to zip around the map, gleefully running rival players over.
As in the games that inspired it, there’s a certain thrill to dropping into the battle zone, hunting for weapons, and taking out your rivals in a hail of lead. That you can do this while in the guise of a panda wearing a top hat and monocle merely adds to the charm – plus, you can even do a little victory dance at the end if you want to. Once again, it’s the little details that count.
Maps to the stars
Like a lot of developers, Michael Silverwood and Chris Clogg first got into game design by creating their own maps for games like Team Fortress when they were kids.
“We were making maps for Warcraft 3 and Team Fortress,” Silverwood recalls. “So we were never professionally working on games, but it was a hobby for a really long time. We always wanted to do it.”
As many budding designers know, modding and making maps is a great way to learn the basics of game development. And while it’s early days, Silverwood doesn’t rule out the possibility of adding a map editor to Super Animal Royale.
“It’s definitely something we’d like to do,” Silverwood says. “We already have our own map-making tool that we use to build the map; because it’s so big, we really needed a custom map-maker. Right now, Chris just uses it, but it would be nice, in the future, to polish it up, put a nice UI over everything, and let people make maps.”