Amoeba Battle
Dev Blog

The Queen Amoeba

April 6, 2020

Hello again! everyone I'm Paul, Grab's QA manager and I would like to start this blog post with a question. Ever heard of the term Force multiplier? In the context of warfare, it refers to a factor that gives a squad the ability to accomplish goals they normally are incapable of meeting. That's exactly what the Queen Amoeba enables the player's army to do.

The Queen is a long range unit, just like her fellow herbivores. Enemy units that are hit by her attack take double damage. The Queen upgrade, Royal Pain, changes the debuff to a triple damage one. The effect of this penalty is devastating to enemy units as it allows the player to very quickly wipe out what would have otherwise been a reliable frontline army.

The strength of the Queen benefits from the player's ability to create a healthy mix of : a) Strong omnivore and carnivore units that act as the frontline and are the main attack force and/or b) Well fed Wasps and Stingrays that can back up the frontline from distance. Pair a Queen with an Alpha and you end up with a high damage combination that can deal chunks of damage in a small amount of time. Form a Queen + Wasp combo and you have a devastating firing squad that instantly annihilates enemies from a safe position. Because of the strength of its capabilities, the Queen tends to be a priority target for opposing players. Consider having an Ursa stay near a Queen, and you end up prolonging its life because of the former's damage sharing capabilities.

One key tip I'd like to share is to try and make 2 to 3 Queens that always follow the frontline army. Upon engaging an enemy force, use the attack move command with your frontline units selected to have them automatically engage the hostile army. While this is happening, manually command your Queens to spread out their debuff amongst different targets. This ensures that more of them end up being weakened, thus hastening the elimination of the enemy front line. Just be sure to pay attention to any potential flankers that attempt to kill your queens through the back line.

I will discuss the Queen's other upgrade (enables you to generate Royal Algae when fully fed) in a tactics oriented blog. Queens are a game changer in all phases of the game so I'm interested to see people try them out during their play sessions. Thanks once again for supporting us and I look forward to playing with all of you soon!

Top 10 Mistakes

April 1, 2020

Hey everyone, today I'd like to talk about 10 simple tips and common mistakes that I've been seeing a lot of players make, especially newer ones. Some of this is specific to battle royale mode while the rest is more general info.

  1. Deselecting Amoebas: Some players tend to deselect their amoebas by doing a group select on nothing. This leads to some minor panic when they give a command (like retreat) and none of their amoebas listen to them. Keep in mind that if no amoebas show up in the unit info panel in the bottom middle of the screen, that means you have nothing selected. Also, if your amoebas aren't "highlighted", chances are they aren't selected.
  2. Mutating Well Fed Amoebas: While replication requires a well fed amoeba, mutation does NOT. In fact, it is more optimal to mutate an amoeba that is hungry (aka no food) than one with food since the amoeba loses all stored food once the mutation is complete.
  3. Replicating In Combat: Locusts have a special ability that lets them replicate very quickly but no other amoeba has this ability. Remember that a replication cyst is extremely weak so replicating on the front lines is a sure way of losing that amoeba. As a general rule, don't replicate in combat unless the amoeba is a Locust.
  4. Use Attack Move: Many players tend to target a specific amoeba with their attacks rather than performing an attack move. Targeting an amoeba will cause all of your selected amoebas to try to gang up on that target, and during large engagements, this will result in your melee amoebas tripping over each other to get to the target. Instead, use an attack move to ensure your army actually starts dealing damage, and only target a specific amoeba if you have ranged units selected.
  5. Friend-Foe Coloring: For players who have trouble distinguishing similar colors or have some degree of colorblindness, we do have friend-foe color schemes that can be toggled on with Ctrl+F (default hotkey) or through the options menu on controller. The first option turns your units blue, your allies green, and enemies red. The second option is for teams only which makes all enemy teams one color rather than having separate colors for each enemy player.
  6. Overusing Probes: Probes are very useful but extremely expensive at 60 energy. Be wary of using too many probes if you don't have the energy generation to support it or your army will be weaker than others later in the game, since you haven't used your energy to replicate/mutate.
  7. Ten Second Warnings: During battle royale, warnings will appear in the middle of your screen for the meteor storm and the miasma. From the moment these warnings show up, there will be a 10 second delay before the meteor storm appears or the miasma begins closing in on the map. Use these warnings to your advantage and try not to replicate/mutate when they show up.
  8. The Wild: The Wild amoebas in battle royale are not controlled by any players and cannot win the game. They will continuously spawn throughout the game and are also immune to miasma damage. Just because you are on the edge of the miasma doesn't mean an enemy can't sneak up behind you!
  9. Research Tokens: Research tokens in battle royale won't just give you research, each token also gives you a one-time grant of energy and these grants can break the 200 energy cap. This makes grabbing research tokens worth it even if you are far away from your next upgrade. Research tokens will also be created in MASSIVE quantities during a meteor storm, though these tokens disappear very quickly so you'll have to brave the meteors for maximum benefit!
  10. Reinforcements: During a team battle royale game, just because you've lost your amoebas doesn't mean you're out of the game! If your team can collect enough research points to give you an upgrade, you can use the upgrade to redeploy back onto the battlefield and rejoin the fight.

I hope this top 10 has been helpful to you guys/gals and I look forward to facing you on the amoeba battle fields!

Pathfinding in Amoeba Battle

March 26, 2020

Hello everyone, I am the Lead Programmer on Amoeba Battle! Ever wonder why your amoebas usually go where you tell them, but other times take a bizarre path through enemies, miasma, and meteors? The pathfinding in Amoeba Battle is one of the oldest systems in the game, originally designed to run on the Nintendo DSi. One of the early inspirations for our tile-based movement was Warcraft II, since it also had to run on hardware with similar specs. The first version of the pathfinding system supported 50-60 concurrent units for our campaign missions (the only mode at the time), which seemed pretty good for the platform. But, a certain designer insisted he needed at least 80 concurrent units to make the missions sufficiently interesting, and after creating a few missions, bumped the number to over 100. So, we began experimenting with various heuristics and optimizations that would allow us to handle a large number of units using limited computational power.

Our unit movement had two parts: finding a path, and following a path. For finding a path, we used the very standard but somewhat expensive A* ("A-star") pathfinding algorithm on our tile-based map. For following a path, we concocted a whole mess of logic and optimizations to accommodate our needs. Some of the topics mixed in our brew include: Responsiveness, CPU spikes, "close-enough" tolerances, retry conditions, waiting, giving up, following an adjacent path, backtracking, and friendly congestion vs enemy congestion. Although it took quite a few iterations, we did eventually get an implementation to work decently well on the Nintendo DSi, though there were still some oddities you can notice even today. Also, the logic became a tangled mess, and maintaining it became very intimidating and hard to understand, so we decided to just lock it. One slight change anywhere in the logic could affect how the whole system shook out during gameplay, which meant every mission would have to be fully retested to make sure there were no new pathing bugs. Years later when we started the remaster, the pathing code was still nearly impossible to comprehend, so we left it mostly untouched, and what we have today is essentially what we had many years ago.

So the next time you wonder why your amoeba decided to take the scenic route or was paralysed with indecision, I honestly have no idea either.

Poison & Cryo Probes

March 24, 2020

Hello everyone, my name is Paul, QA Manager for Grab Games. Today I want to talk about the Poison and Cryo probes in Amoeba Battle's Online Multiplayer mode. These 2 probes are destructible, duration based tools that are designed to support the player's army. Both of them cost 60 energy to deploy and offer a variety of benefits.

Poison and Cryo are combat probes that aim to affect the flow of a battle. Poison stays on screen for a few seconds and damages all enemies within its area of effect,, giving players a way to hurt multiple units at the same time. Use this to make the opposing player re-position their army, or as a means of damaging the enemy units enough for friendly amoebas to finish off. Try deploying it far from the stronger enemy amoeba type's (e.g. Ursa, Alpha) reach to prolong its stay in combat and get the maximum amount of damage from each probe.

Enemy amoebas that are within the Cryo probe's effective radius move slower, limiting their ability to escape combat situations. Used together with fast moving units such as Sharks and Stingrays, the cryo probe can severely deplete the enemy player's army size when used correctly. During battle, try throwing cryo probe(s) at an area that can potentially serve as an escape route for enemy units. Remember, the longer they stay within the probe's reach, the more time they spend moving at a slower speed.

Is the current game not going in your favor? Try to get enough research tokens to get a chance at earning an EXTINCTION upgrade. The Probe-lem Solved! Upgrade enhances the potency of both the Poison and Cryo probes. With efficient deployment strategies, you just might pull off a comeback!

Remember to use both probes wisely, as opposed to just deploying them whenever possible as the cost does add up. I'll be keeping an eye on how players utilize these 2 probes to see if interesting strategies come to light. Best of luck with your journey to become commander of the last Amoeba Army standing!

Timeline Animation

March 19, 2020

Hey folks, I'm the Technical Art Director at Grab Games. Although I wasn't involved in development of the original DSiWare release, I was part of the core team on this brand new version of Amoeba Battle. As the project's primary artist, I worked closely with our lead designer to overhaul the old user interface, develop the Upgrades feature, and create various visual effects — and I worked with the engineering team to rework our massive asset library to fit modern platforms.

One of the challenges we faced was that, since we decided to build upon Amoebattle's original codebase (rather than recreate the game from scratch), we were bound to our years-old toolset. For me, having come from environments like Unreal and Unity, cobbling together menu screens using an old Java tool — and then animating those screens in lengthy plain text documents — was a definite change of pace.

When the team discussed wanting fancy, animated intro screens for the campaign, I knew we would have to make a change to our workflow. With the aid of our indefatigable engineers, I created a tool that enabled us to generate a Unity project from our menu screen layouts, animate our screens using Unity's timeline interface, and export that animation back into Amoeba Battle. As you might imagine, it was an awkward process at first — and took a while to set up — but once we had it working, it saved us so much time. Not only that, but it meant we could pull other artists, who were unfamiliar with our toolset, onto the project to help out. And the end result? Over a dozen exciting, fully animated scenes!

The Ping System

March 17, 2020

Hello everyone I am known as Legna aka null. Today I would like to talk about the ping system and how to use it to your advantage. There are multiple uses for pinging, from alerting teammates of danger, to pointing out a Mitochondria, or pinging the location that you will be moving to.

To ping, press G and Left-Click on the location that you are trying to ping - for consoles use these controls (Switch: ZL+Up , PS4: L2+UP, and Xbox: LT+UP). Your ping will be blue and your ally's ping will be green. The ping will last about four seconds on the map, and makes a "ding" sound so you can easily distinguish when a ping has been used.

The main reason to use pings in game is when playing with others to communicate with them. When teaming with others you can use it to call for attention when another team is closing in on you. You can also target the Mitochondria that you want your allies to drop a probe on. One of my main uses that has been very advantageous for me is to alert my allies of Mitochondria early in the game to generate energy as quickly as possible. Early energy gain can be helpful to get a head start on higher tier units before enemies are ready for them.

Communication is the key in team Battle Royale. Using the ping system effectively will be a big help to you and your teammates as you coordinate your armies in pursuit of that Battle Royale victory!

Artificial Intelligence

March 12, 2020

Hey everyone, I'm Mathew and I'm one of the engineers on Amoeba Battle. For today's dev blog I'd like to talk about the AI in the game, so be forewarned that this post will be a bit more technical.

Amoeba Battle has two different types of AI - one that's used in the campaign and one used in skirmish/multiplayer. The campaign AI functions similarly to the original Amoebattle, with improvements to navigation between different locations in the level, while the multiplayer AI was created during development for Amoeba Battle for PC and consoles.

The campaign enemies are controlled through our level script, where they are simply directed to move between different locations, eat from algae trees, or to hold position. While moving, they are in an attack-move state, so if they gain vision of your units, they'll start attacking and chasing you until you manage to break vision by using undergrowth or spawning pools, or until you kill them. This chase behavior is simply the default unit behavior - if you leave a your own unit standing around and another player walks past, your unit will start following and trying to attack them until you lose vision.

The skirmish/multiplayer AI is more complex. Each player is controlled by its own AI commander, which reevaluates the game state approximately four times a second. The AI looks at everything it has vision of, determines possible actions it can take, and assigns them a score based on how important it thinks the action is at that moment in the game. Then, it assigns units to those actions, starting with the highest score. Units already assigned to a task can be reassigned to tasks of higher priority, and will continue performing their task until the task completes or the task is deemed to be no longer valid - situations like a mitochondria being covered by miasma, another player eating a microalgae, or the desire to build up an army overtaking the desire to fight.

The different multiplayer AI difficulties stem from different variables and limits being used by the AI. Weaker AI players might be limited to certain units, or in the range of actions available to them at any given moment. Higher difficulty AI players are more likely to avoid fighting and focus on building up stronger armies. And for anyone who might be finding Casual AI more difficult than you'd expect, there's actually an error in the balance right now. Casual AI is slightly smarter than intended, leading to battles with almost pure locust armies and preventing players from finding space to retreat and build up stronger units.

And that's an overview of our AI systems! If you're having trouble beating the Brutal AI, don't feel too bad. I built it, and even I struggle to beat it.


March 10, 2020

Hey everyone, today I'd like to talk a bit about our achievements and give you some behind-the-scenes on their development. The original Amoebattle was not created with achievements because Nintendo didn't support them, so achievements first came about with our iOS version of the game. At the time, the game didn't have difficulty levels so we decided to use the achievements as a way to provide an alternate difficulty for players. We figured that since getting an achievement and completing the mission would be much harder than just completing the mission alone, it would act as a higher difficulty of sorts. This is the reason why many of the mission achievements almost feel like sub-objectives - they were specifically chosen to make the mission harder.

In Amoeba Battle for PC and consoles, we added difficulty levels because many players felt the original game was too difficult and it was one of the top requests. As for the achievements, we had to decide what difficulty to place them at - the original game's difficulty in today's version of Amoeba Battle would actually be Veteran difficulty, so our first thought was requiring that for the achievements. But we also knew a lot of people on PC and consoles liked hunting achievements just to hunt achievements, and they may not have been particularly good at the game. After some discussion, we decided that achievements didn't need to mean excessive difficulty, so we set the achievement difficulty to Normal - our aim was to settle the achievements in a sort of Normal+ range of difficulty. We hoped that allowed more players to have fun chasing them rather than feel frustrated at their difficulty.

And that's some behind-the-scenes on our achievements and difficulty. But for players of the original Amoebattle who want the extra challenge, if you want your achievement difficulty to match the difficulty back then, you'll want to earn the achievements while playing on Veteran!

Ursas Over Time

March 5, 2020

I'd like to jump right into the first topic - the Ursa and how its design evolved over time. The original intent behind the Ursa was to be a high HP bruiser for your army. It would hold the frontline and be able to protect weaker amoebas by acting as a tank. In its original incarnation, the Ursa didn't have its damage share special ability, it simply had insanely high HP. While this worked out well in the campaign mode against the AI, once we started playing battle royale we noticed the Ursa had a problem.

Human players, being much smarter than AI players, would simply ignore the Ursa and run around it to hit the more vulnerable targets. We tried several solutions, one of which was a special ability to let the Ursa "taunt" enemy amoebas into attacking it. While it made sense on paper, it didn't quite work out in practice due to some technical constraints. We also tried beefing up the Ursa's attack so players would be incentivized to deal with it rather than ignore it, but that made it incredibly dominant and also infringed on the role held by the Alpha as an amoeba killer.

At the time, one of the battle royale upgrades of the Ursa was its damage share ability. Players who had that upgrade felt that the Ursa was much more effective and fun to use so we decided to fold that ability into the baseline Ursa. That fixed the issue in battle royale mode but now we had the issue of campaign vs. battle royale - since the campaign Ursa didn't have that special ability, we knew players would get confused since they were never taught in the campaign how it worked. To fix this problem, we made the campaign Ursa the same as the battle royale Ursa and made some slight redesigns to Mission 11 to compensate. And that's the story of how we got the Ursa!

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