Battle for the AllSpark (2006)

In 2006, I held a unique position as both full time game designer for a new Tony Hawk game at Vicarious Visions, and community manager for the previous Tony Hawk game at Agora Games.

My position within both companies allowed me to coordinate deeply integrated online features into Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, but also the Transformers DS games based on the 2007 movie.

I worked on pre-production, specifically for the Nintendo Wi-Fi web features of Transformers: Autobots and Decepticons at the end of my student co-op position at Vicarious Visions.

With Autobots versus Decepticons, and two SKU’s of the game (SKU = stock-keeping unit) it was obvious to the team that these games would need competition over Nintendo Wi-Fi.

However, there was an issue of both scheduling and hardware limitations.  If we were to launch the game in conjunction with the movie release, we wouldn’t have time to flesh out smooth, responsive online competition, given that Transformers battle with both projectile and melee weapons, plus they can transform between battle and vehicle forms.

We would need to come up with something else.

I had designed all of the downloadable challenges for Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam.  It occurred to me while I was doing that: this could be automated.  You could randomize levels, game types, and score goals.

Every day, Transformers DS players could download a challenge, such as to throw cars and telephone poles as far as possible, to destroy cities in a time limit, and so on.  Players could get contribution points for skill, earning high scores, but also for time played.

Points could factor into a global war on the game’s website.  A less skilled player could contribute to the Battle for the AllSpark as much as a skilled player by playing the daily challenge multiple times.

Players would be part of a bigger picture, contributing to the Autobots’ or Decepticons’ war effort, winning as a group when their side contributed more than their opponent’s.

Ultimately, I proposed a global war between everyone who bought one version of the game, versus the other.  Daily downloadable challenges became single player battlefields that affected a global battle on the Transformers DS online community.

My student co-op position ended at Vicarious Visions, I went back to college full time, and kept moderating the websites on the site.

The following summer, I was able to get internship and capstone credit for my continued work at Agora Games, overseeing the release of the Transformers DS games and online community.  I was promoted to Director of Community Management and Design at age 21.

A number of reviews praised the Battle for the AllSpark game mode:

GameSpy

One interesting feature is the game’s Wi-Fi mode.  In an unexpected move, you can’t hop online for some Autobot-on-Decepticon deathmatch action.  Instead, you take part in week-long “wars” where you and your fellow Transformers: Autobots owners band together against those who purchased the Decepticons version of the game… It’s certainly an unorthodox online mode, but after spending a few days with it, I became quite addicted to it.

1UP

Multiplayer is pretty standard for the most part.  Multicard wireless play leads to the various game modes you’d expect.  What is cool, though, are the daily challenges offered for download from (the online community).  If your side wins, and you contributed greatly to that win, it can lead to in-game rewards.

GameSpot

The interesting aspect is that people playing the Autobots version of the game are all on one side, while everyone that bought the Decepticons version is on the other.

GameShark

If you want to mix it up with other players, four player local multiplayer is your only option, however each player needs to have their own cartridge.  The other, more interesting and more fun aspect of multiplayer is the Battle for the AllSpark.

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