For years, Michael Nicholson (Game Design, Game Art & Animation) has had the goal to better connect games with the streaming industry, and through his Student Innovation Project (SIP), he saw the opportunity to create that bridge.
Creators of the Dark is a co-op horror game built for interactive streaming through live interactive features. Users on streaming platforms, such as Twitch or Mixer, can connect their game, allowing viewers to participate and play alongside the streamer. Each viewer has a role and ability based on their status and ranking within the streamer's chat.
Where it All Started
Creators of the Dark started as a project geared towards helping partnered Mixer streamers earn more through Mixer’s monetizable currency, Ember. Each Ember is worth approximately a penny and partners keep roughly 10%, leaving little to be earned from Ember patronage. To earn a greater percentage, streamers need to reach certain milestones each week and increase viewer engagement, which requires viewers to watch for long periods of time. This also created competition amongst partner streamers for viewers.
Throwing a wrench in Michael’s project, Mixer shut down abruptly on June 22, 2020, forcing him to switch everything to Twitch, a different streaming platform. Mixer’s functionality had everything built in as a party plugin, used within Unreal, but Twitch doesn’t have the same functionality. Even though Twitch was more complicated to work with, Michael wasn’t fazed. He quickly jumped into learning about databases and plugins, integrating casting with blueprint actors, rewriting code from scratch, and redesigning aspects of the game.
There are only a few interactive games that support Twitch interactivity currently, but sadly, most of these games rely primarily on viewers voting and inspecting the results. Michael knew that he wanted viewers to participate rather than just spectating from the start. This is where the original design for Creators of the Dark came from.
Based on legends from around the world, Creators of the Dark is designed to be an interactive, four-player horror game where users try to escape a monster. Once streamers connect the game to their Twitch account, an array of options are unlocked for the viewers, allowing them to play alongside the streamer.
How Does the Game Work?
In each session, users are given a primary goal and two optional objectives to complete by using the stream chat to activate commands at the start of the game. These commands include abilities, AI prompts for each user, and participation in rituals, such as banishing the monster. The primary goal is modified depending on the status of the match. Once an objective is completed, active participants will be notified of what their next objectives are.
The viewer also has a set amount of spare energy that depletes with each activated command and also has the ability to use bits, a paid digital currency on Twitch, to multiply the effects of abilities or temporarily boost player stats. Alternatively, viewers can sacrifice their spare energy to activate these effects. One user’s action, or lack thereof, does not prevent another user’s action.
This supports the streamer by keeping their chat engaged and active, giving viewers a meaningful role as they launch and control their commands. This also encourages collaboration and individual effort among viewers.
How is the Game Different?
By allowing viewers to control the game’s AI remotely, they are no longer influencing the game's world or voting on what happens next, a common issue with interactive games on Twitch. Along with the streamer, viewers are directly engaging and completing gameplay objectives as if they were in the game.
There is a lot more to come from this project! Michael’s goal is to release Creators of the Dark to the public in the near future.
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