This Halloween features a new version of The Great Ghoul Duel on Google as part of the company’s Doodle program. The Doodle team engages visitors on the site with illustrations, historical facts, and games. The Great Ghoul Duel was one of Google’s most popular games when it released back in 2018. It is a online multiplayer game similar to arcade and classic phone games like Snake.
Players move across the map amassing pixels that follow their character and grow longer like Snake. The goal is to collect as many “spirit flames” as possible, using a mouse to move a little ghost around. A new addition to the game is the ability for players to steal flames from each other. To play, all you have to do is click on the Doodle. This will form two teams of four players with other internet users. After a two-minute time limit, the team with the most flames wins. Google has added new maps, characters, and a new power-up to the game. There are also achievements that can be earned in the form of little hats for the characters.
Google was going to bring back the Doodle last year but it ended up getting delayed. Google says they had issues supporting the amount of people it expected to visit the site and play. “It was just making sure that the servers were going to be reliable enough to launch for the huge amount of interest,” said Jacob Howcroft, lead engineer on the Google Doodle, in an interview with The Washington Post. There was also issues with how the game looked. The team didn’t want to make it too scary or spooky for children. “You want it to stay very strictly in the fun zone,” said Nate Swineheart, creative lead on the Google Doodle. “One of the initial proposals for a new level was to do an abandoned amusement park. The art for it was so cool and it was so fun, but it was a little on the line. And then we’re also kind of coming off of the pandemic and the idea of abandoned things is maybe not the most fun tone.” The team instead added a level set in a museum.
While the game resembles older arcade titles like Snake and Pac-Man, the Doodle team says they were inspired by popular, more elaborate multiplayer games such as Splatoon, League of Legends, and the popular indie Journey. The new stealing mechanic was inspired by the battle mode in Splatoon 3, where players can be followed by a trail of clams. Swineheart said the “high risk, high reward” gameplay “balanced really well. But it did not come from ‘Snake’ at all, I would never.”
The ghosts progress as you get more flames. This mechanic was inspired by the complex progression system in League of Legends where players level up their champions, earn gold, and buy items over time. “When you collect 50 flames, you can go faster, then you can go through walls,” Swineheart said. “You get power boosted as you play, as a reward.”
“The unlikely inspiration was ‘Journey,’ which does a really great job of having a multiplayer aspect that rewarded you for being with other people,” Swineheart said. “So we added this buddy bonus that if you travel with someone else, they’ll reward you with more spirit flames to encourage cooperation.”
This new version of The Great Ghoul Duel is available from October 30 to October 31.