Dog Park Derby

Get ready for the newest epic MOBA/battle royale!

Here’s the twist: it takes place at a dog park.

You load into the lobby, and select one of several “Owners”. Each owner has its own unique abilities and can pick from a subset of “Dogs” to take into the (randomly selected) “Park” in which the match will take place.

You make your Owner and Dog selections and press the “Unleash!” button. You see a loading screen featuring a pleasant illustration of your Owner/Dog combo doing something fun together, with a tip displayed underneath about how to excel with this duo. The loading bar finishes and you see your character and their dog from above, at a 70° angle, as they walk through a gate and into a cartoonishly depicted dog park arena.

The park is already full of other players, and your dog immediately runs off to go sniff some butts. You see it start to wrestle with “Melinda,” a medium-sized golden retriever, and the “friendship” bar over its head starts to fill. This is great! Then “Geronimo,” a burly Rottweiler comes bounding in. Melinda runs off to go hide under a bench, while your dog is now the unwilling participant in a game of chase. You’ve got to get rid of that pesky dog! Your character is “Sporty” the Patagonia-clad outdoor enthusiast, and you’ve got a few abilities at your disposal. You use “Tennis Ball Toss” towards Geronimo, hoping to distract him from the chase. It bounces past his head and…. success! The beefcake veers off in pursuit of your throw.

Suddenly, you hear a shout and your character is frozen in place by the social obligation not to walk away from someone clearly talking to you. You turn to find “Semper Fi,” the ex-Marine, running up to you, giving your character an earful for disrupting his dog’s game of chase. You try to use “Placating Compliment,” but your abilities are locked until the rant is finished. By the time you are released from this conversational headlock, Geronimo has begun chasing your dog around the park once more.

But your dog, “Dexter,” has a few tricks up his sleeve. You shout “Do your thing!” and Dexter starts to weave and dodge, evading his pursuer each time he seems to be caught until the Rottweiler slumps to the ground, exhausted. You walk over to where Melinda is playing in the dirt and Dexter follows. They go back to their playful wrestling and Dexter’s friendship bar continues filling until, ding! It’s complete. Happily panting Dex saunters over to the dog park gate. You meet him there and the option to “Leash Up” appears on screen. You click it, and a “Victory” banner is displayed.

The discerning visitor to this site might have already surmised the inspiration for “Dog Park Derby,” a fictional (for now…) game that mixes cooperative and competitive elements as each player tries to satisfy their dog’s specific needs amidst the mayhem of a suburban off-leash canine recreation zone. Since adopting Jasper, I spend more time each week at local dog parks than I do in online work meetings. With ample opportunity to study the characters, social interactions (both dog and human), and quintessential dog-park moments, it was only a matter of time before I tried to make a video game out of it.

Here are the core ideas:

  1. You only have limited control of your dog.
    • The owner/dog combo will determine the radius of a circle within which the dog will move somewhat randomly. Each owner has a “control” stat and each dog has an “obedience” stat, such that the circle’s radius = 100 units – (control + obedience)
    • Certain things within the circle will reliably attract the dog’s attention — other dogs, other dogs’ pee, birds and squirrels, other owners with treats, toys, or whistles, etc.
    • Certain events can disrupt this zone of control — some dogs might become afraid and refuse to leave your side, other dogs might chase a ball far beyond your circle of influence.
  2. Different owners have different base stats and abilities.
    • This is the core feature of many online multiplayer games (Overwatch, League of Legends, DOTA 2, Apex Legends, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, etc.)
    • Some of these abilities will allow you to influence your dog (“Come, Sit, Stay!” “Tennis Ball Toss,” “Oorah!”) while others will allow you to influence other owners (“Placating Compliment,” “Give ’em an Earful,” “Take a Loud Phone Call”). Still other abilities can influence your character’s movement or temporarily alter their stats.
    • Instead of an “ultimate” ability, each owner can periodically trigger its dog’s unique ability. This is one of the key interactions in the owner/dog combo.
  3. Different dogs have different goals.
    • Some dogs, like Dexter, might need to fill their “friendship bar,” while others might need to get all their energy out, like Geronimo.
    • These win-conditions are not the same game-to-game, but each dog will have a limited set of possible goals from which one will be randomly selected. So, a game with Melinda might be spent filling that friendship bar or trying to get affection from other owners.
  4. The “Parks” are all different
    • Each map, or “Park”, will have its own special features. One might be filled with trees that present obstacles for various abilities and interactions. Another might be a long beach, with different dogs reacting differently to the ocean on one side.
    • The parks will range significantly in size, some hosting 5-10 players while others host up to 50.
  5. Players enter and exit matches independently
    • When you arrive at the park, it will likely already be filled with owners and dogs already engaged in all sorts of interactions, all attempting to make progress towards their dogs’ specific goals.
    • If you’re having trouble meeting your dog’s win-condition at a certain park, you can just leave and roll the dice again on another map.

Here are some “Owners” I’ve come up with:

  • Sporty
    • Control: 30
    • Passive Ability: Stay Active
      • As Sporty moves around the map, he gains “Activity” stacks (up to 5) which each increase Sporty’s control by 3 and fall off one at a time after 1 second of standing still.
    • Ability 1: Tennis Ball Toss – 5 second cooldown
      • Sporty throws a tennis ball 35 units in target direction. As the ball travels, it has a chance to attract nearby dogs that varies with the proximity to the dog, the dog’s obedience (less obedient dogs are more likely to chase) and Sporty’s control.
    • Ability 2: Placating Compliment – 20 second cooldown
      • After a 2 second channel, Sporty dispels any crowd control effects and gains a 1.25x movement speed boost
    • Ability 3: Doggo Dash – 7 second cooldown
      • Sporty dashes towards his dog, disrupting the actions of any dogs or owners he contacts during this animation.
    • Available dogs: Dexter, Melinda, Shania, and Vigo
  • Semper Fi
    • Control: 40
    • Passive Ability: Drill Sergeant – cooldown 10 seconds
      • Semper Fi’s next ability has 1.5x increased power and range. Effecting dogs or owners with other abilities decreases Drill Sergeant’s cooldown by 1 second.
    • Ability 1: Oorah! – cooldown 6 seconds
      • Semper Fi gives an encouraging shout in a cone in front of him. If his dog is struck by this ability, it gains a 1.3x stat boost and travels in the direction of the shout for 2 seconds. Other dogs and owners struck by this ability are slowed by 0.75 for 1 second.
    • Ability 2: Give ’em an Earful – cooldown 30 seconds
      • Semper Fi targets another owner within 50 units, rooting that character in place and preventing them from using any abilities for 5 seconds.
    • Ability 3: No One Left Behind – cooldown 15 seconds
      • Semper Fi picks up a dog or owner within 3 units and carries them for 3 seconds. During that time, Semper Fi’s movement is slowed by 0.5 and the dog/owner he is carrying cannot be targeted by other owner’s or dog’s abilities
    • Available dogs: Geronimo, Shania, Pipsqueak, and Tennessee
  • The Professional
    • Control: 70
    • Passive Ability: Leader of the Pack
      • When the Professional uses an ability, dogs within 70 units have a chance to be affected by that ability. If they are, they are marked with the “Pack” symbol for 8 seconds, and are guaranteed to be affected by the Professional’s next ability if they stay within the 70 unit radius.
    • Ability 1: Come, Sit, Stay! – cooldown 7 seconds
      • The Professional calls dogs to her. She then has a 1 second window in which this activity can be re-activated, causing her dog(s) to sit and stay for 1-5 seconds (depending on their obedience).
    • Ability 2: Toss a Treat – cooldown 6 seconds
      • The Professional tosses a treat within a 70 unit radius. For the next 5 seconds, if her dog(s) passes within 20 units of the treat, it runs up to the treat and eats it. Other dogs that pass within 20 units of the treat trigger Leader of the Pack.
    • Ability 3: Clicker Training – cooldown 8 seconds
      • The Professional clicks her clicker, causing her dog and any dogs marked by Leader of the Pack to ignore distractions, continue their current activity, and be un-targetable by other owner’s or dog’s abilities.
    • Available dogs: Tennessee, Melinda, Rufus, and Buddy

Here are some of the dogs:

  • Dexter
    • Breed: Australian Shepherd
    • Obedience: 40
    • Ability: Duck and Weave
      • Dexter moves erratically about, greatly expending his energy and the energy of the dogs he is engaged with.
    • Possible Goals: Make a Friend, All Tuckered Out, Round ’em Up
  • Melinda
    • Breed: Golden Retriever
    • Obedience: 20
    • Ability: Belly Up
      • For 4 seconds, Melinda rolls over, exposing her belly. Owners within 20 units cannot use abilities and instead walk towards her. Dogs within 10 units move away from Melinda. Melinda is not targetable by other owner’s or dog’s abilities during this time.
    • Possible Goals: Soak up the Love, Make a Friend, My Stick!
  • Geronimo
    • Breed: Rottweiler
    • Obedience: 50
    • Ability: Thrill of the Chase
      • For 3 seconds, Geronimo chases the nearest dog. During this time, Geronimo gains a 1.5x speed boost and cannot be targeted by its owner’s abilities.
    • Possible Goals: My Stick!, All Tuckered Out, King of the Hill
  • Shania
    • Breed: Afghan Hound
    • Obedience: 35
    • Ability: Shake it Out
      • Shania shakes out her long fur, freeing herself from any crowd control and causing dogs within a 30 unit radius to walk towards her.
    • Possible Goals: Soak up the Love, King of the Hill, Yummy Snack

I’ll leave things there as far as the characters go, but hopefully that gives you a sense of the building blocks of the game, and how the various pieces might fit together.

The more I think about it, the more I think this game could be hilarious, accessible, and fun to play, at least for folks who’ve experienced the madness of the dog park.

Stay tuned for more character ideas, game mechanics, and map layouts, and please utilize the comment section to share any questions or suggestions you have!

3 thoughts on “Dog Park Derby

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