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Tue, Apr 27th 2010, 17:38
Fighting Myself  

I tended to the outstanding issues with the different ship types, getting it all squared away in short order. Feeling proud and productive, it was time to figure out what came next.

Upon considering what would happen if a ship was put into battle against itself, I found that two of them yielded unwinnable encounters. Well, unless you consider "staying alive until the other guy accidentally suicides on the terrain" a form of winning (and not all terrain types have lethal collisions, so that's not always an option anyway).

This left me with the decision between pressing forward as is, or chopping things up a bit to make things fit together better. The obvious option was to just omit battles against ships of the same type and be done with it. While that does prevent the stalemate scenario, it feels more like avoiding the problem than solving it.

In a competitive multiplayer game, a bout between two similarly matched characters (e.g. two Warriors with approximately the same stats / build / what-have-you) is often more interesting and exposes the players' skill through success or failure. I mean, we all know rock beats scissors, but rock vs. rock becomes about who has the bigger rock. No, it is not a tie!

So, I set about fiddling with the ship concepts so that they'd be able to competently fight their twins. In doing so, I also discovered a few glaring oversights in some of the heterogeneous match-ups. After getting all of this patched up, the design feels significantly tighter, even on paper. The downside is that the ship diversity has suffered. The original concepts were just too different; if each had its own game tailored to it, it would be fine, but as they all have to play well with each other and adhere to a core rule set, a compromise was made.

As grouchy as I sound about all of this, I'm quite happy with how it's shaping up. This coming week should see some quick an dirty prototyping. VERGE's gimped input capabilities aren't quite up to snuff, but I'll probably use it anyway out of familiarity with both it and Lua. It won't be ideal, but it should be enough to let me know if I'm on the right track without burning up a lot of time.


Tue, Apr 20th 2010, 10:16
Vague Details  

It's starting to feel more like a game (both in my head and design doc). A rant-like overview:

There are currently 4 different terrain types. I've been fighting to come up with a few more, but doing so and keeping them mechanically unique has been difficult. The "Metropolis" terrain from the original is being retained, but adding something like "Forest" would be essentially the same thing but with different shapes. Maybe I'm underestimating the value of visual variety, but for now it's just easier to think in mechanical terms.

After much fiddling, I've gotten six competent ship designs that all offer a different playstyle without breaking the others' (in theory). There are some dramatic disadvantages to trying to get six different things to play nice together instead of just two. With the original Vector Knights, one side took damage, dealt "hits", and regenerated health; the other side took damage as "hits", dealt points of damage, and could not regenerate. With a two-sided system, the player doesn't question this; because the match-up is always the same it behaves consistently in every situation.

By adding more things to the mix, with different health "types", each ship would need to output multiple damage "types" to match and the player is left getting inconsistent feedback about the effectiveness of his character. This is fine in many game times, but in a simple (hopefully even elegant) action game, this convoluted scheme makes the rules feel arbitrary or subject to change at any time. So, health and damage have been made universally "hit-based" to keep things as simple as possible (no more fractional damage). Also gone is regeneration, which should help to curb the unkillable enemy effect. There are two ships that could be accused of exhibiting regeneration-like behavior, but I think they stand as integral mechanics unique to the ships' design, so it's not quite the same as hidden number voodoo.

Something else worth noting is that four of the six ships actually do "shoot bullets" by default. This is a very hard thing to avoid in a shmup. Although the actual way in which they do it and the effects they have are pretty non-standard, to help keep things interesting, three of these get an upgrade that modify their behavior in a substantial way (the other one gets to remain as a classic shmup ship). Hopefully, by retaining the some of the more familiar concepts early on, the player will learn the quirky mechanics in a more comfortable environment before getting to the more outlandish stuff.

Coming up next: it's time to clean up some odd bits in the design (mostly in the ship upgrades) to get everything feeling right. Then, time permitting, it'll be time to get a crude prototype together and see if this "different but complementary playstyles" thing is working as well as I think it is (hint: it won't).


Tue, Apr 13th 2010, 13:22
Project Surfing  

I've been jumping between several projects (many of them new) recently. Although technically qualifying for Gruedorf, I don't feel right posting about flavor of the week progress, but I am posting now because..

Eldritch has dethroned me!

..and also because I am currently working on the design for a new shmup-ish game that may or may not be Vector Knights 2. It's being built as a sequel now, but if you consider that the original VK was started as Block Dodger 3, you can see why I'm not committed to the branding.

This announcement is admittedly more for me than anyone else as it'll (theoretically) force me to be accountable and stick to a single game. Right now it's shaping up to be a nice mixture of manageable and ambitious, and plays nicely into my not-so-secret vector fetish, so I'm hopeful. More details to come as the preliminary design comes together.