Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account


My game has no 'spark'.


Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.

  • You cannot reply to this topic
23 replies to this topic

#1 Deyja   Members   -  Reputation: 920

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 10:25 AM

I've spent the last two weeks prototyping what I thought would be a great idea. The game functions, it can be played, but I wouldn't want to. The design is lacking the spark. It's just not fun. I think there's something fun somewhere in the original idea, I've only got to find it.

The game is a reverse shmup. Instead of playing as a single hero ship taking on a horde of enemies and a bunch of over-powered mega-sized bosses, you ARE the over-powered mega-sized boss. Heroes come at you alone or in groups, and you fire off waves of bullets and underlings for them to dodge and shoot. The object of the game is to destroy the heroes, of course. This is the idea that I still think has some merit.

In implementing it, I created a spawn timer and cost system meant to slow the rate at the player can spawn underlings. The player would earn coins for destroying the heroes, and be able to spend them to upgrade vital stats of their boss-ship, such as how fast it recharges the 'power' spent to spawn underlings, and how large it's max power reserve was.

The problem is that the game oscillates between way too hard and way too easy. The winning tactic is too simple : Spawn underlings faster than the player can shoot them and overwhelm them. Tweak the spawn rates so that this becomes available, and that's what the player does. Tweak the spawn rates so it's not available, and the player can't win at all. If the heroes can destroy ships faster than the player can make them, the player will always lose. And the other way around, the player can always win just by holding down the spawn button.

So what can I do to break out of this rut and create some gameplay that is actually interesting? I've thought of a few things.

Powerups which the heroes seek, and the player has to protect. These can temporarily break the stagnation described above, by shifting the combat to a different area on the field. Depending on the nature of the powerup, it could reverse the balance when the hero picks it up, and allow them to destroy underlings faster than the player can spawn them. But, the same issue as before occurs. If the player can spawn underlings faster than the hero can destroy them, the powerup is never in any danger. Vice versa, the hero will always eventually get it.

Shield units. These are slow moving underlings that take a lot of hits. They would be fairly expensive themselves, but they would also give the player a chance to sit safe behind them and charge up their 'underling spawn power' for a big rush. If the game is balanced such that in normal conditions the player always loses, this chance to 'charge up' with impunity may allow them to temporarily reverse the balance and destroy a few heroes.

Perfect balance always. Carefully tune underling spawn rates and hero firing rates so that, if the player just holds down the spawn button, they won't lose; but they won't ever win either. This would force the player to try to outsmart the AI, rather than just slug it to death with brute force. Except that I don't know how the player would actually do that.

Any ideas?

Sponsor:

#2 thelovegoose   Members   -  Reputation: 100

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 10:35 AM

Chess springs to mind - think about how you might thwart your opponent's attack (and possibly counter attack) in chess... Make moves that attack two pieces at once, lure the heroes into where you want them, sacrifice pieces for the greater good, try to control the centre...

#3 Hedanito   Members   -  Reputation: 134

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 10:47 AM

I think the gameplay is too simple.
It is like an RTS where all the player has to do is spawn units, and everything else will be done for him.
There should be a lot of ways to control your units, otherwise it is just click and spam and the player will be bored in 5 sec.
The player should be able to come up with strategies to take the enemy (hero) down.
A wide variety in units (and heroes) with their own special abilities should help with that.
Maybe you could allow the player to draw a flypath for the units hes sending.
Or you could even control them similar to an RTS.
The powerup idea is also pretty good. Having some small ships flying around that drop powerups when they die and you can, but you don't have to, protect them.

The game is all about strategy when you control an army of units.
In order to make games like that interesting the player needs to be able to make a lot of choices and use different strategies.
The player needs an army that does what he tells them to and not just fly off and do things on it's own.

#4 EJH   Members   -  Reputation: 314

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:03 AM

Does your mega-boss have super weapons? A tech tree of super power weapons and defensive stuff would add a lot as well.

Can you block enemy projectiles with your own projectiles? That adds strategy to weapon choice, even for your units.

#5 Punk Designer   Members   -  Reputation: 137

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:09 AM

A story line always helps with back story? Something that makes you connect with what you are doing and why you are doing it?

Failing that I would mix it up a bit, use things that are often used in such RTS games like turrets, healing units, stealth units, etc. Something tech-tree would be good.

I think you should consider making it so these heroes of yours have to come into your "land" so the player should be able to design the land and put nests (for AI underlings), turrets, rocks in where he/she wants while keeping to a budget (earn money by killing off heroes and other tasks)

PM me I like the idea and would like to learn more.

#6 Ravyne   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6765

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:17 AM

Have you thought that perhaps the interface is wrong? As an action game where you play the overpowering behemoth with human intelligence and real-time skills its going to be difficult to make this sort of game beatable without being cheap, or losable while not being ridiculous. Maybe the concept is fun, but the current way of playing doesn't lend itself to a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

#7 JasRonq   Members   -  Reputation: 156

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:23 AM

You seem to have described a situation where you have units to spawn, and heroes have bullets to shoot them with. If there is nothing else then of course its boring. Doesn't the boss have weapons? Just aiming and shooting at the heroes should add a lot of fun. Don't you have choices in units to spawn? Weapons to use? Some variety in heroes to make the choices against?

The idea of a tech tree for the boss (and I'll add, the spawns as well) would make it much more interesting.
Units can even be customized. Weapons, shields, selected AI script, etc.

#8 Deyja   Members   -  Reputation: 920

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:28 AM

You've nailed the problem, Ravyne. I should be able to fill the screen with bullets and enemies, but I can't, because I'm not capable of writing AI that could survive in the time budget for this project.

That's another problem. I don't want the project to get too big, so I'd like to stay away from a big complex tech tree. That doesn't mean a tech tree is out, just that it has to be small in scope.

Ravyne, do you have any ideas of how else I could capture the experience of being the mega-boss?

[edit]I've got some ideas from all of you. I'll go do some simple things (For now, I'll pretend the player has the tech tree maxed out, and just implement whatever interesting things I can think of) and see what happens.[/edit]

[Edited by - Deyja on August 18, 2010 5:28:58 PM]

#9 JohannL   Members   -  Reputation: 120

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:51 AM

I think the general idea is awesome, but what kinda stuck out in your description of what you have is "holding down the spawn button". So basically, the only *real* choice (besides upgrading), is how you time your spawns? Or did you just not mention the rest, say, vertical placement?

How predictable are the heroes? How much delay is there between spawning enemies and them actually showing up? I say this because it might be nice to queue up spawns (you click, a marker blinks there, and 3 seconds later the enemies spawn, that sort of thing), and also to not just spawn individual enemies but several of them, moving in a line, in a sine pattern, etc. so you spawn a row up top and then a sine wave below, hoping the hero will avoid the first wave and run into the second. Ahh, it's hard to describe but hopefully you see what I'm trying to get at. Don't just make it about raw firepower, make it about reflexes and strategy, too.

I kinda disagree with the poster above that it's like an RTS, and vehemently with the post comparing it to chess (well, unless we can agree on blitz chess, that I can see ^^): If your enemy is an action hero you kind of have to be one, too. Sure, you don't steer and aim, but you still have to think fast, recognize and use opportunities quickly. Otherwise there is a huge disconnect. Maybe that's your confusion, that it ultimately still is an arcade game, not a strategy game? Maybe there is too little action involved?

Besides placement and timing, the boss could be controlled more directly by the player, say, it shoots by itself, but the player has to dodge the hero bullets. Might be fun, and there could be a mini boss during the stage just to give that more room. Also, during that time spawning could be controlled by something else, say, spawn enemies at a basic rate, but more when you get hit, and less when the player gets hit.

What do the enemies do? Just shoot? They could lay mine fields, ram the hero, thousand other things.

About spawning, how does this work? What I'd try is that with time your "energy pool" fills up (slow at first, faster each level), and also by doing things that earn you credits etc. Now, the more energy in your pool, the bigger the enemies you can spawn, with a cap depending on the current stage. This allows you to decide wether to spawn the small enemies as soon as they become available, or wait longer for bigger ones (which tend to stay around longer, medium and big enemies in shmups don't just blaze by and do a lot of damage, they're stubborn). This is similar to making your shot stronger by keeping the fire button pressed... which, by the way, might be nice capability for the hero ship? In addition to that, spawning a wave of X could cheaper than spawning X enemies individually.

Now, for this to not be utterly boring there would have to be a bunch of lowly, automatically spawned enemies. Do you know the game Left 4 Dead? The common infected are always around, but the AI director, and the infected team in versus, weave them into what they're doing. Something like that, drones. Otherwise the hero would just fly through empty space while you are saving your credits to spawn a bunch of bigger enemies.

What about "inside" section? You know, walls at the top and the bottom? There you can also place turrets, while maybe not being able to spawn certain "outer space" enemies. This might force/allow for a change of strategy, and a bit of changing scenery can't hurt either.

And yeah, the player definately needs powerups. Not all have to be huge and game changing, just a "repair 10% damage" for example would begin to mix stuff up. A few seconds of invulnerability, 10 seconds of taking less damage or doing more damage, that sort of thing. The game could spawn more of those when the hero is struggling, which forces you to pay more attention to defending (destroying?) them etc. Maybe the player should get a notice ahead of time when a powerup is about to spawn, so they can time the "ambush" to deny it,assuming the powerups pass by fast, and that the hero is good at catching them. But slower powerups and a hero who tends to stay in the left half of the screen might be more fun.

Oh, there might also be a risk involved with spawning enemies. Let's say, the more of a "rebate" a wave of X enemies gets you, in absolute credits (if a wave of 3 gives you 10% off, the more expensive the type of ship is, the more credits you save), the higher the chance it leaves a powerup behind. That could be tuned for example so that a wave of 10 of cheapest enemies always spawns a powerup (if completely destroyed), while just 2 or 3 of the best enemies you are allowed to spawn in waves, also have a 100% chance of a powerup (the logic being that even just one of them is hard to destroy).

But tweaking is *hard*, and it takes time. Don't get too hung up on it now. First, create more elements and make them tweakable as much as makes sense, then put all the constants in one file and play around. Then go back to adding more elements or changing them, not minding balance too much since that will be tweaked later. Trying to get a game that is balanced, then adding elements while *keeping* it balanced seems hard if not impossible to me, especially with something as experimental as this.

But it's a wonderful idea, so by no means give up!

#10 Glak   Members   -  Reputation: 308

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 12:08 PM

this game concept reminds me a lot of Space Invaders and other arcade games. Those had simple gameplay and dealt with the too hard/easy issue by starting off easy and getting harder. Perhaps you are initially invaded by parties of 1st level heroes and the occasional mid level hero. Eventually large parties of high level heroes arrive and kill off even the best players. As you kill heroes they drop loot which you cannot take or move. So instead you need to protect it with lurking monsters to keep the heroes from grabbing it. Every now and then you get a powerup - a spell that allows you to turn a hero into a traitor. The traitor can sweep up the fallen loot and take off leaving his buddies to die. I would make sure to use the ol' arcade difficulty level trick: enemies become faster and more numerous. Make this into an intense action game.

#11 EqualityAssignment   Members   -  Reputation: 164

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 12:21 PM

The foocraft custom map scene had several popular maps in which 90% of your play was changing the composition of your spawning army to overwhelm your opponent's spawning army. You built structures, which periodically spawned units that attacked your opponent. There was often a trade-off between building a unit manually, building a structure that would spawn cheap and weak units for the rest of the game, and waiting for a while to build a better but more expensive structure that would spawn better units and allow you to advance up the tech tree, or even taking a break from spawning at all, and spending your money to increase your income (like upgrading you fleet so you could spawn waves of enemies more often?).

Maybe the player could choose to protect only a few powerups, and choose ship types to compensate specifically for the powerups he is letting the player get. That gives two extra significant choices to make: which powerups to give the player, and how to compensate for that.

In the foocraft games, you could use your builder to do little things like build towers or heal individual units, or kill your opponents towers. In your game, that might translate into micromanaging individual ships, or using your boss ships weapons from a far to deal damage, or push the player one way or another.

Of course, those were always team games, so if one player wanted to make a single super strong unit to use for the rest of the game and abandon spawning units, that was alright. If your player could do that, then the premise of your game: horde vs hero, could be lost. That also meant that the foocraft games had at least two distinct play styles within one game. The end result was good, but I'm sure it was extra work for the mapmaker.

Once you play for a little while, wouldn't you know how the AI would react? For instance, that spawning 3 ships at the top would make the hero drop straight down, and spawning a second wave would allow you to shoot him as he moved?

Maybe that gives you some ideas. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

#12 MSW   Members   -  Reputation: 151

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 02:13 PM

I think you guys are going about this the wrong way...Think fighting game crossed with a SHMUP rather than RTS.


Two player game (or one player versus AI) at game start each player selects one from a variety of hero ships. Randomly one of the players becomes the boss...growing, transforming, whatever into a larger and more powerful representation of the hero ship picked at game start.

Controls are the direction pad (gamepad) and two buttons. "fire" and "special".

Tons of things you can do with just the fire button in a SHMUP...hold the button down for one effect (like fire a beam). rapidly tap it for another effect (like a bullet hell spread shot). don't push it at all for yet another effect (boss regains HP but moves faster). combine the use of the fire button with spawning enemys...Not fighting game special moves...but simple double tap in a direction and hitting the fire button spawns small and different waves of enemys depending on direction tapped.

No power-ups in the classic sense. Have the hero ship 'scratch' the boss bullets to increase his firepower (as a bullet enters the 'scratch' area around the player. firepower level increases by one and .5 seconds are added to the clock. if no bullets are in the scratch zone the clock ticks down and every .5 seconds firepower level decreases). as hero blasts parts off the boss (boss regrows them when not fireing) these could be collected to boost hero ship shields.

The "special" button is the 'spark' of the game. there can be different rules for when it can be triggered for the hero and boss player. Basic idea when triggered is the players switch sides...morphing, transforming, whatever...into thier boss form or back into thier hero ship form carrying over thier HP/shields in the process...

Remember the boss is a big target, signals his various attacks fireing slow but numerous shots. the hero ship is smaller, has faster shots, but has far less shielding. With the right balance, there are advantages to both. Just remember the KISS principal.

#13 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 552

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 August 2010 - 03:42 PM

I think the problem is in the game flow. You say the player has to spawn underlings as fast as possible, so I'm assuming this is a click fest. The problem here is the player does not have time to sit back and think.

Try splitting the game in waves. Every 10 seconds or so, spawn a new wave. This wave is determined by the player by selecting a type of ship and a pattern. The player can stack a few of these and they will automatically be launched in the next wave in 1 second interval. Watching the action unfold is important to get the player to think about his next move and appreciate his evil overlord role.

Instead of thinking "I have to spawn more stuff", the player will think "if I send this wave in a Z pattern, these other ships in a straight pattern will be able to trap him".

You can also mix it up by giving the player a few random choices. That way, he can't pick the same patterns, but has to quickly mix and match available patterns. The wave mechanism will give him 10 seconds to analyze and pick a few patterns from a pool of 10 or so. That should be long enough to not feel like randomly picking things and short enough to feel pressed by time.

As the game progress, you can add more ship types and patterns. Upgrades would get you different patterns and more ships spawned per wave. The hero will also have to ramp up by getting upgrades of their own or having multiple heroes at once.

#14 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1833

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 19 August 2010 - 12:17 PM

This is definatly a brain twister.

Let's see... In a classic shmup you start at one end of the level, try to get past all the enemies, and then destroy the boss at the end. And at some point, these games evolved into bullet hell games. So for reverse...

- Bullet hell would be very tough to impliment an AI for so maybe remove that element for now.

- As I remember, enemies came in waves that included maybe two or three groups in formation. Perhaps something can be done so that you're throwing one or two formations at the player at a time.

- You almost kinda want the hero to get to the boss. It sounds like a lot of fun to fight a hero as a big bad. If that's the case, then you don't really want to kill the hero at all as he's flying towards you from the beginning of the level.

What about shifting the purpose of the game from killing the hero to simply trying to get as many enemies past the hero as possible? I'm thinking an alien invasion force sort of thing.

Given a (perhaps limited) supply of fighters, you need to get X fighters past the hero by sending them in a variety of formations. By doing so, you survive his assult (for some reason, maybe the fighters can resurect you or something) and proceed to the next level (maybe you get an upgrade too). By sending out fighters in predetermined formations and limiting the number of groups of formations and frequency of the waves you should hopefully be able to devise an AI for the hero to adaquatly destroy or evade them. Even if the hero were to have unlimited lives, anytime that you manage to kill him you can use the time it takes for him to respawn as an opportunity to get fighters past the hero's attack.

When the hero reaches you, the boss at the end, you continue to throw fighters at him as well as making use of any special boss powers as he gradually wears down your HP. By making the goal to get fighters past the hero, you can guarentee a confrontation between the hero and boss at each level but success or failure isn't dependant on keeping the boss alive.

#15 JasRonq   Members   -  Reputation: 156

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 19 August 2010 - 07:00 PM

As the boss you could also enable special attacks after taking damage moderated by a rage meter that builds up as you are hit. You could also have multiple forms with different abilities as you are worn down.

#16 Edtharan   Members   -  Reputation: 606

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 August 2010 - 04:10 AM

What you have is a Dominent SDtrategy problem. Basically there is only one real strategy available to the player, so not doing that strategy leads to loss, but doing the strategy leads to victory.

The problem with dominent strategies is that they don't offer the player a choice, as the player has no choice, they aren't really playing the game, and hence they game seems boring.

What you have to offer the player is choices. Sometime spawning lots of enemies will result in success, other time it will result in failure. This isn't random, but based on a direct cause and effect chain.

A basic idea is that some enemies are better able to take out lots of enemies (rapid fire, spread shot, etc) and these enemies spawn in response to the player's actions. So if the player spawns lots of underlings, then the enemy spawns ships that can take them out.

But then you give the player the ability to spawn mini bosses (or just improve their weapons to take out the player) and these are tough enough to deal with the enemies that are designed to take out hoards.

You can have many different strategies that the player can impliment and many different kinds of enemies, and you should make it so that they are good at defeating more than one player strategy at a time and that more than one type of enemy can defeat a given player strategy.

For example:

Using the hoards of enemies/mini-boss/player-ship-upgrade player strategies, you might have an enemy that can take out the hoards of enemies as well as being able to defeat the mini-bosses, but lacks the staying power to take on an upgraded player ship. But you might also ahve an enemy that can take on the Mini-bosses as well as take on the upgraded player ship, but can't deal with the hoards of enemies.

Now the player has choices about what to do. If they upgrade their ship, then the second type of enemy might appear, or if they spawn hoards of underlings,the first type might appear.

Now, levels might be about knowing what sequance these enemies appear in, or it might be that the player has to adapt to enemies that spawn based on how successful they were (so a successful enemy will spawn more of that type).

Now, you could do this without needing any tech trees, what you have to do is introduce a cost to the player foir changin the strategy that they are using. So if they start out spawning hoards of underlings, then it must cost the player something to change to, say, spawning mini-bosses.

A good cost to use is Time. That is, the the player is disadvantaged some way (by maybe not being able to do anything) for a short time. This would simulate the waves that normally assault a player in a typical SHUMP (it is the boss enemy changing strategy).

Also, between levels, the player not only can upgrade the ability of each strategy (eg: spawn enemies faster) but could also invest resources to reduce the switching costs (eg: shorten the time or reduce the energy drain of changing strategies).

#17 OrangyTang   Members   -  Reputation: 1294

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 20 August 2010 - 04:45 AM

Quote:
Original post by Deyja
You've nailed the problem, Ravyne. I should be able to fill the screen with bullets and enemies, but I can't, because I'm not capable of writing AI that could survive in the time budget for this project.


Cheat. Cheat like hell. [grin]

If you want your AI opponents to survive longer without giving them great dodging AI you could give them a few special abilities they can use to save themselves when it's getting crowded. Perhaps a temporary shield it can activate for a few seconds, or a bullet repel attack, or a dodge/dash manoeuvre (where it's temporarily invincible).

If you give these abilities different recharge rates then it can add more strategy to the player's actions, as they can try different waves to specifically deplete the AIs possible escape specials.

#18 Catastrophe   Members   -  Reputation: 100

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 21 August 2010 - 08:27 AM

How about this:

Because you're a super strong mega boss, and the heroes are weaker than you, after you do a certain amount of damage the heroes get stronger. Your goal as the mega boss, is not to simply use all your strong weapons in disposal, but to find a creative way to kill the heroes and their will to destroy you.

I hope that made some sense/give you an idea of what to work on.

Edit: to elaborate more on the idea of make the heroes stronger, what i'm saying is that the more damage you hit them for, the more the heroes' strength/attacks progresses.

I don't know how hard this would be to code but it seemed like a cool design in my head.

#19 Robin S   Members   -  Reputation: 153

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 21 August 2010 - 03:43 PM

Quote:
Original post by EJH
Does your mega-boss have super weapons? A tech tree of super power weapons and defensive stuff would add a lot as well.
Quote:
Original post by Punk Designer
I would mix it up a bit, use things that are often used in such RTS games like turrets, healing units, stealth units, etc. Something tech-tree would be good.

I think you should consider making it so these heroes of yours have to come into your "land" so the player should be able to design the land and put nests (for AI underlings), turrets, rocks in where he/she wants while keeping to a budget (earn money by killing off heroes and other tasks)
That could quickly turn into Tower Defence.

Reversing roles and seeing things from a different perspective is an interesting and appealing idea, but it doesn't always work in practice. In this case, my first thought was that bosses tend to be predictable, and players overcome them using ingenuity and/or by outmaneuvering them. If the way to defeat the incoming "heroes" boils down to some combination of those things, then all you've really done is swapped the sprites round and left the game otherwise how it is. On the other hand, if you remove those components, the game ceases to be fun because that's the tried-and-tested formula for a player-vs-AI battle.

That said, games like Dungeon Keeper and Evil Genius have sold well. Note that they're not really battles, but closer to the Tower Defence archetype - but with a fair amount of originality thrown in. You could use that format as a starting point and then think of your own modifications to make your game distinct and original while keeping the enjoyability factor that your current incarnation lacks.

If you're intent on keeping the form of the game similar to what you've currently got, the simplest modification I can think of to the "choose when to spawn underlings" mechanic is to have some incentive not to spawn them. Maybe the longer you wait, the stronger (or greater in number) your flunkies will be - or your health recharges while you're not spawning.

#20 JasRonq   Members   -  Reputation: 156

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 22 August 2010 - 04:30 PM

What if spawning cost health (and you can eat your own spawns to gain it back...)?




Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.



PARTNERS