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Mephs

Top down space-shooter Deathmatch

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Hey all, I'm trying to create a top down space shooter where it is feasible to include a multiplayer mode and though I have some great ideas for the gameplay, I'm stumped on one aspect which is quite crucial, so I thought I'd throw down my concerns and see if anyone might be able to help work out a way around the issues I am facing. Basically, my main concern is that of the viewpoint. I really would like to keep the feel of a traditional top down shooter, but allow players to combat one another. The problem of course is that if the game has forced scrolling, i.e. the player always flies forwards, then more often than not the player is going to be manoeuvering to battle an opponent who is off screen. Assuming 360 degree freedom, two players could meet on the same area of screen at any given angle but as both players are subject to the automatic forwards movement, I can see that both players will very quickly be in and out of their opponents view, again leading to the problem that in the majority of cases you are trying to outmaneuver an opponent that is not on the screen. Now in keeping with the normal top down shooter feel, I would prefer to focus to be on dodging shots from an on-screen enemy and taking accurate shots rather than on trying to dogfight and get the enemy in your sights. Can anyone think of a way to get this feel I am after? One way for example could be to have multiplayer battles act like boss battles.... i.e. both players are stationary (i.e. no forced scrolling, but still able to move on screen to dodge shots) and are on opposite ends of the screen. This method feels a bit wrong though, neither player has a means of escape, they are locked in combat until one or other is destroyed. Alternatively, I suppose we could have 360 degree freedom in movement, and to avoid the problem with off-screen enemies, we could have arrows at the edge of the screen indicating the nearest opponents direction along with a radar display of sorts. This pretty much addresses the issue of making the player more aware of off-screen opponents, but it doesn't really address the issue of combat being reduced to fly-by attacks. Another method I have thought of is to zoom the camera in and out to show the player more of the battlefield at once depending how close the nearest opponent is. This pretty much resolves all issues, but creates a new issue in that as the camera zooms out, everything becomes smaller and the player has to be much more accurate in their shooting/dodging. Yet another method could be to somehow allow players to roam a map freely, but once in proximity we lock players in combat, perhaps by offering players a series of preset flight patterns. Each player could choose their combat flight pattern and the two (or more) players choices of flight pattern could dictate when and where the players will meet and from what angle they will be approaching one another. Having to make this choice could break the flow of gameplay though, so perhaps instead the flight paths could be predetermined, something like having the players automatically engage in a circle strafe style flight pattern that periodically brings them into contact in such a manner that both players are on screen for maybe 10 seconds or so and then break off for 3 seconds before meeting again for 10 seconds in a slightly different orientation. Of course this method removes some level of fine control from either player. So those are my ideas to facilitate multiplayer top down space combat... does anyone else have any other suggestions or modifications to my ideas or preference for any of the suggested methods? I'd love to hear any feedback :) Cheers, Steve

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ummm...isn't the whole point of aeronautical combat the dogfighting. A top down shooter is meant to be cooperative multiplayer. I like bottom-up shooters anyway, where you're at the bottom (unless that's what u mean).

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Well.. who says it is meant to be cooperative? That's the point of my ramblings on the idea, I'm looking to see if it is feasible to have a non-cooperative idea with a similar feel.

The reason I suggest disliking the dogfighting aspect is because with a normal vertical scrolling shooter, you do not have to worry about twisting and turning your direction in order to meet an opponent... you are on rails and they come to you and I'm just wondering if it is possible to get this same feel in some manner.

It may not be possible, or at least not possible in a manner that works very well, but I'm simply exploring the idea to see if that is or is not the case. Perhaps someone may have a clever idea that retains the feel I am after?

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One possibility would be "jousting", where the players make a pass on each other, then cede control to the computer, which gets them turned around and lined up for the next pass. Repeat until one of the players dies. Alternatively, each pass could be a round, and you'd award points per round based on damage dealt, shots narrowly avoided, etc. Then the winner could be chosen by a point decision in the event that neither player actually died.

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Quote:
Original post by Mephs
Another method I have thought of is to zoom the camera in and out to show the player more of the battlefield at once depending how close the nearest opponent is. This pretty much resolves all issues, but creates a new issue in that as the camera zooms out, everything becomes smaller and the player has to be much more accurate in their shooting/dodging.


You could somehow start a fight by "scanning" or getting a "lock on" your enemy and then have the screen adjusted like you mentionned. There could be a threshold on how far an opponent can be before you lose your lock on (so no problem with over-zoomed out camera).

Like you mentionned this would avoid the fly by strategy AND it would force players to be closer since a zoomed out camera would make it particularly difficult to aim.

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Also you can try to make the farthest range of the weapons they use only far enough to the edge of their screens. That way the only real way to hit a target is to both be on screen at the same time.

If you want a good example of what you're trying to make, I recommend the space shooter Continuum. It's multi-player, with several mods of the original idea, but maybe you can find some things that would greater enhance your design of your game.

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Another idea would be to put a barrier around the outside of the battlefield stopping them from leaving the opponents view. This would also increase battle statistics if the person runs into the wall they bounce back leaving them vulnerable for a short amount of time.

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Thanks for the interesting feedback :)

Senko no Ronde for starters looks quite interesting. I hadn't thought of having the game act like a beat 'em up. It's a possible direction to aim in, though I think it kind of loses something by focusing on just two combatants. I picture my idea as working best in some kind of warzone setting where players take on one spacecraft against perhaps 1-20 opponents or so at a time.

Continuum was very interesting to play. It has a very good feel to it, although I think the controls are a little overly complex for my liking, they work, but only after you invest a fair amount of time learning them properly. Also, I was kind of hoping to have the player able to move around the screen like in a traditional vertical scroller, but to be able to control the scrolling direction too. In continuum, though it suited the game, you controlled your ship in a manner more similar to Asteroids than to something like R-Type. I'm more after the feel of a game like R-Type than asteroids if that is at all possible.

Actually, I already have a mock-up of my idea running. I have got it working so far by having the player use the mouse to move abou the screen whilst the screen scrolls vertically. The twist is that when the player moves to the edge of the screen, the direction of scrolling and the ships heading rotate, kind of like how some shooters allow you to use more of the width of a level by moving close to the edge, but with rotation instead of strafing.

The problems my current implementation faces are that if you move to the left side of the screen, you rotate leftwards, but as you are at the edge of the screen, you cannot see what you are rotating towards, so I think it could be frustrating to rotate into an enemy that you might have not seen and missed on the scanner. Having thought about it though, I wonder if it could work if the view zoomed out a little so that when you move to the edge, you can see more of your surroundings and then it zooms back in again once rotation stops.

I had also thought about reversing the rotation so moving to the left edge rotates right, but I think it feels a little wierd in practise... though it would allow you to easily circle strafe opponents.

I had also thought about perhaps having levels still on rails, but having opponents effectively chasing one another, kind of like a race of sorts, but then I think the game loses the deathmatch feel and becomes more of a space racer like Wipeout which again is not really the feel I think I am after.

Anyhoo... here is a link to a video showing my early prototype... It may help give a better idea of what kind of effect I'm after and perhaps might give rise to some ideas for improvements. Please forgive the fact that the level is a badly constructed 3d model I knocked up in a short while to test with... I already know there are gaps in the tiles and the lighting looks awful :P This is just to test the control scheme :)

If anyone would like to make any suggestions of improvements I'd love to hear them :)

Cheers,

Steve

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Hmm, interesting video... I have a few suggestions I hope you find useful:
1) In the demo video, the speed seems rather low and there isn't really any inertia. If you keep the max speed of a ship from getting too high, it should be reasonably possible for players to actually circle and engage each other instead of just whizzing by.

2) If it is possible to tilt the point of view "back" somewhat, maybe as much as 60 degrees, you could get a longer view in the screen, and thus see further. Though this might bring up some other gameplay issues like altitude, which you may or may not want to deal with.

3) In Star Control 2 (aka The Ur-Quan Masters), which will forever be my ideal model for top-down space combat, you fight a single opponent in a pretty large arena. The trick lies in the fact that the screen zooms in and out automatically depending on how close together you are, and remains centered between your two ships. If you have an option to target a specific enemy, I'd think that this system could be adapted to many more ships without too much trouble.

4) If you don't want to take control of the viewpoint away from the player, just put in a zoom control.

Good luck, it sounds like a fun game. :-)

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