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Ezbez

Taking a look at "Gunroar"

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I've never done anything like this before, so here it goes. This isn't a review, but it's an investigation into what makes this game good. What sets it apart from other shoot 'em ups? What are the little details that you don't notice at first? This almost will feel like a strategy guide, but I think of it more as a celebration of and commentary on the fine points of a high quality, yet simple game. A look at Gunroar by ABA Games. I shall speak only of Mouse mode, since it is clearly the coolest (except maybe Double Play, which I have yet to play with someone else), but this has little relevance to what I say. Gunroar at first appears to be your typical shoot 'em up. You're a boat, and you go along and shoot other boats, dodging their oddly slow-moving bullets, and generally causing mayhem. The first thing most people notice with Gunroar is its stylistic and polish graphics. The simple colors, additive blending, and plain shapes. However, there turns out to be much more depth and strategy in this game than is first realized. The first thing to be considered is that you can shoot down the guns separately from the ship's hull even on the simplest of enemy. This is an interesting option, and becomes even more intricate when taking on bosses, who have dozens of guns, all of which can be destroyed separately. You must destroy some guns before you can attack the primary hull, since some guns are in your way for the boss. There are many guns left that are you choice to kill or not. This brings us to our next topic; the score multiplier. There's actually two score multipliers in Gunroar. One for the entire game and one for each individual enemy. The one for the individual enemies increases whenever a gun is destroyed. Take out one gun before destroying the ship and you double the points you get for it. Take out two, and you triple the points. This matters a lot for the boss fights where you can get 10x or 20x multipliers. The other multiplier is the global one. This one is a little more original. It decreases slowly all the time, but increases whenever you move forward (a side note; you can move the boat up and down, all the way to the top of the screen. the more you move forward, the faster the screen scrolls. Without moving up, the screen takes a very, very long time to advance). In game play terms, making the enemies come faster and being right up next to the top of the screen, where they come out, increases the multiplier. This multiplier can get to 200x or more, if you charge forward. This is an interesting trade off; do you rush forward and rack up points, or sit back and build your points up slowly? Another detail is that when you destroy an enemy, all the bullets it had been shooting disappear (they may even give you a score bonus, but I'm not sure of this). This gives the player two ways to defend himself; kill enemies before their bullets can reach you, or avoid bullets. Further aiding this is that enemies show laser-sights in the direction where they are shooting, even when above the top of the screen. Since they're aiming at you, it's generally intuitive to triangulate their positions based off of these lines. The difficulty of the enemy is also indicated by the line, to an extent; hard enemies that shoot *many* bullets at once actually get whole pie-slices instead of lines, indicating what they can shoot. All this, and probably some more that I have missed, add up to a very interesting and surprisingly deep game. I have found that the counter-intuitive method of charging forward and break-neck speed while ignoring enemies too far below me works well. You can take this to the extreme and actually skip past boss fights, but that looses you quite a few points. What we see here is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Add together some simple, intuitive, and implicit options and what you get is a very complicated game. There genuinely is more to this game than rock-paper-scissors. You find yourself learning dozens of small tricks; what to shoot first, when to run, where to stay, where enemies are coming from. I find this game to be a wonderful example of the opposite of the "A beats X, B beats Y, and C beats Z" armor vs. weapons that Wavinator wrote on in this thread. This game is the opposite of the "choice you should make automatically," discussed in that thread; no choice is obvious, no choice is perfect. Except maybe that whole shooting thing, you generally want to do that. Well, that's all. Take what you can from this. I think Gunroar is a great example for many of us as to what a great game can be like. Think about it next time you make a game - what little options do you throw in that add an entire new dimension to your game? P.S. My highscore is 14 million on Mouse mode. Anyone beat that?

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Love it!
I've played their 'PARSEC47' and that was one of the best shmups I've ever played.

The precision and intuitive controls really stand out for me here; I've rarely ever seen/felt better handling in a game.

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I really need to thank you for this post, I LOVE this game. LOVE IT.

And yes, Ive hit 15-16 million a few times, but once, and only once somehow exploded my way right up to 23 million, and havent gotten close to it since.

24 million is my new obsession...

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Kenta Cho's work is like a font of endless design ideas for twitch/action games that don't require an absurd amount of work to enjoy or develop. The design methodology that Cho seems to employ in all of his work is a sort of deceptive simplicity -- a concept that shows through in the visuals, audio, control, and core game mechanics.

In Gunroar, Cho has a few core principles: the faster you move the more your multiplier increases and, then, the quicker you destroy things the more points you get. These two goals alone define the entire concept of the game: a player has the incentive to go as fast as he possibly can in order to maximize his/her score. The important difference to take away is that a player is just given this goal as a secondary incentive for progress; he is not forced to go at blazingly fast speeds in order to enjoy the core game or anything but, rather, he's only forced to go as fast as he enjoys.

The visuals of Gunroar are actually unique to think about (just like all of Cho's other games); the game employs an abstract visual style of simple vector graphics that create a stylized boat-on-the-water-shooting-shit look for the game. I think that Gunroar's style, more than any of Cho's other games, lends to the frenetic pace of the game. The best component of the style, though, is the little timer that is attached to every enemy which serves as a constant reminder to the player along the lines of "Hey, look what happens if you focus on dispatching an individual enemy quickly!" These little stylistic choices tie the game mechanics to the style of the game so seamlessly.

I also recommend checking out Titanion; it's not a particularly complex design or anything, but it's a pretty rad shooter.

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