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mk.jr.fan

What makes a good beat'em up game?

35 posts in this topic

I'm creating a 2d sidescroller beat'em up game and wanted to know what separates the good beat'em games that are fun and have replayability from the brain dead games where all you do is spam the attack button to win.

 

I am going to list what I think separates a good game of this genre from the bad ones.

  1. Need at least two buttons: one to punch, one to block.
  2. have enemies that give you a reason to block.
  3. putting in different attack combos
  4. variation of enemy types (ex. high damage, high health)

I want to know if these are good ideas as well as any other ideas or concepts that I might have missed.

If you think there are better ideas put them down below.  

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Interesting, I like your ideas of pauses needed between attacks as well as unblockable attacks. With the idea of strategy, I feel that the distinction between playing offensively and defensively also plays a major role in that sweat victory. But would the inclusion of more attacks (lets say kicking) different speed of attacks (powerful attacks require more time then smaller attacks) add more to the experience or make it overly complicated?

 

Also concerning enemy health, would having an equal mix of weak enemies and strong enemies be better to have then lets say consistently  stronger enemies as it gets harder (basically having no weak enemies)?

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Also concerning enemy health, would having an equal mix of weak enemies and strong enemies be better to have then lets say consistently  stronger enemies as it gets harder (basically having no weak enemies)?

Don't make an enemy who is universally weaker than a preceding enemy. They can have less health, but offset it with more speed/damage/etc. This way the player is forced to adopt different strategies, but each opponent is never much easier than any other.
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Though harder work yields greater rewards wouldn't the persistent difficulty make it frustrating if the player is unable to overcome the obstacles?

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I think what you're getting at is pacing, and good pacing can make a good game great or an otherwise fine game tedious.

 

Pacing can, and I think should, be achieved in ways other than the numbers inherent to an enemy though, as ifthen touched on. You're right, a linear increase in difficulty can and often will frustrate the player, especially if the playable characters are supposed to be getting more powerful. Nothing takes the fun out of getting power-up or level or weapon than having an enemy that just gets stronger right back at you. I think Diablo 3 is a good example of how this was done wrong.

 

So, how do you make the game harder while getting your players to keep playing? How about different battle-types: maybe in one encounter your player is put in the defensive position, avoiding powerful attacks and really trying to time their offensive moves well so that they don't get hit in the process, while in another your character is chasing a set of enemies around the screen while they run away and fling rocks in your direction. There are a lot of ways to vary the types of encounters your player will face beyond making enemies that have different dps/hp ratios, and your players will thank you for supplying them.

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I think what you're getting at is pacing, and good pacing can make a good game great or an otherwise fine game tedious.

 

Pacing can, and I think should, be achieved in ways other than the numbers inherent to an enemy though, as ifthen touched on. You're right, a linear increase in difficulty can and often will frustrate the player, especially if the playable characters are supposed to be getting more powerful. Nothing takes the fun out of getting power-up or level or weapon than having an enemy that just gets stronger right back at you. I think Diablo 3 is a good example of how this was done wrong.

 

So, how do you make the game harder while getting your players to keep playing? How about different battle-types: maybe in one encounter your player is put in the defensive position, avoiding powerful attacks and really trying to time their offensive moves well so that they don't get hit in the process, while in another your character is chasing a set of enemies around the screen while they run away and fling rocks in your direction. There are a lot of ways to vary the types of encounters your player will face beyond making enemies that have different dps/hp ratios, and your players will thank you for supplying them.

 

Question on making the game difficulty scale when acquiring new abilities; Would making the game be really easy in the beginning of the level and then scale the difficulty as you progress later in the level maybe a better option?

My logic behind this is that the player would still be able to feel powerful after receiving the new powerup in the beginning and would not feel any frustration, but the level difficulty would still be there and in the end make it feel like a more balanced feel.

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Personally, one of my favorite elements of a simple beat 'em up is the ability to counter an attack. Think of the Lord of the Rings Two Towers / RotK (and countless others, I suppose) as an example. Nothing beats a good parry / riposte insta-kill. Nothing to say that can't be added into a simpler hobbyist build.

 

As for your difficulty progression I would say don't be afraid to have the game scale, but throw in a few old enemies along with the meaner, palette swapped baddies. That way, the player can have a feeling of transcendence over the once tough foes.

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That is a good point for putting foes that where once hard but now easier. But one question for the parry. Would it be acceptable to make a parry a button combination like making the player press the attack and block button at the same time or it should have its own special button?

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I was envisioning a dedicated button, but if you're set on the 2 button approach, then I would think that could work. An alternative would just include a timer on the block button itself. If the player presses block at the right time, he'll automatically parry. That being said, as long as you explain the controls to the potential player and it doesn't make him do anything stupid with his fingers, he'll figure it out. 

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Here's a pretty good video on pacing. As for your question, mk.jr.fan, it is my opinion that having predictable difficulty curves ruins immersion. Even if the player doesn't know it, he or she will probably feel the predictability. This can be cool if you want to establish a pattern and then destroy it, making the player uncomfortable or excited, but overall I think it makes for a pretty boring game.

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If you already have not, Punch Quest on the IOS is a great example of beat'em up game done right. All your suggestions already are in this game. Plus the game is free on the App Store. You will see what I mean.

Edited by warnexus
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The main thing to do is making all tactics that are trivial to devise, too easy to perform, or just ugly (spamming attacks, pushing against enemies and confiding in higher DPS, shooting with ample ammo, mashing buttons fast, herding enemies to hit multiple ones, and so on) obviously counterproductive, forcing the player to learn or lose.

 

For example, good attacks could work only in a limited vertical and horizontal range, forcing good positioning and making obstacles more important, and/or in certain enemy states (e.g. pull by the wrists and throw when the enemy lunges forward with a fist), forcing the player to really pay attention to what's happening.

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The main thing to do is making all tactics that are trivial to devise, too easy to perform, or just ugly (spamming attacks, pushing against enemies and confiding in higher DPS, shooting with ample ammo, mashing buttons fast, herding enemies to hit multiple ones, and so on) obviously counterproductive, forcing the player to learn or lose.

 

For example, good attacks could work only in a limited vertical and horizontal range, forcing good positioning and making obstacles more important, and/or in certain enemy states (e.g. pull by the wrists and throw when the enemy lunges forward with a fist), forcing the player to really pay attention to what's happening.

I understand now that implementing the player to use strategy is important in gameplay but what happens when it can get overly complicated? Now after reading all of the comments thus far I do get the picture that in order to make a good beat'm up game is to give the player some difficulty so when the player wins that person would get a victorious feeling.

 

But my next question is where do we draw the line from where it becomes to complicated to learn how to play to making it an easy pick up and play game?

 

I understand that yes fighting games have lots of combinations in order to execute different moves, but keep in mind this is a side scroller beat'em like double dragon or teenage mutant ninja turtles for the arcade. It should be simple enough where the player can look at the control screen for like 10 seconds while the game loads and be able to do most attacks, but being able to have that satisfactory feel when s\he beats the game. 

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You could give the player really simple-to-use, but effective moves (for example: E. Honda's super-fast-palm-attack or Chun-Li's blurry kick-attack) to use to lower the bar-of-entry; giving players something to do other than just kick and punch, but don't make it the most effective strategy. Maybe early on it can get them out of trouble, but as the game advances the player needs to find other strategies (using bigger, but more complicated, moves; using the block/parry system; evading) to maintain that effectiveness. This can keep the game challenging while weaning the player off of the cheap-shot tactics and into the more advanced mechanics and exciting challenges that you want to throw at them. This might even turn casual players into die-hards (Street-Fighter 2 is a great example).

 

edit: found where this idea came from. Wow, I really do throw a lot of links to that show in this forum.

Edited by NoAdmiral
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I understand now that implementing the player to use strategy is important in gameplay but what happens when it can get overly complicated? Now after reading all of the comments thus far I do get the picture that in order to make a good beat'm up game is to give the player some difficulty so when the player wins that person would get a victorious feeling.

Winning is less important than having fun playing, and cheapness (either on the player's side, because it is allowed and rewarded, or on the game's side, meant as a "challenge") is simply a sign of bad game design. The real "victorious feeling" is being aware of learning and improvement.

But my next question is where do we draw the line from where it becomes to complicated to learn how to play to making it an easy pick up and play game?

 

Don't confuse "difficulty" with having to play well, complicated rules with tactical depth, and easy to pick up games with simple and shallow ones.

A good game can be both accessible enough for newcomers to stumble through and complex enough to allow experienced players to perform much better.

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I think you should first categorize the market, cuz at least the two major genres, casual and hardcore gamers, do not enjoy beat'em up games the same way, hence they'd judge good or bad differently. The responses above are majorly from the stance of a creative game dev providing a casual game to "real" gamers. If you ask Zynga or Kabam i'd imagine they give a vastly different aspect. I'm no specialist in this approach, but one of the reoccurring key to success is nailing the peak time of utility. Fun builds up doing repetitive experience, but after certain time unit, perhaps 30 secs, perhaps 3 mins, the curve enters marginal return phrase. If the game at that sharp moment calls an end to a gameplay or rewards a bonus / special event, then you raise the fun to the next level. its not the most "fun" project for the developer, and i know not all the truth but just partial truth about mass-public-mainstream-casual/social gaming.  

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Sense of impact!

All that matters to me is that when my character hits something, it feels like a true impact. It's part of the reason I love Marvel vs Capcom, and Smah Bros.

The perfect combination of sound, connecting animations and such, that for a moment really let me believe that something has smashed into something else.
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What makes a good beat 'em up? Well, let's see: 

 

1) Good controls. So you need a good format for them. Personally I'd go with about 7 buttons needed for a good modern day beat 'em up. I'll give you an example of them: 

a) Punch

b) Kick

c) Block

d) Jump

e) Special 

f) Grab - Nothing is worse in a beat 'em up where you accidentally grab when you meant to punch or kick. Intentional grabs are always good if you don't have a good system where you grab. SoR for instance has a good one, but say the classic Double Dragon? Not so much. This can also be used to stop the general confusion games have with attacking versus picking up a weapon. Now there can never be a moment where the player can attack the enemy 

g) Back Attack - Because it's annoying to have it mapped on dual buttons. 

 

The biggest thing that kills beat 'em ups for me is when you have limited controls and those are half the reason the game is hard. 

 

For varied enemies, I'd say the big thing is to have something in mind for the enemies. For instance, take Streets of Rage, every enemy pretty much has some "specialty." Galza's throw you and do sliding tackles to knock you on the ground, Donovans are anti-aerial so jump attacks are less useful, ninjas land on their feet when you throw them and also have projectiles, boxers can block so throwing them is the best option against them... The biggest challenge is trying to exploit these patterns in various environments and various enemy formations. That's what makes it fun. The problem with so many beat em' ups is that the enemies you fight have no real rhyme or reason to how you fight them (or how they fight for that matter), so when you encounter another enemy you just approach it as a new punching bag. 

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Thank you for all the replies! After reading some I think I now understand how to make a game that's difficult, but fair. But also able to a have a variety of attacks to counter the enemy.

 

I do have one more question. For use of a keyboard what would be the best button combination for a beat'm up game?

My setup would be:

wasd: for movement

left Shift: to run

jkl: for action buttons

 

Is this a good setup or do you have any ideas of your own that you can add?

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personally not going stail right away. ie punch, kick the same 3 guys over on diffrent backgrounds. like tekken 3's tekken force mode

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