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Orymus3

Closing the loop: player death in a schmup?

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Hi folks
I am currently working on a schmup that works in an episodic format much similar to Raptor: call of the shadows (inventory persistence, etc.)
My original intent was to have permadeath: if you die in a mission, you lose all progress.

Now I am thinking this is a bit harsh and that unless I autosave progress, players would just rollback their save.

Any idea how I should handle death? perhaps some form of handicap (damaged ship that needs repairs?)

Thanks

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It's feel like forced 1 credit schmup, but if your game have customization may be a bit harsh, as player may unable to perfect their favourite set or stuff, although allows player to retrains some of old stuff or through unlockable in new game can be nice as well.

 

As for handicap,

I think paying dept may work (ship is damaged when finish current stage, based on number of defeats) instead of damaged ship after death, as you may unable to progress later with no money.

Perhaps lose access to special item or stage (think 1 credit schmup style) or you cannot continue to next stage (can only replay current stage, so player can practice with current ship and resources) may also work?.

 

Or perhaps, impact on overall game progression, think Area 88 game, I think dying results in 1 day passed which make enemy movement closer to you main base (and if you died while base defense, it's game over)

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Instead of creating a linear level design, why not build a dynamic AI to mix up the episodes a bit. Use perma death as a method of making the level design more dynamic. When the PC dies, the player starts the level again with enemies rearranged, treating the location of the death as a boss location. When the player beats the boss they "rescue" the other pilot (where they last died) keeping their "squadron" alive. This would essentially be an in-fiction numbered lives system. You could explore branching paths as well, enabling the player to choose a different path to earn special weapons to fight the bosses. 

 

Perma death could mean the player gets a stronger connection to the characters that make up the squadron and make "death" one of the episodes dynamic challenges which means players won't just role back to old saves when they "fail". 

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You could give the player a choice: Lose all progress, or go back to the latest checkpoint but lose your most recent ship upgrade.  Like you wake up on the previous station and it says "We have repaired your ship, but your tachyon cannon mk2 was damaged beyond repair", and then the player can choose to continue in their weakened state or try again from scratch.

 

As a twist, you could let the ship take overkill, extra damage beyond "dead".  So if you're at 10% health, and you get hit by an attack that gives damage equal to 20% health, then maybe you lose one part, or no parts at all.  But if you're at 10% health and get hit by a -50% health attack, you lose two, etc.  That gives the player an unusual metagame choice: when you're low on health, how best to die so that you don't damage precious systems.

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My original intent was to have permadeath: if you die in a mission, you lose all progress.

Now I am thinking this is a bit harsh and that unless I autosave progress, players would just rollback their save.

 

I *LOVE* perma-death/Iron Man modes.  That being said, Mratthew makes an interesting point about persistent wreckage or components being available after death in the next game.  But would your really want the stuff after slogging all the way back through the game? 

 

Anyway, I vote perma-death.  Mandatory perma-death mode that automatically posts to the player's Facebook they are a failure on character death.

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My original intent was to have permadeath: if you die in a mission, you lose all progress.

If you want to reset the progress of the player, do it only up to where he is able to benefit from his experiences.

 

Therefor the first question is: Can the player make misstakes which will result in problems much later on, or does a misstake result in (almost) immediatly consequences.

Eg getting killed by a boss, because you don't master his attack pattern yet, is an example of the latter consequences. On the other hand, if you are able to develop your ship over time and all your investment went into weapon technology and no hull upgrade, then getting killed by the boss due to your low armor values is a more strategically misstake.

 

This should define your reset range, if you have a strategically development, permadeath (starting from the beginning) is a valid option. If loosing only to a boss due not knowing how to master this challenge yet, then restarting only this mission would be a better option (This would avoid to grind through all the missions you already mastered).

 

 

 


perhaps some form of handicap (damaged ship that needs repairs?)

I don't know your excat game flow, but if you have a ship, which got developed over time and you need to do missions to progress, I would consider the following ideas:

1. Reset only on mission base:

You can retry a mission as often as you like. If your ship got destroyed, you can try again without further penalties.

2. Destroy your ship piecewise:

If you got a blow, only a certain equipment got destroyed (or damaged). Getting a critical hit or getting too many hits will destroy your ship.

3. Reward/damage choice:

If you beat a mission, but got some destroyed (damaged) equipment, you have the option to retry again or to take the reward/damage and continue.

 

This has the advantage, that a player has the choice to skip a frustrating mission while accepting the penalty. On the other hand,doing it too often will result in major problems later on. Nevertheless, the player has the choice to restart the game and utilize his new knowledge to perform better the next time.

Edited by Ashaman73

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Haven't thought this out completely but with a perma-death feel in mind...

What if you were in control of 1 member of a squadron of 1000 fighters at the beginning of the game (Our last and only hope). In effect, at the start, you have 1000 lives to complete the mission with. Except, as you go through levels, some amount of the other fighters are killed off. For example, after the first mission maybe now you have 750 fighters left. When you do die, you start the mission over and have the option of selecting from one of the other fighters who perhaps has a comparable but different set of upgrades (assumption being every fighter's power should increase about the same rate). As you progress closer to the end, your safety net diminishes such that perhaps on the final stage you have maybe 20 elite fighters (or less) standing between victory and the destruction of... whatever it is you're fighting for.

I'm thinking that this way, the player has ample opportunity to play, get better, and generally experience the game. Death allows you to pick up more or less where you left off but at a minor penalty of having to change up to a different set upgrades (and perhaps the connection to your character or ship). As you get closer to the end, anticipation and tension grows as the player realizes his safety net has substantially diminished. If the player fails then tough luck. It was the decisive battle in which fate hung in the balance. At least you got to participate.

Other thoughts...

  • You could be generous and put save points between missions but squadron size still diminishes with each mission.  I think you'd still have that tension at the end of the game since victory is less assured.
  • Given a finite number of ships it might follow that availability of upgrades might be finite such that if you loose too many of one type, you run the risk of them being gone for good as other fighters are lost between missions.
  • You could give an infinite (or large) number of lives and at the end show a memorial wall listed with the names of the dead. The superior player would be able to minimize this list.
     
Edited by kseh

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an unusual metagame choice: when you're low on health, how best to die so that you don't damage precious systems.
I like this idea very much, especially when combined with kseh's idea of a finite armada of ships.

 

I seem to recall that Wing Commander linked a branching story and player performance.  As went your sortie, so went the war.  Your success or failure in a mission to destroy an enemy freighter would result in victory or defeat for an allied battlegroup four systems away.  It worked well.

 

So link the player's performance in a level of the schmup to the persistent world's development and progression.  Assume that the player's ship is representative of the average skill and effectiveness of the pilots on his team.  So start out with kseh's 1000-ship force, and however well the player does in each engagement is reflected in the fleet's performance, which you learn about in the debriefing.  If you get killed by the first bullet, then the battle was a rout and your forces were decimated.  If you storm the level and kill the boss without taking a hit, then your aces swept the field and achieved victory with minimal losses.  If you get 75% of the way through the level, take damage to core systems, and retreat to base to refit your craft, then the level is incomplete, but the number of enemies you killed is reflected in the state of the battle, and when you "retry", the difficulty will have been adjusted accordingly.

 

You could even measure performance in more than one way.  Killing enemies and losing your ships would affect the ratio of good guys/bad guys, which would have an effect on how many enemies appear in the level.  Destroying minibosses or strategic facilities might activate shortcuts, remove threats or debuff opponents.  With your episodic format, persistent inventory and larger-scale consequences for choices made and actions taken, it might even become wise to skip a tough fight if the expected losses outweigh the benefits.

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