Sorry Drake, I didn't even see this post until now! Haven't been ignoring it
First, there's a rather large argument to be made when you're comparing non-transferable memorization of a game to transferable shmup skills (especially in terms of their importance, but that's another thing). You said "there's a tendency for people to expect skills from one game to carry them through another with the same amount of success. It doesn't work that way", yet the only characteristic of "skill" you mention here is memorization of a game's individual approaches to certain patterns and sections, which I would almost reject as an area of skill altogether; never mind implying that all of the other areas of skill (that I would actually call skills) fall under that umbrella as well (this is what Naut was addressing). I would even disagree that the example you used, the closing circles, is something that wouldn't transfer to other games. The pattern itself can be decomposed into methods of dodging such that once you understand the pattern, you can also identify similar patterns and dodge them similarly. I would say that's a transferable skill. On a more obvious scale, it's the reason the infinity loop and u-turning are such successful tactics across many shmups.
I get what you're saying - given that essentially the game boils down to the same thing. "2d shooter, avoid bullets - shoot things" - yes of course there's going to be skills that carry across.
What you identify next as memorization is vague, and covers way too large of an area but you equate it all to the same thing, and that's probably my biggest issue with how you're talking about memorization, and it's almost worrisome for a dev to be thinking in those terms. Memorization in a shmup has an incredibly huge range. Mentioning Futari Ultra's dependence on knowing where to go and what to cancel more than arbitrary dodging, is very different from remembering which enemies to use lard shot on and for how long, and both of these are very different from a Psikyo game's necessity to memorize left-left-right-left taps or you die. Very different than remembering which pattern comes next in a boss fight
Read this paragraph back to yourself. Several times if needs be. You've just identified three games where the same skills are not immediately transferrable - because they do not exist across games. I'm not really meaning to say anything different to this.. I don't know why you think it's particularly worrisome. I'm acutely aware of just how differently these games play.. hence the bold statement of 'non transferrable skills' in the first place.
You say it's the biggest thing in any Cave game, and yes it's at the end of basically any proper scoring system, but it's all done to completely differing degrees and done in different ways. To say it's at the core of every shmup is missing the point; it's how they're all done that should be explored. Saying "it's important in all these games" seems to say that it's important because it's in those games rather than examining the reasons why they may be enjoyable or not.
Well indeed, they're all executed differently. I don't really understand what you mean when you're saying it's important because
it's in those games though... can you elaborate on that a little?
I also disagree that being a good game developer is necessarily about trying to make things as fun as possible for absolutely everybody. While as an end result, you may want to be able to please everyone, that is extremely unreasonable. You may say "well, not the people interested in x genre, only the ones who like y genre", but it follows that you won't be able to please everyone within y genre for the same reason that you just excluded x genre.
I dont understand the disagreement with this. People who are likely to nitpick about a games mechanics are in a vocal minority. Casual players will always make up the bulk of your audience. To try and argue my point (and also to illustrate that I make mistakes and am aware of them!) I'll use one of my own mistakes as an example of how I tried to do this and actually fucked up.
CB has an autobomb mode. I had loads of people going "NAH! Dont put Autobomb in!" - despite there being an option to not play with autobomb on. Practically everybody then played on Autobomb, because it was an easier and somewhat cheaper clear than attempting to play the game properly due to what some felt was an overwhelming difficulty. I also opted to restock bombs between levels to try and ease the pain players would experience. My entire system is geared towards greatly rewarding a player who NMNBs the entire game through obsessive practise.
Unfortunately, in reality - all the companies who make retail shooters are all striving to get players coming back. As a design decision, adding in an autobomb mode is easier than having to craft an easier difficulty setting with less bullets. I've even had feedback from extremely casual players who don't even play shmups regularly stating that the autobomb feature was the best thing for them - because they didn't feel they were being punished for getting hit by something they might perceive as an unfair and dense bullet pattern. These guys aren't playing for score though... but there's a hell
of a lot of these guys who just want to credit feed their way to victory. I'm not going to exclude those people.
Truth is, no matter how well you explain the mechanics - someone will always fail to understand your game and consequently suck at it. To be a good game developer, you need to make a game that people can come back to - play and enjoy - while still offering some level of depth for hardcore enthusiasts.
This is of course just one example and autobomb probably isn't the best one. My point is that there will always be two schools of thought on whatever you do. Do I fully bow to the vocal minority and make the game bullshit hard and cut my sales by 90% - or do I release a game that more than 10 people want to play? I'm still getting daily sales on Chronoblast, people still think it's good enough to buy and I'm not exactly advertising the shit out of it. So, people like my game.
Trying to refine it in to something that caters for the mindset of the shmups forum while still catering for a wider audience by providing hand holding features is something I want to do as a personal goal. I could quite easily create an experience that caters purely for the masses with pretty graphics, but that's not something I want to do. Finding a balance is incredibly difficult... there's a point where you just have to shrug off the nay sayers and focus on your larger audience. Sad, but true.
Saying there are people who enjoy milking and thus you should include it, is simply catering to an audience by attaching an unnecessary piece of gameplay to your game in hopes of getting them excited. If you put too much focus on adding things for the sake of pleasing one group, you end up introducing needless complexity that is prone to bugs and balancing issues, and end up not focusing on the core mechanics that you were supposed to be working on. To an end you want a game that pleases a large amount of people, but not by sacrificing other things. Your example fails because it's introducing a mechanic insignificant until the very top level of optimization, in which case you're forced to do whatever extra mechanic you threw in. The people who don't like milking are forced to do it, and the people who like milking are not given an appropriate hand in scoring. "Since a game developer is writing something with finite parameters, they can't just create every possibly mechanic that could ever be thought up in a single game." points back to your own problem almost exactly.
I'm not sure what the exact problem I have that you're referring to is - I'd be interested in hearing that. There's a situation in my game where milking is actually broken - due to a dodgy algorithm that I've now patched and that's not the kind of gameplay I want. Sometimes, when you're staring at tens of thousands of lines of code - these things happen. There are situations in my game that present milking opportunities. They're weren't originally in there by design, this thing happened where I was playing my own game for score and went "wait, I can get more points out of this situation if I'm less aggressive during this pattern and I activate a hyper during the next cycle" -- because the screen ends up with a lot of bullets. What I'm specifically referring to is my stage 1 boss on normal mode in its second form. If can get a second hyper during the boss fight - you can cycle through its blue needle bullets right back in to the full screen red bullets attack and activate your hyper there. Kill the boss while the hyper is active and you get rewarded with a second large bullet cancel. There's an element of risk/reward here because you're encouraged to tap dodge a fairly quick and fast bullet pattern while recharging your hyper so you can get the cancel in. It takes a small amount of skill to do it.
The stuff Emuser discovered is a product of a bug which is actually not directly related to my choice to allow the player to milk. The changes I've now made mean that you don't get any free hyper - you have to be actively damaging the boss, however you are still expected to control your aggression and not flat out kill the boss if you intend to cycle the patterns for a second bonus. Due to the limitations I've now imposed, cycling this a third time is going to be quite a feat - I don't think it's possible but it's certainly under stricter control than before to avoid endless milking.
If you watch the STGWeekly Gus episode - when he's cycling that particular pattern and is asked "Why are you doing it?", he responds with "Because I'm milking it". He does it once and then goes on to counterstop the game. I suspect you've interpreted me being an advocate of milking to mean that I fully endorse and encourage people to create Yagawa-esque moments in games. I don't.
It's impossible for me to actually do anything about this form of milking, unless I do the same as DOJ - where I do not allow the player to obtain hypers during a boss fight unless specific conditions are met. Not something I actually want to do!
Your example of Mushi S2 Ultra boss milking demonstrates that what Gus is doing is more than the core of milking, it's having to dodge several extra patterns, creating variety and actual content. However, what if you had to play through some different patterns before the boss dies, rather than forcing the player to repeat patterns for score? Would that not be better?
Again, you can't write an infinite scenario. What Gus is doing on the ST2 boss is precisely the same thing I've desribed above with my stage 1 boss. The player has to survive through some patterns to get the cancel in. It's not about just doing the same thing over and over again. However, what you've said does lead me to think that there's a LOT of value in perhaps making the patterns increase in intensity and difficulty with each repetition eventually reaching the point where the player is pretty much going to die or bomb unless they're extremely good. This places more emphasis on any sort of milking being tied to memorisation of how the boss behaves, how he fires and when he simply becomes too difficult to deal with - bringing the games focus back to a risk/reward style of gameplay where you're agitating the boss to the point where it just really wants to kill you and your reward is that fat bullet cancel as the boss finally dies. All earned because you put in the time to engineer that situation.
Is that what you mean? If it is, we're basically on the same page but I've probably worded it badly somewhere.
Thanks for the reply Drake. More food for thought :0)