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 Post subject: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:51 pm 


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Early work in progress title screen mocked up in advance so my music guy would have something to look at for ideas

So I'm making a shooty game.

It's my first game, so it'll probably be pretty short (like 10-15 minutes), and probably pretty bad (well, I guess it's possible to make a decent game on your first try, but I've been told not to hold my breath).

The aesthetic is basically "Dragon Spirit meets Metal Black". How much we can accomplish depends on how much my artist friends are willing to draw before they get bored/tired. They've been great so far though. They're aiming for an at least sort of classy 16 bit-ish art style instead of some 8-bit programmer art garbage, hopefully it can be pulled off.

Mechanically, it's basically "Dangun Feveron meets Metal Black/Darius Burst". Speed kill stuff to make extra enemy waves appear. You have some special weapons that can be used for either speed killing or bullet cancelling: use them up on all out offense every chance you get for higher scores and flashier gameplay but more dodging to deal with.

Also expect a lot of (hopefully balanced) rng patterns and environmental hazards, and an emphasis on fast movement whether dodging or hunting down enemies.

Don't have a ton to show at the moment. I'm still mostly working with GMOSSE's place holder sprites while I wait for my art bro's to draw stuff. As of this writing, I'm getting close to finishing up a boss fight, and might focus on level design and stuff more once I'm off from school next week.


Current Dev Team:
Me - Programming, Game Design
Hagane, Mike Pixel - Pixel Art
Tusia - Character Design
??? - Sound Design
??? - Music

If anyone else wants to lend a hand, contribute anything at all, that'd be great. We're all mostly doing this for fun when our jobs and school permit, so any extra hands are appreciated.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


Last edited by Squire Grooktook on Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2016 12:16 pm 


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Sent this to some friends on Steam, figured I might as well post it here too to show what I've been up to since winter break started.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUY-QXQLo2Q

Early and bad work in progress clip for a boss fight I'm working on. It's basically Simon Says, but played against a rotating blade wheel from Hell.

I'm still using place holder sprites (if you count an ms paint circle as a sprite ^_^) because my spriter friend is still working on animating the player characters wings.

I plan on polishing, nerfing, and changing a ton of things here, it's bad and a loooooooooooong way from done.

-

Also have about 71 seconds of a stage done, but I'm kind of undecided on how drastically I'm going to change some things about it in the coming days, so I figured I'd save a preview of that for later...hopefully when sprites are done.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:00 pm 


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i like music and how it's rotating.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:18 pm 


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For the record, it's the song I had stuck in my head when I came up with and wrote most of that boss lol.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 2:08 pm 



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the ship is the spike's one from cowboy beebop, if not it' look loke as^^.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:14 am 


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Yeah it's from BZPBanshee's GMOSSE and it was modeled after it.

Like I said, it's a place holder, it ain't staying :wink:
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:26 am 


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There are a lot of neat tricks going on with that boss. The spinning arms + explosions remind me of Dis-Human's final form in RayCrisis. Nice fast attacks too.
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:11 pm 


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Alright, some updates!

So Hagane has been doing fantastic sprite art for me. I haven't implemented any of it yet in-game, since he's still tweaking most of it (last I checked, everything from anatomy to animation to detail was subject to change). Here's a few examples:

Player character "neutral" animation:
Image
Player character "left/right movement" animation:
Image
Player character "Flame Thrower" sprite:
Image
(More on the flame thrower later.)

He says any constructive criticism on these is welcome and requested.

The resolution is 640x360, which was suggested by Hagane as a cleanly scaling res after I explained that I wanted to mimic the movement and perfect square play field in Cho Ren Sha 68k (which is a big influence). 140 px on each side are reserved for borders, leaving a 360x360 play area.

As I said, we're aiming for a bit of a dark fantasy style. Metal Black meets Dragon Spirit. We were talking a bit about enemy/monster designs, and have kind of settled on an organic insect/aquatic + mythological style for many creatures. For example, insectoid knights with exo-skeletons for armor and fly wings for capes, giant Space Whale battleships, etc. IREM was an influence we talked a bit about, alongside Taito's surreal styling's.



Anyway *gameplay* talk!!!11!

Although I originally had most of a first stage done, I ended up having to scrap most of it when I realized that implementing and balancing Dangun Feveron-style extra enemy waves would be more difficult and complex then I initially thought. I spent about 2 weeks of experimentation with various ways of dyanamic enemy spawning, but finally found something I like and have been rebuilding the first stage from the ground up.

Basically this is my philosophy for the extra enemy waves.
Spoiler: show
If you play pacifist, you will be punished. Balancing offense/defense and risk/reward is a very important concept to me, and besides, this is a shooting game. If you're not shooting things, you're doing it wrong. This might seem like a no brainer, but with a Dangun style system where more enemies spawn the faster you kill them, it was super tough to balance this, but like I said, I think I found a set up I like.

If you kill things adequately, you will have a much better fighting chance. If you kill things faster with the application of extra finesse, you will be rewarded with more enemies, and therefore more points. Extra enemy waves also means that fast-kills won't remove the need to dodge, since the extra waves can be balanced to ensure you'd need to dodge anything that you might've killed before it could fire.



So here's some videos demonstrating all that (see the video descriptions for more in depth talk about the waves/patterns themselves):
(NOTE: Everything aesthetic in here is a place holder, that includes those crazy/awesome over the top YGW explosions lol, I realize those aren't good for large numbers of zakos.)

Pacifism - More bullets on screen, much more punishing. No points.
Adequate play - Fair dodging, average points.
Speed kill - More destruction, more points, no less dodging then "adequate" play.

*edit* (the above videos I kinda screwed up recording settings and made it super tiny and blurry with black borders against Youtubes black auto borders, but pay that no heed, I'm just too lazy to record it again. It's about the same size as the previous video, just higher res. Here's a more accurate screenshot with ugly red borders to show the size..)

None of the level designs or patterns here are finalized. Much to do, and pretty much everything is subject to change. For example, that sine wave pattern is kinda really hard. I am just trying to get through it with the new systems and then tweak/balance things to a finer degree later.


As for other mechanics, I have a Mars Matrix style system in place where the main fire button has 3 different shots depending on how long you hold/tap/release the button. Rapid narrow shot vs spread shot charged by releasing fire vs melee attack charged by holding fire. I want there to be a kind of rhythm between offense/defense, spacing, and button pressing. I'm very concerned about the balance right now though. The spreadshot feels a bit strong against zakos, and I think the melee should have less range.

Lastly, you have a bomb, the "flame thrower" in the video. It recharges over time (which can be sped up by killing enemies or picking up bomb fragments), but you can only stock one full charge at a time. You can use it before it's fully charged, but it'll be much shorter in duration and range, and less damaging. The idea is that you can either use it ASAP every time it recharges to unlock extra enemy waves (offensive, high risk/reward) or use it defensively by holding onto it and saving it for sticky situations (defensive, low risk/reward). When you finally use it, I want it to have a sense of visceral destructiveness and the feeling of unleashing something powerful.

I'm also thinking of adding some medal dropping enemies to spice up some areas and maybe some background medals and destructible scenery (I'd like to include more YGW influences in general), but we'll see. I'd like for the scoring to be kind of like a YGW game or some Treasure games in that each stage/area has its own little gimmicks and pseudo-mini-games to play for more score (ie Flamingos, scenery bombing, secrets, etc.). The flame thrower/dropping enemy wave was kind of a stab at that.



There's more I could talk about, my goals with patterns and enemy movement, influences, other mechanics and ideas I was toying with or that Hagane suggested, aesthetic and atmospheric influences, etc. etc. but this is already becoming rambly enough. Any questions, advice, or criticisms are welcome.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 10:59 pm 


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Oh wow, that slicing blade melee is cool. STG swords tend to feel a bit windshield wipery to me but that one looks like it'd remove offending heads/turrets/tentacles nice n' clean.

The range did look a tad generous, as you suggest. As a possible alternative to scaling it back, maybe you could implement varying levels somehow? The biggest slashes remind me of Freeman (Garou)'s super moves.

(Apologies if I'm fixating on a random placeholder, you know I've a 2D slasher compulsion. :wink:)
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 11:37 pm 


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BIL wrote:
Oh wow, that slicing blade melee is cool. STG swords tend to feel a bit windshield wipery to me but that one looks like it'd remove offending heads/turrets/tentacles nice n' clean.

The range did look a tad generous, as you suggest. As a possible alternative to scaling it back, maybe you could implement varying levels somehow? The biggest slashes remind me of Freeman (Garou)'s super moves.

(Apologies if I'm fixating on a random placeholder, you know I've a 2D slasher compulsion. :wink:)


Ha ha, I was actually just about to post a Freeman gif as an aesthetic reference for the final version as you edited that in lol. It's a mspaint placeholder I whipped up in a jiffy, but I was thinking the final version would be kind of like a Strider Hiryu Blade/Freeman slash, mixed with a kind of stylized clawmark effect rather then a blade.

Yeah, about the range: I originally set the length when the bullets were much faster. I made it so long in order to make moving into attacking range more comfortable and less "walk into a spawning bullet and feel like an idiot" as one sometimes does in Gunbird 2 :3. However I've scaled back overall bullet speed since, and I plan on telegraphing the faster attacks so as to avoid such things (ie, boss enters a unique "stance" before going fast bullet hell-mode, "don't go close right now"), so it's probably time to make it a bit shorter. A mix of Mars Matrix's piercing cannon and Ayin's charge attack from Sengoku Blade are the two influences at the moment.

Also while on the subject of place holders, the main player shot will probably be a lot wider and chunkier too. I talked about it with Hagane, and I suggested something similar to the Darius series plasma wave, or the twin gouts of flame from a max energy Black Fly in Metal Black. The fire rate is based on the guns in Recca, as I wanted to get something that felt powerful but that wasn't so wide or fast that it it'd annihilate entire swarms before they could descend the screen somewhat. I want to get that sense of "vitriol" that Recca has, when spitting out enemies at you lol.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:06 am 


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Those progress videos are very encouraging. My only real comments were already addressed: namely the length of the melee attack and the width of the shot. I would caution against making the shot too wide, as this might exacerbate the feeling of plowing through the games' enemies too easily.

Keep up the good work!
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:24 pm 


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^^^ Thanks ^_^

Expect updates a little bit more frequently for a while. Maybe some more stuff next week.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 4:51 pm 


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Squire Grooktook wrote:
If anyone else wants to lend a hand, contribute anything at all, that'd be great. We're all mostly doing this for fun when our jobs and school permit, so any extra hands are appreciated.

It sounds like you already have a music dude, but I would love to try my hand at composing a(n FM synth) tune for you, even if it's just menu music, or something.
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 7:02 am 


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LordHypnos wrote:
Squire Grooktook wrote:
If anyone else wants to lend a hand, contribute anything at all, that'd be great. We're all mostly doing this for fun when our jobs and school permit, so any extra hands are appreciated.

It sounds like you already have a music dude, but I would love to try my hand at composing a(n FM synth) tune for you, even if it's just menu music, or something.


Well, the situations a little weird, since the guy who was all set kind of disappeared off the internet for a while. He warned me and said he'd be back before he left, but it's starting to seem like he won't be back in a reasonable amount of time (if ever). If he doesn't get back soon I'll have to start considering someone else. *edit* I've updated the op based on this.

I currently have Polkritude signed up as sound designer (he was offering in another thread on this board). He'll start doing original 16-bit/arcade-ish SFX as soon as we're done some original animations (ie the flame thrower sprite, which is apparently almost finished) and enemy designs. He also offered to compose music, to which I gave him the above story. I haven't listened to his stuff though yet or found out what kind of oldschool soundchips he's familiar with though.

So yeah, give it some more time. I'll probably make a choice once we have more aesthetic elements on the first stage done (enemies and some background elements). We're currently brain storming a good design for the spinny boss in the previous posts, sketches and concept art kind of stuff.

Once all that's done I'll take a more thorough listen and decide who's best for the Taito/Siter Skain/megaten style vibe I was hoping for, ha ha. In the mean time, keep up the good work :3 although maybe I will take you up on the that offer for menu music or something later lol.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 5:21 pm 


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Okay. Well, that's good to know, thanks :)
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 1:23 pm 


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Hey guys, minor update, but I wanted to ask for some feedback on some animation.

First off, the new/improved sprites/animations in question:

Improved neutral animation
Image

Main shot (soon to be animated)
Image

Flame Thrower (Animated Edition - not finished edition)
Image

Now, the reason I'm posting this: could anyone give feedback on the neutral? Particularly the head/neck movement. I've gotten much more mixed feedback on that then any other part. One person said it gives it a sense of propelling forward, another said that it looks like it's trying to vomit (cannot unsee). Another said it had a "hungry hungry hippos" look.

One of the best suggestions I got was adding some extra shading to the head to make it look like it's going up and down, but I'm not sure if that would solve the issue people are having with it. Any analysis or critique of that would be appreciated.

I've gotten mostly positive feedback on the altered wing movement/timing, though one person did think it was janky, but he seemed to be in the minority from people I've talked to (and the previous iteration received criticism for being too slow/awkward, so pretty much the opposite). But do let me know what you guys think of it. Someone also said the tail is a lot smoother then rest, though I'm not sure if that's an issue or just naturally the way it should look, since a tail is going to be more flexible anyway. *edit* another person said that the wings have a flicker effect due to being much bigger on one frame then the adjacent one, though I'm not sure if this was intentional to give it a real batty flap or not. Any thoughts on this?




As for the gameplay, it's going good. I remodeled and nerfed stage 1, keeping things but re-arranging them in a way that has more flow and a more natural difficulty escalation. I think I'm starting to get that left-right-left-right Cho Ren Sha style flow, and some better variety in enemy waves and such. I keep getting multi-day mental blocks on how to make fun patterns with scoring potential, but I get a lot of work done and improvement once the solution finally hits me. Also re-balancing things according to the new shot width and re-balancing the melee range and timing a lot.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 7:40 pm 



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The frame-timing on that "improved" neutral animation is really weird to my eyes (it honestly almost looks like there was some technical issue with my browser, it's "that weird") and it doesn't really look like the wings are filling with air, something you would actually require in order to stay in air (assuming dragons could fly in the first place, but let's ignore such technicalities). So... basically I would imagine a dragon to spread wings, extend them all the way slowly to try to get them to fill with air as much as possible and only then flap them down. What's happening right now is kinda like it's spreading and flapping at the same time, which I don't see working very well. So as far as I see (though I'm a programmer, not an artist, so I might not see), there should be at least one "long frame" with the wings all spread before hitting down. Think about how the wings and air(!) should interact and then tweak the timing based on that, it can probably be made to work. :)

Anyway, here's some ideas (well, things I'd do) for dealing with the "wide shot too strong against popcorn" thing:

  • Make them invulnerable until they are "on screen" where "on screen" doesn't need to mean "sprite rectangle intersects with screen rectangle" but rather something more like "sprite center is on screen" or "if it decided to shoot right now, the bullet would be on screen" (and then you can make them shoot the first frame they enter screen, so even if instantly killed they still leave a bullet behind). I think Yagawa games do this even with bosses and then people bitch about bosses moving such that they end up invulnerable as "out of screen" for 15 minutes (maybe Yagawa puts the "test point" higher than most other games, I don't know, but you hear complaints about it in Yagawa games specifically), so you might want to try to avoid making it silly like that, but for normal enemies it's generally fine (and you'll notice it in a LOT of good shmups if you actually start to pay attention, I think practically every CAVE game for starters) and not something you even notice when playing except in those specific sections where you're killing enemies faster than they can get on screen.
  • Do the enemies die when their HP reaches zero (during the collision check), or when their HP is zero after all the collisions are done? This might seem like the same thing, but if player has something like a wide spread-shot with many individual bullets it makes all the difference, since in the latter case a simple popcorn with 1 hp can block any number of player bullets during the frame that it gets hit, saving the next line of popcorn until the next wave of player shots arrives (which might be some 3-5 frames later, but still). Simple way to implement this is to just reduce HP when shot by player and then make the enemies do a "am I dead yet" check in their update next frame (or later same frame, or whatever, doesn't really matter).
  • Just give them more HP. Somewhere in some pinned thread that I can't find right now it says something along the lines of "popcorn should die when shot once (or very seldom)" and the obvious interpretation is "popcorn has 1 HP" but it's not quite so black and white. They should die when "shot once" but they don't need to die when hit with one small bullet that the player dispatches at an average rate of 20 per frame all around and everywhere. Just bump up their HP slowly until it starts to feel like they don't die when "shot once" anymore, that's the point where you've gone too far and then you just drop it down a bit again and you'll be fine. If your other weapons now feel too weak, you can bump their damage output to compensate (and then bump all the other enemies HPs too, obviously).
  • This needs to be balanced together with the previous point, but another solution is to simply spam more zako at the player, or make them appear from directions (eg. sides of screen) that the player can't completely cover at once, or make them rush in a little before the previous larger enemy is expected to die, so they get to shoot before the player has time to clear them out... or all of the above.

Those are the things I like to do, anyway. YMMV. ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 11:21 pm 


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Thanks for the feedback! According to Hagane, the current flap was based on some reference images for a real life Bat's wing flap, so I'm not sure if that makes a difference. I'll show all this to him (I've gotten feedback on other forums too) and let him decide how to proceed.


About the spreadshot: at the time, the biggest issue was "not enough zakos onscreen", since the initial testing areas I used when balancing the weapons were something like Hishouzame: 3-5 zakos on screen at a time but extremely aggressive and nasty. They were balanced around spawning at different points on the screen, to make you move around a lot, so being able to take them all down with one well aimed shot felt kinda ridiculous.

I managed to balance it out by increasing the charge timer, though I'm not sure if that's an optimal solution. My original reasoning for using charged shots for both melee and spread was to give you a reason to not continue shooting when you weren't in front of an enemy, but to begin charging up for some extra spike damage when you next get in range (this was inspired by the Roll shot in Dangun Feveron). So I'm not sure if making the spreads charge so long fits well with that game plan. Currently, the spread (unlike the faster charging melee) doesn't charge fast enough to take advantage of the "gap" of going from one enemy to the next, unless you plan it pre-emptively (though maybe that's an interesting set up in itself?).

I'm still experimenting with melee range/main shot width/etc. as I design and balance the first stage, so at this point I'm thinking I will consider changing or maybe even scrapping the spread shot depending on if I can balance it or find interesting uses for it in the process. Or maybe I'll let playtesters fool around with it and see what they think, once I get the stage 1 done.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2016 11:13 am 



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Squire Grooktook wrote:
Thanks for the feedback! According to Hagane, the current flap was based on some reference images for a real life Bat's wing flap, so I'm not sure if that makes a difference. I'll show all this to him (I've gotten feedback on other forums too) and let him decide how to proceed.


I'd guess it's a timing issue, the sprites look quite beautiful to my eyes.

Quote:
I'm still experimenting with melee range/main shot width/etc. as I design and balance the first stage, so at this point I'm thinking I will consider changing or maybe even scrapping the spread shot depending on if I can balance it or find interesting uses for it in the process. Or maybe I'll let playtesters fool around with it and see what they think, once I get the stage 1 done.


Right. I'd usually start from last stage (for a number of reasons, but generally that would be what I'd want balanced "tightest" so working backwards from there would then just allow relaxing things to gradually prepare the player for what is going to be), but then again I'm horrible at finishing anything anyway so what I do might not be what you want to do. YMMV. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2016 4:38 pm 


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mystran wrote:
[
Right. I'd usually start from last stage (for a number of reasons, but generally that would be what I'd want balanced "tightest" so working backwards from there would then just allow relaxing things to gradually prepare the player for what is going to be), but then again I'm horrible at finishing anything anyway so what I do might not be what you want to do. YMMV. :)


Interesting, never thought of that. What I usually do is design stuff that's really hard and then gradually nerf it to where it should be.
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 4:14 am 


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Aeon Zenith - Season 2, Episode 4:
Judgment of Destructor ~ The Divine Dragon Revealed??

We got combos
We got stances
We got finishers

Only thing we don't have is mercy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9Wkk98t9r0

Everything is still a placeholder except player character and main shot. Hagane came back but he's working a second job now lol. On the bight side, I do have an official composer now who's been sending me prototype stuff. In general I like his work a lot. But like everything else musical placeholders because it's still WIP and too short for usage.

About Melee:

Boomerang and latching on to enemies is meant to make you dance in and out of range, instead of like in some shmups where learning to stand on top of everything and melee them forever is the ideal long term strat. I was kind of inspired by the evolution of Psikyo melee mechanics, where they went from free melee attacks that end up encouraging you to always be close (Sengoku Blade) to melee attacks with an arbitrary cooldown that force you to fight at all ranges consistently but that are kind of unintuitive and forced (Gunbird) to finally the elegant dragon blaze recall mechanic that makes sense visually and perfectly nails the spacing game.

About Judgment:

The idea behind Judgment is that it's a power based on a meter that you can influence but never truly control.

You can kill more enemies and collect falling power ups to speed it up, but its recharge rate is dependent on stage design (how many enemies, how much charge they give, how many items, etc.), and to activate Judgement you have no choice but to use it or miss your chance once its available*. Essentially, it allows me to enforce varied weapon usage and pacing throughout each stage, along with some pragmatic enemy kill chaining. I decide when you dodge and when you destroy, and the ratio will be different each time. Stages could range from dodging fundamentals driven or non-stop high-risk explosive massacres.

Judgment is meant to be risky**, but also highly rewarding both for score and beating the game, if you can master it. If you want to "play safe" you can ignore Judgment and hold on to your meter for an emergency shield (although things might get hairy if you play TOO defensively). I'm trying to design the game so that if you just wanna beat it (and not master) then you have a lot of shields and resources to spam and it's not too hard. But mastery (and maybe seeing the true ending***...) requires risk taking and AGGRESSION.

The ability to extend it by chaining kills and the "kill everything" requirement for the bonus, ult, and meter refill on Judgment also works on both a gameplay and meta/thematic level, as it both genuinely requires you to take risks to hit every enemy and thus master the Judgement Weapons, and also represents the protagonist going into a sort of berserker rage that compells the slaughter of everything in sight. I tried to make the weapons feel as visceral as possible. I'm very happy with the screenshake on certain attacks, though I'm not sure if you can notice it in the video.

At any rate, that's what I'm aiming for. So far it feels nice with the actual enemy formations I've come up with that lend some extra depth to the stages. Hopefully it'll work in the long run.


Note *
Spoiler: show
In fighting game terms, I might also compare it to the "Rage" mechanic in Samurai Shodown or GRD Vorpal in Under-Night, in that its recharge rate depends on the battlefield, and you have a very small window to decide whether to use it or not once it's ready.


Note **
Spoiler: show
It's worth noting that my intention was that both versions of Judgement would only temporarily slow down bullets rather then cancel them. Only gave them full cancel power in the video because of a bug and because it was too damn hard vs the completely randomized waves I used for the fake-tutorial. Even so, what you're not seeing is the 50 times I re-recorded because I kept dropping the "combo" or getting sniped/kamekazed from the side by a zako during the rush at the end. In fact, I did drop it in the video, just after the white-out started, ha ha.

Beyond that, LVL1 requires manual aiming while leaving yourself unable to move, and LVL2 requires you to dash into close range (and doesn't even get full protection when not firing). Requires some commitment and finesse, as screwing it up can cost you a life or put you in a very bad situation with no meter. Also if the bosses look easy, keep in mind you need to do that while their moving and shooting at you, which would require using your shield from releasing the fire button (and also a slower drain rate, once again things changed for the sake of the demonstration).

Also on that note, keep in mind this is still subject to balancing. The recharge rate of everything and duration is kind of up in the air since I test things on a wave by wave basis when designing stages, and I'm just on the verge of putting it all together which may see some important tweaks. More may come as the difficulty of the game hikes in later stages too.


Note ***
Spoiler: show
Thinking of including a post-ending scene that reveals the fate of a few characters if you score above a certain threshold.



One concern I have right now is that the double leveled meter is a bit confusing. I was thinking I might change it to something like a single bar that loops and swaps a weapon icon every time it fills. Unfortunately, after month's of work, I thought of that idea late (as in yesterday).

In the mean time, here's an instruction manual style documentation on it:
Spoiler: show
ImageImage


aaaaaand I just realized there's a typo in there. Fuck.

Any questions/comments/suggestions/criticisms/etc. go right ahead.
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Last edited by Squire Grooktook on Sun Sep 25, 2016 3:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 1:35 pm 


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Most terrifying boss ever!

In seriousness, looking forward to trying this firsthand. :)
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 1:55 pm 


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Thanks :D

Oh also, for those whom I didn't personally send it to or who aren't subscribed to my Youtube, here's an early miniboss WIP from a few weeks ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xgabr9Gt-ZQ

Featuring the most hyperactive annotation commentary you'll ever see.
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 3:16 pm 


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Looks like the game system is really taking shape! I can already visualise a lot of potential for calculatedly aggressive Judgement massacres there, at the cost of dodging flak a more conservative player could shield themselves from. Sounds like a fine model to build classically "offense is the best defense" stage designs around.

Totally offhand, a double-layered meter does sound a bit more intuitive and compact - maybe have it change colour as it hits the next level? ie blue while LV1, red while LV2, Judgement markers a consistent neutral colour.

Loved the appearance of the Elemental Master fire manji, such an underrated weapon with a whole lot of body-ramming potential. :mrgreen:
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 3:31 pm 


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Thanks. Also was hoping someone would notice the EM aesthetic cribbing ^_^

The aimed attack was also an attempt to mix Guwanges familiar with the Hunter from Thunder Force.

Good idea on the color swap btw, might do that.
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 4:28 pm 


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I'm really digging the wave shot's graphics. Looking forward to seeing a playable demo level!
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 2:53 pm 


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BareKnuckleRoo wrote:
I'm really digging the wave shot's graphics. Looking forward to seeing a playable demo level!


Yeah, that'll probably be the next major update ^_^ I'm probably going to send out some pm's later to a few individuals around here of outstanding taste, for preparation and to gauge interest.

BTW Hagane said he wanted to animate the wave a bit further, maybe adding a frame or two more so it looks a bit more fluid. He also wanted to do a "falling back" animation for backwards movement on the Dragon, along with a few other tweaks from feedback.

-

Which brings me to something I wanted to mention but forgot: Since he's so busy and only has time for small assets at a glacial pace right now, Hagane recommended I search for a secondary sprite artist to fill in.

So if anyone on this board knows any sprite artists capable of a similar art style, or want to recommend a place for finding one, please let me know. My budget is modest, but I think I will be open to pay commissions pretty soon, so that's on the table if necessary.

I already know a few people (and a few places) that I'm considering, but more options is good.
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Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 4:14 pm 


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It's been a while, hasn't it?

Well, let's start with what is probably the most exciting news first: we got original music mothafuckaaaaaaas

Gonna do more of an update later with recorded first stage proto footage (it's in the balancing stage, 1:40 seconds long with trimming and tweaking to be done everywhre), but thought I'd send this to a few friends before then.

Opening/Title Theme: http://www.mediafire.com/file/e9iq45o777qfk29/LMD.ogg
First stage theme: http://www.mediafire.com/file/anqbtymktt8trdk/TB.ogg
Composed by GenesisKeys

Also demonstrated in the video below.

I've had these for about 2 months, but wanted to save 'em for the next big update. I couldn't resist blabbing to a few friends here and on Steam, as well as #gamedev on the Shmups Discord, so this probably isn't news to everybody.

Besides that, the other big part of this update: Stage 1 Prototype footage!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qp7l7fvEfw

Normally I would do youtube annotations for all the scoring tricks and nuances to it, but I'm tired and it's 7 am so I'll just do them here.
Spoiler: show
0:10-0:12

This wave encompasses squads of 3 zakos that spawn in a semi random pattern. Every even squad spawns in the middle of the screen, and every odd spawns randomly to the left or right. Reacting quickly and killing them quickly will result in 1-2 additional squads appearing. The very last one will always spawn in the center of the screen, the following wave also uses a left/right random choice, so it forces you into the middle as it begins to make your time to reach either one "even".

0:12-0:20

A "Drop Ball" enemy spawns from either the left or right, with the next one always alternating to the other side. Killing them extremely quickly (before they fire, think quickshot, Raiden Fighters style) greatly reduces the time until the next one spawns.
The minimum number of drop ball spawns is 2, but you can trigger up to 6 if you react and move fast enough. I designed the sixth drop ball so that it will spawn and begin to move before you can reach it for a melee attack, forcing you to carefully aim the boomerang to hit it.

The zakos are actually static, they are based on a sine wave that shortens to bring you towards the center ("even", again) before each drop ball spawn. There times are also reduced by rapid death.

0:20-0:24

Sine wave enemies spawn rapidly. It's difficult, though possible, to kill all of them with your main shot. But this wave was designed for "Judgement" on an optimal run. It is harder than it looks to nail all of the marked zakos with the aiming cursor, but successfully doing it will let you annihilate the entire wave and also speed kill the following two tanky enemies for a massive bonus.

0:24-0:34

Tanky dudes spawn. They have two patterns. Up to 3 pairs can spawn. if you defeat all 3 of them before the next wave is set to trigger, the extremely fast moving zakos will show up.

I designed it so that you would: kill the first pair with Judgments Ult. Kill the second two with melee attacks and a risky "rush" through the red lasers to hit the second one. And finally an agressive strategy and kamekaze attack vs the third pair.
Afterwards, you'd need to use Null Judgement's homing shots and clones with some finesse to kill all the zakos, since they're too numerous and too spread out for your main shot.

0:34-0:49

This wave was scripted somewhat complex. The wave becomes more rapid with time.
The "random spray" tank enemies spawn very rapidly but there can be only 1-2 on screen at a time, so killing them immediately with a melee can boost your score immensely.

The zakos that use the red star pattern also have a unique system where they reduce the cooldown till the next spawn greatly when killed, but only if you can shoot them before they bounce off the walls.

The "zig zag" zakos are kind of shit and were added at the last second because I wanted to make it look more manic and recca-esque.

Lastly, the final dropping zako rush cannot begin until all the above-mentioned enemies are dead, so the faster you kill them all off, the more zakos you'll get (and more score).

0:49-1:04

Miniboss. I have a fully annotated video on this guy already.
GUESS WHO'S GETTING A NERF, ASSHOLE

1:04-1:12

I'm rather proud of the rhythm and dodging on this pattern, as far as early game stuff goes, as well as the depth. Basically half of these enemies will spawn if you aren't very precise with your movements. But aggressive and high risk action gets you more enemies and points along with more dodging.

1:12-1:19

This is an idea I've had for a while. Enemies that can be knocked into eachother for extra damage by destroying parts.
You can also destroy them with the piercing or returning effect of the boomerang, but only striking the core with the slash will be fatal.

If you're slow, only 2 waves will spawn. But 4 is possible if you know what you're doing.

1:12-1:26

Cho-Ren-Sha/Dangun style side switched repeat of the 1:04 pattern. I like it enough that I enjoy doing it again. And I like the rhythm.

1:26-1:30

Assuming you can gun them down before they shoot (which is what you'll be doing if you're scoring this optimally), this is the only truly static pattern here. As such you can squeeze a lot of extra points out of this with some frame/pixel perfect movement.

Based on that, I should note that patterns with random elements are usually balanced so that an "optimal" amount of score is the most that can be attained through proper reaction. Trying to guess won't get you more because it caps out at what you'd get for an honest reaction.

1:30-end

DON'T LOOK AT THIS PROTO-BOSS IT'S SHIT

There's also a new revenge and recovery mechanic when damaged. See here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w5waj70JVI

Kinda inspired by Garegga and Gunnail. Optimal Scoring means playing on 1 life at all times.


So about the stage: Basically, I've been working on individual enemy waves since last summer. For a long time I was paranoid that I wouldn't be able to come up with enough waves to fill a 5 stage game. But a month or two ago, I took the time to count the seconds (in frames) of all the waves I had created, and realized I already had enough for 2 stages and part of a 3rd. So now it's definitely time to start implementing and balancing them.

Speaking of which, there's still a lot of balancing and polishing to do in the prototype above. I don't use Judgment in the stage mini-boss onward because I haven't balanced the optimal route for it yet (I actually haven't balanced the optimal kamekaze attack usage for the first half either, that will come later). I also haven't worked on the boss or miniboss since last summer, so they are in deplorable states.

Next update, I plan to have the stage and boss in a relatively playable state, and will be open to giving out demos to friends and those who would like to play for feedback. I still have some momentus tasks to accomplish first. Besides all the balancing and polishing, I need to rejigger the games handling of resolution and screen size along with hud positioning, and I also plan on redoing and rebalancing the Judgment meter both based on what BIL suggested back here and also some discoveries and learning I've managed from my own playtime with it. Ultimately it should ditch the feeling of complexity that some people have noted, and make it clear that the system bassically amounts to "SHOOT ENEMIES TO FILL METER > PRESS BUTTON WHEN METER FILLED FOR RISKY HYPER MODE AND MAYBE MORE POINTS". At any rate, the retooling I had planned will take a while.



Let's see...what else, aesthetics I guess: Everything is still a placeholder except the previously mentioned Hagane assets. I'm going to use this update as an opportunity to try and contact him again and see if his second job has lightened up a bit. Otherwise, I'm thinking I will wait till I have at least 2-3 stages done before I commission someone new for sprite art. I actually am talking with another artist right now for something related, but that's a secret for a month or two :3

Placeholders have been working well though. Giving me a nice idea of how to actually script effects, and also an idea of what I'll ultimately probably be wanting maybe.

I nerfed the Michael Bay explosions a bit (for most zakos, at least, enemies with HP > 1 have the old messy explosion) to be a bit less intrusive and added in some new explosion routines (including one where the enemy sprite is blown backwards and explodes upon impacting a wall or top of the screen). Still testing the waters on them a bit though. There aren't a lot of bullets on stage 1, so it's hard to guage whether they're distracting or not in game after just a few days of testing.

I've also been fooling around with screenflashes and screenshake a BIT more. Been looking at various fighting games, brawlers and action platformers for reference in making things feel a bit more visceral.

For instance, when you melee an enemy, there's now a 1/4 chance of a 1-frame long white screen flash. This was inspired by Capcoms Dungeons and Dragons brawlers where you have a chance to "critical hit" on every blow, causing a flash. I always found that flashy intermittency made slashing things feel more volatile and impactful, and so far I like it in here as well. I could remove it or make it optional if you guys find it annoying, however.

Similarly, I also added a (also 1-frame long) red flash and a very brief (8 frames long) screenshake when you get damaged. This was inspired by one of the damage or death animations in Kirby Super Star. HAL always had a penchant for making 2d brawling feel violent, and I was trying to channel the same sense of brutality. I'm not sure if it distracts from the snazziness of the tech roll, though. You can see the difference in the "tutorial" video, which doesn't have it implemented yet.



I'm very much open to changing all this, and I'm still tweaking. So let me know what you think and I'll consider. Anyway, apologies if this update is once again baffingly written. I'm really tired :oops:
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RegalSin wrote:
Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

Aeon Zenith - My STG.


Last edited by Squire Grooktook on Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:04 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:00 pm 


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that's some nice stage progression there

As for the explosions, maybe that shade of green is a little too bright? Or at the very least it is rather bright compared to a black space background.
As for Null Judgement, is the starting angle for the two angled blasts random or fixed? I don't know if you intend for the execution of the Ultimate to be a matter of timing, as with a fixed starting angle you could muscle memorize the timing for when the two angled blasts intersect with the target, whereas a random starting angle would make memorizing the proper timing rather impossible and force one to pay attention to the lines first before firing. Having two angled blasts would also make it seem like you could use it against two larger enemies at once, even if you can only mark one enemy at a time. Would that ever come into play?
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Zenith
PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:19 pm 


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Thanks!

Durandal wrote:
that's some nice stage progression there

As for the explosions, maybe that shade of green is a little too bright? Or at the very least it is rather bright compared to a black space background.


Hadn't thought of that. Yeah, that might be a factor. I'll try out some different colors and shades and see how that affects things.

Durandal wrote:
As for Null Judgement, is the starting angle for the two angled blasts random or fixed?


Fixed and static timing yes. It dfefaults to straight ahead, aiming the laser sights inward, and rotates them outwards and then inward from there. Keep in mind you can actually rotate the positions of the bits with left/right input and the aim angle along with it, which you might need to do for moving targets. Basically it's the vertical position of the intersection that timing controls.

Hopefully that gets you the mental picture. I could post a brief video fooling around with the aim if needed.

Durandal wrote:
. Having two angled blasts would also make it seem like you could use it against two larger enemies at once, even if you can only mark one enemy at a time. Would that ever come into play?


Yeah. If you ram/get rammed by a zako or anything else with low hp, you can opt to angle them to clear more enemies that way. Intersection is only for heavy damage vs high hp targets.Since zakos and 1 hp enemies tend to be tiny (and thus MUCH harder to pull off the cross) it works out that way.
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Japan an almost perfect society always threatened by outsiders....................

Instead I am stuck in the America's where women rule with an iron crotch, and a man could get arrested for sitting behind a computer too long.

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