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 Post subject: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:37 pm 



Joined: 19 May 2017
Posts: 21
Hi guys,

i'm making an endless mode for shmup at the moment (you can find it here, in the dev forum too, Rick Henderson And The Artifact of Gods) and i have a design question.

Endless mode is based the following way:

Level>Boss>Level>Boss>Level>Boss>Level>Boss>Level>Boss>Level>Boss, all in all 6 levels, and 6 bosses, then you go over again (think Steredenn). Levels are semi-random, and their length depends on the skill of the player, i.e. a better player will progress faster.

Now, based on an experience points variable (which also determines the boss phase trigger) during the level a transport is spawned which contains a weapon pickup. Player can carry two weapons and switch them, and each of the equipped weapons can have up to 5 levels. If you pick up an already equipped weapon, it will simply upgrade to the following level. If you pick up a non-equipped weapon, it will replace the one currently in use.

Now here comes the doubt. Experience points will undoubtedly trigger weapon transports few times per level in the later stages, but given the amount of weapons (over 30 for now), i'm not sure what approach to use:

Approach 1) Whenever you equip a weapon that is new (non-equipped) it is always at level 1. While challenging, with so many weapons present, there's only about 6% chance that the weapon spawned from the transport will match the one you have on board to upgrade it.

Approach 2) Whenever you equip a weapon that is new (non-equipped) it is always at level 1, but when you upgrade any of the weapons on ship to level 2, the weapon you replace the level 2 weapon will also be level 2. The chances of getting the same weapon out of a transport remain the same, but once you upgrade one of the weapons, you're guaranteed at least a level 2 weapon when you pick up a different one instead of that one.

Approach 3) Increase chances of spawning a weapon you already have. I can use one of the first two approaches, but with an increased chance of spawning some of the weapons i already have, for example 20% chance the transport will spawn first weapon we have, 20% chance the transport will spawn the second weapon we have, and 60% chance that it will be a completely different weapon.

Approach 4) Weapon powerups. Use approach 1 or 2, but instead of getting a bigger chance of getting the same weapon put 20% chance of getting a weapon upgrade out of a transport. It's similar to approach 3, but it gives the player the possibility to choose which weapon will be upgraded out of two on the ship.

What are your thoughts? Bear in mind that it's a relatively quick game with levels lasting around 30-60 seconds for the first one + boss, 60-120 seconds + boss for a second one, 120-180 seconds + boss for the third one, and 180-240 + boss for the fourth, fifth and sixth levels.

On one side, there's a possible frustration of player with always getting different level 1 weapons, and on the other side is the possibility of getting to highest level of weapon too fast. Though that is also a bit balanced with different types of enemy armors which are partly or completely resilient to some weapon types, so you always actually need two different weapon types on board.
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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:13 pm 


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Joined: 31 Aug 2009
Posts: 7179
Location: San Jose, California, USA
Personally, I'd go with 4+2, with the added stipulation of dying decreasing both levels by one. That should avoid powering up happening too quickly (that is, if your item choice routine isn't random and just follows a consistent order like Compile games) and avoid players just picking one weapon and never switching ever again due to powering down.
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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:55 am 



Joined: 19 May 2017
Posts: 21
Thanks for the opinion, i really appreciate it! That sounds the best to me too. We'll see about stipulation, maximum weapon level will be pretty hard to achieve anyway :)
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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:24 pm 



Joined: 19 Jan 2009
Posts: 604
Location: stuck at the continue prompt
Considering it's an endless mode, the player shouldn't be penalized for experimenting with different weapons; the rate of improvement of weapons shouldn't be slowed down by frequent weapon changes. All weapons should improve, until every weapon is at maximum power (but loops continue to increase in difficulty until the player fails).

I suggest separating weapon change items, generously spawned wherever tactically meaningful, and more important (and carefully throttled) weapon upgrade items, possibly coming in different small and large sizes, that apply to all weapons at the same time.
With generic weapon upgrade items you could simply increase a powerup counter and, at predefined thresholds of the powerup counter, increase the power level of a weapon according to the following priorities:
  • The weapon in use if its shots fired/power level ratio is above the average
  • The inactive weapon if its shots fired/power level ratio is above the average
  • The "unequipped" weapon with the highest shots fired/power level ratio (improving first the weapons the player uses the most)

After about 120 increases (30 weapons with 4 levels beyond the first each) the powerup counter can begin to give increasing amounts of points.

EDIT: thinking of it, the thresholds to trigger weapon upgrades should just be evenly spaced in the interest of predictability (e.g. every 10 or 20 small weapon items, with rarer large items worth 5 or 10 small ones; see Battle Garegga).
On the other hand the values that represent weapon power levels for the purpose of computing the shots fired/power level ratio of each weapon have an important game balance effect, determining which weapons are upgraded first: with higher numbers (relative to 1 for the starting power level) upgraded weapons are less likely to be upgraded again before lower level weapons are upgraded to the same level.
The two extreme cases are pushing the most used weapon to level 5 before anything else is upgraded (low values, e.g. 1-1.1-1.2-1.3-1.5) and almost never leaving scarcely used weapons more than one power level behind the most used one (high values, e.g. 1-k-k^2-k^3-k^4 with k greater than the expected ratio of shots fired with the most used and least used weapon).


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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:23 pm 



Joined: 19 May 2017
Posts: 21
Wow, that's quite an approach, but i don't think the player will last enough to get 120 upgrades, the idea is for the game not to last more than an hour if you are a top notch player.

Still thinking of damage system, if i implement one life with a health bar (which is currently the idea) with repair pickups then there will be no losing weapons when you get hit so the upgrading is going to be relatively fast with 4+2 approach.

The other system would be multiple "lives" that refill to top at the end of the level, but you lose an equipped weapon level each time you get hit. That can get a bit frustrating though and would interfere with the concept of spawning transports with weapon upgrades triggered by (invisible to the player) experience points since the "gap" between experience points triggers is going to get bigger and bigger for each level, since there are more and more enemies spawning, right.
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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:59 pm 


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Joined: 30 Nov 2016
Posts: 23
Ahoy there! Allow me to put in my two cents.

30 weapons is quite the large number. Which isn't bad.
However, having to upgrade them slowly based on a small bit of luck might prove problematic.

I, personally, would approach this in one of two ways.

1: do away with weapon level ups altogether for the mode. (All weapons set to same power)
This would allow the player easier experimentation with the plethora of options available. It would also make game balancing easier if you're still doing that.

2: have the power up item cycle between the weapon pickup and "upgrade" pickup, which would upgrade the currently equipped weapon. Instead of cycling, you could also have the item change when the player shoots it (think TwinBee or 1943).

Well, there's my suggestion. Take it with a grain of salt if you like, or use it if you think it suits your game.

-Kraken


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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 2:57 pm 



Joined: 19 May 2017
Posts: 21
Hello CaptainKraken, thanks for your 2c, they're quite appreciated :)

The second one is a great idea, i can give the powerups a bit of a kickback when they're hit and make them change on bullet impact :)
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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 6:13 pm 



Joined: 19 Jan 2009
Posts: 604
Location: stuck at the continue prompt
Fat Pug Studio wrote:
Wow, that's quite an approach, but i don't think the player will last enough to get 120 upgrades, the idea is for the game not to last more than an hour if you are a top notch player.

Quantitatively, 120 weapons upgrades in 1 hour are one every 30 seconds, which is intense but reasonable; changing weapon often enough to see all power levels of each weapon, on the other hand, is impossible.
However, there's no need to upgrade all weapons to the maximum level except at extraordinary player skill levels (you can increase enemy toughness and number faster than firepower, making the endless mode hard but not long), and there's no need to use all weapons in a given game (choosing preferred weapons to use often and level up is an important strategy decision, and it increases replayability). A game of plausible length should end with a set of a few weapons at maximum level, some at low level and most completely unused.

To make weapon switching more understandable and convenient, you could set up a classification of weapons along n different axes and provide n different items, each cycling between the possible options of that axis. This would allow selecting any weapon efficiently by giving a small group of n items that don't need to be cycled many times.

For example, three generic dimensions could be:
  • type: cannon (straight), fancy cannon (curved bullet trajectories), guided missile, beam, etc.
  • spread (3-4 choices, maybe more, between straight ahead and over 180°)
  • special features: shield penetration, bouncing, plain but dealing more damage, explosions...


Can you tell more about your weapon designs?


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 Post subject: Re: Balancing the weapon upgrade system suggestions
PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 7:10 am 



Joined: 19 May 2017
Posts: 21
Sure, here's some, more have been added, but i havent been updating this graphical list

Image

Weapons are divided in 4 categories: bullet, missile, energy, special. Each deals none, half, full or double damage depending on the enemy.

Bullet:

Pulse Gun - Typical machine gun
Avenger - Tri shot
Metal Storm - Autotracking machine gun
Flak Cannon - Bullet that explodes into smaller pellets
Ripper - Auto Shotgun
Eraser - Railgun (shoots through enemies)

Missile:

Fire Flash - Dumb Missile
Nuke Hammer - Torpedo
Soulseeker - Homing Missile
Swarm - Missile Swarm
Sticker - Sticky mine
Bull Hammer - Grenade Laundher (random spread shot)

Special:

Fire Fist - Flamethrower (damage over time)
Biter - Acid Gun (damage over time)
Frostbite - Stasis gun (damage over time + slowdown)
Steel Grinder - Chainsaw with huge damage and small range

Energy:

Hyperblaster - Rapid firing bolts that lose precision the longer you fire
Charger - The longer you hold the button, the more power shot gets
Plasma Blaster - Powerful, but only shoots up and down
Randomizer - Lots of small low powered particles going in random patterns
Titan - EMP, shuts down enemy ship for a while

Other (don't take a weapon slot):

Balls of steel - Always present, rotates around player and absorbs shots
Drones - You can have only one type, upgradeable too

There are some laser beams too and some funny stuff. Upgrades usually increase damage, extend range, effect duration, shooting pattern, number of bullets, heating level, depends on the weapon.
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