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 Post subject: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 5:00 am 



Joined: 08 Sep 2020
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I've always really liked playing shmups casually but I get overwhelmed and discouraged whenever I try to seriously get better at any of them.

What do you recommend I focus on?

I own Jamestown, Ikaruga, and Sine Mora, on PS4 and Vasara on Switch. No PC.
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Last edited by insanbelti4 on Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:26 pm 


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The best advice I can give to get better at the games is don't use continues.

Yes, you'll be forced to play earlier levels again and again, but use that time to focus on whatever you're most interested in improving. For example:
- Beat the level using fewer lives
- Beat the level using fewer bombs
- Best the level with a higher score

Focusing on the early levels will also help you get very familiar with both the scoring and gameplay mechanics of the game, in a relatively safe environment because early levels are usually the easiest. If you haven't mastered the basics, you're really going to struggle when the game throws everything at you in later levels.

Gameplay mechanics include things like knowing your hitbox, finding the right movement speed (for games that have variable speeds), learning which weapons work better in which situations, etc.

Your first several plays should be exploratory rather than focused on trying to win outright.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:32 pm 


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benstylus wrote:
The best advice I can give to get better at the games is don't use continues.

I'm going to counter this and say the best advice is to use continues, so that you can learn the game thoroughly instead of becoming great at stage 1 and 2 and then game overing in stage 3 every time. The important factor is to not just "give up" on playing seriously after continuing, but keep trying to analyze the situations and learn how to handle the stages.

Also, try recording replays and watching them back, you can learn a lot about difficult situations by analyzing your own gameplay.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:36 pm 


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trap15 wrote:
I'm going to counter this and say the best advice is to use continues, so that you can learn the game thoroughly instead of becoming great at stage 1 and 2 and then game overing in stage 3 every time.


I think at a very beginner level, continues do more harm than good, as if you don't have the basics down, you're not going to understand why you got destroyed in stage 3 other than "GAH! SO MANY BULLETS!"

If you just getting killed over and over, and you credit feed through the game, you're really not learning much.

I 100% agree with your comment on replays, though.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:15 pm 


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Do you have any examples of your play? It would be helpful to see how you're currently approaching the genre. Many of the folks on this board have a tendency to offer advice aimed at players of a higher skill than they realize.

If you're truly just starting out in our genre, things you should focus on are as follows:

1.: Movement
Novice players churn butter... they move around the screen in a hectic, violent fashion, which leads to more problems than it solves. Learning to calm down and move in controlled vectors or arcs is probably the first crucial step. Move with purpose: understanding when you should move and even more importantly, when you should stop moving.

2.: Preference
What do you enjoy playing? Out of the games listed above, what do you like about them, what don't you like about them? Many players seem to be of this mind that due to a game's popularity they should be playing that specific game when it's entirely possible that said game doesn't gel with them. Finding a game or games that you really enjoy playing is going to help you improve as you'll want to get better at them.

Also remember that things like save states, practice modes and the like are tools. Tools exist to solve problems. Using them isn't going to help you if you have trouble figuring out what your problems are in the first place.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:29 pm 


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I,m not saying you will be any better, and maybe even play worse,
it is more fun to play with arcade stick moving around.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 4:17 pm 


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trap15 wrote:
benstylus wrote:
The best advice I can give to get better at the games is don't use continues.

I'm going to counter this and say the best advice is to use continues, so that you can learn the game thoroughly instead of becoming great at stage 1 and 2 and then game overing in stage 3 every time. The important factor is to not just "give up" on playing seriously after continuing, but keep trying to analyze the situations and learn how to handle the stages.

I definitely agree with this because it has happened to me is so many games early on. I used to do the only continue approach for games and found myself really struggling/having harder times at later stages. I think went for a continue and save state approach and was able to learn games much quicker that way. The point about not giving up is very important. Continuing is fine but don't get into a credit feed mindset. This approach becomes a problem though when you either completely lose your power state or they give you max power when you continue.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 4:39 pm 


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I would strongly recommend getting a PC. Not a smartphone, not a Raspberry Pi, an actual PC. Nothing top-of-the-line - even a used 4th-gen i5 will be enough. You're missing out on decades of shooters.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 6:08 pm 


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Definitely focus on one game for a period of time. For me that can mean deleting others that are tempting me if I have to. You won't get good at a game by just dabbling at it. You have to keep coming back to it over time. But the plus side is its fun to be see yourself improve and rewarding to get a clear for the first time. If you find yourself liking a game more the better you get at it, thats a sign that you picked a good one for you.

Set little goals, and try to learn something new about the game every time you play. Even if its something small like a boss pattern you couldn't dodge or a finding the best weapon to use on a short segment of a level that gives you trouble. Commit all the little things you learn to memory through repetition and move on to learning new things. Eventually this leads to playing well.

Learn as much as you can about your game outside the game. Look at videos, strategy guides etc. Or even just sit and daydream. Anything that leads to more understanding can make you a better player.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 6:17 pm 


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Plenty of good ones on the Switch, but I don't know if I'd recommend starting off with any of the ones you mentioned. See if you like Thunder Force AC or Thunder Force IV.

These are good hori shooters to start on and the Switch versions are very well done. You can check out the replays of more skilled players on the leaderboard.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 8:06 pm 



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As an attendum to the good "focus on one game at a time" advice: I don't think this precludes you from playing other games as long as you don't let them interrupt learning the primary one. If I feel like playing a shmup but I'm not in the right state of mind to learn then I'll turn to an "off" game and just screw around. I like to think this isolates my "on" game from the negativity of bad play sessions. It's also rewarding to momentarily jump into something I haven't played in a while or is completely new; it helps me gauge how much I've really improved versus my progress in a single game.

The reason why it's good to focus on one game at a time isn't just because it's the easiest way to get results. Properly learning a game will help you acquire the skills that game emphasizes, and basic shmup skills are transferable. If you then move on to something else that emphasizes different skills, you'll have less to think about and will be able to get to grips with it faster, and your overall level of competency will rise.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 4:34 am 


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Download MAME, try out a bunch of games and see if you can find something you like. If a 1CC seems overwhelming then try for a 2CC or a 3CC first.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 1:22 pm 


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For my first few, I just played to the end every day. Over time I got to know the game well enough, and the number of credits used went down, until the clear just happened. I never felt like I was gunning for the clear, it was more of a natural progression from playing something I enjoyed.

So yeah like others have said, find one you like and stick with it. Don't think of yourself as a "shmup beginner", think of yourself as someone just playing something you enjoy.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:55 pm 


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benstylus wrote:
The best advice I can give to get better at the games is don't use continues.

Yes, you'll be forced to play earlier levels again and again, but use that time to focus on whatever you're most interested in improving. For example:
- Beat the level using fewer lives
- Beat the level using fewer bombs
- Best the level with a higher score

Focusing on the early levels will also help you get very familiar with both the scoring and gameplay mechanics of the game, in a relatively safe environment because early levels are usually the easiest. If you haven't mastered the basics, you're really going to struggle when the game throws everything at you in later levels.

Gameplay mechanics include things like knowing your hitbox, finding the right movement speed (for games that have variable speeds), learning which weapons work better in which situations, etc.

Your first several plays should be exploratory rather than focused on trying to win outright.


Great Post :!:


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2020 10:57 pm 


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I haven't 1cc-ed a single shmup in my life, but I played quite a few pretty seriously for a while, including some considered relatively tough by the ones who actually played them to any greater extent, so here's what "clicked with me":

As I tend to select slower ships when given a choice, Raiden III (by no means easy on Arcade difficulty) is one of those I actually like playing best. Think of it as "Raiden zoomed out" and you shouldn't have a problem with the lack of screen wobble and "optically" slow movement - it's never too slow for the job required of it, really. No idea here if any title from your collection can be equivalent of Raiden III in this regard - but the bottomline is - slower ship might just ease you in without compromising overall difficulty.
Another thing worth knowing about, I think - majority of shmups released for home platforms these days, is that they come with stage select, practice, quick play, boss rush etc. modes, "fully enjoyable" in briefer timeframes than desired arcade single credit run is supposed to last. Learning how to enjoy those can be the way to have any fun at all to boot.

When attempting to 1cc a game, I don't hesitate to choose difficulties harder than default, for the reason that early stages need to stay engaging enough not to wear me down (as they are most frequently played). Worked for me with Sonic Wings Special where upping difficulty one bar made such a difference during first stage bossfight that I haven't looked back and put serious practice into that difficulty level, making most considerable progress in game on it. Sonic Wings Special's quick play mode helped me enjoy development of my skills when I had a harder time at any given point of the main game.

Last but not least, I suggest trying a shmup with many selectable ships of qualities varying greatly, in search of the Fun Weapon™ - you'll know one when you find one. Such as Sonic Wings Special indeed, or Shikigami no Shiro series.

P.S. I regret having credit-fed PS2 Ibara port when still new to the shmups. That was rather ego-trampling. Especially since it's one of rather few Cave shmups I find attractive in more ways than one, particularly the slowdownless PS2 port, uglified as is (I tend to dislike slowdown in games, unless it's core game mechanics, bullet time style).

P.P.S. Relatively short shmups are also the way to go, Psikyo being a poster child here. You'll get twatted sooner, but it'll take you shorter to reapproach the tricky point.

insanbelti4 wrote:
I own Jamestown, Ikaruga, and Sine Mora, on PS4 and Vasara on Switch. No PC.

Just a quote from another thread...

BloodHawk wrote:
I bought the Vasara Collection for Steam first and really liked it, so double dipped when it went on sale in the eShop the last time it was 99 cents for the portability.

Now I know the Switch gets a lot of flack for the input lag on some of their ports, but I haven't come across too many that were terrible, even the Psikyo games are "playable". However, the Vasara Collection seems to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to this. Meanwhile the PC version has no noticeable input lag at all. The Switch port is still worth 99 cents, but I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that if the portability of the Switch isn't a must for them then I recommend the PC version on Steam, as it goes on sale sometimes as well.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:32 am 


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Rastan78 wrote:
Plenty of good ones on the Switch, but I don't know if I'd recommend starting off with any of the ones you mentioned. See if you like Thunder Force AC or Thunder Force IV.


I second this, specifically AC more than IV. Not only is AC a kickass game with a kickass soundtrack from a kickass series and a kickass developer with a kickass M2 port with added features & only 3 frames of lag. It also has the unique distinction of being both a genuine arcade game, and relatively easy but not a pushover. A 1cc is well within most players' capabilities on normal difficulty with about 10-15 hours of practice, less for those with above average reflexes.

Plus, it's dirt cheap to boot. I'm thinking that Thunder Force AC might be just about the best answer to the age-old "what shmup should I start with?' question. Looking back at the old top 25 lists for this forum, TF III (the Genesis version of the game) was actually voted #2 overall in the first one, and hung in the top 25 for years until the avalanche of Cave games finally pushed it out.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:09 pm 


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The aim is for a survival 1CC of a game. I'd forget about Ikaruga for now. It's not a survival game. Many would argue it isn't even a shmup. It's almost in a genre all its own.

If your chosen game is a console port make extensive use of its practice mode if it has one. Lets you practice each level in isolation. Replay modes let you analyse your mistakes. Emulators will let you do the same thing.

Watching videos of winning runs is good - but you need to put the playtime hours in beforehand to get any real benefit from it. You may for example find yourself skipping to a certain section you are having problems with instead of just watching it in its entirety and get depressed because you aren't that good! Later levels of these games are extremely intimidating to beginners and watching expert runs might put you off - you need to believe that you can beat them. And for a survival 1CC most of us can beat most games with the right amount of dedication and discipline.

Credit feeding will let you see more of the game and prevent you getting bored with the same few levels but it's important to limit your use of continues and use them constructively. I use them occasionally if I feel things getting a bit stale. If you are getting closer to the end of the game then you may benefit more from using them then.

You really do need to practice regularly. I'd try to not miss out on playing for more than one day, especially at the start. 30mins every day is better than 2x 2hr sessions per week At least it is for me.

Generally use small movements - you will typically find you die by moving into a bullet , not by having a bullet hit you when you are not an expert.

Seems obvious - but watch the bullets. You need to develop the skill of knowing where the ship is without staring/looking directly at it all the time.

I try and stick with default difficulty. But some Cave games have good Novice modes that ease you in. I gave up with Raiden III and ended up getting my 1CC on Easy. It feels a bit hollow but that game just doesn't click with me and it's the best I could manage on it with the time I am prepared to put in.

Don't try and use an analogue stick for movement. Folk here will vary between keyboard, dpad and stick. But digital control for movement - please.

Use your bombs. Nothing worse than losing a life with a full bomb stock. Being smart with bombs is key for lesser skilled players (like me) who primarily play for survival. It can be hard to get the balance right between being brave and pushing it and losing a life.

This genre does not suffer fools. You need to put the effort in. Practice is key of course. But it needs to be smart and structured practice.

More than any other genre this is a mentally taxing one. Relax. Enjoy it! Getting over anxious about bombing or losing a life will only make you play worse. Lose the fear of losing without getting sloppy. Getting that first 1CC can be a big mental barrier. Handling your nerves is a big part of this type of game.

The strategy area of this forum is a superb source of information. A lot of it is for more seasoned players and there are detailed discussions and guides about scoring tricks mostly - but not always - it can help with things like ship selection - that can make a big difference. My Gigawing 1CC happened after I switched from red to green after reading around.

Stop playing when it's starting to annoy you. Sometimes things just aren't happening for you. Tomorrow is another day.


Last edited by davyK on Fri Sep 18, 2020 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:03 am 


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start with games from the late 80s and work your way forward, or play games on their easier modes.
if after 20+ times you still find yourself dying at a certain spot, i'd suggest watching a superplay of the game for pointers.
keep in mind that the only way to get a feel for the size of the hitbox in any given game is by dying.
try to not concern yourself with medallions / score pickups until you've beaten the game at least once.
patience and willpower are really a huge element of these games, just as much as reaction time.
the controller used makes a huge difference.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:05 am 



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- stick to one shmup
- play it every day
- play it for only 10 or 20 minutes per day then move to something else
- repeat for a month

Check back in after. You could read pages upon pages of expert advice and thoughtful discussion on the nature of shmups, but at the end of the day your skill will be based on how much time you've invested and how faithfully you've invested that time over a greater course of time (months, years)


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:35 pm 


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Your primary goal should be to have fun. If you're thinking anything else then you're overthinking it.

Keep playing if you enjoy them. You will get better naturally the more you play them. Once you get better, maybe then start setting other goals. 1CCs of certain games, or making a certain amount of progress on one credit. Progress will be slow, but as long as you're having fun playing the games, that's what matters.

If you want an easier time, start with 8 and 16-bit shooters. While not always the case, there are many games that tend to be less manic overall. Life Force and Dragon Spirit on NES, MUSHA and the Thunder Force games on Genesis/Megadrive, etc. They'll be easier to clear and they'll give you an appreciation for how far the genre has come.
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:45 pm 


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:29 pm 


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The advice about tackling older games first is solid. Some modern games are just too overwhelming though there are those among them that are accessible once you try them and their bark is worse then their bite - at least in the early levels. Deathsmiles is quite accessible for example.

But overall - starting with well known older games is probably for the best. Some older suffer from design flaws - for example Gradius can be frustrating because you lose your powerups when you lose a life and the further you are in the game when this happens, the less likely you are to recover from it.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 6:39 pm 


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davyK wrote:
Some older suffer from design flaws - for example Gradius can be frustrating because you lose your powerups when you lose a life and the further you are in the game when this happens, the less likely you are to recover from it.


The game being harder in later stages is a design flaw? Since when?
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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 7:14 pm 


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He never said the game being harder in later levels is a flaw. It's the fact that a single hit will almost surely end your entire run that can feel unbalanced.

This can be especially frustrating if you managed to rack up a lot of extends, but they are almost impossible to use bc you can't get your ship back up to speed.

If you play games like this you have to accept that you will either have to no miss the entire game or deal with the extreme difficulty of recovering with a terribly underpowered ship. That's something that can be pretty daunting for someone going for a first time 1cc.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2020 5:04 pm 


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WelshMegalodon wrote:
davyK wrote:
Some older suffer from design flaws - for example Gradius can be frustrating because you lose your powerups when you lose a life and the further you are in the game when this happens, the less likely you are to recover from it.


The game being harder in later stages is a design flaw? Since when?



Means you can't recover in the later stages. That's all. Gradius V fixed it by leaving options on screen to pickup after a life loss.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:25 pm 


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I wrote this as a response to LichbannMejolaro's thread, but if they're asking to close that one I may as well just post it here.

I am not any kind of expert player, but I have read/watched a lot around the genre. Combining that with my own observations, these have been the core elements which seem to be the most meaningful to me at this point in my journey:

0. Make sure you pick a game you legit enjoy with a theme you can see yourself staring at for dozens of hours, not what the internet says is cool. Otherwise burnout is all but inevitable. When I first saw Gunbird 2 I was like "who the F is this even for?" But over time I realized that colourful, goofy cheerful world was ultimately easier to jump into every day than endless bombastic dire military themes.

1. The above is important because the single most important thing imo is play time. But not absent-mindedly. 50 hours of paying attention to what's happening where, when and why is worth 200 hours of idle or distracted play.

2. If there are multiple ships/characters, look around on the internet to find out if one is more effective than the others. Then play enough to figure out which one you actually enjoy the most. Since sticking with the game long-term is the single most important thing, this way you can flip between them to keep things fresh and avoid frustration.

3. With this in mind, at first just play enough to have the mechanics absolutely nailed down. How much damage do you do? Do you have a handle on where the hit box is, and how big it is? How much space can your ship cover in a half a second? Is there a melee attack, do you know when and how to use it, and can you do it on twitch reaction? Do you have a good sense of how much time you have to get a last-second bomb out?

4. Memorize enemy locations. Once you have a handle on what your ship can do, THE key mechanical element of shmups is destroying enemies as fast as possible, imo. This prevents them from flooding the screen with bullets, restricting your field of movement and trapping you. Once you have a good handle on where enemies are going to appear, you can 'play upfield' at the top of the screen and control the play field, rather than being pinned at the bottom the whole time like it's Space Invaders. (Unless you're playing a fixed shmup. Galaga rules!)

5. Start at the lowest difficulty. Once you can 1cc that, move up to the next one. This was some of the best advice I've received. Don't think you're doing yourself a favour by being too proud to play on easy, especially in this genre. That ultimately just lengthens the adoption curve of the game mechanics since you have less room to experiment with them. The lower difficulties are there for a reason, just like a practice field is for a sport. Make use of them to build yourself up for the real thing.

6. Pay bonus score doodads no particular mind until you can survive to the end. Many of them are placed to lead you into unnecessary risk, and your score isn't going to be competitive until you can 1cc anyway. One exception is if there's a timing mechanic like in Psikyo games. In that case the same rule applies, but when there's a bonus item in your path naturally, put some focus on getting the pick up rhythm drilled in as you go.

7. Once you have the mechanics, enemy locations & survival down, then you can start modifying your route to grab as much as possible. It's much easier to adapt an already solid path that lets you survive the game, than to try & do everything at once. There will be many situations where it actually becomes unproductive to go after 100% of every shiny thing on screen.

8. As always, it's the journey. That 1cc is the end, not the actual thing you're doing. Don't worry at all about getting stalled at a certain point in the game for a long time, if you keep playing you're still gaining information and refining movement and skill, even if it seems like you're regressing at times. Often that regression is just because you've realized there's a better approach than the one you have, but it takes time to absorb. It'll pay off in the long run.

9. On that note, think big picture, while also celebrating small gains. Squeeze through a section you used to have to bomb? Take out a big enemy faster than you thought you could? Notice something you hadn't before about a boss' firing pattern? Those are all wins. And ultimately more meaningful wins than just getting further than your previous runs, because they lead to genuine consistency. And it's putting together all those little consistencies which leads to mastery.


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 Post subject: Re: What sorts of goals should I be setting as a beginner?
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:36 pm 


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Joined: 31 Aug 2009
Posts: 7598
Location: 東京都杉並区
^ this is an absurdly good post, something every beginner should certainly read
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@trap0xf | daifukkat.su/blog | scores | FIRE LANCER
<S.Yagawa> I like the challenge of "doing the impossible" with older hardware, and pushing it as far as it can go.


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