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 Post subject: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2021 11:48 pm 



Joined: 03 May 2021
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I’ll just come out and admit that I’m a casual observer, I’ve seen how these sorts of threads go down. Most of my knowledge of shmups come from reading the posts here and from Youtube videos, with the occasional dabbling in Gungeon, Touhou and a few mobile games of varying quality. I am interested in making shmups, though— once I’ve improved my skills in the genre and gotten a better grasp on how these games should be designed, I have plenty of ideas rattling around in my head. This topic is related to that.


Something that’s interested and worried me here is the occasional discussion regarding euroshmups. A common complaint seems to be that they tend to be incredibly long and try to shore this up with save features that introduce savescumming. It makes sense that a good arcade experience lasts around 20-30 minutes, short enough for one sitting but with plenty of meat. The most popular speedruns tend to hang around this timeframe as well. That does clash with some of my concepts for games, though— I’d like to play around with the number of stages in my games, and some I can’t see working well conceptually when condensed down like this. I’d like to vet your guys’ opinions on quicksaves to get around this issue.


Basically, the first time they beat stage 1, I’d give the player a quick popup telling them that the game will automatically quicksave after every stage. They can quit between stages and return to finish later, but if they quit in the middle of playing a stage that wipes their progress completely (You could also just wipe score, if you want to be more lenient— it’d essentially just equate savescumming with credit feeding). Afterwards, they can just play the game as normal with no interruptions.


Obviously this doesn’t work as a standalone solution. I’d include alternative modes for playing both single stages and shorter segments (think 3-5 stages each) for practice and as their own survival/scoring categories. Maybe rebalance the non-practice versions for the people attracted to these. However, I’d like to think this is a nice compromise for a less arcadey experience, since it kills savescumming while still allowing for multiple playsessions per run.

Do you guys think that a complete package like this could work? And if not, could you elaborate on what turns you off of the concept?


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 6:26 am 


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I'm open to games outside the 30-minute arcade paradigm. Darius Burst CS is broken down into hundreds of unlockable stages and it got quite a bit of attention on these boards. Gradius V is designed for a single sitting, but its length means I have more fun using stage select to treat each as an individual challenge instead of marathoning them all.

The player is starting all stages from a neutral state in those examples, though. This is where I see a problem with what you describe. Let's say you make a 3-hour long shmup with between-stage quicksaving. I don't want to be kicking myself when I'm two and a half hours in over a bomb I used in the first ten minutes. Lack of prompt feedback is also a euroshmup trait; a severe example is when you're cruising along with some health loss and things seem fine, but because you took avoidable damage you're doomed to failure when a part with unavoidable damage comes up later.

A solution is to reset the player to neutral between stages... but in that case you might as well just have a stage select with new stages gradually becoming unlocked.
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 7:46 am 


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It depends on if you're using the arcade format or not.

The arcade format is usually seen as a standard for shmups but it is also genuinely user unfriendly in its own right. Newer games try to cope with it by also including stage selects, boss rushes, and so on. Either way the important thing here is that the player can make a genuine 1 credit clear without breaks, because that's what people value :twisted:

If you're implementing a save feature and thus separating levels, you can go around the controversy of it by having each level have its own separate score and starting power level (avoid shops and carryovers unless you want to go full euroshmup which loses part of the audience). If you're doing this you can even make lives lost decrease score on the levels or something similar. With this, or a similar system, there's still an incentive to score and play well but you are free to structure the levels as you like withot adhering to the "finish in 1 sitting" tradition.
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 8:30 am 


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This is a very very common topic in here, and I think the conclusions have been documented well. Essentially, there is no escaping the arcade foundations of the shoot'em up genre. It just goes purely hand in hand with the clean core mechanics of the games. People don't play shooters to see the sights until they reach the end and leave the game behind. They play the same stages over and over again until they are able to master them well enough to reach the later stages, and so on.
Replayability is a really important factor of shooters, and by that I don't mean branching paths or configuration options, I mean actually playing the exact same thing over and over needs to remain fun.

That's not to say you can't experiment in going in other directions, but such a game, given it actually does so well, will essentially be something else entirely. Enter The Gungeon being a really good example of that. So it's really a question of what you want to do - do you want to make a genuine shoot'em up, building on the foundations that makes that genre enjoyable, or do you want to take beats from it and incorporate it into a different genre (something you'd also see even in stuff like Undertale), and probably alienate pure shooter fans in the process.

What you can do, if you're really set on making a long campaign designed to be played across multiple sessions with a save system storing your progress, is split the game into multiple "acts", each functioning as a separate full arcade game, lasting 20-30 minutes. Allow players to tackle each of them individually, once the progress has been unlocked, and take on challenges such as survival/1 life clears or score attack for each of them.

Maybe unlocking access to new stages could be unlocked on a stage-by-stage basis, resetting your life count at the start of each, which could also function as a sort of practice mode - while the primary challenge runs of the game are based around these sets of multiple stages, each played with a different preset leeway in terms of extra lives and bombs. Just throwing ideas out there.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 12:44 pm 


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If you really want to make a ton of levels, you could always do the Darius thing and have a choice of two levels after completing each level. Dariusburst has like... I actually don't know how many levels, a lot. But the runtime of a session is a much more arcadey 15 minutes (?) (3 stages total). While I haven't played much of any of the Darius games, I think the format is a pretty good one.

For a less arcadey experience, something like rRootage is potentially an interesting place to look. 4 different modes of 36 individual levels, but you play one level at a time. You always start out with the same number of resources, and each stage has a separate score. For something like this you could have new stages unlock as you complete the previous ones, which would probably appeal to a more mainstream audience. I tend to dislike games with a really long runtime, so this is definitely much more appealing to me than a >30 minutes shooter, but I think overall the arcade format is better.

One final case would be Sturmwind, It's been a really long time, but I think if you beat a stage in normal mode you unlock it in the stage select but start the next one right away with your current resources, however when you pick a stage from the stage select you'll start back with whatever the default resources and power level are (actually I can't remember if this had powerups or not). It has a ton of stages, but it also has an arcade mode that consists of like 6 of them and a more standard arcade format. I think that is a decent system that theoretically could appeal to both a normal person who is used to modern format games and someone who only cares about the 20-30 minute arcade game format (assuming it's designed well, anyway).
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 10:00 pm 


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Technicolor wrote:
Something that’s interested and worried me here is the occasional discussion regarding euroshmups. A common complaint seems to be that they tend to be incredibly long and try to shore this up with save features that introduce savescumming. It makes sense that a good arcade experience lasts around 20-30 minutes, short enough for one sitting but with plenty of meat.

There is no one specific thing that defines a euroshmup, but a large list of specific things that are also modified by the fact that they are done poorly. There is nothing wrong with any of the specific mechanics on the list: not lifebars, not shops, not inertia (Risk System haters can continue to hate), not enemies with lots of health, and certainly not quicksaves.

Your idea doesn't seem particularly concerning if I'm reading it right. It sounds fairly close to what Hydorah does.

However!

You may wish to try multiple "sets" of stages. I know a lot of people recommend Darius, but they are specifically recommending the branching paths, which are not necessarily a good idea. I would really like to see a Darius game with no branching paths but with multiple "campaigns" like this. Say, you would have four sets of six stages (purely an example), each one getting a little harder than the last, perhaps even with a unique ship for each set, things like that. It'd be work, yes, but if Darius devs can ever put in the work to create their branching paths, surely they can be unbranched...?
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 3:54 am 


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Enjoyed this discussion on Euroshmups:

https://youtu.be/ij5trBPbJPw

They go into how to avoid the pitfalls of poorly done Euroshmup mechanics, but also go into ideas about good level design, animation etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 6:25 am 



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General consensus seems to be that the best way to handle something like this is to scrap the holistic approach and go for a stage-by-stage structure. Duly noted, as is the enthusiasm for multiple arcade-style campaigns.


I do like the idea of including this full-game quicksave feature as a separate mode though. Lock it behind full game completion and advertise it as a novelty mode, that way the player has no misunderstandings about what the intended way to play is. Y’know. Just in case someone other than me wants it.


On top of the individual stage scores, what do you guys think of a separate tally that totals all of the player’s high scores across all the stages? Even if it’s not a mainstay scoring category, I do think it’d be a nice way for a prolific player to quantify their breadth of understanding of a game. It might make for a nice way to ease newcomers into scoring as well— it encourages fine-tuning dodging and routes and replaying stages multiple times, but if the player gets bored they still have to freedom to just switch to another level.


Sumez wrote:
That's not to say you can't experiment in going in other directions, but such a game, given it actually does so well, will essentially be something else entirely. Enter The Gungeon being a really good example of that. So it's really a question of what you want to do - do you want to make a genuine shoot'em up, building on the foundations that makes that genre enjoyable, or do you want to take beats from it and incorporate it into a different genre (something you'd also see even in stuff like Undertale), and probably alienate pure shooter fans in the process.



I do have some of those sorts of ideas floating around. Probably my most developed concept is a platformer/manic shmup genre fusion. I grew up on platformers so I feel pretty confident on that side of things.


LordHypnos wrote:
For a less arcadey experience, something like rRootage is potentially an interesting place to look. 4 different modes of 36 individual levels, but you play one level at a time. You always start out with the same number of resources, and each stage has a separate score. For something like this you could have new stages unlock as you complete the previous ones, which would probably appeal to a more mainstream audience. I tend to dislike games with a really long runtime, so this is definitely much more appealing to me than a >30 minutes shooter, but I think overall the arcade format is better.



Hmm... is that a personal preference, or does a stage-by-stage approach risk alienating arcade shmup fans?


Sturmwind sounds like a much more thorough and competent execution of my basic idea. I’ll keep it in mind for the future.


Despatche wrote:
There is no one specific thing that defines a euroshmup, but a large list of specific things that are also modified by the fact that they are done poorly. There is nothing wrong with any of the specific mechanics on the list: not lifebars, not shops, not inertia (Risk System haters can continue to hate), not enemies with lots of health, and certainly not quicksaves.



You’re totally right, but at the same time the nasty reputation that those sorts of features have is still worth noting. If 90% (spitballing the numbers here) of shmups with shop systems do them poorly, then even advertising a well-made one would still probably scare off a lot of potential players, right?


...Speaking of shop systems though, I did actually have an idea that’s kind of adjacent to one. Basically you’d have the option to adjust your shot’s stats, stuff like speed, tradeoffs between stats, so on and so forth. Nonintrusive if you just wanna jump in and shoot things, but listed as a small menu option if you want it. Plus the ability to save specific loadouts.



Simple changes like should be easier to balance as well, so the routing possibilities are exciting. I feel like the intent to complement the shooting and dodging rather than to improve it matters a lot.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 1:29 pm 


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Technicolor wrote:

On top of the individual stage scores, what do you guys think of a separate tally that totals all of the player’s high scores across all the stages? Even if it’s not a mainstay scoring category, I do think it’d be a nice way for a prolific player to quantify their breadth of understanding of a game. It might make for a nice way to ease newcomers into scoring as well— it encourages fine-tuning dodging and routes and replaying stages multiple times, but if the player gets bored they still have to freedom to just switch to another level.




There are games that do that. Radiant Silvergun tracks level scores. XII Stag makes a bit of a fuss of it - showing a graph comparing your score against the previous best scores (and maybe average score? Can't remember) for each level. Cave games like DDP:DFK have the option of displaying each level score and high score in windows when using a wide screen display.

The Raiden games from No.3 onwards have a level based score attack mode that lets you select the level and starting weapons and keeps track of separate tables for each level. RType Final has a level based score attack too. I'm sure there are plenty of others but these are the ones that spring to mind straight away. I'm a fan of this mode because it lets someone like me experience and tackle late levels set a high difficulty level in isolation - something I would perhaps never be able to do using normal arcade modes - but unlike a good practice mode - it also lets me keep a high score table. It really adds play value to a game I feel.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 3:03 pm 


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If you have a long game, that's much longer than the typical arcade format, I definitely think basing your "high score" on a tally of your individual best stage records, is not just a good idea, it's absolutely the way to go.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 3:44 pm 


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That or break it into chunks. Stage 1-5, Stage 6-10, Stage 11-15 as three separate "courses".
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 3:55 pm 


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Yeah, that was my original though, turning the game into a set of "acts" each of appropriate length.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 5:47 pm 


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I like the way they handled Raiden DX with the Alpha Mission. You get a single 15 minute long mission with a boss at the end that's still fairly challenging and gives an opportunity for score attack. A nice way to provide a more bite sized experience alongside the longer main modes.

I could see a game that has 3 or 4 selectable missions like this with their own place on the high score table working out pretty well. Maybe they could be played individually or consecutively with a brief but challenging final mission and boss bookending it.

The turn based strategy game Into the Breach has a structure that could pair with this. There are four "islands" on the map to clear in the order of your choice, and after you have cleared two islands, you can jump right to the shorter final mission or choose to go for a full 3 or 4 island clear. Difficulty scales up so that the ones you pick later will have increased difficulty, but the order is up to you. In a shmup it could be cool if the final zone you get varies with a 2, 3 or 4 mission clear of course with leaderboards for each.

Basically this setup let's the player choose on each playthrough how long they want the run to be without having a bloated menu full of discreet missions to check off a list. I think this works well because you still build an arcade style sense of tension when working towards a clear on each play.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 9:32 pm 


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I recall macross II, the arcade game, did the course thing. You got 3 unique levels per course you picked and then the (agonizing) final level after each course. Hilariously the final level was always the same so an easy course player would just flat out lose, assuming they picked easy for a reason.
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2021 11:38 pm 


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IMO, multiple routes is better than a long game. I don't want the 1CC tension in a run to last longer than 45 minutes or so (and even that's a bit much...). But multilple routes? That's like adding whole new games to 1CC.

Short games tend to have better level design too. Games like DDP DOJ, Mushi Futari, R-Type, and ChoRenSha 68K have immaculate stage design. Each of those games is about 20 minutes long (for a first loop anyway), but they each have exactly 20 minutes of really high quality ideas in that first loop. I doubt any of those games would be better if it had a 1 hour run time. You'd start seeing repetition, or less well thought out levels.
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2021 12:57 am 



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Sumez wrote:
If you have a long game, that's much longer than the typical arcade format, I definitely think basing your "high score" on a tally of your individual best stage records, is not just a good idea, it's absolutely the way to go.


I’d like to reiterate that I meant that for a game that’d have you play stages individually to progress, rather than a particularly long game to 1cc or one with multiple acts/campaigns. I’ll note it and avoid the stage tally if you wrote this understanding that, but the way it’s phrased I can’t really tell.


And yeah, I do have separate ideas for the various structures. I guess I should lay out some of these to properly explain my questions, huh...?


- One game concept explores the idea of post-death brain activity, with the protag character in denial of their death and constructing a fantasy world for themselves to avoid acknowledging it. It’d be of proper arcade length and play around with concepts of time. If I have the time, resources and motivation, I’d also add a second campaign exploring how said fantasy world lines up with their actual life, with the option to choose one campaign and then play the other as a second loop (with balance changes to account for that).


- Another game concept is a girl exploring an underwater cave system with a robot companion in search of her missing father. This one would have several different campaigns which each progress the story, based on the premise of exploring a different portion of the caves, and each would be unlocked either by beating the previous ones or discovering secret paths within them.


- The last relevant concept is a Touhou-inspired game which roughly takes place during the warring states period. This one is the extra-long one I’m worried about the most, and I’m thinking that you’d tackle each stage on its own. Progress is saved and beating levels unlocks other levels, with score and resources being reset between each one. It’d also have various different shot types corresponding to the different characters, with each having stages designed around that specific shot type.


These aren’t all of my ideas, but they are the most relevant ones.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2021 8:06 pm 


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Technicolor wrote:
You’re totally right, but at the same time the nasty reputation that those sorts of features have is still worth noting. If 90% (spitballing the numbers here) of shmups with shop systems do them poorly, then even advertising a well-made one would still probably scare off a lot of potential players, right?

Fortunately, the community is better about that than in the past. The people you would scare away with something as simple as an idea are the people who do not enjoy playing these games to begin with.
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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2021 9:37 pm 


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I think it takes more than a shop system. Usually the developer mentality that results in genuine euroshmup tendencies is super easy to spot from a mile away.
Generally, it's games made by people who don't even enjoy the core elements that makes shooting games fun for most of the rest of us, and you can easily tell when that's the case. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Sat May 08, 2021 2:30 am 



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Fair enough. I am still a bit wary though, and I think a more optional system is how I’d prefer to go about things regardless.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on Quicksaving?
PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2021 5:23 pm 


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When it comes to scoring across different stages or scores, in the slay the spire scene one of the world records people go for is the amount of consecutive wins on highest difficulty level, which makes it very different from speedrunning the game or just going for a single highscore, because it changes the way you create and play your deck so that you need to take less (of certain) risks, and focus more on mitigating bad rng and going for consistency. Something similar might work in a shmup which lets you drop in and out, save inbetween stages, etc. Of note is that they rotate player characters in slay the spire so you don't just play the same one all the time, but you could, I guess. They reset inbetween games and all games are regular games, but one could of course award a little more lives or money to spend in shop or what have you in the current game based off of score or score milestones in the game before, to make it about something more than purely survival. Or one could just tie in extend system to score system, so that survivability and winning streaks becomes "easier" when learning to score big.


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