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 Post subject: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:06 pm 


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It seems like every single new shmup is full of mistakes repeated hundreds of times before. Many of them could be fixed in a few hours or even minutes. Other wouldn't happen in the first place if the devs knew about them.
So, here's some of the most commonly complained about "features" of indie and not-so-indie shmups (names withheld to protect the guilty). Try to avoid them. Thanks.

too easy
You're making a shmup, which means it's going to by played by people who...wait for it...play shmups. And shmup players want challenge (hands up, how many of you got here after watching that "hardest boss ever" video?). Finding the right difficulty isn't easy, good thing you have people to do that for you, the very same forum you're reading this on. So post the preview/demo here, and adjust the difficulty according to the feedback. Multiple difficulty levels are always good, just make clear which one is "default".

unfair
The other extreme. Shmups are notoriously hard genre, but that doesn't mean harder automatically equals better.
There's difficulty, and then there's "Nintendo hard" unfairness. If player fucks up, it should be his fault, and it should be immediately obvious it was his fault. Most common causes of cheap deaths include
-unavoidable attacks
-enemies firing from point-blank range (look up cutoff mark and dead zone here)
-enemies spawning without warning where player is likely to be (usually bottom of the screen)
-insta-death beams without warning
-too large or badly placed player hitbox - size of the hitbox should be appropriate for bullet density, but never larger than player's ship.
-badly placed enemy hitboxes (especially if there's collision damage).
-inappropriate ship speed. This is specific for every game, just spend some time trial-and-erroring speed that fits your game the best.

ninja bullets
Sure, pretty game is better than ugly one. But the eye candy shouldn't get in the way of, you know, actually playing it. Most common result of over the top effects is that it's hard to see enemies and bullets, leading to cheap deaths, frustration, and quick uninstallation. There's two ways to fix it. You can turn down "teh pwetty", but nobody wants to do that...or you can make important stuff even flashier. Make bullets blink, make them leave trails, make them glow or cast dark halo. Make them the shiniest, hardest to miss things in the game, just don't forget to make clear what's actual bullet and what's eye candy. Oh, and particles, bloom, explosions, clouds, and other similar stuff should go behind the bullets, not obscure them.

healthbar
Healthbar is not inherently bad by itself, but it's too often used as a "cheat" to make unfairness more tolerable.
So, if you insist on using healthbar, try playing through your game with one hitpoint. If it's impossible or requires excessive memorization, it's time to re-design. If it isn't, congrats, you use the healthbar well. The question is, do you still need it now?

inertia
Crippled controls are the worst possible way to increase difficulty. There are rare cases where inertia actually improves controls (Asteroids and Geometry Wars are good examples), but in classic top-down shmup it has no place.
And realism...if you want realism, why the hell are you making a shmup in the first place?
On a side note, blocking player's movement too far away from actual edge of the playfield and different speeds for vertical and horizontal movement are just as bad.

dead air
Yeah, there are shmups where there's literally nothing happening for good half of the game. Obviously, it doesn't non-happen all at once, but it's there, and it's wasted time you could spend blowing shit up. Easiest solution is to fill such eventless moments with swarms of low-threat, easily destroyed enemies (known as popcorn). They don't have to be very dangerous by themselves, but they give the player something to do.

stupid scoring system
I'm no expert on scoring systems. All my games use same tried and safe "collect stuff to increase multiplier" type of scoring. Leaving this part to someone more experienced.

weak weapons
Shmups are fundamentally about two things. Shooting and dodging. By giving player weak weapon you not only ruined the shooting part, but by forcing player to stay in one place for prolonged periods in order to destroy anything, you also ruined the dodging part. Save hard to destroy enemies for boss battles. And speaking of bosses...

too long boss battles
Think of a boss battle as chorus of a song. It's a climatic moment, but you can't simply loop it over and over or it becomes annoying like the ringtone of that asshat living next to you. When your boss exhausted all of it's attack patterns, it's time to let him die and move on, repeating them over and over is about as interesting as said ringtone. Repeating them over and over is about as interesting as said ringtone. Repeating them over and over is about as interesting as said ringtone. Repeating them over and over is about as interesting as said ringtone. Repeating them over and over is about as interesting as said ringtone.

interrupting gameplay
You're going to hate me for this, but it has to be said. If you want to add an interesting story to your game, fine, but even best story outstays its welcome when you have to hear it for 20th time, much like the abovementioned ringtone. If you absolutely have to have cutscenes, make them skipable (preferably with a single button press).

non-standard control scheme
Arrows+ZX(C) may seem arbitrary, but there's good reasons for using it. First, those keys do not block each other on cheap keyboards. Second, players are used to this scheme, and are likely to have joy2key/xpadder already set up for it. If you can make configurable controls, even better, but if your controls are fixed, make them arrows+ZXC. It's also a good idea to make Y perform same action as Z, since some european keyboards have Z and Y swapped. Controller support is always welcome. Shooters on different platforms of course follow different rules, but I don't know enough about them.

RPG elements
You may think "I'm gonna combine shmup and RPG, bet nobody thought about that before! wooo i'm so original!". You're wrong. In 90's everyone and their dog was making RPG-shmups. Why aren't they making them anymore? Because they simply didn't work. Now, i'm not saying it's inherently impossible to make a good RPG-shmup, but so far all attempts failed. The problem is always the same, there's always an optimal configuration that easily slices through anything the game throws at you, and if you try anything else you'll end up with crappy undergunned ship. Not fun.


Disclaimer: you may find some of these in my games too. I know, and will avoid them in the future.
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Last edited by worstplayer on Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New developrs, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:33 pm 


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A great post full of truths. I approve.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:31 am 


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Say whaaaaat.

RPG Elements are awesome. Archon could be expanded with some typical exp based unit levels and be a fantastic little game.

A game more focused on aiming (such as your bullet's screen coverage in Galaga) gives a very wide number of vectors. Minimalist, you offer a menu of upgrades between stages.

Gradius style games are huge on RPG elements. Was that series really so bad??
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:28 am 


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Scoring system: If your scoring system involves excessive boolit cancelling and/or exponential multipliers, it's probably ass. :3 Other bad stuff: Ridiculous (3+ minute) boring boss milk fests, scoring where the beginning/end of a level is near useless in terms of points, levels which are much higher in score potential compared to other levels, levels with terrible score potential, etc.

Too long/repetitive levels: Levels that drag on for 10 minutes of blah are not fun. If the player is killing the same type of enemies for that entire time, it's even worse. The worst example being the "Asteroid field" levels in most euroshmups which last for-fucking-ever and consist of nothing but shooting rocks and occasional popcorn enemies. Typically, if you don't have at least 6-7 different types of enemies (or at least variations) with different sizes, health levels and attack methods, the player is going to get bored.


Last edited by Udderdude on Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:53 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:15 am 


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Quote:
First, those keys do not block each other on cheap keyboards.


Not entirely true. My not so cheap keyb can't handle Z + UP + LEFT for instance.
Always have keys configurable.

This whole post seems very subjective and pointing to worst case scenarios. I agree on the obvious points though.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 2:14 pm 


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Great post, every developer should read this.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:28 pm 


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Udderdude wrote:
Too long/repetitive levels: Levels that drag on for 10 minutes of blah are not fun. If the player is killing the same type of enemies for that entire time, it's even worse. The worst example being the "Asteroid field" levels in most euroshmups which last for-fucking-ever and consist of nothing but shooting rocks and occasional popcorn enemies. Typically, if you don't have at least 6-7 different types of enemies (or at least variations) with different sizes, health levels and attack methods, the player is going to get bored.


That was probably the first thing I thought of when seeing this thread.
Amateur shmups generally seem to be all full of the same boring enemy patterns over and over again. Like an entire level based on the intro part of a Gradius game (which is really only intended to introduce the system to the player and feed him a couple of easy powerups) - this especially goes for horizontal shooters, but is also common in verticals. Combine it with a bland repeating background, and you have a game NO ONE will have ANY reason to play (unless the soundtrack is really awesome...).

Basically, every time you throw popcorn enemies into a stage, make sure they have a purpose there, and don't just add repetition or work as a pointless filler not posing any sort of challenge. Generally a lot of these games seem to be based on just waiting for the player to make a stupid mistake.


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:33 pm 


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LOL SO RANDUMB ^_^ : Yeah, this is somewhat up to taste, but in general, if your shmup is overflowing with random variables then it's going to be close to impossible to play consistently for score. Especially if the random variables are bullet speeds or enemy spawn points. If you have that much random shit, you might as well just remove score altogether and just make it survival based.

Poor development environment for shmups: By far the best is C++/DirectX. Worse than that is Flash/Gamemaker. Anything else (Unity, some big-name game mod, etc.) is just asking for trouble, either from excessive input lag or ridiculously steep hardware requirements. Don't do it.


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:22 pm 


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Overall this is a good post, but I disagree on some points.

RPG elements and the health bar. RPG elements are awesome. A health bar can be part of the game. Tons of great games have a health bar that WILL get damaged and it's perfectly fine. Of course, it must not be because of cheap reasons.

Just take Raptor, which is one of my favorite old shmups. It has a health bar and rpg elements.


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:18 pm 


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Udderdude wrote:
Poor development environment for shmups: By far the best is C++/DirectX. Worse than that is Flash/Gamemaker. Anything else (Unity, some big-name game mod, etc.) is just asking for trouble, either from excessive input lag or ridiculously steep hardware requirements. Don't do it.


i'd put a little distance between Game Maker and Flash personally and things like BlitzMax are pretty solid as well... =-)

ItBurn wrote:
RPG elements and the health bar. RPG elements are awesome. A health bar can be part of the game. Tons of great games have a health bar that WILL get damaged and it's perfectly fine. Of course, it must not be because of cheap reasons.

Just take Raptor, which is one of my favorite old shmups. It has a health bar and rpg elements.


If i were writing a piece about how to do things badly in a shoot 'em up, Raptor would be offered up as an example in the second paragraph [1] for precisely those reasons; the shop is a time-wasting nuisance that could've been handled with collectable items during play or at the very least made more streamlined and the health bar is there to paper over the issues with dodging cheap shots with an inertial control scheme.

[1] The first paragraph is reserved for Xenon 2.


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:28 pm 


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Yeah, I guess it's time for another entry.

B..b..but this other euroshmuppish game did it, so it's ok!: No. No it's not. Most of these games were sad attempts at mimicking arcade games with all sorts of poor design decisions catering to noobs who don't care if they get whacked a dozen times while sliding around the screen like a hockey puck.


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:55 pm 



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Udderdude wrote:
Poor development environment for shmups: By far the best is C++/DirectX. Worse than that is Flash/Gamemaker. Anything else (Unity, some big-name game mod, etc.) is just asking for trouble, either from excessive input lag or ridiculously steep hardware requirements. Don't do it.
I don't see what's particularly wrong with any of:

Java/LWJGL

C/OpenGL

Python/PyGame


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:09 pm 


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Your horizontal shooter doesn't need an R-Type tribute and doesn't need an extendible sub-weapon.

It doesn't.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:15 pm 


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Ok, so I was a little restrictive on the deveopment languages best used for shumps.

You know what I meant. >_>


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:22 pm 


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Great thread. And I was just going to ask about Python/PyGame, but seems like that's already cleared. Thank you.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 3:38 am 



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Awesome post!!


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:21 am 



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Game Maker gets a lot of bad rap because most games produced with it are usually of low quality using very basic drag-and-drop events and actions. While it does have a lot of overhead due to the fact that all GM games are run through a bundled in interpreter, economizing your code will make a big difference in performance.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 9:55 am 


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The problem with GM is the way it's advertised.
"Game Maker allows you to make exciting computer games, without the need to write a single line of code."
While you certainly can make a GM game without using GML, I don't think "exciting" is a good description for such game. :lol:
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:05 am 


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GM is just not worth it. If you make a complex game with it, you spend just as much time dealing with/patching up GM's crappyness than you would if you just used another language like C, etc etc.

Stuff like GMOSSE might at least allow you to skip most of the lameness, though. Not all of it. :P


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 1:54 pm 



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Udderdude wrote:
GM is just not worth it. If you make a complex game with it, you spend just as much time dealing with/patching up GM's crappyness than you would if you just used another language like C, etc etc.

Stuff like GMOSSE might at least allow you to skip most of the lameness, though. Not all of it. :P


If you know what those limitations are, then, with enough experience, you will instinctively know how much you can or cannot do.

Look at Xeno Fighters. Look at Rozyryg's games. Look at Mushroom Kingdom Fusion (forgetting for a moment what it has become). Look at the GMOSSE engine. Look at the various discussions about Game Maker coding on this very board. Those are all GM games made by people who understand the product. There are many people here like myself, Rozyryg, S20-TBL, BPZeBanshee, and worstplayer who understand GM and can help anyone out just starting with using it. It is just as easy to make a lame game in C++ and Java as it is in GM, Multimedia Fusion, or other rapid application development suites if you do not understand how to effectively use any of them. GM has just as much of a learning curve as using C++ and so on.

Even with programming experience in other traditional languages, you cannot be so ambitious as to believe you can make a robust game in GM on your very first shot. My first Game Maker game is what has become Mushroom Kingdom Fusion. I took another person's Mario engine in GM, studied it, added experimental changes, and slowly leaned how to work in Game Maker. Nearly three years later, I can produce things like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSVTgTRh5yA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQBNAoQKPtA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoOOyHjrqRg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI4ZS7bdt-M
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAQAisF4LcI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFGk4ORkAtQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obyKHix7o_4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNtq2-Ar5tU

And the old Xeno Fighters EX? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O31dbynE8to

I made that using an even more limited program: Multimedia Fusion. A much older version. It does not even have a scripting language. Just drag-and-drop events and actions.

Not understanding how to use something effectively does not mean it is lame. :P
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 2:59 pm 



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Another thing: on the "Flash" side, it's important to distinguish between the Flash authoring application (Flash MX, Flash CS, etc.) and the Flash Player platform. It's been a while since the two were tightly coupled, and Adobe offers an ActionScript-oriented Flash platform SDK for free these days (Flex SDK, not to be confused with Flex Builder which is an expensive/full-featured IDE built around Flex SDK). There are also at least two nice Flash/ActionScript sprite-based game libraries out there (Flixel and FlashPunk). Flash still isn't an ideal game platform (many have complained about the garbage collector kicking in at unfortunate times, and you need to be able to deal with variable time steps), but it's quite possible to build decent games for it.


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:21 pm 



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Back on topic, I agree with most of the conventions listed in the original post. Others seem to be more of an expression of personal tastes than anything.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 9:16 am 


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One of GMOSSE's main purposes is to avoid most of these issues on a programming level as well as gameplay-wise, in fact I'm close to getting proper customisable Joystick support working in GMOSSE and also made Y perform the same action as Z due to being reminded of european keyboards. A game engine made tailored to a specific genre wouldnt be a good one without a good example as a base.

I also disagree with claims that Game Maker is a lesser program. It's more than capable of being a base for a great game, but the end-user's knowledge and ability to use it is what determines how good a game will be.

Overall, I pretty much agree with what Alluro says about some of the stuff like 'interrupting gameplay', which can easily be made to NOT be annoying if done right. This thread is definitely needed though, as if you can read this thread and work out what stuff is easy enough to avoid and which ones are subject to contention, you can pretty much call yourself a somewhat-competent developer at the very least.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 8:49 am 


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This is some very valuable resource here.

I'll take this as a guideline as I'm now finetuning the gameplay and difficulty setup of my next game :D
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:51 am 


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worstplayer wrote:
The problem with GM is the way it's advertised.


I agree.. that's what always put me off of it before. It seemed too simple the way they presented it. Something about the straightforwardness of the name 'Game Maker' suggested that it was probably very limiting and not very worthwhile for what I wanted to do, immediately giving me flashbacks of fumbling around with one of the earlier incarnations of Klik and Play as a kid and accomplishing absolutely nothing in the process. :lol: Once I gave it a try, I changed my tune pretty fast, though.


Anyways, I'm also in agreement with the majority of the OP's points. *signs*

I'm a bit on the fence about the RPG/shop elements, though. I just have a feeling it *could* be done right... eventually. Maybe some mad genius locked in a basement somewhere is working on the perfect RPG/arcade shooter hybrid right now. Most of the ones that come right to mind (ie Tyrian) already had flaws that crippled the fundamental shooting and dodging, so I think you can't really count them against the possibility. Tyrian would be a definite 'hockey puck' shmup candidate, too. :lol:
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 11:16 am 


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Rozyrg wrote:
I'm a bit on the fence about the RPG/shop elements, though. I just have a feeling it *could* be done right... eventually. Maybe some mad genius locked in a basement somewhere is working on the perfect RPG/arcade shooter hybrid right now.


Crimzon Clover


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:06 pm 


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Sumez wrote:
Rozyrg wrote:
I'm a bit on the fence about the RPG/shop elements, though. I just have a feeling it *could* be done right... eventually. Maybe some mad genius locked in a basement somewhere is working on the perfect RPG/arcade shooter hybrid right now.


Crimzon Clover


Yes! Exactly this. Because you will get to know the basic gist of the game from the get-go, and everything else is just a great bonus. It will need the game to be kinda awesome right away though.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:40 pm 


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That's only the shop element of Crimzon Clover. The real RPG/Arcade shooter hybrid, IMHO, is Guardian Legend.

Hybrids tend to become really clumsy because of the differing context of RPGs and arcade games. Remember that the RPG was born out of the tabletop game and their early PC text-adventure versions--definitely not arcade material. But then again, we had Sega's Golden Axe and the D&D beat-'em-ups by Capcom back in the day. We also had Gauntlet and its late 90's 3D version. It's very possible to create a successful RPG shmup, but the author would need to truly understand the audience context of either genre in order to make one.

Otherwise, you *will* end up with stuff like this.
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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 3:40 pm 


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Well Crimzon Clover does it right because it doesn't tamper with the actual gameplay of the game.
All the stuff you get is stuff that'd be included anyway (different modes, available ships, extra credits, training options), but by forcing the player to unlock this, you satisfy the europshmup audience (especially since buying enough credits allows you to actually "complete" the game through "grinding"), without offending the "true" shmup audience (who will also unlock things faster), since it doesn't change the scoring potential or difficulty of a 1cc.

More games should do it this way.


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 Post subject: Re: New developers, please read this (common mistakes)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 3:55 pm 


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Playing a RPG for score? That's just...wrong.
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