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 Post subject: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:41 pm 


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One can't help but notice that the gaming world is saturated with shmups.
Indie developers like myself sometimes see the Shmup as a logical "first game" to make since it's what some of us grew up with.
And although new Shmups are still being made, I feel that the general gaming population just isn't that interested.

Why is that?

So here's my theory:

Shmups lack emotion.

Look at the vast majority of shmups, and what is the player in control of? An inanimate object. As humans, it's really hard to make an emotional connection with such a thing. You might have a feeling of anger when your ship gets shot down or feel empowered when you get a better weapon, but it's unlikely that you're going to feel sadness, love or hate like you would in a good RPG.

That's my theory, but I'm curious what the rest of you think.

Also, have you played any shmups that did evoke unexpected emotions from you? How did they accomplish that?
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:49 pm 


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P-47 Aces evoked love through being the best game ever made.

Shooting games are not about this sort of thing.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 5:45 pm 


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40wattstudio wrote:
Look at the vast majority of shmups, and what is the player in control of? An inanimate object.

i mean... the ships have animate people inside of them, presumably

with that in mind, shmups can definitely have feels like any other game, just takes a little cinematography, some good music, and maybe even enough of a story setup
(a bit of voice acting in newer games helps too)

like in Rayforce, they have the bit where you big the big panning shot of earth with the whole battlefleet below getting blown up (with you contributing towards that with your own lasers that take ages to get to the targets bc so much distance), and the guy on your intercom going ballistic. its like, "damn, shit's kinda real down there"

yeah, it takes a little imagination on the player's end; its not gonna be a JRPG where crying character faces take up the whole screen as they monologue for 15 minutes on how people die when they are killed

in the grand scheme of all the things making shmups niche, this... is really not a factor, i would think

(as something of an aside, i'm sure even a number of people who don't really consider themselves shmup fans could tell you about FEELINGS in Ikaruga or Radiant Silvergun. Hell some people prattle on for whole paragraphs about the "philosophical overtones" or w/e if Ikaruga lol)


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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:35 pm 


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Out of curiosity, what is your experience with shmups? What kinds of games have you played and are familiar with?

trap15 wrote:
Shooting games are not about this sort of thing.


This.

Also, despite storytelling not being a necessarily primary concern of the genre, plenty of shmups can and do have strong story elements to them. Just because the nature of the game genre means the games are short doesn't mean that you can't tell a good story. You don't have to have the same level of character to character interactions as in an RPG to evoke emotions. Examples include:

• ESP.Ra.De's strong character themes and its endings which tell a powerful story in a subtle way.

• Mushihimesama and its sequel, Mushihimesama Futari are both quite sad in terms of the story, as emphasized in the endings.

• Dodonpachi Daioujou's endings are all very emotional.

Just because you're usually focused on the combat doesn't mean the actual game itself isn't capable of evoking any emotion thematically. And then there's examples where the story is interwoven into the game itself:

• Giga Wing, where you're a heartless asshole if seeing an entire city bombed to nothingness in the airport game doesn't stir you. The entire story that's told in between stages as well as before key fights is basically as good as you can expect in a shmup; there's even multiple endings for co-op pairings, and it's all done in a way that's unintrusive and skippable if you're sick of rereading it. It's one of the best, definitive examples of how to do plot in a shmup, which is simple, but effective.

• The Gunbird games are an example of humourous storyline shmups. Not every game meant to evoke emotion has to be serious.

• The Parodius games are not exactly story heavy games, but joy and happyness are certainly emotions.

• Sine Mora isn't... the best of shmups out there, but points for effort for its attempt at being a high production value shmup with heavy storytelling elements.

• Monolith's storytelling is subtle, but very powerful emotionally,
Spoiler: show
particularly its true ending.


The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is one that tries to be heavily evocative of emotions, at least thematically.

• Ikaruga, especially its true last boss encounter.

• Touhou games are absolutely beloved for their storytelling and characterizations. Just look at the sheer community interest and fanmade content involving the characters.

---

Anyways, the point is that while shmups may not be focused on emotion or storytelling as a genre, that there are indeed examples out there of how to do it if you want to make a shmup with a focus on narrative.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:36 pm 


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trap15 wrote:
P-47 Aces evoked love through being the best game ever made.

Shooting games are not about this sort of thing.


I'll agree that shmups are not designed to be emotional rollercoasters. And shmups may not be consciously designed with emotion/feelings in mind, but I would theorize that "the best" shmups, the ones that people gravitate towards, generate more emotion/feeling, even if it's only at a subconscious level.

For example, you say you love "P-47 Aces". I haven't played it before but just watched a YT video to get acquainted with it.
At first glance, yeah, doesn't look very emotional . . . but let's take a closer look.
For one, you're not just shooting down planes. You're shooting down Nazi planes. Surely that triggers emotions, even if subconsciously. Maybe the player had a grandparent that fought in WWII. Maybe you like the idea of fighting a historical evil.
Secondly, I noticed that the game had 4 human characters. Yeah, it doesn't appear that they talk or much of anything else, but surely that allows for more of a connection with a player than if those 4 human characters were not in the game at all. Your P-47 is now no longer just an inanimate object flying around -- it now has a pilot with a face!

Just going off of those 2 things just mentioned, it's easy to see why you prefer P-47 Aces to similar games where the enemies are mostly fictitious.

I would theorize that even game mechanics can evoke emotions and feelings at a subconscious level. Maybe you like P-47 Aces because it puts you in just enough danger to feel fear, but does it in such a way that you still feel in control, that a death isn't because of a cheap shot. Maybe that's something that game does better than others.

Whatever game a player loves, sure, the first instinct is to attribute its greatness to graphics or gameplay or challenge, but I really do believe that if we look past the obvious, we'll also find that emotion plays a big part.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:40 pm 



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That Axelay intro though. That's one of the few shmups where I had any emotional experience whatsoever. And it really builds up at the point you finally meet all the alien ships on the final stage and get to exact your revenge.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:50 pm 


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Quote:
but I would theorize that "the best" shmups, the ones that people gravitate towards, generate more emotion/feeling, even if it's only at a subconscious level.


Most people who play shmups just want a game that plays well and has a strong game system as well as scoring system.

From: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=64197

A brief glimpse on this list shows tons of games on this list with little to no narrative/emotional/storytelling elements. Battle Garegga's at #2, Crimzon Clover's at #5, Gradius V is at #9, R-Type is at #10, and so on. Chorensha's at the top of the honorable mentions list.

The games on the list are all very strong in terms of nuanced gameplay mechanics any most of them feature very strong scoring systems with a lot of depth to them.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:14 pm 


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BareKnuckleRoo wrote:
Most people who play shmups just want a game that plays well and has a strong game system as well as scoring system.


But even there, why would a scoring system matter? Because scores can evoke emotion. If you have a high score of 15 million, then you've just made your accomplishment quantifiable and as a result, the player is going to feel good about themselves. They can share their score on forums (which is done here) and revel in the congratulations for a job well done.
For a game to "play well" it has to give the player a feeling of fairness. If that feeling of fairness is missing, then the game is not going to be as popular.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:52 pm 


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Quote:
But even there, why would a scoring system matter? Because scores can evoke emotion.


You're complaining that shmups lack emotion, and suggesting that just merely having the game be enjoyable isn't evocative enough, but then saying that their abstract scoring concepts that are merely about personal accomplishment are emotion enough, which is a property any decent game can potentially have, even a completely abstract one. The kind of emotion that comes from an individual player accomplishment is different and more abstract that what comes from feeling "sadness, love or hate like you would in a good RPG". Your definition of what counts as "emotion" seems to have changed from your initial post...?

Quote:
For a game to "play well" it has to give the player a feeling of fairness. If that feeling of fairness is missing, then the game is not going to be as popular.


Yes, good games make people feel good about playing them.

But many good shmups do not interest people, as you admit. So, as you yourself have proven with your own line of arguments, it has nothing to do with "emotion" as to whether or not shmups are popular. Rather, the relative lack of interest in shmups is probably due to most of them being very tight and technically demanding, at least compared to other styles of games out there. Even relatively "easy" games have a learning curve in terms of knowing where to look to avoid bullets for new players. It's not about the games being good enough or emotional enough, it's just some genres just aren't going to click with folks, particularly ones with a high time and skill investment required.
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Last edited by BareKnuckleRoo on Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:55 pm 


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So far it would seem that my theory is correct - the "better" shmups are the ones that can invoke some sort of emotion, at some level, whether it's a Touhou game or Ikaruga or any of the others that BareKnuckleRoo mentioned.

Again, I agree that shmups are not made with emotions primarily in mind, but they definitely play a role. If you fired what was touted as "the best weapon" in the game and felt no different than when you fired the wimpy default weapon, then the developer failed in that regard. If you beat a game but walk away feeling "meh" because it wasn't much of a challenge, again, the developer failed. Good developers trigger emotions. As I read in one Gamasutra article, game development is partly about emotion engineering.

But for every shmup that does a good job of triggering emotions, there are dozens more that don't, and this -- getting back to my original theory -- is part of the reason why it's hard to get the "average gamer" excited about the genre. It's much easier to get the "average gamer" excited about genres that have a broader spectrum of emotions.

From my own experience, one shmup I have fond memories of is Jets'N'Guns Gold. For one, it was about the only one I can remember that actually made me laugh because it didn't take itself too seriously. But I also remember that there were tons of weapons and ways to upgrade your ship. Your ship. I've consistently found myself gravitating towards games that let you customize or personalize. Not saying that it's essential, but it is usually a nice feature to have.

Thanks for the feedback and comments so far and have a good weekend!
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2020 9:56 pm 


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Quote:
So far it would seem that my theory is correct


Perhaps I've communicated poorly by responding only to the "shmups lack emotion" remark? I was just wanting to point out examples of shmups that can have emotional experiences in them. I don't actually agree at all with your premise about emotions or the lack thereof being why shmups are not popular.

Quote:
And although new Shmups are still being made, I feel that the general gaming population just isn't that interested.

Why is that?


The reason's pretty simple, and the same properties that make shmups unpopular also make other high difficulty arcade style games unpopular. There are plenty of good shmups out there that do not get much mainstream attention. It has nothing to do with their quality or their "emotion" or anything like that. The reality is that arcade-style games in general, not just shmups, are meant to be demanding games that require a time investment to be good, and are often shorter, more condensed experiences than lengthy RPGs or roguelikes with tons of "content", stuff that simply doesn't have lots of mass-market appeal. Because they're short single-player games, they're also more repetitive in nature, which also limits mass market appeal nowadays, especially compared to more content-rich games or games with multiplayer competitive elements to them.

The people who play RPGs are also often looking for a very different style of game. You've got some who want a more heavily story driven game, and there's some who just want a "explore and loot" style of dungeon crawler that they can play at their own pace strategically rather than an intense action game.

A lot of gamers are just generally looking for a less hardcore, less unforgiving experience. Even back in the early Nintendo days, a lot of the really popular stuff was stuff that had health bars and whatnot, that gave you a decent margin of error or had a lot of "content". It's always been rarer for arcade styled games to be smash hits.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:06 am 


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Good shmups definitely have emotion. I just finished Radiant Silvergun's Story Mode last night and it definitely takes you through a range of different feelings and emotions as you fight to the end. Just look at stage 6 and tell me you don't feel something.

Even if we go to the opposite end of the spectrum with a super cliche concept like Eschatos you cannot deny the strong feelings and emotions the game evokes as you begin your ascent, enter outer space, and ultimately assault the very core of an alien planet. I'd describe the emotions as "pride", "glory", and "human patriotism".

Good shmups don't lack emotion, they just lack melodrama.
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 Post subject: Re: Emotion in shmups
PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:11 pm 


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The "general gaming population" claims to no longer be interested in shmups, because they have essentially been "told" for a very long time (decades now) that shmups simply aren't as valuable anymore. There has never been an explanation provided (because there isn't one), and there have just been endless justifications instead (like this thread and so many threads like it). This happened to all arcade genres, not just shmups. Platformers were able to escape due to some very specific circumstances (mostly centering around the rise of Mario and such), but shmups and (versus) action puzzle games never really did. Every now and then, you also get renaissance periods like what's happening with fighting games, belt scrollers, point-and-click adventure games (not an arcade genre obviously but still worth mentioning), etc.

Certain old names are still valuable. The announcement of R-Type Final 2 got a lot more reach than even the developers were expecting. If a Gradius VI ever happened, people would get genuinely hype for it, I believe. The situation is also very different in other parts of the world, particularly Japan. If Taito came out and announced a new Darius, there would be a good bit of hype I think. Maybe the situation is different now, but DBAC was a big deal.
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