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 Post subject: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2021 8:13 pm 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
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About:
Hello, I am a solo developer and I have been working on this game for about 1 year at this point.

Stellar Fury is a classic shoot 'em up that introduced some more modern sensibilities to the gameplay.
I know this isn't necessarily new or different, not trying necessarily to be new or different, just well done.
I started the journey of this game as your garden variety retro gamer although I've always had a soft spot for shoot 'em ups in particular.
The very first game I remember playing was a table top arcade cabinet of Galaga (or Galaxian - one of the two) in a pizza shop and growing up my first experiences of video games were in the arcade, shoot 'em ups were a mainstay and left a lasting impression.
As I got a little older my parents got me an NES and I remember taking my allowance money to a local hobby shop and my first video game purchase was SkyShark by Taito.

The more I've thrown myself into developing this game, I've dug deeper into what the genre has to offer and I hope I have the skill and ability to make a worthy entry into the genre.

The game is intended to be a game that maybe removes some of the more punishing aspects that are rooted in arcades without watering down the difficulty to much where it becomes an unrewarding experience.


Development Principles:

Classic Gameplay/Modern Sensibilities: The core of development of this game is to focus on the fundamentals. At it's core it's a shoot 'em up game. If the core gameplay is bad, the game will be bad. No amount of other mechanics and "metagame" can solve for this. The goal is to make a classic shoot 'em up while removing some of what I call "arcade jank" - carryover game design engineered to munch quarters, the original microtransaction. At the same time, any changes can't compromised the game itself. New mechanics are being introduced carefully and thoughtfully.

Big Color Spritework: Back in the day, to show off your graphical processing, it was to produce spritework that was bigger and with more colors. It was the proverbial "raytracing" of the day. Today this style has largely fallen out of vogue - even amongst indie developers. Chief reason is cost. Margins are tight these days and it requires a level of efficiency if you want to pay your bills making games. These big colorful sprites are costly to make but they aren't going to move sales like they would maybe in the early to mid 90s. Given that I am doing this on my own time, I can afford to spend the time on these graphics as a love letter to the arcade games of the late 80s/early 90s.

Diverse Environments/Enemies: Each level I plan to make should be visually distinctive. This means spending extra time on artwork where reusing the same starfield background would be a lot quicker. Along the same vein of environments, large variety of enemy types is also important. Keeping the visual interest in the environment and the gameplay interest with new and changing enemies has been a cornerstone of development.


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Last edited by bk_figames on Fri Feb 12, 2021 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 9:20 pm 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Wonder if anyone has any feedback around the player hitbox size. I've seen a lot of shmups that has a hitbox that is incredibly small. As a player I find it hard to determine where the hitbox actually is (which ultimately has an impact on my reactions)

Currently I have it configured like this:
Image

Wonder if there are any particular philosophies around this. My general approach is "smaller than the actual sprite" and I definitely don't think I should make it bigger than what it is now.
I've spent an inordinate amount of time on this game thus far and I don't want to spend on that time and it's a bad shmup.


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 1:18 am 



Joined: 03 Mar 2020
Posts: 71
Going by the second gif the hitbox is probably fine. It's not just about hitbox size though, the pattern design and the ratio of player vs bullet speed are also defining factors in whether a game is "fair" or not (and people have widely differing preferences, sometimes contradictory ones). Depending on how these things are balanced the game will end up emphasizing this or that - flailing versus memo, micro- versus macromovement - and whether that adds up in a way you're happy with should be the main concern.

It would be good to hear where your design influences are coming from so we know what kind of game you're going for.

Glowing/pulsing bullets can be hard to precisely read especially alongside obscuring explosions, screenshake etc so you might want to use different visuals for any intense micro sections. Because the enemies you've shown are similar in color and design they're in danger of blending in with the (huge) debris, the background and each other, and this already seems to be happening in gif #3. Some games have a background luminosity setting for this reason (good to do this with screenshake as well). Of course this is all going off low-res images so it probably looks completely different at full size.


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:25 am 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Thank for the response :)
Firstly, the visuals and not being too distracting is a concern of mine. I've actually made many of these things configurable already. Keep in mind that everything I'm showing now is still relatively early. It's been 1 year in development but I imagine it will take a least another year until I'm ready to launch. The screenshake on some of the enemies definitely needs to be toned down. It's something I've implemented quite some time ago and have yet to circle back to cleaning up. I'll take note of the luminosity setting - thinking I can probably just put a semitransparent sheet over the whole background layer and the setting will dial up and down the opacity of said sheet.

Here's an example of the gameplay with the screenshake, debris, and bloom (which gives it that glow) turned off
Image


The gifs are obviously hard to read compared to full screen. As for the game itself, I'll be honest, I'm not an expert shmup player - as I stated in my intro - I'm garden variety indie/retro player and I want to make a shmup for players like myself because I'd pick up something like Gradius and it was just absolutely punishing. What I'll end up making I'm sure won't be a respectable challenge to an experienced player, but that being said - I don't want to disrespect the genre.

Game itself is
-Vertical obviously - why, because I like it better :) To me it just plays better - maybe the narrowed screen space is less for your eyes to keep track of. I find that horis are just a little more mentally taxing - it feels more choresome.
-Checkpoints. From my experience with game, I tend to really feel motivated to keep trying if the there's a checkpoint system (as opposed to just being able to credit munch thru stuff). I'd notice I'd spend way more time on an inferior shmup with checkpoints than a superior one without.
-Hitpoints. Mostly driven from using checkpoints. Being 1-hit kill and have the game reset from the checkpoint might mean you spend more time waiting for a respawn vs playing. Been a challenge on finding out what is the right amount of hitpoints to give. In the GIFs I have it currently set to 5, but that might be too much - might bring it in to 3 or even 2, ala ghost 'n goblins

There's more to it - but in terms of hitboxes and whatnot, this is what is relevant.


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 5:40 pm 



Joined: 03 Mar 2020
Posts: 71
Right, that looks a lot more comprehensible to me.

What I was getting at with the previous post is more like... the player's move speed is reasonable but not fast enough to run rings around the bullets, and the shot is extremely narrow. There are many aimed bullets and simple fixed patterns. Based on this I assume the game's going to involve a lot of wide movements around the screen to bring the laser to bear on enemies with superior range. So something like enemies that move down the screen aggressively and threaten to attack from low angles could exaggerate that aspect, because the player won't have the coverage to deal with them all by standing still.

I could be totally wrong on these impressions, or the game could change utterly (good thing about shmup development is that once you've got the assets you can justify doing whatever you want with them), but these are the kind of things that should be informing how the rest of the game is set up. If you're making a game emphasizing the fundamentals then you need to decide those fundamentals and actively play to their strengths. There are a million indie shmups out there which are just random assortments of things the developer thought were cool and I don't see many of them gaining traction. That's why I asked about influences. It's nothing to do with credibility (I have none of that myself), it's to do with if the design is coherent.

Hitpoints + checkpoints isn't too different from the instant respawn + back to checkpoint on using a continue seen in several other games. It can be a good balance between being forgiving and encouraging the player to learn.


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:53 pm 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
It's hard to pinpoint one game that I'm using an inspiration. I will say that the gun controls are influenced by DonPachi. One press fires 3 shots, hold for the beam. That being said, not trying to just clone DonPachi.

The gameplay, and this I don't think is necessarily unique, is about determining the best order to deal with enemies. It's like a puzzle. That's the reason for the checkpoints, didn't solve the puzzle correctly? Try again. For instance, the second gameplay gif in my first post with the boss - you can see there's an order in which he needs to be picked apart. The boss has a second phase once he drops below a certain amount of hit points. If you left the destructible turrets, it would likely be unbeatable. Levels play in a similar fashion and enemies are designed with a specific function in mind. Don't think this is unique to shmups and it's hard to pinpoint a specific inspiration other than a lifetime of playing games like this.

All the below is just on paper now and might not be in the game at all
-Thinking about implementing new weapons/weapon upgrades that are unlocked permanently. These would be locked by achieving merits on a given level. For instance, completing a level without dying or not taking damage or killing over a certain threshold of enemies, or defeating the boss under a certain amount of time. These could be spent to unlock upgrades that would help in future levels. The thought process is that this is philosophically the same as collecting powerups and not dying and proceeding to the next level as your mastery is rewarded with better tools later. I think this approach might be more "modern". I'm very cautious with all this as I don't want to introduce mechanics that just break the game or conflict with the core experience.


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2021 11:37 pm 


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Joined: 09 May 2019
Posts: 29
I like the aesthetic, the enemies and especially the boss death explosion looks great. Something that appears to be missing is feedback from shooting the enemies, I don't think they flash? It's most noticeable shooting the boss, that feedback is important to let the player know they are dealing damage.
Upload a high quality video or demo and you might get some better feedback. Also come join the Shmups discord #gamedev channel if you want some real constructive criticism :)


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 12:16 am 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Thanks! I actually have code that is currently commented out that will do a white flash. I have small explosions that get triggered off at different damage percentages that give that feedback. For smaller enemies it works fine but for bosses it does seem to lack any visual impact when I hit the player and I might enable that feature again.
Thanks, just joined the discord - didn't know there was one.


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:12 pm 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Been spending the past few days working on a massive sprite for level 1.
Actual sprite is 2000x3000 pixels. Took quite some time to finish
Image



Some gameplay footage
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKdXSs8i-Zc


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:20 am 



Joined: 27 Mar 2020
Posts: 18
Location: Campinas, Brazil
Okay! I'm hypedinside for the game's release date! Maybe expand the scoring system to be more than just kill stuff and it'll be less like a piece of shit for me to play for score and that's all I have to give in terms of feedback to you.
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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:07 am 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Thanks glad to hear!
It's gonna be a minute yet - I'm a solo developer and I've been working on this game for about a year to this point. It will probably take another year to really make it shine.


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 Post subject: Re: Stellar Fury - A Classic Shoot 'Em Up
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 11:22 pm 



Joined: 11 Feb 2021
Posts: 11
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Last day I spent redesigning the player sprite and adjusting the starting bullet pattern.
Reasons for the sprite redesign were to A. make it a little bigger and change the color to something that doesn't blend into the scenery too much. Reason for this is to make it easier for the players eye to track. Also, I thought I could design something cooler.

The bullet type changed that basically transforms the bullet into a rectangle and the guns are further out from the base - this gives the player a wider hit area so smaller enemies aren't as tricky to hit.

New player sprite:
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New Sprite in Action
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