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 Post subject: Do's and Don'ts of a Good Shmup
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:38 am 



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Okay I've been reading a lot of posts from everyone here, trying to work out what games make you tick, and which don't. I've also tried out about 20 odd shooters I'd never played before (or in some cases never heard of before). I think I'm starting to get the gist of what works and what doesn't. So here is a list of points I've made, I'm hoping some of you can correct me if I'm wrong and add points you think are important.

1. Tiny player and bullet collision size.

2. Large, bright enemy bullets that you can see easily. Should be fairly slow moving, especially early in the game.

3. Level design that requires you to think a bit, and plan ahead in some cases.

4. Have varied backgrounds and terrain (not just space). Make sure the backgrounds don't blend with the bullets.

5. Level design should be fairly original in at least some places.

6. Have a decent, but not overly complicated scoring system.

7. Make sure explosions don't cover up enemy bullets!

8. Don't be repetitive. 5-8 short but varied levels is better than 100 long ones.

9. Your player ship should die in one hit (or maybe 2-3 if using a forcefield type upgrade) - none of this life bar crap. (see point 10)

10. Don"t allow the player to kill too much without having to dodge anything. If this happens they will begin to concentrate on killing rather than dodging, and will get frustrated if they get hit by a stray bullet.

11. Warn the player of all dangerous incomming attacks (tons of bullets, big beam lasers etc)

12. Make sure there is a way out of any situation providing you know the correct tactic.... never make death certain.

13. Have a variety of weapons to use, each one should behave differently and each should be useful in certain situations. Don't just have 10 types of standard laser with varying damage.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:16 pm 


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14. Don't make your shmup fake hi res (or whatever it is that bothers you lot).

No one will care whether the game is any good. :cry:


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:28 pm 


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1. The hitbox should be smaller than the spaceship but not too small.
3*3 is to small for a 30*30 spaceship!

2. Use slow and fast bullets but not too slow or fast.
I dont like crashing backwards into bullets, that nearly stopped after passing me.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:32 pm 


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And by your description, the Touhou shooters (Perfect Cherry Blossom, Impreishable Night, etc) are some of the best shooters ever made =D
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:51 pm 


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15. Don`t use too many buttons for that game - a focused shot can come with slowdown, so you don`t need an EXTRA slowdown button. Think of Mars Matrix or Alien Soldier as good examples for few buttons->many functions.
And for heavens sake, don`t force the player to reached over from the buttons to the touchscreen to change weapons (obviously I am pointing and Nanostray - shame on you Shinen!)

16. Don`t overstrain a certain new function of your players ship because it might end up being to single-sided and gimmicky, and don`t make the leveldesign a whole "use new ability HERE! and HERE!"-mess (XII Stag - enemies attack from behind only because you can get multipliers for that - and it is so obvious they are serving your multiplier that it is extremely DULL)

17. Try playing through that game yourself while programming it. Bullets should be planned well (and with a good balance between aimed shots and preprogrammed ones) and not just "WHOOOSH WHOA here its goes threehundret bullets because this is a MANIC SHMUP dude find the gaps yourself". The bullets and the enemy placement should result in a certain playing rhythm (DoDonpachi comes to my mind, and Battle Bakraid, two very fine games with their very own rhythm).


18. Balance the relation between the players weapon strenght and the enemies power - enemies never appearing onscreen because they are so weak is as annoying as overpowered bosses are.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:56 pm 


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Oh and

19. Let the player know WHERE your hitbox is, ESPECIALLY when the shmup is one of those buzzing games. Shiki made it right with its ingenious little shining dot, while the hitbox-dot in the Touhou games looks like a bullet itself (boring) - - and please don`t make a ship design where its near impossible to determine the hitbox to begin with, but that CHANGES over time (Psyvariar - I still don`t know where the hitbox is and its so annoying I stop playing it altogether - and the ship spin which makes it even harder). In older games, its usually a very logical position - either the little cockpit (or "head" - Raizing), or the ship center (DDP again)


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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts of a Good Shmup
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:02 pm 


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nexic wrote:
7. Make sure explosions don't cover up enemy bullets!

I say extend this rule: Make sure NOTHING covers enemy bullets. Enemy bullets must go on the top layer, no matter what. I was playing something the other day (can't remeber what) and a character dialogue screen pops up in the middle of the screen, covering up incoming bullets! Insanity!

Likewise any game engine that puts any effect (water, cloud, whatever) on a top layer over enemy bullets: wrong, wrong wrong.

Invisibullets make baby Jesus cry. Cheap and frustrating deaths make for cheap and frustrating games that won't get played.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:03 pm 



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Quote:
14. Don't make your shmup fake hi res (or whatever it is that bothers you lot).

No one will care whether the game is any good.


Not sure what you mean?
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:00 pm 



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Arvandor wrote:
And by your description, the Touhou shooters (Perfect Cherry Blossom, Impreishable Night, etc) are some of the best shooters ever made =D


well they likely stand as the most purchased pc shooter on this board, possibly just most purchased.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:17 pm 


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While I don't necessarily see some of the points listed as being universal (#2, #3, #8, #10 and #13 are all arguable...)

One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet - If it's a vertical shooter then try to include a Tate option.

nexic wrote:
Quote:
14. Don't make your shmup fake hi res (or whatever it is that bothers you lot).

No one will care whether the game is any good.


Not sure what you mean?


Don't worry, it's an in-joke relating to subtle visual accuracy of arcade ports to home systems...
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:24 pm 


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A shmup shouldn't be hard to play, hard to understand, or frustrating to the player. :wink:
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:24 pm 


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magnum opus wrote:
Arvandor wrote:
And by your description, the Touhou shooters (Perfect Cherry Blossom, Impreishable Night, etc) are some of the best shooters ever made =D


well they likely stand as the most purchased pc shooter on this board, possibly just most purchased.

The problem I have with the series is that the vast majority of its fans appreciate the character designs infinite times more than they do the actual games.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:31 pm 


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Thunder Force wrote:
While I don't necessarily see some of the points listed as being universal (#2, #3, #8, #10 and #13 are all arguable...)

that's kind of the problem with threads like this. there will always be argument on whether a "feature" is important or not... although this thread is oddly lacking in that department. :?
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:56 pm 



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Twiddle wrote:
magnum opus wrote:
Arvandor wrote:
And by your description, the Touhou shooters (Perfect Cherry Blossom, Impreishable Night, etc) are some of the best shooters ever made =D


well they likely stand as the most purchased pc shooter on this board, possibly just most purchased.

The problem I have with the series is that the vast majority of its fans appreciate the character designs infinite times more than they do the actual games.

I know i don't read this place as much as i used to, but in the three years i've been here i don't remember any threads on the games where character design played a significant part.
mostly we're talking about the scoring systems and the bullet patterns
ibara? maybe
mushi? maybe
touhou? no


captain ahar wrote:
Thunder Force wrote:
While I don't necessarily see some of the points listed as being universal (#2, #3, #8, #10 and #13 are all arguable...)

that's kind of the problem with threads like this. there will always be argument on whether a "feature" is important or not... although this thread is oddly lacking in that department. :?

probably says something for the list then.
also it's not so much about features as broad guidelines, it's much easier to get behind "small hitboxes" than specifically "4x4 hitboxes placed under the cockpit of the ship"


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 3:02 pm 


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magnum opus wrote:
Twiddle wrote:
magnum opus wrote:
Arvandor wrote:
And by your description, the Touhou shooters (Perfect Cherry Blossom, Impreishable Night, etc) are some of the best shooters ever made =D


well they likely stand as the most purchased pc shooter on this board, possibly just most purchased.

The problem I have with the series is that the vast majority of its fans appreciate the character designs infinite times more than they do the actual games.

I know i don't read this place as much as i used to, but in the three years i've been here i don't remember any threads on the games where character design played a significant part.
mostly we're talking about the scoring systems and the bullet patterns
ibara? maybe
mushi? maybe
touhou? no

Maybe not on these boards, but on boards like pooshlmer most of the posts are not about the games but on the massive amounts of fanworks based on the characters.


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 Post subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts of a Good Shmup
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 3:37 pm 


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I'm not a shmup expert, by any stretch, but I've played enough shmups in my nearly 29 years to know that some of these points are VERY exclusionary & not condusive to overall design (unless you're talking strictly manic shmups). Let me answer a few points:

nexic wrote:
1. Tiny player and bullet collision size.

While I would agree with this concept for some games (namely manics with more bullets on-screen than any ship-sized hitbox could possibly evade) what about more traditional twich-style shooters? Most of those use ship-size hitboxes (or a near equivalent), & it suits them fine - especially horzis that include terrain or obstacles that must be dodged. Other than the bullet or object "grazing" the ship, it doesn't make sense for half your ship to be able to touch the mountain or whatever without blowing up.

nexic wrote:
2. Large, bright enemy bullets that you can see easily. Should be fairly slow moving, especially early in the game.

Then Pyskio hasn't made any good shmups, & nothing made before DonPachi was any good either. This is a bit too restrictive. I think shmups have gone through phases, & certainly we're in the "manic" era right now, but to say all bullets should be slow-moving is to downplay the importance and/or playability of a number of classics.

nexic wrote:
3. Level design that requires you to think a bit, and plan ahead in some cases.

I would agree with this in most instances, though there's nothing wrong with "mindless blasting" once in a while.

nexic wrote:
4. Have varied backgrounds and terrain (not just space). Make sure the backgrounds don't blend with the bullets.

Agree for the most part, unless you're talking about a shmup that is entiely based in space. Then, I'd say throw in some asteroids, a nebula, or at least something visually interesting once in a while.

nexic wrote:
5. Level design should be fairly original in at least some places.

Yes.

nexic wrote:
6. Have a decent, but not overly complicated scoring system.

I can't comment for all because I barely understand the more complicated scoring structures (I'm more of a blast & survive kinda guy), but some are drawn to the highly-complex scoring systems, while others (like myself) don't generally care. The scoring system should reflect the target audience.

nexic wrote:
7. Make sure explosions don't cover up enemy bullets!

I would agree with this. The other way to expound upon this is perhaps to leave it open for large enemy explosions to destroy nearby bullets (enemy and perhaps even your own) to add a bit of variety.

nexic wrote:
8. Don't be repetitive. 5-8 short but varied levels is better than 100 long ones.

By this logic, 1942 & 1943 are not good games. I refuse to believe that's true, because they are classics that have withstood the test of time (though arguably 1943 has done a better job of that). I think as long as it's balance or the large # of levels has bearing on the goal of the game, it works.

nexic wrote:
9. Your player ship should die in one hit (or maybe 2-3 if using a forcefield type upgrade) - none of this life bar crap. (see point 10)

I disagree 100% with this statement. I think the theme of the game should decide this. Many shooters work well with a "one-hit wonder" concept, others do not. Take 1943 again for example. It's a loose interpretation of WW2 combat - do planes in real life normally get shot down with one bullet? Of course not. Unless that bullet is precisely placed to a part of the engine (or a fatal shot to the pilot), that rarely happens. The point is, if a ship has armor or shielding (which again, goes along with the theme of the game), it should be able to withstand several hits.

nexic wrote:
10. Don"t allow the player to kill too much without having to dodge anything. If this happens they will begin to concentrate on killing rather than dodging, and will get frustrated if they get hit by a stray bullet.

Once again, it depends on the style of gameplay. If shmups weren't frustrating (by & large), we wouldn't play them. The challenge presented must be one that we can overcome, but eliminating a few frustrating "stray bullets" is not the answer to a more balanced shmup.

nexic wrote:
11. Warn the player of all dangerous incomming attacks (tons of bullets, big beam lasers etc)

I would agree with this to an extent, but again, this assumes that you're not plaing a "memorizer" like R-Type. I think a good balance to this is to either have a visual/audio warning for something coming offscreen (like a large laser) or have the incoming bullets/lasers not fire until the object firing them is on screen.

nexic wrote:
12. Make sure there is a way out of any situation providing you know the correct tactic.... never make death certain.

I think everyone can agree on this :D

nexic wrote:
13. Have a variety of weapons to use, each one should behave differently and each should be useful in certain situations. Don't just have 10 types of standard laser with varying damage.

Once again, the theme of the game needs to determine this. Weapon choice & usage varies so much from game to game. Some games don't have more than a couple weapons for each character (Shiki games), while some give you all the weapons up-front. Others allow you to collect them (Thunderforce games), while some make you buy them (Fantasy Zone). Making this rule hard & fast would eliminate some really great games.

As I said, I'm not a self-proclaimed expert, but I've been playing shmups for over 20 years. Long enough (as far as I'm concerned) to have some insight into the matter.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 3:42 pm 


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Here's a research question for you, Nexic:

What makes a shmup successful or not when it references used ideas in new ways regarding shmupping?

Examples:
Xexxex vs. R-Type
Gradius vs. Life Force
Ikaruga vs. Chaos Field
Raiden vs. Viper Phase I

If you can answer this question with a Quality Shmup...you got yourself a legion of gaming followers.

Just so you know, I'm in favor of Ikaruga-quality graphics, as well as Radiant Silvergun weapon diversity...but you need to figure out the rest for yourself.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 3:57 pm 



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FRO:

I know there are several good games that don't follow these rules, but I think that games that follow these are in general better.

For example life bars seem to dilute the danger aspect of the game, and an obvious trade off the developer makes it make the bullets much more numerous and harder to dodge. This leads to gameplay where the player is just randomly flying or only bothering to avoid a large concentrations of fire. To me it just feels less definite and like I'm not as in control of the situation.

I do agree that really tiny collisons sizes are only necessry in really manic games, but I still think that even a less extreme game should still have the size a lot smaller than the visual size (probably 2/3 should be max).
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 3:59 pm 



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Quote:
What makes a shmup successful or not when it references used ideas in new ways regarding shmupping?


I don't know, I don't think I've played enough of them yet to answer it. But I will try after I've done some more "research" (at least, that's what I call it when my girlfriend asks why I'm not working)
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 4:28 pm 


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nexic wrote:
FRO:

I know there are several good games that don't follow these rules, but I think that games that follow these are in general better.

For example life bars seem to dilute the danger aspect of the game, and an obvious trade off the developer makes it make the bullets much more numerous and harder to dodge. This leads to gameplay where the player is just randomly flying or only bothering to avoid a large concentrations of fire. To me it just feels less definite and like I'm not as in control of the situation.

I do agree that really tiny collisons sizes are only necessry in really manic games, but I still think that even a less extreme game should still have the size a lot smaller than the visual size (probably 2/3 should be max).


I see your point, but not all developers make that trade-off. In a "one ship against the whole armada" scenario we're almost always faced with, it's nice sometimes to have a little extra protection.

Also, I disagree with the hitbox thing. If the intention is to mimic reality in at least some fashion, the ship's outline should be the hitbox. If we're going for the more fantasy-realm kinda deal, then make the hitbox whatever size will give the player the ability to weave through bullet patterns. As I mentioned before, I think the theme & context of the game should mitigate this.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 5:28 pm 


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I'm just fine with a hitbox being as large as the ship, maybe because I still haven't gotten tired of older shooters.

But ships should be able to move fast enough to not make it feel as if you're battling the controls (unless it's a special section of a stage).


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 6:35 pm 


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Quote:
And for heavens sake, don`t force the player to reached over from the buttons to the touchscreen to change weapons (obviously I am pointing and Nanostray - shame on you Shinen!)


that´s not really a problem when you use the L button to fire while changing weapons. Of course, maneuvering is harder while using the L button, so you should only resort to using it in order to change weapons.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 7:10 pm 


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it's always good that it's obvious you are hitting the bosses' weak point, if it's not one of those who take damage anywhere you hit them. (Example, Thunder Force 3)
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 7:22 pm 


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It throws me off a bit when bullets pass over/under the wings of my craft (Battle Garrega). It's an exciting feeling (as Winston would say, "the shot that misses"), and makes you realize how close you're cutting it.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 7:58 pm 


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I don't know but, from my experience, I have a hard time dealing with small and fast bullets. Stuff like Raiden Fighters Jet gives me a headache when I die for dumb reasons like my own reaction time.

The pace I prefer to go at is about Dodonpachi-speed...not slow, but not so fast as to make it hard to decide how to dodge. Small bullets only make this worse.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 8:39 pm 


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As you might have guessed by now, there's now way you're going to satisfy the whole board in one single game... :)

I think the majority here has a thing for DDP, and Ikaruga is generally recognised as being of top quality.
So mix them together and add your own ideas and you're on to a winner.

There are no dos and don'ts in general. All of your negatively listed points could work if done well or with style and all of your positive points could ruin a game if done badly.

Throw together (part of) a single-level demo and let us try it out.
Only then will you notice if you've hit the jackpot or what direction you are moving in.

Looking forward to playing it! =)
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:07 pm 



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Quote:
Throw together (part of) a single-level demo and let us try it out.
Only then will you notice if you've hit the jackpot or what direction you are moving in


Sounds good to me. I was planning to release the first level as soon as it's done anyway to build up a bit of small scale hype.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:35 pm 


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Definitely, you have Battle Garegga as an example of where despite hard-to-see bullets, it receives plenty of praise. Most horiz shooters have hitboxes near ship size and people don't have a problem with that. The holistic atmosphere of your game can make up for a few "distasteful" personal decisions.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:06 pm 


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Don't use mouse control for anything, and please no more 3D Galaga inspired crap with a huge stat bar covering a third of the screen.

Also don't make a shooter if you don't have the experience with them to know what would make one good.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:52 pm 



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If you're talking about Xeno Assault II then take a look at my previous thread entitled 'Market Research'. The reason I made that game was because I wasn't aiming it at you lot, if I was making something for you back then, it wouldn't have been anything like that. To the people it was aimed at (i.e not you) it sold very well. May I also point out that I've made no less than 6 commercial shooters which have all made a decent profit. I think that gives me some right to make another one?


Quote:
Also don't make a shooter if you don't have the experience with them to know what would make one good.


No I'm not a mega-hardcore-played-every-shooter-ever-made gamer and I probably don't know as much about them as you or many others on this forum do. Though I don't think that means I can't make one... Yes it is very unlikely that it will be good enough to rival the very best, but I don't think any independent developer has even come close to pulling that off yet.

And I don't think there is any good reason not to use mouse control in addition to all other forms of control. Infact it's completely idiotic not to do so on the PC, simply because a lot of people like to use the mouse for games. If you don't want to use the mouse you don't have to...
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Last edited by nexic on Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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