I was supposed to update this blog a couple of times a week (perferable every day). I've been slipping and also missed my deadline because of the Kongregate version of Level Up. The API did not want to play nice. Since I've been getting good publicity there and some half decent revenue I decided to work it out so I would get badges (Achievements) on Kong that would drive my traffic up a bit. Which took me the entire weekend. It sucks when a 20 minute job winds up taking several days.
I've done a bit of work on Gather Up. The new dodge mode is working, albeit buggily. As well as the new key layout, which doesn't feel entirely natural but I'm working on it. Will have a playable version up real soon, I want to do a couple of either enemies or trap so the changes I've made make more sense in context. With the current mechanics of the enemies it doesn't really fit.
Anyway, I was going to talk about timing and rhythm and what a subtle and awesome element in design it is. Using a rhythm or timed press is one of the better ways of getting the most out of simple controls. Just look at something like rhythm heaven. It also sneaks it's way into other genres. Particularly fighters where you deploy attacks at a certain tempo to control a juggle and brawlers where enemies block when attacked repeatedly.
A rhythm of taps on a single key is usually a lot more natural to memorize than a combination of buttons. I think it closes the gap between skill and memorisation in a game adding a kind of aural pattern along with the physical movement. It also improves the sense of direct interaction between the player and the game. I'm planning to use a kind of rhythm mechanic in Gather Up! called 'perfect shots' where well timed shots do additional damage.
Every gun has three important stats (and a few other minor factors) that effect aiming. Distance, Recoil and Aiming are core of shooting. Certain guns optimize at certain distances, this is a no-nonsense thing players are used to. Pistols work well at med/close range. Shotguns work well up close and crummily at mid range, and so on. Perfect shots are tied up with the -other- two vital stats, Aiming and Recoil.
Aiming ticks up over time when you are standing still. It scales differently with different guns. The sniper is enhanced by aiming a lot, where as the shotgun isn't. Recoil shoots up a bit every time you shoot a gun and ticks away when you don't. At the moment both of these things are at 0 at the same time there will be a window for a 'perfect' shot. Shooting in this window scores critical damage. This establishes a perfect 'rhythm' of shots for each gun for maximum damage per bullet (but not necessarily best damage output overall). Since gun stats will change over time, it's going to be another factor players will need to consider when altering their gun.
The other timing factor I want to add are Dodge Reloads. A well timed dodge (ie, one that means you an attack sails past you) gains extra EXP during a battle. A well timed dodge when your gun is empty will trigger a full reload and perhaps a damage bonus for that clip too. The idea is that it will create another risk:reward choice for the player. Pay more attention to clip length against position and risk taking damage needlessly, or reap the rewards of audaciously getting up close and rolling around an enemy.