Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Timed Shots and Dodges.

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.


  1. Cool stuff about timing and such. I agree with you though, having a good rythm improves almost any game.

    Btw, I am moderately amused that the last time you missed your blog update by a single day you were already apologizing, but now you disappear for 8 days solid. You had me worried there for a minute.

    There's something I've been thinking about since I first played Gather Up after beating Level Up with 100%. Reading your blog about the "core mechanic must be fun" made me think about it even more. The gameplay style of Gather Up is just not fun for me yet.

    Obviously it's a VERY early beta with a long way to go, which is why I'm reserving judgment until the final game is out. ATM though, the core mechanic is just not NEARLY as awesome as the simple platforming/exploration of Level Up. I was disappointed you changed genre to be honest. Another platformer with attacking added would have been just fine in my books.

    I plan to keep testing and commenting though. (Hopefully with a few testers you can iron out many of the bugs before the final release? Level Up suffered terribly from insufficient testing.) I figure the worst case scenario will be a game that is good and has the built in fan-base of Level Up, but simply doesn't appease ME as a gamer. In which case I'll just wait until the 3rd part comes out.

  2. I agree about the gameplay of Gather Up not being fun yet. I'm pushing this demo a bit futher and if I still don't have anything that I think is a good fun core I'll probably toss a lot of the stuff I have and start it again with something more platformer-y in mind. Or go back to an easier to pick up and play WASD + Mouse setup.

    Right now the core of of Gather is missing two things before I can prove/disprove the fun of the 'core mechanic'. The enemies don't behave in a way that supports the mechanic, the don't offer enough to avoid/dodge around. Essential visual feedback (ie, the appearance of shots in game) is missing. Some people argue that graphics aren't important, I disagree, the gems in level up wouldn't have worked as a mechanic if they hadn't had a pleasing effect when collected.

    Once I can place the character in a more game like situation and get people testing it, I'll know more about what the strengths/weaknesses of the system are and if I need to toss it because it's stayed too far from simplicity. Which is why I'm pushing for a new demo, to get that feedback.

    It might be right after that; that I have to push all my deadlines to write a new prototype that acctually works. If nobody can directly say 'I like such and such' then there isn't really a point to pushing on (there are plenty of people that say they liked the demo, but there are quite a few things in the demo that generate an, because it would lack proof of fun.

  3. Well, Level Up was a platformer RPG (Super Paper Mario), but with a wonderful element of exploration that came from the amazing map you made. You felt like plumbing through every tunnel, mine, and tower not only to get the gems, but to discover every corner of the world. Much like the game William and Sly, was the invironment that drew you in. Also the NPC's were amusing, and the music was both fiting and well-done (do you have a link to it?).

    However in the current Gather Up demo, you start in a depressing rainy night, then see some perturbed child and her parents strewn all ove the floor, and you're thrust into a dreary temple. The liberty you had with Level Up's sandbox exploration was gone, and throughout the temple you are only given a single direction to go. It makes the gameplay seem forced.

    Of course it's still not fleshed out, but those are my thoughts. When you get the next beta (alpha?), things might have changed.

  4. However, the part that I VERY much enjoyed was the initial scene with the ghost image of the past. The way that was implemented had me in awe.

    IMO, stuff like that is the way to tell stories in games. The long annoying conversation immediately afterwords stands in stark contrast to the awesome simplicity of that scene. (Although I actually missed it on my first play-through, maybe you should zoom in on stuff like that in the final version or make the colors slightly more stand-outish.)

    The initial atmosphere of the Gather Up overworld was also quite impressive.