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Advice on Shooters - Carlos Camacho - Dec 8, 2002 08:08 AM

I'd like to hear tips, advice, etc on the 2D shooter genre. Which games are your favorite? Why? What features do you like/dislike? How can this genre be improved or new concepts added? (I'm talking about games such as galaga, galaxian, swoop, phoenix, etc..)


Advice on Shooters - David - Dec 8, 2002 12:26 PM

They should be innovative somehow. A while ago I saw a dreamcast game of this genre, and the background was a sort of 3d fly through which was very well done, and you could flip from dark to white, and when you're white then getting hit by black bullets took away health and white ones gave you health... it's hard to explain.

Anyways yeah I think for a new game in that genre to be successful you need to add something new.

Advice on Shooters - w_reade - Dec 8, 2002 12:52 PM

One-hit death; crisp collision detection; precise movement; stupendous firepower; and big explosions are (in my view) the essentials - I'm not against shield power-ups though. Some sort of weapon-combination system would be good, and perfectly doable if you have different types of weapon with non-overlapping characteristics.

Such as:

N = normal shot, starts at level 1, goes up with every N powerup. Damage done increases with level.
S = scattershot, starts at level 0, increases number of streams of fire as level goes up.
L = laser, starts at 0, shots overpenetrate more targets as level goes up.
R = rocket, starts at 0, splash radius increases as level goes up.
H = homing shot, starts at 0, homes in on nearest enemy with smaller turning circle as level increases.
F = fast shot, starts at 0; believe it or not, shots get faster.

A player would start off with Lev1 N, with one empty weapon slot; powerups would give either extra slots or level-ups for a specific weapon. If your slots are full and you pick up a new weapon type, you drop the last-upgraded other one.

Actually, now that this idea has popped back into my head, I want to make it Wink.

Advice on Shooters - DaFalcon - Dec 8, 2002 01:37 PM

w_reade, you just want to create every good game idea, don't you? :-) :-)

Advice on Shooters - David - Dec 8, 2002 02:18 PM

If you have macmame there are about a hundred (literally) games with that exact design if you want to play them Smile

Advice on Shooters - w_reade - Dec 8, 2002 02:34 PM

Yeah, I suffer from overactive inspiration :-).

btw, the first description I gave was intended as a list of "essential features" - the second was a bit garbled; the important point, that I missed, was that the shots from your weapon inherit all the characteristics of all your power-ups - so if you had three slots filled with N0, L4 and R2, you'd fire a shot which would hit (up to) 5 enemies (L4), and on every shot would cause splash damage to a certain radius (R2), but would only do the base amount of damage (N0)Ö if you see what I mean.

I didn't know of any shooters with quite such free weapon combinations, but I'm prepared to be educatedÖ any suggestions? I haven't got really into an old-skool shooter for years.

Advice on Shooters - Frank C. - Dec 8, 2002 02:45 PM

David's got it: When in doubt, look to the arcades (and/or MacMAME)...

DonPachi & DoDonPachi are pure mayhem, and definitely my favourites in the genre. The 1941-19XX series is great as well. 1941 in particular introduced non-lethal collision with world details which is something you rarely see (if ever) in other flying shooters. I also popped many a token into Raiden II in the good old days, but unfortunately it's encryption prevents emulation. MacMAME supports the first Raiden, but it's gameplay isn't comparable to Raiden II (it was a pioneer in the genre though).

Arcade games are quarter eating machines and don't usually translate nicely to PC games, but I would love to see a busy and fast vertical shooter along the lines DoDonPachi with modern 3D graphics. I can do without the slow paced and rather boring Mars/Deimos Rising series, but some things like player shields and skill levels can help a coin-op style game make the transition to the PC more smoothly.

Main points:
- NICE graphics (no point getting a "modern" game if emulated games look better)
- Intense gameplay with craploads of baddies
- Simple gameplay (no multiple weapon switching, just powerups. One button goes "boom" and another goes "BOOM!")
- Original bosses at the end of each or every-other level
- Fewer (say 8-12), high-quality levels rather than 80 boring levels

Advice on Shooters - Carlos Camacho - Dec 8, 2002 05:18 PM

I was thinking of elements outside of the constant shooting. I myself liked the genre but it doesn't keep me playing for too long. Thus I think that I am looking for ideas other than tons of power-ups and big explosions.

Some random thoughts.... You have a ship (maybe 3) and you are fighting wave after wave of aliens..bad guys. Why would a small fighter be soo far out in space by itself??? Throw the plot out?

So, I am thinking of how to combine the mindless fun of shooters with some elements of other genres. For example.. Your ship comes out of a large ship to engage the enemy. While fighting you have to keep an eye on your "convoy." So maybe you return and dog fight around the larger ships. A la Star Wars or BattleStar Galacticia. This isn't a new idea, but one not so much explored on the Mac, which I think has a good number of shooters already.

Another approach is kind of Escape Velocity, which uses trading and missions etc, but with super eye-candy and mindless shooting.

Keep the ideas rolling...

(BTW... Yep I am playing all my emulators to get ideas.)

Advice on Shooters - Frank C. - Dec 8, 2002 09:09 PM

If you're looking for a not-so-mindless shooter to draw ideas from, try to find an old Sega Genesis game called "Sub-Terrania". It's loads of fun, and has mission based levels. The controls are kinda like an indoor asteroids with gravity - hard to get used to at first, but that's partly why it feels so different from standard shooters. It's even got a bit of storyline, with mission briefings before each level.

There's a ROM dump for it out there that works well enough with Generator (other than some messed up menu graphics).

Advice on Shooters - jamie - Dec 8, 2002 09:45 PM

One of the greatest shooters IMHO was Defender. It had a very loose story, save the people from the aliens. If you don't the aliens get stronger and harder to beat. It was really repetative but for some reason never got old, just had great gameplay I suppose.

I seem to recall another shooter that was more 'deep space' like galaga that had your ship collecting jewels or minerals or something to kind of build a story. Perhaps your ship(s) could be defending a transport ship of somekind that follows behind you. If the enemy gets by your battle ship they take a couple shots at the transport ship and fly by back to the top. If that happens enough, the transport explodes and the game is over.

Speaking of Defender though, one thing that crossed my mind while I was playing Black Shades for some reason was wouldn't it be cool if David took that engine and built a defender clone around it. If he had you flying through the city at really high speeds with the people walking around like they were and alien ships would fly around and pick them up, you have to shoot the aliens down and grab the people, and take them back to the ground or building top for safety. I could just see their little arms and legs flayeling (?) around while they fall! Would be a direct Defender 'rip-off' but sounded fun to me, of course it was my own thought so you never know!

Advice on Shooters - monteboyd - Dec 8, 2002 09:52 PM

My all time fave shooter was Andrew Braybrook's Uridium 2 on the Amiga. The plot was that there was a bunch of massive alien ships heading towards Earth that would be able to destroy any big warships sent against them, so you had to fly in a small, undetectable ship and bomb their ships' surfaces.

It was fun because it was really fast and you would just fly back and forth across the big ships doing as much damage as you could.

Advice on Shooters - ERaZer - Dec 9, 2002 03:59 AM

Anyone played Xenon 2? IMO its one of the top 5 shooters ever.

BTW, the Dreamcast game is Ikaruga and its really cool. It uses a black and white system that is like that you can switch between black and white to destroy enemies that are black and white. Uhm, really bad explination but whatever...

Advice on Shooters - codemattic - Dec 9, 2002 08:24 AM

shooters are still my favorite. The old Galaga top-downs and Jarvis' Defender/Robotron/SmashTV etc... I like the new Pom-Pom games - check out <>. Had a lot of fun with AstroSquid!

w_reade (as usual) had many good points. Things I would add:

When there arent too many controls - the fun of the game should be in movement and firing - not remembering which special weapon beats which specific monster.

I hate shooters that put a limit on how many shots you can have in play at once - how many arcade games are there where your ship/guy can only have one bullet on screen at any one time - what were they thinking?

And there should be a good balance between things you have to run away and avoid and things you want to run to and get. Its great when you are torn between rushing towards something (saving a last human family member, a multiplier, a powerup) and rushing away from something. That is one of the key gameplay elements I love.

Unfortunately - the new kids dont seem to like the top-down shooters anymore - its all FPS. Fine. Ill keep writing mine anyway. What makes shooters fun for me is the sheer number of enemies on the screen (which you just cant have in 3D) and the fact that you see everything and have to deal with it all at once.

There are two main things you can do to make it interesting and have staying power:

The first is every couple of levels to introduce a new enemy ship/monster - that is visually interesting and has a new attack strategy/pattern. Robotron had a perfect balance in its enemy robots - but after youve seen them all - its just a matter of them getting faster. When something new pops up every couple of levels - I want to fight my way through the hordes just to see what the designer will come up with next. Just make sure to let me start close to where I left off last game - having to start all over ruins that. If Ive fought through to level 30 before getting killed - do I want to fight through all 30 levels again just to see whats there on 31?

The second is better/interesting AI. Most arcade style shooters have some version of many guys who move directly towards you - or guys that move along pattern tracks. More challenging AI could add some new life to the genre.


Advice on Shooters - GoodDoug - Dec 9, 2002 02:03 PM

Quote:Originally posted by codemattic

The second is better/interesting AI. Most arcade style shooters have some version of many guys who move directly towards you - or guys that move along pattern tracks. More challenging AI could add some new life to the genre.


I would argue that the patterns are part of the "art" of the game. That's what I liked about Galaga and Solarian, that you could start to anticipate the patterns. Then, as levels got more insane, you were trying to keep track of all of the patterns and usually ended up getting blasted.

What do you all think of primary and secondary fire? I kinda like the unlimited primary fire, limited secondary fire (ie blasters and missiles of Zed Nought) where you need a powerup to get any secondary fire weapons... it adds a little strategy to the game.

Advice on Shooters - Carlos Camacho - Dec 9, 2002 06:30 PM

I really don't like games that have too many weapons. Although not a shooter, I liked Golkden Axe, because you either fought or hit a button to destroy/damage of everything on the screen. Easy for guys like me.

So, in a shooter, I'm either firing my regular weapons or once in a while, pop out a super weapon that is limited ... in a last attempt manner. If I need more of these, I will need to go back to some place (like base.)

I do like the concept of Defender, but I was always so bad at it. But the idea of WHAT TO DO. Is indeed powerful.

About patterns. How about if some enemies used that method and others used some AI? Also, what kind of AI would it use? Other than, there is player, crash into it? I could see a main boss getting too much damage and deciding to get away.... But other than that????

BTW... Why hasn't anyone ever made a Zaxxon clone for the Mac??? Or has someone? Isometric view would be neat.

I'm also thinking, is it possible to have more than 2 "armies" in a shooter? 8I don't mean two guys on the screen at once, but three or more complete armies.)For example, factor in "friendly fire", or "help out my ally or let him get destroyed?". I'm thinking of this based on ancient Japanese battles. (and even modern ones.)

Anyhow, I agree with the fact that many youngsters, unlike us old-timers are stuck on FPS and don't like shooters. Thus I started this thread to see how other elements could be introduced to CATCH more gamers.