2D Side Scrolling Shooter advice

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  • I wanted to pick the brains of some experts. Can anyone with shooter experience tell me a few things. (Games like 1943, Gradius, Delta Patrol, R-Type, Sidearms, Dead Moon, etc)

    1) What made you enjoy the shooter you played?

    2) What were some odd concepts that worked?

    3) What did you think about a split game like Blaster Master (half platformer, half top down)?

    4) How many weapons is too many?

    5) How long do you feel a solid level should be?

  • The best thing, I think, would be to play a whole lot of arcade or arcade-style games, and see how they work, see what makes them fun (or not), and go from there. With MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), the possibilities are endless, and an entire generation of gaming can rest in your laptop with no real effort.

    Remember that the thing with shooters is that the longest shooters out there are from this generation and previous, and even then they are only forty minutes to an hour long. The more refined your game is (see CAVE's latest arcade ports, such as the now very-cheap Shin Akai Katana and their upcoming DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou on the 360) the shorter it will be - anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes.

    Psikyo's Dragon Blaze is only 15 minutes long, but hot damn is it some of the most glorious fifteen minutes of gaming out there!

    When you are making an arcade style game, it needs to have the right type of pace. Notice in all the examples you've listed, things are always clipping along nicely. There are quiet moments here and there to catch your breath, but there's no "filler" or if there is it lasts at best 2-3 seconds and that's once a level. Modern game design seems to dictate that you need lots of hours of content in a single play to have a meaningful game (and often this content is boring padding), but the old shooters are about short play times, with lots of replay value - competing for score is addicting.

    Split games are a mixed bag. In a shooter sense, the NES game Guardian Legend is a pretty cool hybrid of zelda-adventure and shmup. You have Wonder Boy III on the arcades and Genesis that is a cute, fun platformer with annoying and frustrating levels. If you're going to do a hybrid, make sure they both work damn well, and that they compliment one another.

    As for weapons, in an arcade-style game, the player-character is everything. The entire game must be designed around how the player-character moves, reacts, and fights. So the player and weapons need to be designed first, often. An overabundance of weapons can complicate things really fast. Originally the developers of R-Type were going to have your Force Pod attach to the top and bottom of your ship as well, but that made things far too difficult. A well-crafted simple system is better than a mediocre system bustling with features.

    As for level length, my thoughts about game length in general should apply. Basically, you don't want to bore the player with long stretches of un-fun or un-challenging segments. A minute shooting asteroids slowly drifting towards is a sure-fire way to lose the interest of a player.

    Again, this is where playing some of the classics and making some observations is handy. In the Taito masterpiece RayForce (Arcade, Saturn, PS2 in Taito Legends 2) each level lasts about four to five minutes, but a lot is going on, and the later levels are longer and more challenging. In a game like Strikers 1945 by Psikyo, a level can just be a few waves of enemies before a boss encounter. Don't feel too tied down by level lengths - a good game that takes 10 minutes to beat is worth a whole lot more than a boring, meandering 10 hour game.

    Some recommendations:

    • Anything mentioned in the above post
    • Darius Gaiden (TAITO)
    • Twin Cobra (TOAPLAN)
    • Batsugun (TOAPLAN)
    • Radiant Silvergun (Treasure)
    • Salamander/Life Force (Konami)
  • I need to dive deeper into the newer japanese market and see what is out there. I used to play 1943 and Twin Cobra in the arcades when I was a kid.

  • imo, some of the best shooters were made in the 1990s. Mainly by Taito and Irem!

    2000s, the best around are in my opinion:

    Mars Matrix (Takumi)

    Giga Wing 2 (Takumi)

    Psyvariar (Success)

    Border Down (G.REV)

    Under Defeat (G.REV)

    Gradius V (Treasure, G.REV)

    Mushihimesama [Futari 1.5 Black Label] (CAVE)

    It's really the age of the bullet hell. When I think about developing and designing a shooter (and I often do - it's just getting an array to work that eludes me! I need to do more tutorials) it's not that I necessarily play these games looking for bullet patterns etc. But rather I look at how they are designed and how their levels work, how their weapons work, and how tight they are overall. E.G. Mars Matrix is a very tightly-designed, fun game.

    Even if you make a shooter based off of a more simple template like the (rightly-praised) Twin Cobra, you just have to make sure it plays tight - that often means things like no inertia for your player character (inertia is the worst thing you can have in a shooter), or enemies that can point-blank fire at you (easy to prevent with Construct's evaluate by distance actions), and so on.

  • Speed, mass of bullets and action! I love the mental sh'mups that look from the outside as thought they're impossible, it's only until you play them that you know what's going on. Also loud sounds with plenty of variety. I LIKE FLASHY THINGS!

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  • I always liked a slight variety of things to do, like Xevious where you can bomb the ground as well as shoot.

    In addition, I prefer some sort of strategy other than just dodging and shooting, like maybe shooting a bomb that would cause a chain reaction with a formation

  • Here's some games that I've really loved for tackling the genre in a way that was different from all the others:

    Ikaruga (GameCube)

    Everyday Shooter (Steam, PS3, PSP)

    Everything by Linley Henzell (PC)

    Hope you find them as inspiring as I did. :)

  • I wasted a lot of my life on Ikaruga (Dreamcast). Simple in design yet pretty hard to master.

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