Iterating the Top Down Shooter

Fans of my work (who isn’t?) will notice that I’ve returned to the top down shooter game that headlines my portfolio.

I have a number of plans to extend the foundations that the Eat3D tutorial (http://eat3d.com/kismet2) provided, and this video illustrates the first of these.

I added two challenges for the player. The first was a larger wave of enemies, all of which firing weapons. I wanted to get more bullets on screen and give the player the sense that they were moving towards a wall of incoming fire. The second challenge were turrets, off to the side and which the the player could not shoot, protecting a barricade which the player had to fire their way through.

If I’m being honest, I achieved mixed success. Producing the Kismet and Matinee for each was straightforward, and both features worked technically. The turret section also worked, in my view, aesthetically. The change of angles, with bullets flying across the screen, was a welcome change of pace. It looked good and gave the player something interesting to do. The sequence might need to be balanced, with more more bullets to increase difficulty, but otherwise it is solid. I did experiment with the amount of damage the barrels take, again looking to balance difficulty, but found an interesting effect. Obviously, if the barrels were too easy to destroy the section became very easy. However, if they are very tough to destroy, taking more than four or five shots, the player is discouraged from trying to shoot the barrels. The solution to the problem ceases to be obvious and, in a fast paced shooter, this only succeeds in slowing down the game. This sequence might need a bit more balancing, but it is close to how I want it. One idea I am toying with is having more rows of very easily destroyed barrels, making the solution obvious but harder to achieve.

The larger wave of enemies (which starts at 0:06 seconds) was not such an aesthetic or gameplay success. It certainly offers the player a more severe challenge, but the pattern of gunfire looks purposeful and deliberate, more like a poor falling snow effect than gunfire. Equally, the enemies out wide are of little concern to the player travelling up the middle, and vice versa, because they are past the player before they can shoot them. There is simply more to shoot than the controls and movement speed can keep up with. In short, there is a lot to balance here. I am going to try changing the enemy ship’s projectiles, giving the gunfire a more random feel, and maneuvering the waves to make them more threatening to the player.

My biggest take away from this iteration, the first designed completely without tutorial, is how important it is to be critical and to fine-tune the designs. Hitting the bullseye at the first attempt feels unlikely, but with iteration and experimentation you can get there.

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One thought on “Iterating the Top Down Shooter

  1. I forgot to mention that another way to improve the turret section is to give each turret a second bullet. the gun model has multiple barrels, so a second projectile would make sense visually, look cool and increase the challenge.

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