AuthorTopic: What makes shooting platformers fun?  (Read 4104 times)

Offline AlexanderM

  • 0001
  • *
  • Posts: 3
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile

What makes shooting platformers fun?

on: February 05, 2013, 03:07:44 pm
Hi,

I'm currently developing a shooting platformer game akin to Contra and the Megaman(regular, X, Zero, etc) series. I wanted to ask from people what they find most fun about shooting platformers.

What would add replay value? How many levels should there be? How difficult should the game be? What are the good things you've seen in shooting platformers? What are the bad things you've seen in shooting platformers? What would you like to see in the future from this genre?

This would help me advance and get a clearer picture of what gamers would like from a shooting platformer.

Offline Ashbad

  • 0010
  • *
  • Posts: 226
  • Karma: +0/-0
  • I am governor Jerry Brown
    • View Profile
    • SoundCloud

Re: What makes shooting platformers fun?

Reply #1 on: February 05, 2013, 08:31:50 pm
These are some vague questions, so the best I can offer is vague answers.  Not to mention they're going to have some of my own bias included.  ;)

What would add replay value?

How many levels should there be?

How difficult should the game be?

What are the good things you've seen in shooting platformers?

What are the bad things you've seen in shooting platformers?

What would you like to see in the future from this genre?

A few things; huge worlds that are fun to navigate and explore have always caught my attention.  Having some sort of a Newgame+ thing that adds new missions, open new parts of the world up, etc. can assure at least one extra playthrough.  Many games have bonuses hidden all over the place, and let you replay the levels so you can get them all; this method generally annoys me unless the bonuses are realistically obtainable and unlock something well worth the effort.  Of course, the baseline should be that people want to play the game again because it's fun.

As many as needed.  Between quality and quantity, quality is the most important of the two; if you need to make less levels so you can make them better, that's definitely preferred.  If the levels are good enough, they'll make up for the lack of quantity.  Just look at portal.  Of course, on the contrary, having a lot of levels in a game feels good for the gamer, because then they can get very immersed in the game and feel like they're getting a lot of content.  I'd suggest getting a good base set of levels/missions done for your game alpha/beta phases, so you can get some idea of what your potential buyers/players think of whether or not your game is too long, too short, or filled with crappy levels.

Depends.  If you're going to implement different difficulty levels that the player can choose from, then make sure that the different difficulties are tailored to make sense, with rewards for those who play at the harder levels.  If not, start things slow and increase in difficulty throughout the game, with a learning curve.  Again, the alpha/beta stage is a good place to get input about this firsthand.

Some good things I've seen:

- Varied environments
- Intelligent enemies
- A degree of involved exploration
- Many weapons, but not so many that you don't have time to master them all
- Non-cliched storyline
- Leveling system based on collecting rare upgrades (Metroid at all?)

Bad things include the opposites of the above, along with:

- Points system (I always hate it when large games focus on collecting points; I'm a rabid hater of highscore mechanisms in non-arcade games)

What would I like to see in the future of this genre?  Personally, I'd like to see less sidescrollers with are basically Call of Duty in two dimensions.   :yell:

Offline AlexanderM

  • 0001
  • *
  • Posts: 3
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile

Re: What makes shooting platformers fun?

Reply #2 on: February 06, 2013, 04:28:46 am
Thanks for replying to the thread! Yes my questions were vague but I was hoping to elicit a more general and thoughtful response. I've recorded down what you've said in a more concise format and I'm storing it in a part of my project. I am hoping to hear from other people as I would very much like to hear everyone's opinions. That would help me narrow down what people commonly enjoy from the genre and what they don't.

Again, thanks for the response I really appreciate it!

Offline Basketcase

  • 0001
  • *
  • Posts: 66
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile

Re: What makes shooting platformers fun?

Reply #3 on: February 07, 2013, 11:58:55 pm
The controls are absolutely crucial. Make them responsive, and close to a standard layout when it makes sense. Test with the best controller available. Test it on fresh players. Not yourself, you'll get too used to the feel of what you're making.

Make an interesting mix of environments. Don't just change the background, give different levels different shapes, like open areas, tight tunnels, rooms, vertical stages, destructible stuff.

(Hm. Most of what I've said applies to all platformers. Most action genres, even.)

To give replay value, first just make it worth playing once. Place secrets (areas, items, routes) throughout the levels. Note that in this internet age, there is no such thing as a too-well hidden secret.

Don't care how many levels, make it last an hour if that's what you've got. Just don't add filler.

How difficult? More difficult that the contemporary norm. To start, every kind of enemy should kill me at least once. Don't bother spending time making multiple difficulty levels, spend your resources testing and refining one.

Good things? I liked the dodge move in Hard Corps: Uprising.

Bad things. I agree with Ashbad on scoring. I'd even go further: don't include it in your arcade game either (see Videogame Culture Volume 1 for a detailed, forceful exposition). Instead, give your player's actions consequences within the actual game world.

More bad things: long mid-game cutscenes (longer than a few seconds). Infinite leveling-up/grinding. Collecting dozens of useless trinkets (not fashionable anymore, thankfully).

The future of the (2D) shooting platformer? Integration with melee combat systems from beat 'em ups. Bringing in treasures back from the future (i.e. 3D genres) like analogue control, real physics models, online play (mostly interested in co-op, personally), character customisation, polygons, voxels, vectors, 3D sound, stereoscopics, augmented reality, dual-wielding.
To do: ??? Cow made my lovely avatar.

Offline yrizoud

  • 0010
  • *
  • Posts: 330
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile

Re: What makes shooting platformers fun?

Reply #4 on: February 08, 2013, 10:33:28 am
To me, an archetypical "perfect" platform shooter would be Turrican. Level design is really critical for such game. I think that despite the huge levels, Turrican avoided backtracking as much as possible. Dead-ends were short and most often contained bonuses or extra lives. From start to end of a level, if you strayed far from the shortest path, you basically found more bonuses, and the level design gently coerced you in the right direction (ie closer to the end than the start).

In terms of re-play value: IMO it's not just a question of "I reached the end of the game once, now what". Players don't finish the game in their first play, so more generally, what can you do to make the game enjoyable when they start again after a "game over" on level 3 ? Can they make different decisions and obtain better (or worse) results ? Can they avoid a part they hated (ex: a tricky sequence of jumps ) and try a second path with different kind of challenge (shooting, dodging) ? Can they choose a different weaponry ? Were there obvious "secrets" that they know they missed on the first time ? (a bounty-carrying enemy who fled, a jump that can be attempted only once, platforms that were destroyed in gunfight)

Offline rikfuzz

  • 0010
  • *
  • Posts: 427
  • Karma: +1/-0
    • View Profile
    • twitter @hot_pengu

Re: What makes shooting platformers fun?

Reply #5 on: February 08, 2013, 06:42:36 pm
I've tried to contribute to this discussion a couple of times, but lost my reply mid response! 

To me the key to fun action is strong feedback. The more I'm affecting the world with my actions, the more satisfying it feels.  There's lots and lots of techniques to embellish the game's response to your action, and they can be combined and executed in different ways. Here's some techniques I could think of:

Held frame / slow mo
Big explosion / smoke fx
Screen flash / lighting effect / shader effect
Debris / Blood / Shrapnel / bits flying away from the impact
Screen shake
Body flying away from impact
Sound effect

They're just decoration, they don't affect gameplay, but they all change what's on the screen or coming out of the speakers temporarily, and generally a bigger change feels better.  You can go further than just decoration too, for example if a body flying away from the impact of your shotgun blast was to knock over another enemy or break a chair you've got this secondary action forming a chain reaction, multiplying the 'change' you've made. 

Another thing I've heard about is, I'm not sure of the term for it, maybe 'excitement fatigue'?  Basically, the longer you're in a high intensity action section of the game the less exciting it gets, and this is why a lot of action games break up the action sections with puzzle sections, even if they're the 'boring' bits.  Maybe also why you sometimes get long boring dialogue section before the big boss fight. 

Offline Mr. Fahrenheit

  • 0010
  • *
  • Posts: 326
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile

Re: What makes shooting platformers fun?

Reply #6 on: February 08, 2013, 09:55:48 pm
I think my favorite shooting platformer is the game Broforce (Still in alpha), not that I have played too many. As rikfuzz said, feedback is very important. One of the most important is probably particles like blood and sparks. If you have played cortex command then you may find that shooting at the humans is much, much more fun then shooting at the robots because of the gratuitous blood, rather then a few sparks.

Offline Psiweapon

  • 0010
  • *
  • Posts: 125
  • Karma: +0/-1
    • View Profile
    • My portfolio

Re: What makes shooting platformers fun?

Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 11:29:03 pm
This post is relevant to my interests.

These are some vague questions, so the best I can offer is vague answers.  Not to mention they're going to have some of my own bias included.  ;)



I'll just take this nice list  ;D

-What would add replay value?

Megaman Zero saga: new game+ bonuses
Super Metroid: sheer atmosphere and exploration breadth
where the fuck is the jump ball? I swear I never found it!
Metal Slug: I want to free ALL the POWs so if I lose a life I reset.
Demon Crest: Variety of endings. Metamorphoses of the player character.

Different characters to play the game with. That's awesome.

-How many levels should there be?

Huh. Hard question. I don't know, but please, no "whatever previous level revisited" or at least try to avoid it.

-How difficult should the game be?

Either hard to survive or give the player incentives to try and go for perfect runs.


-What are the good things you've seen in shooting platformers?

Eye candy.
Super Metroid: Again, sheer freedom of exploration. Arcane powerups.
Metroid Fusion: the SA-X
Megaman Zero:  Charismatic enemies. Interesting poweups that change the way you play.
Demon Crest: A lot of bosses and phases seem outright impossible until you manage to figure them out. Arcane powerups. Really manages to keep you "in the dark" about what's next or how do you beat the game, in a good way. Playing a bad guy.
Cave Story: Heart-wrenching drama coated with cute sprites.

-What are the bad things you've seen in shooting platformers?

Super  Metroid: The backtracking. Oh Glob the backtracking and checking every corner in search of that itty bitty breakable block that'll take you somewhere essential.Negative counterpart of exploration.
Megaman Zero: Saves. Lifes. Continues. Scores. Score ratings. GGGAHHHHHHHHHH  :'( And grinding for energy cristals / XP / health. What the fuck is GRINDING doing in a game like this? at least grinding in some castlevania games is moar liek gambling since you're going for a rare drop.
Demon Crest: Arcane game sequences to see all the endings. The negative of being kept in the dark in a good way is, well, just being kept in the dark.



-What would you like to see in the future from this genre?

More compelling stories (cave story) and drama, character development. More and better narrative overall. Meaningful choices in powerups, not just accumulating them (Cave Story has this, so does Gunstar Heroes, but in different ways). Game-long choice of player character among several. Optional / mutually exclusive levels.