Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mini Project: “Z4R”

Today I’d like to talk about the iPhone shmup I’m making and some ideas I have for it. I consider this a mini-project, but it very well may take several months to finish.image

A screenshot of the current testing version. Looks spiffy, huh? Click for full res


I’ve got a couple core ideas tied to this game. The main gameplay mechanic is supposed to revolve around ammo conservation, and precise aiming. The challenge & reward mechanics will all be based around making a precise shot. One motive of this idea is to challenge the idea that touch screens don’t make well for precise input—I believe I can make a game where it’s entirely viable to be precise.

The second reason comes from me noticing that most shmups throw around bullets without any kind of retention. It’s practically a staple of the genre to fire impractical amount of ammunition towards your enemies.(how do you even hold that much on your ship?!) Not only that, but players pretty much just hold down the fire button or turn on “auto fire” and simply spray bullets randomly. I think there is an untapped potential, so to speak, in bringing in elements of precision aiming into the genre.

As a segue, one of the few virtues I see in the FPS genre is that aiming and ammo conservation play a big role. It’s actually important(usually)—and the player has to be smart about how they handle their lead. Inversely, imagine a FPS which allowed all players unlimited ammunition and where they’d never have to reload. It would be much more chaotic and mindless, surely. So in some ways, this game is a amalgamation of what I like about the “standards” of the shmup and FPS genres.


For now, the name is pretty much temporary. It’s based on my old series of Z4R shmups. I might keep it, who knows! I made the logo just for fun

Breaking away from the segue, the second core idea of this game is the visual art style. I want to challenge myself to create a beautiful game using black and white(or more accurately said, grayscale) and chunky pixels. I don’t expect this to be an easy task, but I think it’ll be a huge payoff in the end if I can pull it off.

Getting a little more technical, for the aiming I’ve minimalized the control scheme to single axis movement. The player can only move left and right, like in Space Invaders and Galaga. It’s easier for the player to initially control the game this way, but more importantly it puts a greater emphasis on the aiming and precision mechanics which I strive for. If the player could more on the Y axis too(vertically), then they would be able to move within an inch of their enemy and blast them, removing the need for thoughtful aiming. It’s these reasons which led me to this.

“I believe that ideas for a game design should not be polished until it’s actually running. What I do is play while creating, feel and think about what would make me like this game more. The problem with this method is that you can’t effectively create planning documents.” – Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya

As for how exactly I’m executing this game’s precision aiming emphasis, I’ve yet to completely decide. I’ve got a few ideas in mind, and I’m already starting to try them out. Whichever I think works the best will be what is present in the final game, naturally. I would normally try to plan this stuff out completely ahead of time, but thanks to my experiences from Pocket Protector and a quote from Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya(quoted above), I think I’d rather take that approach this time.

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