Impossible Odds

Impossible Odds is a bullet-hell shooter I created for LD26. You can play it here.

This was my first LD; The theme for this one was minimalism. So the overall goal behind my game was to create a shooter with simple mechanics that simply got extremely hard. In particular I wanted to focus on using the mouse as a control method because I haven’t seen too many shmups do that. I also wanted to implement an idea I’d had previously, which simply was having lots of debris and particles on screen all the time. I’d tried this in previous tests but only now got to fully realise it, and now that I’ve seen how it actually feels, I don’t know if I’ll be doing the same thing again. It was fun though.

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You can watch a video of the game here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XwZXdKsQxI

Retrospect

So, as far as mouse control goes, it’s just point-and-click, simple as it gets. This was the only thing I 100% knew I wanted at the beginning of the project. The mouse control, coupled with the busy background, makes the game more about trying to identify what’s important in the environment and not put yourself there… mainly it’s about twitchy movement. To be honest I don’t think I did as much with the mouse control as I possible could have. About the only really interesting thing I did with the mouse was implement a teleportation mechanic where you can skip to a new place with a click-and-drag. A few people told me this was new and interesting, but in actual fact the concept was basically ripped from a previous game I’d seen on kickstarter or somewhere. I forget the name of it. As it happens, the teleporting plays a pretty small role in the game itself.

The choice between absorbing and firing was also a missed opportunity; In the end, I had to force people to fire the cores by including enemies impervious to bullets. I’m sure there are much more interesting and elegant ways to make gameplay out of the concept, but this was added pretty late and I simply didn’t have the time.

As a whole, though, I’m pretty happy with how the game turned out. The combat is very simple: keep shooting, avoid bullets. I think this is a benefit to the game, though; It’s quick reflex action and is basically about lasting for as long as you can. An interesting side-effect of the core mechanic is that if you do well in the beginning, you’ll benefit in later stages; if you miss opportunities in the beginning, you’ll suffer later.

Next Time

As I said before, the most important thing I focused on with this game was mouse control. It was simple pointing here, but I reckon that introducing some motion more than just pointing could make things interesting. The trouble with giving the mouse complete freedom is that you lose some precision and cannot effectively do things such as grazing. The trouble with limiting the movement is that the physical mouse itself is not limited and could run out of space while moving to get somewhere.

An obvious way around this is to design the game mechanics such that the mouse does not control the ship itself, but is able to influence it’s movement; eg, the ship is attracted to where the cursor is pointing. You could get some really interesting motion happening here, such as controlling multiple ships.

A second option is more like a twin-stick shooter, with a mouse-controlled reticule and a ship controlled with the keyboard. This isn’t particularly groundbreaking though.

Ultimately I enjoyed making this and I’d like to do more shooters at some point, both of this arcade score-attack variety and of the multiple-chapters, epic Ikaruga-style variety (I adore Ikaruga), of course including some of the things mentioned here. Movement in a shooter is pretty central, and games that have done something interesting with it like Waveform really appeal to me. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back to this style of game and give it another try, and this time nail these aspects of it.

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