Allow me to think out loud for a moment. I’m trying to figure out the best approach for Rebel Rescue.
The elements to the game that I know I want to keep are

  • constant stream of lasers
  • one directional scrolling landscape
  • rescue the rebel pilots

The elements to the game that I think I want are

  • maintain the decaying energy bar
  • rescue a set minimum amount of pilots per stage

The problem I’m having is that it has no real direction.
So I’m trying to figure some kind of a formula for defining the core challenge in an arcade shooter.
Perhaps I’m looking for something that isn’t there. I don’t know. But it’s a useful exercise in stretching the brain cells in an afternoon !

In the earliest days of arcade shoot ’em ups the goals of the game were quite simple: shoot and don’t get shot.
But in the games that immediately followed Space Invaders and Galaxians we saw a secondary goal added.

Scramble

Scramble

In the case of Defender this goal was to prevent the humans becoming mutants.
In the case of Galaga this goal was to improve your firepower.
In the case of Scramble this goal was to manage your fuel.
So on and so forth.

The first Galactians game had a simple Space Invaders style premise – shoot and don’t get shot.
With Galactians 2 I added the ability to improve your ship’s firepower as well as including more things to avoid.
With Rebel Rescue I’m torn. I know that I want the game to be about shooting stuff and I know that I also want to have the goal of rescuing the pilots. But I really cannot decide where the fun is.
Rescuing your fallen comrades ought to be satisfying and a real challenge but it’s not. Not at the moment anyway.
And I’m very conscious of just littering the screen with crap to prevent you from getting down to the surface to collect the pilot. I want it to be more entertaining than that.

Defender saw pilots kidnapped by aliens before being turned in to rabid mutants. I’m not sure I want that because I have to make a decision regarding the controls.
Just now I have one-directional action because I don’t like the idea of swiping to change direction.
So when the rebel pilot appears on screen the player gets about 3 seconds to do something about it. It’s fairly pointless having the pilot kidnapped since it’d be off screen left before the player had time to react.
So I very much want the pilot rescue aspect of the game to be more of a bonus. But then how do you define the goal of the level ? What do I want the player to achieve to get off the level (or Stage if you prefer) ?

One idea that I had was to provide a finish line. Quite simply a marker in the snow that signalled the end of the level.
At this point the game tots up the number of rebels rescued and provides a points bonus. Bonus points are awarded for the amount of fuel that the player has left in the speeder.

But then I’m not sure that there’s enough in there for the player to want to push himself in the next level.
“Oh right, so I just do it all again do I but this time aim for a bigger bonus ?”
It just won’t work for this sort of game.

So there’s a fine line here to be drawn.
For every challenge I want to present to the player I have to think carefully about what the most that I could do to derail the player’s plans for achieving it are vs what the most entertaining way to prevent the player from achieving his goal is.
There’s a balance to be struck.

In Defender the player was given a window of opportunity to rescue the human and the method of rescuing was to blast the alien to bits. The player then had to collect the human and set him down safely. When achieved this was hugely satisfying.

In Scramble the player was given a small window of opportunity to destroy the fuel depot before it disappeared stage left. More fuel depots would come along but there were only so many that you could miss.
In Galaga you were given a small window of opportunity to jump inside the alien tractor beam. You then of course had to go and shoot it to recover your fighter and boost your firepower.

Falcon Patrol

Falcon Patrol

In the excellent 8bit game Falcon Patrol (another side scrolling shooter) you were charged with taking down a set number of planes whilst managing your fuel and Air to Air Missiles.
This game was quite hard and like Defender a bi-directional affair. To replenish your fighter you would land on the landing pad. The aircraft in the game employed VTOL a la the Harrier “jump jet” so landing was a simple case of lining up your fighter with the landing pad.

Perhaps then I should employ the idea of the speeder flying between rebel outposts. I could include a radar to show just how close the speeder is to the base. When the speeder arrives at the base it lands and the rescued rebels are counted up and a bonus awarded.

This would give the player a welcome period of down time to prepare for the next level when I throw a bit more at him.
This has some mileage.
I’m still not convinced that the player will be encouraged to progress with such repetition but the important thing is I have something to try.

So back to the code to see what I can conjur up. I will probably spend the next 3 days just playing the game to see how excited I am for it.

Thanks for listening ;)

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