[stella] Game design evolution

Subject: [stella] Game design evolution
From: Glenn Saunders <krishna@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 27 Sep 1997 15:50:31 -0700 (PDT)
On Sat, 27 Sep 1997, Greg Troutman wrote:
> > Forget the accurate port.  Write the best game possible!
> That's what I'm thinking.

You also have to realize that Space Invaders was the first truly modern
videogame, where the basic shootemup concept matured.

It was still very primitive and although fun, has little depth from
today's perspective.  That's why games like Galaga are more often still in
the arcades than Space Invaders.  Galaga perfected the genre.  Same deal
with Pac Man vs. Ms. Pac Man.

Just because it was an arcade game doesn't mean the game design was

Lunar Rescue was on the same hardware and was from the same nascent era in
videogames.  Don't be afraid to change things to suit our seasoned
perception of what makes a truly classic videogame design. 

You also have more tools available to you in hardware.  Memory aside, in
some respects the 2600 chipset is more powerful than the Taito arcade
board.  The Taito board was only monochrome and it blit to the screen very
slowly.  Although the Taito board can throw up more sprites per horizontal
(ala Space Invaders) and perhaps at 320 vertical res instead of 160, the
2600 can throw up more color and animate quicker and smoother, can scroll,
and so on.  You may as well take advantage of these features.  Taito
probably would have if they had it available. 

> On the return flight, in addition to asteroids->space
> ships, I might be able to put in some kind of surface-to-air defense
> system that needs to be defeated on the middle screen as well.  Maybe
> even some kind of new enemy or challenge in the platform section...  You
> like challenging gameplay? ;)

Think of the story, however.  Why would the surface forces (the guys you
are picking up) be trying to shoot you down?

If you want new ideas, there are plenty.

Think maybe of adding damage points in addition to fuel.  That way, with 3
screens to navigate, you won't have to always start over again when you
get hit, but you can limp along somehow.  Like Star Raiders, you could
hurt your engines, lose your weapons, and so on.

Or you could have the rescue motivated partly by the planet going through
a catastrophic earthquake, so the platforms change color and then
implode sorta like Canyon Bomber so time is of the essence.  The platform
could either fall as a unit or disintegrate, forcing you to land only on
the unaffected areas, which is more and more difficult since the humanoid
will be more in the way.

I see the potential here for a lot of "pathos" in the game where in the
later waves you have to decide who lives and who dies.

Or you could have waves where panic sets in and if you wait too long, not
only will you risk losing your guys to the platforms collapsing, but
before this happens, two guys might be on a platform together and one will
kill the other guy or they will kill eachother or they will commit suicide
or have a heart attack from the stress.

I just really like the epileptic fits they go into, and adding some AI
into it so that they go through "end of the world psychosis" would be a
unique addition to the game.

Maybe to extend the invasion concept, there can be good and bad humanoids.
So the bad humanoids are running around trying to kill the good humanoids
and you have to purposefully squash the bad humanoids.

Maybe all the platforms can be connected via a series of tunnels (unseen)
and there is just one bad guy per screen who pops up randomly to attack a
good guy and then exits only to pop up at a new platform and attack

Maybe in addition to points from rescuing each humanoid, you could get a
bonus for getting all humanoids alive, and a deduction for humanoids
murdered.  Humanoids who die from collapsing platforms would be acceptable

With the year 2000 approaching and all the doomsayers out there, this
would really fit the times.

Maybe the bad guys don't kill the good guys, but just get the good guys to
drink poisoned kool aid.  You see them hand over a little pixel to the
other guy and the head pixel moves to the right and the arm goes up to
indicate that he's drinking the poison.

Maybe to give you some warning they will first sit down like an inverted T
and meditate for a second before they drink, so you can get to them.

Or if you land and they are dying, YOU (represented as a guy) go out and
pick him up and take him into the craft and it is implied that you give
him an antidote.

Or if you really wanted to increase game variety you could lose the 2nd
asteroid screen and add a closeup of the individual platform where you can
battle the bad cult leader types mano a mano.

Or maybe in some instances you have to talk down a good humanoid who has
lost faith and is ready to jump to commit suicide.

Maybe a caption could pop over his head that says something like:

"I'll jump"


"stay back"

and you can move closer to him only inbetween captions.

As the time goes on, the time between captions decreases.  If you move
when the caption pops up, he will move an equal distance to the edge (more
in later waves).  He still moves a little anyway during the captions.

I think the main potential for enhancement in this game should focus
around the little guys, adding behaviors to them and other nuances like
this.  There is more room for originality here than there is with the
shootemup/collision evasion portion.

You seem to be learning a lot about sprite animation (multi frame
animation, not X/Y) and this could be put to good use here.

With Piero's game already plowing through the shootemup genre, it might be
best to stake your claim here.

> All right.  I'll still have to shrink it to do 200 ;)

You are using 208?

Whatever it is, I can still see everything just fine. 

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