this blog post was supposed to be about ESG, and would be very much like the Spaceless station one but I found myself not knowing what to write, and found out I had this game alot less planed out than the other!
So instead of that I’ve decided to write about my tought process with ESG and what I wanted for it and what I now think. I’ll be using comparisons with other Roguelikes i’ve played, mostly Binding of Isaac since I’ve played that one the most.
Turning a Schmup into a RL
At the beginning of ESG’s development I had the idea of making it a roguelike, with randomness and endless replayability and fun hours and everything was going dandy, I released a demo, got feedback from it which I’m very proud of, updated it got even better feedback and then left it to rot because I wanted to use Unity.
As time went on I started seeing the truth and the truth was E.S.G won’t be a fun full game, it would be a fun schmup yes, but a fun roguelike no. But i didn’t want to give up on it and how simple and fun it was even at such a bare state so I spent a metric shite ton of time thinking about it and what made a RL a RL and how fun I tought it would be.
So I narrowed down the features a RL has that makes it fit into the genre:
- Player centered progression
All of the RLs I played and truly enjoyed had these in some way or the other, unpredictability and randomness made each run unique and exciting with stuff being possible to happen that didn’t in the last run and the player can’t just know what’s gonna happen at all times. Strategy made the player get down and dirty with the game and what it was offering, made them make choices about items, where to go, when to go and rewarded the knowledge you had from previous attempts, and the Player centered progression gave satisfaction and made things even more different and fun because the player had control of the character and that’s important because they are in control of nothing else.
They controlled what item they took, the resources they had, how much the map was explored and how fast they went to the finish, even small things add to the overall experience because the player is building their character and paired with their knowledge can craft their own challenges and little moments in one run. The game shouldn’t push you out the level after the boss, it shouldn’t enforce on you to take something and it shouldn’t make items be more important than raw skill.
A good example of the last point is BoI, you can go an entire run without picking up one item and still win and beat the finalest of final bosses, it’s hard and nearly impossible but it’s possible: just don’t get hit (there’s a whole character based on that). your shots never do 0 dmg, and the attacks of the enemies aren’t random in their stats. Playing the game gives all the knowledge you need to know about the enemies and how to dodge them.
E.S.G was very lacking on the strategy and player progression front, I tried to handle strategy with a pickup system where you can choose when to use drops (shoot them and they fall down the screen to you or capture them in their capsules and stack them), making it possible to stack hp drops and dmg increases until the bosses or for when you really needed help in spaaaace.
On the Player progression it failed, it barely did any of the things i mentioned and the ones it did, it didn’t do them very well or not as well as I felt it needed it to.
Items and how the player had no control of their own character
There was no good way of giving items to the player, it’s a very basic gameplay that unless you gimmick it can’t really change and evolve and not get repetitive, dedicated schmups did it right but they weren’t random.
For this reason it was also hard to balance them and give them meaningful effects, stat changes were redundant in most cases leaving only dmg and defense being the only real important ones, speed not that much because the space (spaaaace) where you could maneuver and the space one would realistically be in 90% of the game made changing the speed of the ship a waste of time.
What was left were items that changed how you shot things, I personally never found those kind of items able of filling entire item pools and in a fast paced game like ESG where the player had no time to fiddle with things (in BoI, for example, you can just stop and fire in a direction, you have the excitement of figuring it out without being rushed if you’re not feeling confident, you have empty rooms, you’re never caught by surprise by a change to your character and you always have time to adjust to it whether it is a stat change or a shot change you can see it and feel it before a ghosty bastard tries to murder you).
At this point I just hit a dead end, I was dead on convinced a mashup of those genres could be done and I’d be damned if I didn’t do it whether it would be today or tomorrow. The game that inspired me the most didn’t give me all the answers and eventually i moved on to Spaceless Station and was happy with that project.
E.S.G evolved because I played a really cool game
I played Luftrausers, and it is an amazing game that does aerial combat feel so good it’s insane (of course vlambeer did it), and playing that game made me think of ESG again and how i could change it, how I could make it awesome to fight aliens and make it a lot more maneuverable and dynamic, how I can have exploration and things happening in a level you can interact with more.
I’ve been playing with physics in unity and a space game seems perfect for that, I now want to get into ESG again, I want to make it worthy of being played and of the good stuff people said about it.
I want and now i can make it more like a Rogue game, a roguelite. Making that change from a scrolling background to a game where you boost around dog-fighting (in spaaace) and dodging when stuff is coming at you in all directions gives it the feeling I wanted for the game since forever. it makes you feel like an alien killing badass while rewarding the player (you) for the knowledge they have of previous runs and the choices they make on each stage, you can actually control your character and build it up, progress with it and strategy your plays.
In the end…
Because of one little game, Eld’s Shooting Game can become what it set out to be. Never underestimate the effect your game can have on others and how genuinely exciting that effect can be because right now I’m pumped with these new ideas I’m having and the possibility to create them, and that’s the reason I went trough half of the tutorial videos for C# before I jumped to unity and Game Maker. and didn’t write up the ESG post,
Because fuckin’ hell games aren’t made looking at tutorials.