There’s not much left to do on Hoth Strike before I draw a line under it and move on to my next game. But something that has been playing on my mind just lately is the question of balancing the action. I’m not a fan of implementing skill levels in games since they bring with them their own problems with level playing fields. I want everyone to experience the same game and to work it out such that they become competent and confident at it. That said I can’t just hurl stuff around the screen and expect players to accept it. I desperately need to consider balance.
A decision that I took early on was that I wanted to emulate Defender as much as possible. I prefer to set a stage and repeat it ever so slightly bumping the player’s requirements with each “wave” as opposed to say designing muliple levels. I’m very much an arcade gamer and not somebody who wants to sit down and devise a multitude of tricks and traps. At least not at the moment. Just now I’d much rather have the player see the limits of the game and work out how to “survive” within a static arena.
So I set out to design a few aliens and have them behave differently to one another. Some drift like jellyfish, others hunt for the good guys whilst some hunt the player or bounce annoyingly around the screen. Most spit laser bombs at the player (I even went to the trouble of plotting the player’s position relative to the alien and have them fire their laser bombs in a relevant direction!) and all will kill on impact. I wanted to have the player spend most of their time zapping the bad guys and probably spending most of their time in flight. But then I realised the player cared for nothing. They didn’t much care that the aliens were just drifting around since he had no goals. Hence the design goal of rescuing the rebel pilots. Instantly this new dynamic prompted the “mutant” alien idea. Lifted straight from Defender and DropZone the player had to stop the landers from capturing the good guys before they mutated in to the awful “chasers” that made those games so difficult. The player was now potentially all over the screen to complete the wave.
It still pains me that my original intention of having AT-ATs in motion had to be scrapped through my own failings at animation. The dynamic of speeding across the landscape taking pot shots at the walkers would have been stunning. But just now it’s not to be.
So to the point of this post.
In my games I try to design on a point – counter point basis. That is, where the point is to collect an item I make it the sole objective of a game object to frustrate the player when he’s trying to collect that item. In Invaders I threw bonus items down the screen and upped the alien bombing rate in an attempt to thwart the player’s attempts at powering up. With Hoth Strike I wanted to be a bit more intelligent with it. Where the player has to collect a rebel pilot I create an alien whose sole purpose is to look for rebels and destroy them ! Where the player has to carry a rebel pilot to safety I make sure that there’s enough on the screen to bring him down.
It’s that last bit I’m bothered about.
Simply littering the screen with obstacles isn’t very good game design in my opinion. I want to inject personality in to the probes such that they hound the player based on the things that the player can achieve.
The player can swing his speeder left and right, for example, so why not have an alien that tracks the player perfectly thus reducing the advantage of being able to swing the speeder around.
Now that the game objects are in place I will be fine tuning the game in terms of it’s execution.
If anyone has any ideas they’d like to share / offer then please do drop me a line.
This is the fun bit ;)