Sunday, June 22, 2014

Battle High 2 A+ -- (Tentative) Changes

As I've been working on Battle High 2 A+, I've been thinking of the changes to make to the game itself and to the characters.  I decided to put my musings in this post.

System Changes

Elemental Overdrives

In the previously released iteration of Battle High 2, a new mechanic was introduced called Elemental Overdrives.  Inspire by moves like Berserker Barrage and Astral Vision from Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, these were alternate super moves that would alter one aspect of a character temporarily.  Khai would become faster; Bryan would become stronger but slower; Klein was able to fire four projectiles instead of switching between 1.
The biggest problem with these is that they weren't properly tested.  Players found that Khai, Jada, and Arvid's -- all of which increased speed -- were way too easy to take advantage of, often causing infinite combos and quick KO's.  Also, players thought the input, which was consistently Down x 3 + Overhead, was awkward and clunky.
To alleviate this, I've decided to remove this mechanic all together.  This cuts down implementation and balancing on time in various ways, but does cause some interesting issues for some characters, particularly Klein and Michelle.  I'll discuss the tentative changes to the characters.

Throw Escapes & Reversals

Two common features in most fighting games that wasn't implement in the previous iteration of Battle High 2 are throw escapes and reversals.  Fortunately, I've been able to implement these two features.  Players can now escape a throw if they press throw during the first few frames of their opponent performing a throw.
Reversals are special moves that can be performed during certain states.  In this case, they can be performed while getting up or while blocking.  I may change this, but right now, I've made reversals cost one-third of the player's meter.  Each character will have one move that will be designated as their reversal move.  I may allow super moves to be reversals as well with no meter cost required, but I'm still mulling this over.

Input Changes

One request made for the previous game was to allow two buttons pressed at the same time to perform throw and overhead attacks as 6 buttons can be a bit too many, especially if two of those buttons do something very specific.  So, in this version, light punch and light kick will be throw and heavy punch and heavy kick will be overhead; however, there will still be overhead and throw buttons that can be assigned if the player prefers.
The second set of changes do with the move inputs themselves.  This is pretty risky, but I've decided to eliminate several different types of inputs, taking some hints from my previous post about appealing to more novice players with easier inputs.  Sadly, the elimination of some of these input types such as charging back and forward does eliminate the meta game discussed earlier and some moves might be more or less advantageous than before.  Hopefully balancing can remedy some of these issues.

Character Changes

Character changes are extremely important.  They are the most or second most important aspect of the game really, so I decided to do a quick summary of the changes coming to the 13 characters in Battle High 2 A+.

Jiro

Jiro was the first character I implemented in this build of Battle High 2, and so far, he's probably still pretty close to his previous iteration.  I removed this parry move I believe in the previous iteration, so he won't have that.  His Elemental Super, TerraTackle now journeys to the player, popping up when he's within distance, allowing him to combo off of it and no longer requires the player to control him as he moves.

Michelle


Michelle is a tough character as her Elemental Overdrive put her into a second form which extended her moves and made her strong.  With the elimination of Elemental Overdrives, this features has to be eliminated as well.  Instead, Michelle will have access to all of her moves from start.  Also, Michelle lacked a real anti-air, so now the heavy version of her projectile will emit an fiery orb around her similar to Bryan's anti-air attack.

Shinji


As discussed earlier, I'm removing charge attacks, which will make Shinji play a lot differently since his elbow attack and anti-air headbutt were both charge attacks.  Another big change I'm making is to Shinji's teleport.  Teleporting was a bit troublesome as it created some infinites, particularly teleporting behind an opponent mid-combo.  So, in this build, teleporting cannot be performed mid combo.  Also, previously Shinji had 4 teleports:  in near and front, near and behind, far and front, far and behind.  I'm removing near and front.

Khai


Besides the removal of his powerful Elemental Overdrive, Khai will most probably stay the same to his previously iteration.  I may change his aerial elbow to be more of an air-dive attach since before he sort of teleported, which didn't make much sense since he's a Water Elemental and not a Wind Elemental; however, you could argue this is vapor and not wind.

Mai


The biggest change to Mai will probably be her super move.  Instead of being a large attack that then launches her opponent into spikes, I may just make her immediately do the ground spikes, allowing it to more easily combo into some of her attacks and act as an anti-air.  I'm not 100% sure on this yet.

Klein


Klein will be difficult as his Elemental Overdrive allowed him to shoot four different projectiles.  I think I'm still going to have his switch move and the accompanying projectiles.  I am going to change these projectiles though, as some of them were rather mediocre such as the blue diamond that went over almost everyone's head.

Bryan


The biggest change coming to Bryan is a major nerfing of his crouching light punch, which was reported as being too fast and too good at interrupting a majority of the cast's attacks.  Other than this, I feel Bryan is a rather solid character and will keep him rather consistent to his previous versions.

Jada

Jada will probably remain very similar to her previous build.  Her triple kick will probably be much cleaner and consistent.  Also, I may remove the rapid punch and instead make it a quarter circle forward, rushdown move, but I'm not 100% sure yet.

Arvid


Arvid is another one of Battle High's charge character who will be seeing some major changes.  He will still have his projectile, but his air kick, may become more like a dive kick.  I may also make his iron belly attack deflect or destroy projectiles.  Arvid may also have an anti-air uppercut which will be used for his reversal.

HW


HW is another character who is pretty much going to stay similar to his original form.  His dash move may move a bit farther than the previous iteration, but the changes will, overall, be minimal.

Ryken


Ryken will probably stay very similar to his previous iteration as well.  He had the most moves of the entire cast.  A part of me is thinking of removing some and making an EX version and swapping these moves out, but for now I'm going to keep him as is.

Principal


The boss of Battle High 2, Principal, will change but mostly due to the changes in input.  Like Jada, I may remove his rapid punch attack and instead make it a defensive move that can destroy projectiles.  I may also make him faster to make him feel more threatening like a boss character.

Kazuo


Kazuo is probably the character most in need of changes as he was deemed the previous iteration's worst character.  He was supposed to charge attacks to make them stronger but the differences between charge levels probably wasn't strong enough.  At the same time, he had a very weak anti-air.  I think for this iteration, I'm removing the charging.  He'll just have a rushdown move.  I think the other big change will be his anti-air, which I may make a projectile giving it more reach.

Game Mode Changes

Another large change I want to make is to the modes available.  The previous game just had versus, arcade (or story), training, challenge, and 3 mini-games.  After watching this video --

-- I started to consider a few different modes.  From the start, I wanted to include a challenge mode similar to Mortal Kombat 9's challenge tower.  I feel this did a very good job at introducing things slowly with easier challenges and then building up to more advance ones.  It also creates fun challenges to satisfy those who want a single player experience, especially if I don't get networking implemented immediately.  It does mean I have to create masterful AI and highly customizable challenges, but, to be honest, I'd probably be at doing these.  Overall, I think instead of the mini-games implemented before, I may introduce a challenge tower or hallway.  I can also use this mode to introduce more of the story for Battle High.

Also, to fans of Battle High, I'd like to apologize for this game taking so long to finish, but at this point, I'm essentially a one-man team, getting some help here and there but a majority of the work still lies on me.  Lately my schedule hasn't allowed me to work on it as much as I'd like.  I'm going to continue to work on it as best as I can and hopefully be able to share the game with all of you soon.  Think of it this way:  at least you didn't contribute to a KickStarter for it.  Anyway, thanks for reading.

GML Book Contest


It's been almost a year since I started writing my recently published GML book -- GameMaker Game Programming with GML -- and because of this, I've decided to organize a giveaway!  Two lucky winners have a chance to win a copy of the book; keep reading to find out how you can be one of them.

Overview of GameMaker Game Programming with GML

  • Write and utilize scripts to help organize and speed up your game production workflow
  • Display important user interface components such as score, health, and lives
  • Play sound effects and music, and create particle effects to add some spice to your project

How to Enter? 

Simply post your expectations from this book in comments section below. You could be one of the 2 lucky participants to win a copy.

Deadline

The contest will close on 07/21/14. Winners will be contacted by email, so be sure to use your real email address when you comment!  

Please note: Winners residing only in the USA and Europe would get a chance to win print copies. Others would be provided with eBook copies.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fighting Game Command Study

Recently, as I've been working on Battle High 2 A+, which now has a playable, pre-alpha:



I've been wondering about several aspects of fighting game design in general more closely.  One is special move commands.  I think one of the bigger barriers in attracting new players is that to do anything "cool" is seemingly complicated.  When the first question you get from a new player is "How do I block?", it's usually followed by, "How do I shoot a fireball?"  Both question can be difficult to explain.
This sort of made me wonder, why is fighting game input so complicated?  I know it started back in the arcade days as a sort of "hidden" feature, something that while messing around players would discover, to feel proud as they are asked, "Woah, how'd you do that?!" but now, hidden moves are almost nonexistent due to the amount of resources out there to learn about a game.

Less Buttons, Less Problems...maybe...

So I think there are several advantages to button sequences.  One is that you can cut down the numbers of buttons needed for player to learn.  This is also a reason why many games use multiple button presses, for example, pressing light punch and light kick to throw as opposed to having a separate throw button -- though Battle High now does both.  A part of me agrees with this.  I think Street Fighter has really set the standard that anymore than 6 buttons is probably too many -- unless you have a 7th for say taunting. At the same time, new players can finding this troublesome, especially when you are working in a genre where players use a variety of hardware -- controllers, joystick, even keyboard on rare occasions.  You can play with the dreaded raptor claw as you struggle to press three buttons at the same time.  The commonly grunted solution is "Get a stick," but not everyone really wants to do that or can afford it.
Joysticks are cool, but they do take getting used to and are sometimes expensive.  Some people just want to have fun with what their given.

Meta Game

I think a more interesting reason for inputs and a variety of them is the meta game it creates.  This particularly refers to characters that have charge attacks:  Guile, Balrog, M. Bison, Blanka, Vega, etc.  When you see these characters crotch, for example, you have to guess, "What are they going to do next?"  Are they going to throw a projectile or rush in?  Are they preparing for me to jump in?"  At the same time, a player has to play in a way that can prevent them from charging properly and taking that advantage away.  I mention charging specifically because I was, and still am to be honest, contemplating on removing charge attacks from Battle High 2 A+.  My main reason was that, in an effort to simplify things, to eliminate another type of input.

This is Guile.  He's crouching.  What's he going to do next?  Flash Kick?  Sonic Boom!  Crouching Heavy Punch?!  You just don't know!  META GAME!

In-Game Flow

This reason is a bit more "colorful" but in a way the motion of one's hand when doing a fighting game input sometimes very closely relates the the movement that a character is doing on screen.  This can, in turn, help make a better connection between the player and the character.  In Street Fighter, for example , a Quarter-Circle Forward (QCF) and punch, will make Ryu project a fireball or Hadoken.  In his animation he sort of leans down a bit, creating the energy, and then shifts his weight forward to shoot a fireball across the screen.
In regards to charging, a character is usually walking away similar to a slingshot being pulled back and then sudden forward is pressed with an attack projecting the character (or an actual projectile) towards the opponent.  When the input correlates well to the resulting character movement, I think this demonstrates good design.
Maybe it's just me, but I see a slight correlation between the input and the resulting movement.  Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Simple and Easy Operation

One solution I've seen to simplify fighting game input are Simple operation modes in which more complex inputs, QCF + P, are replaced with simpler inputs such as simple F (forward) + P.  Sometimes entire combos can even be performed with just the push of a button.  These seem great on the surface, but they, in turn, reduce the number of actual attacks available.  For example, if Ryu's projectile was simplified to simply F+P, he'd lose some of his more special attacks that already use this command such as his 2-hit overhead.  Also, they remove a lot of the skill required to play the game and a part of me feels that if you are going to do a simple operation mode, just make that the norm.

The EO stands for "Easy Operation".  I think this was done more for the GameCube controller than anything though.

Audience

At the end of the day, I think it really comes down to audience.  If the audience of the game being made will mostly consist of fans of the genre, then sticking to what is currently working is probably best; however, if you are trying to attract a broader, more casual audience, a few things definitely need to be done.  First, you have to teach.  You have to have a mode -- that is just "training" mode -- to teach the different attacks and how to do them.  Teach how to roll one's thumb from down to forward and time the press -- if they are using a gamepad.  Teach how you can buffer inputs for a few frames to link combos more easily.  Just teach the player.  Problem is, a lot of time, players usually won't take the time to learn, jump right into the game on max difficulty, and then never play the game out of sheer frustration.
Maybe it's just me, but I don't think the EVO audience would mind games with more complex inputs, but the Candy Crush generation...well they probably wouldn't never play a fighting game anyway...

My Plan (for now) 

Right now, for Battle High 2 A+, I really want to attract a more casual audience to this fighting game and the genre in general.  I want to teach the more important aspects of fighting game such as defensive, offense, timing, studying your opponent, and remove some as many barriers as possible -- difficult inputs being one of them.  To do this, I'm going to first probably include a mode that teaches basic game mechanics.  Make it a mode that doesn't just say "THIS IS HOW YOU BLOCK" and have the player watch a video, but instead explain how to block and then make a challenge such as "block five attacks"  This isn't original by any means, but I feel much more useful.  Then, I'm leaning towards sacrificing the concept of In-Game Flow described earlier and instead just have all attacks be QCF or QCB, or a combination of those.  Probably no charging and no z-motions (dragon punches / Shoryuken).  Battle High's cast doesn't have TONS of moves, so limiting it to those inputs makes thinks a little easier.  It does require more skill than just pressing forward or back and an attack, but I think this middle ground will ultimately feel more rewarding.

Anyway, that's my quick analysis of fighting game input and my approach to them.  I'll probably be posting more Battle High 2 news in the coming weeks.