Shooting Game Algorithm Maniacs

It seems I’m not the only one who suggests designing games enemy-first.

Recently, while reading some game dev books, I ran across a bit of advice with sentiments similar to one of my previous blog posts. The text in question is from “Shooting Game Algorithm Maniacs”, a Japanese game dev book focussing on SHMUPS (shoot-em-ups).

For folks who may not be able to read Japanese, here is my translation of the advice from the conclusion of Chapter 2 (called “Stage 2″ in the book.):

If you’ve ever thought “I want to make a SHUMP!” and you don’t mind a good bullet-hell shooter, I recommend starting by programming the bullets. The reason for this is that, no matter how many “awesome effects”, “giant bosses”, or “cool weapons” you have, these things do not make a game.

Even without effects, bosses, and weapons, as long as you have bullets, you have a game. (Well, you need the player’s ship as well, of course.) You don’t have to be able to draw. If all you need are a bullet image and a ship image, you can easily ask an artistically-inclined friend. If you don’t want to ask a friend for help or draw anything yourself, you can still get by with circles for bullets and a triangle for the player’s ship. There are some free games that take this approach. As long as the game is good, it will be fun even if all the graphics are circles and triangles. Of course, having only circles and triangles for graphics probably won’t help your game sell that well…

Anyway, that’s the point of this chapter (Stage 2): “If you want to make a SHMUP, start with the bullets!”

The author emphasizes that the relationship between the player and bullets is the core of the SHMUP experience, especially for those of the bullet-hell variety. If this core relationship is well put-together, it will be be fun in and of itself. Everything else in the game (all the weapons, special abilities, unique bosses, etc.) becomes about emphasizing and complimenting the core.

This is a mindset that I think can be applied to many game genres, not just SHMUPS.

For reference, the original Japanese text follows. If you’re at all interested in creating SHMUPS, I highly recommend picking up a copy of “Shooting Game Algorithm Maniacs” (original edition / new printing). With copious code samples, it’s understandable even without a whole lot of Japanese knowledge.

というわけで、「シューティングを作るときには、まず弾から作れ!」というのがStage 2のまとめです。

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