On the 16th of July Mark Brown from Game Makers Toolkit (GMTK) hosted a game jam based on one of his famous video essays. The particular one which was chosen as the basis of the game jam was the one where he talks about elegant game design. In this video, he references a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto which encompasses his thoughts on what elegant game design is: “A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once.” Based on this premise we (Kylian Rijnbergen and me) created Shooting Stars.
During the brainstorm of the game, we came up with all kinds of ideas which combined game mechanics. We eventually settled on a game where you shoot to propel yourself where you would move into fields which would boost your ship’s abilities. We created fields which increased shooting power, and thus acceleration; a field which boosts shield, and also increases the mass of the ship, and one which increases fire rate, and thus the ability of the ship to change direction. Would the fields overlap, then the buffs would stack.
The scope of the game, in the beginning, was quite big. We wanted the player to be able to choose from multiple ‘missions’ which would utilize some of the fields better than others. The fields would also stack on the ship’s base statistics, therefore some ships would be better for some missions. However, later in development, it became clear that there would not be enough time for the implementation and testing of the levels, therefore the level mechanic was dropped in favour of polishing the main mechanics. In its place, multiple enemy types were created to force the user to switch fields. The enemies created were a tough dreadnought which would fire a plethora of high damage seeking missiles, a fighter which would hone in on the player and fire and finally a kamikaze ship which would ram into the player.
The game lacks a proper goal and would probably have been better if it were level based. In that way, the player could have learned how the fields influence the behaviour of the ship and the game could have been learned more naturally. Now the effect of the fields is somewhat hidden to the player and not well explained. Each level would then also have been tailored to the behaviour. In this way, the player would also have been able to fail more often. In this structure, the fields would also have to move around and the player would have to manoeuvre within a tighter space in order to keep the experience tight. This would also solve the lack of goal problem. Reaching the final level would then be the goal.
Another problem is that the ship is quite hard to control at higher speeds. This could be improved by multiplying the ship’s velocity with some constant in ratio the difference in the direction where the player wants to move. Allowing the ship to make quicker turns. This is an easy fix.
The speed of the ship is very satisfying however, it is a blast to control and the enemies have good veriety. There are some redeeming qualities which could be used in other games/prototypes, but this is definitely not the best prototype game I’ve made.