I’m hard at work creating the launch assets for Exile Squadron, but I’d like to share some thoughts about the game before I actually release it.
So what is this game? It is a sci-fi shoot ’em up, similar to the arcade games from the 1980s and 1990s. I started with huge dreams obviously, when I started designing this game. Originally the player would have played with a spaceship, which was also able to turn into a mech, thus giving two totally different weapons into the hands of the player. But as I was creating the first prototype, I turned out that this would basically double the workload for the game.
I thought that if the player will have two different means to play (ship or mech mode), they should have totally different properties, and provide different gameplay. Just having a different sprite for the mech, and using similar weapons wouldn’t add anything new to the game. I had to make it distinctive, to be interesting. At this point, I realized that as a fledgling solo indie developer, creating a shmup is a big challenge already, and I shouldn’t complicate things even further.
Weapons, weapons, weapons
So I dropped the ship-mech transformation feature, and instead, I started focusing on the weapons. What I don’t like in some of the shmups on the market is that they use very similar weapons. Of course, not every one of them is at fault with this, but there are quite a lot which I find boring weapons-wise. That’s why I tried to design weapons which are very different from each other. Not just laser projectiles which are slow or fast, or shooting 2 lasers or 4 lasers. There are lasers of course (every shmup has to have lasers), but Exile Squadron has flak cannons, pulse weapons, plasma weapons, chemical bombs, attack drones, and many more and all of them has a special property that requires the player to play differently.
One problem I faced with this design is that balancing all these different weapons is very difficult, at one point I even gave up on perfectly balancing every weapon for every level. Then I realized that figuring out that which weapon combos are the best for a given level is actually fun. Should I play with beam lasers, mortar cannon and hacking on Level 2? Or maybe a rocket-flamethrower-multi turret combo will be better? And since I designed Exile Squadron with point-attack attack in mind (meaning that replaying the game several times to improve your high score), I think experimenting with the different weapons is a good gameplay element.
You can see some GIFs here about some of the weapons, but of course, there are more of them in the game.
Stay tuned for the next blog post.