NEXT JUMP: MANUAL

Hello!

Today I would like to announce a feature which is present in Next Jump but is not very common in current games: A MANUAL. YES, A MANUAL:

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Inside the game, even while playing, the player can access an instruction manual totally inspired by the manuals present in the old games (I re-read the R-type 3 manual specially to do this).
Following the logic of the game itself and its idea of homage to the SHMUPs, the manual was written as if it was an actual manual for the Federation Pilots as well.

And here it is! Two weeks before the game is released, the PDF manual:
NEXT JUMP MANUAL DOWNLOAD.

NEXT JUMP: Shmup Tactics is scheduled to be released on Itch.io and Steam,  April 18.

Steam greenlight and Trailer

We have just launched our STEAM GREENLIGHT!
And along side it, a trailer!:

Many thanks to my friend Daniel Pinheiro, who spent his vacation doing this beautiful animation you see¬†and Jo√£o “JP” Paulo for the incredible dubbing and Japanese translation in the trailer.

NEXT JUMP: Shmup Tactics will be released in April 18rd, 2017 on Itch.io and hopefully Steam!

Please Vote for Us! ūüėÄ

It’s all about the Lives

Next Jump is a reinterpretation of the shmup genre into a tactics game.
Two of the pillars of shmup genre (and how they were translated into a tactics game) were already adressed in previous posts about movement and score. Today, another important feature is going to be approached: lives  Рor, in the case of Next Jump, the lack of lives.

Next Jump Eject 1.jpg

The Eject system.

The concept of “lives” is traditionally included in shmups, probably because they were born inside an arcade cabinet. In that sense, I have spent months thinking about ways to implement a “lives mechanic” (one of them involving creating a series of complex systems to¬†“find pilots in the galaxy”). But I didn’t like any of the ideas I had: actually, I hated them.
One day I was re-listening a podcast I really love¬†called “Roguelike Radio”, the episode was a discussion about FTL. At a certain point they say: “…in FTL you are the ship”. That’s when I had an idea: to implement an eject system.

In FTL, a game that also influenced Next Jump, you are (effectively) the Ship. You are not the captain or another crew member. You ARE¬†the Ship. The game only reaches¬†its end state when the¬†ship explodes or all crew members die. You can feel like the captain of the ship, but this character resides inside your mind and not actually in the game. In Next Jump, on the other hand, you are not the Ship – instead, you are the pilot: your “reputation”, name, scrap… Everything is tied to your character. When the pilot dies, all is gone. So I thought: A classic thing on Sci-fi is everyone on a (dying) ship trying to escape, to eject. Why not do this in Next Jump?

next-jump-eject

That’s how the Eject system was born!
The ejection is possible (for a price) whether the hull of the ship is low and the pilot surrounded by shots or the player simply wants to change ships. When ejected, the player loses all Scrap contained in the current ship, the ship itself (that explodes) and its upgrades. After the ejection, the player is prompted with a “Rescue Call”: If there is a positive Scrap Bank balance (yes, the player have a bank account besides storing scrap on the ship itself), then it’s possible to ask for another Ship for 900 scraps. If the player doesn’t have 900 scraps, a new ship will still be received but the bank account goes to a negative balance and another ship can’t be requested until the debt is paid.

And that’s the Eject system.
Thanks for reading, I would love to answer any questions.

It’s all about the Score

Next Jump is a reinterpretation of the shmup genre into a tactics game.
While movement IS crucial in shmups, it’s just a¬†way to the crown of the genre: the SCORE. I could not leave a score system out of the game, but I wouldn’t “just” put it in there either:
After all, I’m reinterpreting all the main mechanics and systems of shmups.

next-jump-reputation-1

Reputation and [combo] systems.

The score in Next Jump is called “Reputation” and it is used to measure how well a player, or pilot, is doing (just like in a shmup). But more than simply changing words, the influence that the Reputation have on the game systems is way more significant: It represents how the Pilot is seen by the Federation AND enemies (dragons). Anything rises the Reputation: killing enemies, collecting Scrap and making something good on Events scattered through the galaxy.

next-jump-reputation-upgrade
There’s also a Combo multiplier that rises for every killed enemies, as long you are not hit.
And as any military group, the Federation have “Ranks”:

next-jump-events-rankup

Once the Pilot rises his Reputation enough, the Federation will grant a better Rank. The higher the rank, the lower the price of upgrades and repairs in the Federation space stations.

Now, for the Dragons… higher Reputations means more and varied enemies.
For example, going from this:next-jump-combat-3

To this:
Next Jump Combat 5.jpg

That’s basically what the score, or Reputation, does in Next Jump.
I hope you’ve find it interesting and I would love to answer any questions.

Thanks!

 

It’s all about the movement

Movement is crucial in shmups. Planning the steps to be taken according to the position of enemies and their shots is one of the most important and difficult things to master this kind of game. As shmups happen in real time, the difficulty comes from managing all the information regarding shots and their movement patterns.

Next Jump is a reinterpretation of the shmup genre. As such, its¬†movement mechanics had to be very carefully thought and tested. Because it is a turn-based game, rather than a classical real time shmup, the players have plenty of time¬†to observe and decide their¬†next move. Therefore, if the movement mechanics doesn’t work, nothing else does.

Thousands of things went through my head during the development of the game –¬†almost all of them demanded a¬†superhuman programming ability which I don’t have. For that reason,¬†I did¬†what I always do in these cases: I turned my eyes to the classics.
In this case, Checkers (or english draughts) and Chess.

Checkers is an interesting case study because it’s a game where movement and attack are combined in the¬†same action. Better than this: you can form¬†“combos” using¬†these “attacks” (best known as “multiple jumps”). Such¬†simplicity inspired the main mechanics of movement and action of the game:

next-jump-movement-2

Situations like this “naturally emerge” in the game.

In NEXT JUMP the ship has some attributes, among them the Batteries, which are the ship’s energy reserve. This means that each action the player does¬†will cost energy, in a similar way to the classic “action points” of turn-based games. Thus, both movement and attacks cost energy, and when the energy reserve¬†ends, the player’s turn also ends. But that’s not where the inspiration from¬†Checkers came from.

In the above GIF, we can see that an enemy, when destroyed, releases two things: Scrap (“money”, the rotating space dust) and Energy (the blue ball). By picking up these “energy balls”, the ship recovers at least part of its energy reserve,¬†enabling movement combos. Now add to this equation the following: The number of turns that the Ship has inside a “jump” is limited to three. This makes each move very valuable, specially¬†in a game where “score” and “scrap”¬†are¬†so central to the gameplay loop.

next-jump-movement-1

Okay, the basic movement mechanic is this.¬†But there was something else missing:¬†an “incentive” to make the player think about movement during the attacks. That is where I introduced the concept of ‚Äúrecoil‚ÄĚ:
Most weapons, including the basic ones of¬†each ship, have a¬†“forward recoil” or a “backward recoil”.¬†This means that every attack is ALSO a movement. To illustrate, as seen in the GIF¬†above, when the Balista shoots, it also moves backwards. These two mechanics, added to the procedural “Shmup Boards” generator, makes the movement itself a series of interesting decisions. In addition, they also guide the rest of the design, such as different enemies (and their movement / attack patterns), Ship types (there are four) and the environments of the Boards¬†(Solar Wind, Nebula, Meteors… to name a few).

I hope you have enjoyed this approach of design. In the future I will talk about the board generation and combat mechanics. I would also be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you!