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  – or, 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 “recoil”:
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!

Introducing: “NEXT JUMP: Shmup Tactics”

Since last years #StencylJAM15, that I won third place with “The Next Jump”, I have been working on a follow up to that game: NEXT JUMP: Shmup Tactics.

Warning: post with heavy gifs! :]

next-jump-title

Despite following the same premise as the former JAM game, I took into account all the criticisms and compliments made to that game and rethought several of its systems and basic mechanics: As a consequence the game is much more dynamic, fast and focused on carrying the main features of Shmups for a Tactical and Strategic gameplay.

next-jump-jumpin-2

In addition, all enemies have been revised and new ones have been added (more than fifty in total). New mechanics and behaviors were introduced to then and all art was redone.

next-jump-combat-1

The interface has been completely revised and rethought to not only work better but also be more beautiful.
next-jump-upgrade-1

A lore was created around the hunt of the player to the mother ship. (more details on that later!)

There are up to four ships to choose from, one from each race in this universe (Elves, Humans, Dwarves and Orcs).
next-jump-ships-1

Here is the  (current) official description of the game:

NEXT JUMP: Shmup Tactics is what would happen if the pillars of the “Shmup” genre were translated into a “Tactics and Strategy (with a bit of a puzzle in between)” game.

  • Be a pilot of the Bastards Federation:
    A group formed by the Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Orcs who used to live in peace, sharing their love for all Beverages. One day their galaxy is visited by the vicious Dragons who fool everyone and steal all the alcohol stock of the UNIVERSE!
  • Your mission: JUMP! Chase the Dragons and stop them from running away with all that is most sacred to the Bastards by jumping from sector to sector, facing hordes of enemies in turn based battles!
  • Each Sector is a Board! Each given “jump” represents a new combat board generated procedurally, simulating combat situations only seen in Shmups!
  • Not only inspired by the classic Shmups and Bullet Hells, it’s also influenced by tactical games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Jeanne d’Arc.
  • Equip and Upgrade your ship with different weapons and accessories that change the combat dynamics!

It’s going to be released in early 2017 to PC (Linux, MAC and Windows. On Itch and Steam through greenlight). You can follow the game development here and some other places (including my Twitter):

http://nextjump-game.tumblr.com/

http://www.indiedb.com/games/next-jump-shmup-tactics

Don’t Talk to Strangers!

titulo

That’s the name of our entry to the #StencylGameJam 2016!  😀
It was made by me (code and a bit of game design, super average sound) and two other friends, the Illustrators and Comic artists (from Brazil):
Luís Felipe Garrocho  (game design and some art) and Ricardo Tokumoto (art and art direction)!

About the game:

You are a kid. You love candy. That’s basically your life.

You just arrived in a new city with your family after your parents changed jobs. And it’s Halloween.
Your mother warned to not talk to strangers your whole life. But it’s Halloween. You gotta get that sweet sweet glorious candy.
So you go. If you get to know them, maybe they are not strangers anymore? So it would be ok to go trick or treating then.
But be careful. If something looks strange, you can always leave.
Good luck.

You can play it on gamejolt:
http://gamejolt.com/games/dont-talk-to-strangers/197889

the NEXT jump! [stencyljam2015]

screenshot
This is my game to this years stencyljam2015!:
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/657415
(it says reviewing, I dont know if you guys can play it)

the NEXT jump is a turn-based shmup with roguelike ingredients.

You are a pilot in pursuit of a Pirate Mothership  that keeps its distance from you. To catch the mothership, you use “Jumps” to cross long distances… and inside those jumps hordes of pirates (each one with their movement pattern) try to kill you.

Its a game about learning patterns, the enemies and yours!

Controls are mouse based:
To move your Ship, click on the tile next to you.
To shoot click on the shoot button… and the same to punch.

Every move (click on the tile you wish to move) costs energy, every punch costs energy… every shot… Once you make your move, the pirates around you make theirs and so on.
But you can pickup energy and Scrap (money) from fallen Pirates.

When the jump is complete,  the jump gate appears and you can buy upgrades on the shop and then jump again…

I made everything on Stencyl 3.3, GIMP and Blender. Sounds are public domain and BFXR (site).
Thanks for playing! I hope you like it! :]

.dilly