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.


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.

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”:


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.


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:


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.


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!