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  Mechanic #052 - SH'MUP Tactics

Category: Tactics
Posted: 07/17/07

A turn-based shoot 'em up horizontal scroller, where one party predicts and reacts, while the other schemes and plans.



This is the first player's view of the game. It is a horizontal, forced scrolling shoot-em up - not unlike Gradius. The twist here is that it is a card-based turn based strategy game. Basically, each turn, you get a bunch of cards. You pick five from your hand and play in a specific order.

Since it is forced scrolling, most actions will automatically move you ahead one square. Moving up will actually move you diagonally up and forward. Moving back and down will simply move you down. You can stay in one spot by simply moving back, and you can jump ahead two squares by hitting forward. Some cards will involve moving and shooting, using bombs, unleashing special weapons (if weapon is unavailable, it is a no operation card). Another card might charge up a weapon to be discharged by that weapon's fire card.

Unlike most strategy games, this is a game in which you plan ahead five moves. You can see the directions the enemies will move, but not what types of actions they will take at that point. Each enemy has different possible behaviors and patterns. For instance, one enemy might not be able to move and shoot, so if you see it stay in one place for a round, it might be firing a shot. Some bullets also move in a pattern, though many shots will simply instantly hit whatever is in front on the same row.

Ultimately, you are trying to interpret your enemy's exposed patterns, predict, plan ahead, and work with a limited subset of available actions each round.

I know what you are saying. But Sean! Haven't you just done that thing where you take one genre and turn it into another? Sure, but I like to think I still put a unique twist on it above and beyond what would otherwise be cheap or obvious. I did mention this was a two player game, right?

  The Spawn Bar


The second player (could be computer playing it though) does his playing at the opposite end of the field. What he gets is a single bar of five slots on which can load encounter cards. An encounter can be anything from a string of enemies, a bit of terrain, power ups, and whatever else. You can load an encounter into one of the five fields and it will reserve however many spaces into the future it needs (but you can only see five turns into the future).

For instance, you could place a bit of terrain at the bottom of the field. This encounter can only be played in the lower most cell, and it could reserve the next fifteen turns worth of cells along the bottom. Each card requires that the reserved squares be open, so you cannot play an encounter that would overlap with a previously existing one (even if the cell was reserved a hundred turns ago, so be careful).

There are different levels of reserved. For instance, terrain may reserve the cells directly adjacent to it. Any power ups or enemies can be placed in those cells, but additional terrain cannot be put there (prevents impossible to navigate through walls). Likewise, particularly spastic enemies may require a wide berth of other enemies and terrain, but power ups can exist nearby.

Each encounter card contributes to the BOSS Quota. When that quota is filled, you get to play a boss card. This means you can only play a boss entity every once in a while and not all the time. Keeps them special. In addition to this, certain enounters may require a bit of BOSS Quota to use. For instance, a string of enemies may be paid for with three quota points. The quota can not drop below a certain point, which is based on how far the hero has traveled. So if the hero is on the third cell, the quota can be zero. If the hero is on the hundredth cell, the quota must be at least 75 or something.

To gain quota, certain types of enemies or enemy combos may get it for you. How well the hero player is doing may increase the multiplier (meaning that if the hero hasn't died in a while, you'll have increased quota building, so you can pump out more difficult encounters more regularly). Also, throwing out power up encounters can earn you some quick quota points. Basically, the quota is the balancing factor. The better you do, the less quota you get, the better the hero does, the more quota you receive.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.