Watch 'em ups are a newly emerged genre of game that appear to bear the key properties of beat 'em ups, but are actually far less interactive. Their existence is entirely due to the popularization of Quick Time Events. A watch 'em up looks like the type of experience arcade born gamers love and cherish, but they are actually hollow and unsatisfying experiences in comparison. The reason they feel like this is because they are comprised primarily of what I call "low interaction mechanics".
The best way to describe the game Lollipop Chainsaw is this; Bayonetta's awkward, underdeveloped, squeaky voiced, ambitious little sister. Personally, this isn't very surprising as it's a Suda 51 game. In my opinion, he makes interesting things, not fun things, and the game experience is very much a reflection of this.
This weekend I took a current build of Aztez to the EVO fighting game tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those of you unfamiliar with EVO, it is the world's largest fighting game tournament. Highly skilled players fly in from all over the globe to compete in various one-on-one fighting games like Street Fighter, Marvel Vs. Capcom, Mortal Kombat, and more. But it's also an exhibition of all things of interest to the fighting game community. This year, the event organizers tried something really cool; they set up a showcase of 7 indie games they felt the community would enjoy. Aztez was one of those games and the experience was fascinating. I'd like to share the insights I received by having the game up and running, for anyone to play, from roughly 9am to 5pm, for the first two days of the event.
While Kingdom Of Amalur's combat wasn't compelling enough in either direction (good or bad) to dedicate an entire combat analysis post to it, I wanted to address one major mistake the game made that prevented it from feeling a whole lot better than it did. It's frustrating to me personally because it's so easy to correct! The issue I'm about to elaborate on is a perfect example of how one simple nuance can make or break the feel of entire systems.
When you swing a weapon in Amalur and you do NOT cancel it with the next attack in the combo sequence (or it's simply the last attack in the sequence), the attack animation finishes. Now in many situations you want animations to finish playing because interrupted animations can look really bad. But the game's attack animations have a significant amount of follow-through at the end of them. While this is good application of animation principles (most character animations, especially attack animations, should have this follow-through to add weight to the movement), the problem here is that the player's movement input does not cancel this follow-through and it feels super sluggish as a result.
We're getting ready to fuse the fun beat 'em up we've made with the fun turn-based strategy game we've made and concern is growing about whether this fusion will be fun or not. The reason I came up with this fusion in the first place is because I desperately wanted to try something new and shake things up in the hopes that this type of game can be way more fun. Since there's never really been a game like this before (there's been games very similar in concept but not in execution) we don't really have a way of knowing if it's going to work. In the wake of this concern I've been thinking about porn, and the ratio of sex to story.
I've studied these numbers across the year, developer, and even climate. I'm starting with Devil May Cry 1 because I believe that's when the third and most recent age of beat 'em ups began, marked by their migration to consoles after their presence in arcades ended in 1997 after the release of Capcom's Battle Circuit.
- Developer/Director: Capcom/Hideki Kamiya
- Released: October 2001
- Units Sold: 2.7 Million (PS2 exclusive)
- Why: DMC was a hugely publicized launch-era title (end of the first year) for the PS2, as it should have been. It essentially ushered in the new age of the genre by introducing so many innovations and novelties it changed the face of the action game completely and its influence is still felt today. Its success was no marketing phenomenon though; it's an incredibly solid product.
- Developer/Director: Capcom/Hideaki Itsuno
- Released: January 2003
- Units Sold: 1.8 Million (PS2 exclusive)
- Why: DMC2 was taken from Kamiya and given to Itsuno, a then newcomer to combat. The game just wasn't very solid as either a game or a combat experience (I think it somehow got worse) but it had the already all-powerful DMC brand attached to it and that got it into the hands of a lot of people. For what it's worth, Itsuno would eventually prove himself as a remarkable action game director.
Hi! This is the development website for our game Aztez, a hybrid of two distinct game types: sidescrolling real-time beat 'em up gameplay (the deep and expressive kind) and turn-based strategy gameplay (like a board game). This website serves two purposes; a technical journal on the analysis and creation of combat heavy beat 'em up games (table of contents here), and a news source for development and progress of Aztez. Here's the most ecent "devplay" video in which I play the game and ramble into my headset about recently implemented mechanics.
VIDEO UPDATED ON March 4th, 2013!
What exactly happens to the entities in a combat play space when they get struck by an attack is important for two reasons: because the player needs to be punished for making a mistake and allowing themselves to get struck, and also because the player needs to feel a certain way when they successfully strike enemies. But there are a lot of factors involved in a struck event both on the player and enemy entity side of the equation, and these properties can be mixed up in various ways to control EXACTLY where the player lands on the emotional spectrum when entities get struck.
I asked followers of the Aztez twitter account and fans of the Aztez facebook page which environment they wanted me to build next and they voted for Chapultepec! I also promised a timelapse of the construction. Here it is!
As it turns out, I am 50% Mexican and 50%...random European smattering. I don't feel at all connected to my European ancestry and you will never hear me talking about it. In general, I find everything European pretty boring and thinking about that half of my genetic code is just not exciting. Sorry, Mom! I do feel a strange connection to the Mexican side of me, though. It's strange because the Ruiz family (very large extended family of Mexican American Catholics) don't exactly carry around their Mexican ancestry on their sleeve. Despite being fluent Spanish speakers, I never even hear the previous generation speak Spanish unless talking with THEIR elders, and apart from the culinary and holiday traditions, the Ruiz family I am familiar with doesn't really have their heritage on display.
I had a very interesting conversation with a good friend of mine (this particular friend is one of the most technically minded game thinkers I've ever known, as both a player and a designer), where after reading my Bayonetta combat analysis, brought up the issue of discovering mechanics through experimentation. In the combat analysis I mentioned that Bayonetta doesn't appear to have a substantial air game until you discover (and then learn to execute) a specific exploit inherent in this one obscure mechanic. The only reason I knew about this exploit (and a lot of the game's other rules systems and technical properties) was because I bought a specially made guide and I resent the developers for this.
You knew it was coming! The game I regularly rave about as containing the finest combat engine ever devised is going to get its own analysis. It simply doesn't make sense not to. Heads up! This one's going to be a doozy. *cracks knuckles*
"It is not entirely right of me to fault Sony Computer Entertainment Santa Monica for making this game. Surely they knew that all of the above was true, and that all of the above would make a successful game. Shame on them for indulging us, but shame on us for wanting it. Shame on us for coming to expect this sort of skullfucking as 'fun'. This isn’t fun. It’s a nervous tick. It’s a bad habit. It’s obsessive compulsive behavior. It’s going through an entire box of q-tips in a day, because rubbing the inside of your ear feels so good the first time that you just can’t stop, and you eventually start to tell yourself that those little clumps of blood on the cotton are just really dark, moist bits of earwax that you’re better off without."
Action Button Dot Net is a website that has been recently put in my lap by one of its writers. It is an absolute GOLDMINE of sharp and painful truth (monofilament blade sharp). Anything that swims through their highly critical frustum is most likely to get exactly what it deserves, whether you think it should or not, and having absorbed a key collection of the site's writings over the course of the last week I can tell you I feel like I've been repeatedly scraped over a whetstone.
I recently got into a super interesting conversation with the guy that wrote this article on the game God Hand (an entirely remarkable game experience; his write-up is fascinating and worthy of your attention). He's a brazen and intelligent mandude (we need more of these) who at some point in our very engaging conversation asked me an important question. "Why do you do this? Why design and criticize beat 'em ups?" I realized that before I could answer him I had to do a little digging and this is what I brought back up with me from the hot, wet mind-earth.