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Outpost Recon is a game currently under development for Android, iOS and potentially Steam in the future. On this site I’ll be documenting all the ups and downs of bringing the game to life and my closer examinations and thoughts on the various mechanics involved. As I progress I’ll also be expanding the site with new sections and features. I hope the game looks interesting and you enjoy sharing the journey!

Weapons Testing

Weapons are ready. Enemies are ready enough. It was time to put them together and see how this game was going to feel.

I setup a very simple level without many hard obstacles to avoid so I could focus on how the shooting felt. This was also the first time I started exporting to Android so I could test it on my tablet and phone. If there is ever any advice I can give it is to do on-device testing much, much earlier than I did. It can reveal a lot about your game and save you reworking mechanics that you thought would work on a touch device but really you had no idea.

Things were looking good! The weapon was nice and responsive, aiming was almost too easy, I was fairly happy with the animations and punch of the screen shake. But now it came down to one big question: What direction was I going to go for the type of shooter I was trying to create? Very quickly I realized that this style of weapon wouldn’t work in a more traditional shoot em up with lots of enemies on the screen at once. It was time to weigh up the many pros and cons of the various options ahead of me.

It has been a while since I was able to sneak a list in to the blog so here are some of the bigger inspirations I have from a shoot em up perspective. I think all of these games stand the test of time very well and are still worth a play. Also some amazing soundtracks. Looking at you, Thunder Force IV.

  • 1992 – Thunder Force IV – Technosoft – Sega Genesis
  • 1995 – Tyrian – Eclipse Software – PC
  • 1994 – Raptor: Call of the Shadows – Cygnus Studios – PC
  • 1992 – Aero Fighters – Video System – SNES / Arcade
  • 1991 – Super R-Type – Irem – SNES
  • 1989 – Gradius III – Konami – SNES / Arcade

Both Tyrian and Raptor are available for quite cheap prices on GOG in updated versions with modern system support. I can’t recommend either of them enough.

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Target Dummies

With the base weapon system functioning it was time to make something to actually shoot at. A nagging voice in the back of my mind kept telling me to simply make some plain squares or circles for testing, but where is the fun in that?

I already had some idea of what the enemies in the game would be like. An entirely organic hive species with many different castes to fill different roles. The basic worker unit would be your most common enemy and would come in small swarms akin to grouped pathing enemies in side scrolling shooters.

For a quick point of reference I also want to show what the first draft of base enemies looked like in the original low resolution pixel art style. They were one of the sprites that started making me think that I needed a bit more resolution. Also they look way too much like lanky metroids. This design was from when I was leaning away from more traditional side scrolling shooter style enemy patterns. The ‘floaters’ would make their way around the screen in semi random patterns.

I knew I wanted enemies to have a somewhat aquatic nature to them and the shift from the jelly fish like ‘floaters’ in to ‘squids’ for more predetermined enemy paths seemed like a logical step. Above are a collection of the original concept designs I was playing around with.

As you can see from the lower concept designs I started leaning heavily towards one style. In the end my solution was to do a bit of each of them. The enemies could be spawned in via the Sewing Machine while giving various ‘mutations’ to individual members of that swarm. So some could have heavier armor, projectile capabilities, ramming AI, etc. Some cheaty recoloring and zone based variables to change speed or health could also help to mix up the gameplay somewhat.

Now to get them in the game. I decided for testing I would give them a very basic movement logic that would cycle between short bursts of movement towards or away from the player (while still staying on screen) followed by a pause. This wasn’t at all how I expected them to behave in the final game but it would be handy for testing aiming. As a final touch I made it so they’d lock on to the player after a set number of cycles and fly directly in to them.

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Tools of the trade

The original plan for touch controls in Outpost Recon was pretty simple. Hold down anywhere left of the Rover on the screen to charge your jump, tap or hold anywhere to the right to fire there. Each weapon would have different stats for recharge speed, rounds per magazine, damage, projectile speed, etc. This would let me make a variety of different feeling weapons with only a few variables that would be easy to tweak in testing. The default weapon was set to be a low recharge, zero magazine size hitscan weapon which would be easy to use for beginners. With only a few variable tweaks you could turn it in to a higher firing rate weapon with a magazine to deplete before needing to reload.

At this point the most important thing was to just get it working so I could see how it felt to use and then put it up against some dummy enemies. Of course it would need some simple animations to go with it too!

Initial results turned out well. The weapon has a nice weighty feel, the screen shake felt appropriate and the on-sprite animation for reloading was easy to see. In the future I would likely change the flash animation and add more particle effects to give it more oomph. The beam itself is being created by using a line render with a texture applied to it. After firing it begins a fade animation.

The next question would be, how does this feel against enemies? I was also at a turning point to decide if I wanted to go with a more typical side scrolling shooter style of enemy patterns on set flight paths or if I wanted something a bit more floaty and randomized. Would the enemies have projectiles and if not what would be the point of shooting them as they flew past? Would ‘points’ be enough reward? If they had projectiles it would be extremely hard to avoid them purely by jumping and you’d often need to save that for the much more deadly terrain obstacles.

This line of questions is why it’s a great idea to get as much of your game functional as possible before worrying about graphics (and then multiple major graphical upgrades…).

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What is Outpost Recon?Outpost Recon is a side scrolling shooter / runner hybrid that pays homage to very early classics in the genre. In the game you travel across the map collecting intel, avoiding obstacles and blasting enemies. It will feature both a large collection of hand built levels and infinite sections to test your skills.

When will it be released?There is currently no set ETA as the game is under development as a hobby project and my workload changes week to week.