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Spoon
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"Making STG/shmup bullets/shots that look good" , posted Fri 1 Jan 19:10:post reply

This is a recurring gripe of mine that I got reminded of by the fireworks displays of New Year's and Iggy's praise of the new Darius: there's no excuse for poorly designed bullets in shmups in the year 2016.

There are literally 30 years of STG history to look on, filled with player and enemy bullet designs. A free particle system generator in a free game engine is capable of absolutely ridiculous things that would not have been possible even 20 years ago. In terms of technology and reference material, we've got dozens and dozens of examples of bullets that are both highly legible, beautiful, intriguing, and technically impressive.

Not every game is going to have Ikaruga's black/white theme driving its design, but having the example set by Ikaruga, why can't every STG at least have bullets that look as good as Ikaruga's? It's been literally FIFTEEN YEARS since Ikaruga was released. Everybody has had years and years to study why the bullets in Ikaruga look great.

On the higher end of technical prowess is the continuous laser of Gradius V. I don't expect this from every STG, because it isn't appropriate in every STG, but it's been literally over a decade since Gradius V has been released. It's kind of embarrassing to say that that's still one of the more technically impressive specials!

So what make STG bullets look bad?
STG bullets have a few fundamental functional requirements IMO that are different from many other visual effects:
- clearly legible from the background and from enemies
- bullet "types" must be clearly distinct from each other
- bullet trajectory and bullet shape must not contradict each other (if a bullet is designed to indicate a heading, it's path must not contradict its shape unless it is doing so very clearly/cleverly)
- enemy bullets and player bullets should be distinct from each other, even when large numbers of them are in play
- bullets are often high-frequency in more than one way: a large number of them often get put onto the screen in a short period of time, they often fly very rapidly across the screen, and many sources of bullets may exist at once. It's important that it doesn't just turn into noise, which is a combination of shot pattern design as well as bullet design.

Cheap-looking sprites pasted into with maybe some minimal transparency about the edges always rubs me the wrong way.

In order to satisfy the functional requirements of legibility and distinctiveness, they often are garishly colored. The garish coloring can sometimes communicate a modicum of information about the bullet ("This is a an artillery bullet!" vs. "This is an energy bullet!"), but too many games just leave it at that. There's no interesting secondary animation or effect on the bullet, and/or they use a bland, gradient coloring on the sprite that just seems... bland and lazy. Extremely abstractly designed bullets can totally work! I think especially in the context of games which use 2D sprite bullets with 3D (sometimes really cheap looking 3D...) models for the enemies and backgrounds, choosing not to put more work into the 2D sprite bullets results in an aesthetic where the bullets and the models are poorly unified. This is not to say that all bullets in STGs featuring 3D enemies and BGs must use 3D models for the bullets, though.

Sometime later I'd like to compile an example of lazy, crummy bullets that might be functionally adequate but look crappy. In contrast, there will be some excellent bullets that both satisfy the functional requirements while also being AWESOME. Some games even have some awesome bullets together with some not so awesome bullets. Some sequel games have bullets that are inferior to their predecessors!

Also it's way too late and I've eaten far too much food this New Year's





[this message was edited by Spoon on Sat 2 Jan 11:50]

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Maou
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"Re(1):Making STG/shmup bullets/shots that loo" , posted Sat 2 Jan 04:40post reply

This is why the Cafe is the best. I bet no one else talks about this. Maybe we can get Rugal to come back!
quote:
Not every game is going to have Ikaruga's black/white theme driving its design, but having the example set by Ikaruga, why can't every STG at least have bullets that look as good as Ikaruga's? It's been literally FIFTEEN YEARS since Ikaruga was released. Everybody has had years and years to study why the bullets in Ikaruga look great.
This is because Ikaruga is the best and they are all just respectfully trying to hint that players should be playing Ikaruga rather than their own game.

Strangely, the first bullets I thought of were from Musha Aleste, together with the appealing little canisters that powered you up. Curiously, the small little circle that launches the smart bomb in the original Star Fox was next.





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"Re(1):Making STG/shmup bullets/shots that loo" , posted Tue 5 Jan 06:42post reply

quote:
This is a recurring gripe of mine that I got reminded of by the fireworks displays of New Year's and Iggy's praise of the new Darius: there's no excuse for poorly designed bullets in shmups in the year 2016.

There are literally 30 years of STG history to look on, filled with player and enemy bullet designs. A free particle system generator in a free game engine is capable of absolutely ridiculous things that would not have been possible even 20 years ago. In terms of technology and reference material, we've got dozens and dozens of examples of bullets that are both highly legible, beautiful, intriguing, and technically impressive.

Not every game is going to have Ikaruga's black/white theme driving its design, but having the example set by Ikaruga, why can't every STG at least have bullets that look as good as Ikaruga's? It's been literally FIFTEEN YEARS since Ikaruga was released. Everybody has had years and years to study why the bullets in Ikaruga look great.

On the higher end of technical prowess is the continuous laser of Gradius V. I don't expect this from every STG, because it isn't appropriate in every STG, but it's been literally over a decade since Gradius V has been released. It's kind of embarrassing to say that that's still one of the more technically impressive specials!

So what make STG bullets look bad?
STG bullets have a few fundamental functional requirements IMO that are different from many other visual effects:
- clearly legible from the backgr

-- Message too long, Autoquote has been Snipped --

How about Caladius and Raiden IV? I think they look much better compared to others recently. definetly not better looking than Ikaruga. Bullets don't look bad.





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"Re(2):Making STG/shmup bullets/shots that loo" , posted Wed 28 Dec 05:16post reply

quote:
This is a recurring gripe of mine that I got reminded of by the fireworks displays of New Year's and Iggy's praise of the new Darius: there's no excuse for poorly designed bullets in shmups in the year 2016.

There are literally 30 years of STG history to look on, filled with player and enemy bullet designs. A free particle system generator in a free game engine is capable of absolutely ridiculous things that would not have been possible even 20 years ago. In terms of technology and reference material, we've got dozens and dozens of examples of bullets that are both highly legible, beautiful, intriguing, and technically impressive.

Not every game is going to have Ikaruga's black/white theme driving its design, but having the example set by Ikaruga, why can't every STG at least have bullets that look as good as Ikaruga's? It's been literally FIFTEEN YEARS since Ikaruga was released. Everybody has had years and years to study why the bullets in Ikaruga look great.

On the higher end of technical prowess is the continuous laser of Gradius V. I don't expect this from every STG, because it isn't appropriate in every STG, but it's been literally over a decade since Gradius V has been released. It's kind of embarrassing to say that that's still one of the more technically impressive specials!

So what make STG bullets look bad?
STG bullets have a few fundamental functional requirements IMO that are different from many other visual effects:
- clearly legible from th

-- Message too long, Autoquote has been Snipped --

Is there a good reliable source that has a list of Shmup games released on major consoles? It would be nice to know those indie ones on Steam also. I did play Ikaruga recently and was blow away how amazing it looks and how difficult it is now than before. I am baffled that I was able to do chains and progress to the later stages with just one continue back in the day.

I want to investigate more what Spoon is looking for. I have a lot of catching up to do and need to finish my collection of shmups for the X360. Which I will do now.

Aside from that, any ones I may have missed in the PS3 or for the current consoles? On the same subject, what companies other than GRev, Treasure, Cave, Irem, Taito, Irem, Konami, etc. are well known for Shmups?m





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"Re(3):Making STG/shmup bullets/shots that loo" , posted Wed 28 Dec 05:53post reply

quote:

Aside from that, any ones I may have missed in the PS3 or for the current consoles? On the same subject, what companies other than GRev, Treasure, Cave, Irem, Taito, Irem, Konami, etc. are well known for Shmups?m
I think if you want to go the traditional route, it's better to simply search for what these developers have put on the various services (I would add Capcom to the list, but since the 194X series, Giga Wings 1&2, Gunspike and Gunbird if they own Psikyo's catalogue(?) are only playable on DC and on no modern platform, too bad).

If you want to expand into some of the more interesting takes of the indie realm, your quest might be endless if you don't decide on proper criteria "this is a shooter" and "I wouldn't call that a shooter".
To give one example, recently the 140 developers released THOTH (warning, the sound on the video is very loud), an extremely minimalistic and intense twinstick shooter with a very powerful and oppressive soundtrack.
On the other end of the indie spectrum, Cosmochoria and its naked astronaut lost in a 360 rotating space can also be categorised as a shooter if you squint hard enough.







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"give me cell-shaded bullets or give me death" , posted Thu 29 Dec 04:43post reply

Ah, a fine revival of a fine thread! Will Spoon have more time to expand over New Year's again? I hope so! I have used the intervening year to reflect deeply on bullet design.

Mini-conclusions: I realized what I dislike most about Touhou shooters is their dumb-looking bullets, of which there are far too many to have any room for subtlety in design. On positive examples, it's tough to beat Gradius V's bullets, and I think Astebreed's from 2014 are quite nice, as well. The sad conclusion for the 2D fan seems to be that 3D modeling gives you better bullets using different light gradients and transparencies.

True conclusion: attempting to surpass Ikaruga would be heresy, kneel down and embrace its holy reign forever, and

YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS
YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS





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neo0r0chiaku
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"Re(1):give me cell-shaded bullets or give me " , posted Sat 31 Dec 03:19post reply

quote:
Ah, a fine revival of a fine thread! Will Spoon have more time to expand over New Year's again? I hope so! I have used the intervening year to reflect deeply on bullet design.

Mini-conclusions: I realized what I dislike most about Touhou shooters is their dumb-looking bullets, of which there are far too many to have any room for subtlety in design. On positive examples, it's tough to beat Gradius V's bullets, and I think Astebreed's from 2014 are quite nice, as well. The sad conclusion for the 2D fan seems to be that 3D modeling gives you better bullets using different light gradients and transparencies.

True conclusion: attempting to surpass Ikaruga would be heresy, kneel down and embrace its holy reign forever, and

YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS
YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS YE SHALL BE AS GODS



Never came across any Touhou games. Interesting what you have stated since I kind of feel the same about Cave games. Not only do you have a hell of bullets, but those bonus/score icons flooding the screen makes things look even worst. Its already confusing as it is.

Has anyone even managed to beat Ikaruga with no continues? I only managed to get to stage 4 back when the game originally came out on Dreamcast. Me personally I believe Radiant Silvergun was far more difficult. Ikaruga was simple (two colors) and difficult while Radiant Silvergun was complex (multiple weapons) and difficult.

Aside from that, I will continue this investigative subject on bullets with the following games:
DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou
Akai Katana
Deathsmiles
Espgaluda II Black Label
Bullet Soul
Assault Suit Leynos
Ginga Force
Eschatos
Otomedius
Raiden V
Caladius Blaze





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