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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperPlaytestingJetboard Joust: Defender-Inspired Future-Retro Roguelike SHMUP
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bitbulldotcom
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« on: March 22, 2018, 07:12:25 AM »

MAJOR UPDATE  Cheesy

I'm gonna be releasing the first batch of beta builds in the next few days. Please sign up here.





====

Whoops - been keeping a DevLog for ages but only just noticed this forum for playtesting (doh)!

Jetboard Joust is a visually striking future-retro shooter in which you use a vast array of ridiculous weaponry to stop hordes of aliens from abducting your precious babies and turning them into mutants.

It's very much inspired by classic arcade shooters of the past, such as Defender and Joust, but with shedloads of extra features and modern indiegame twists. And it's kind of a very belated sequel to a (frankly pretty terrible) game I released on the ZX Spectrum around 30 years ago called Skateboard Joust.

You can download the game here... all feedback much appreciated. This is an alpha so the number of enemies and weapons is very limited, there'll be a ton more in the beta - keep an eye on the DevLog and/or Twitter for details.

Also on itch...

https://bitbulldotcom.itch.io/jetboardjoust

====



« Last Edit: January 29, 2020, 05:29:57 AM by bitbulldotcom » Logged

M.Knight
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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2018, 04:13:07 AM »

Hello!

I just played a few runs of your demo up until the 03-02 level. I have a few comments about it :

- The monochrome art style is pretty nice, but at the same time it makes it kinda difficult to notice what floor items are important and what aren't. More color variations could help with that.

-The death and respawn animations take a bit too long. That breaks the game's pace too much IMO.

-I would ditch the limited ammo mechanic. Not only it is annoying for a new player to run out of shots and have to check the entire stage to scavenge more ammo, but it becomes useless for a more experienced player as he is likely to never run out of ammo. Besides, new ammo boxes seem to spawn as soon as your ammo is depleted, so there's not much point to it.

-The movement controls felt unprecise and floaty at first, but I kinda got used to them after a while. To be honest, I am not a fan of the original Defender controls and all those old Western arcade shmups with tons of inertia of other physics-based bullshit. There is a reason Japanese and (good) modern shmups ditched them.

If you are going for Defender-style movement, then I suppose you suceeded. I don't think those are mandatory though : Resogun does not have any inertia in its controls for example.

-Some of the enemies feel like they have too much health. Owls for example, but even the second skateboarding enemy is too bulky.

-Doesn't the boost make you invincible? I think I died once when boosting in an enemy's face.

-Speaking of boosting, why is it so limited? Boosting through enemies is the most fun mechanic in your game, don't hinder it so much. What is really cool about it, on top of the destructive ability it has, is the way you can use it to gather several enemies near you and more easily get the combo bonus for taking them all out in a single hit.

Instead of granting them from time to time with dropped items on the floor, I suggest some sort of jauge or counter that increases with every enemy destroyed and regularly grants you additionnal boosts when you pass some thresholds. Treat the boost as a secondary weapon instead of an emergency thing you use only once or twice in the entire game and I am sure it will be more fun.

Your game is named "Jetboard Joust", not "Jetboard Trying-to-align-with-the-enemies-to-fire-at-them-with-my-peashooter-while-very-occasionally-jousting", so live up to it!  Wink

-The player starts out on the floor. When I first tried out the controls, I boosted in a wall and died, which was a bummer. Why not spawn the player on top of a building instead, or even better, make boosts destroy buildings instead of killing you if you happen to collide with one?

-I am not a fan of upgrading in general and I approached the game with an arcade mindset so the upgrades didn't sit right with me. It can also be a pain developement-wise as you would have to balance everything (coin drops, upgrade power, etc.). In my case, i never managed to get enough cash to upgrade anything other than the pistol after finishing the first stage, which is a bit of a let-down.

-The static noise effect on the upgrade screen is rather good looking, but I would only apply it to the BG and not the text I am trying to read.

-I had to stop playing after ~3 runs because the BG camera movements were making me feel nauseous. I tend to feel a bit sick in some first person 3D games but usually not with 2D games. The camera is flailing around a lot and it is kinda disorienting. Maybe putting the player character at the horizontal center of the screen at all times can help alleviate this issue?

-I don't like the Vlambeer-style camera shake. Every single action makes the camera shake. Even touching the ground and shooting makes the camera shake. That does not help with the aforementioned camera movement issues. I suggest an option to disable the camera shakes.

-The music is alright!

-When a civilian is abducted, the only indications we have are the message as well as the radar on top. Why not also have an arrow on the side of the screen, just like you do for items?

-On the name entry screen, the listed controls display some letter keys to perform the action - for example, "X" to confirm the name. However, presing X simply adds "X" to the name.


I hope all that feedback was helpful. Good luck!
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bitbulldotcom
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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2018, 02:43:03 AM »

Hey,

Thanks for playing and for taking the time to give such detailed feedback - it's really useful! I don't agree with everything you say as you might expect but there's a lot there I can really work with so, again, thanks! I've added some responses below...

Quote
The monochrome art style is pretty nice, but at the same time it makes it kinda difficult to notice what floor items are important and what aren't. More color variations could help with that.

I think I'm going to stick with monochrome as I've had loads of good feedback about the art style, what I may do is add additional palettes as you play and possibly different palettes for groups of things (background/foreground etc) but essentially I want it all to work in monochrome. I thought the big arrows pointing to stuff on the ground were pretty clear  Wink

Quote
The death and respawn animations take a bit too long. That breaks the game's pace too much IMO.

Hmmm - I'll have a think about that. It would be pretty simple to speed that up a bit. I hadn't ever really considered it an issue but I know I can get annoyed by games where you just want to get straight back into the action. If you click a button whilst the scrolling is going on I think it should skip some of it.

Quote
I would ditch the limited ammo mechanic. Not only it is annoying for a new player to run out of shots and have to check the entire stage to scavenge more ammo, but it becomes useless for a more experienced player as he is likely to never run out of ammo. Besides, new ammo boxes seem to spawn as soon as your ammo is depleted, so there's not much point to it.

This is something that I'm continually debating. It does very much have a point as the later weapons you pick up (there's sixteen of them now) are very powerful and with unlimited usage the game would be far too easy. However, I agree it does seem rather pointless with the pistol as this is the default weapon and the one that automatically creates a drop when you run out of ammo. I was considering just making that infinite ammo anyway and might well do that. Many FPSs have a default basic weapon with unlimited ammo so it's a fairly tried and tested mechanic I guess.

With the other weapons I did consider ditching the ammo pickups and instead have a limited amount of ammo per weapon 'drop' (and more drops), or extending the mechanic of hijacking an enemy's weapon when you catch their jetboard. That wouldn't work for non-jetboarding enemies though, or bosses.

Quote
The movement controls felt unprecise and floaty at first, but I kinda got used to them after a while. To be honest, I am not a fan of the original Defender controls and all those old Western arcade shmups with tons of inertia of other physics-based bullshit. There is a reason Japanese and (good) modern shmups ditched them.

If you are going for Defender-style movement, then I suppose you suceeded. I don't think those are mandatory though : Resogun does not have any inertia in its controls for example.

Haha - I suspect that is a personal taste thing. Personally I much prefer the feel and gameplay of Defender to some of the other side-scrolling SHMUPs like Nemesis and its ilk which always felt too 'on rails' to me and kind of lifeless. I will take a look at Resogun. Generally feedback on the controls had been good.

Quote
Some of the enemies feel like they have too much health. Owls for example, but even the second skateboarding enemy is too bulky.

You could be right - I think I have nerfed those a bit since the alpha. Also there are too many of them early on. They are really annoying to kill with the pistol but much easier to take out with other weapons such as the shotgun, that's partly intentional but I have already adjusted them a bit.

Quote
Doesn't the boost make you invincible? I think I died once when boosting in an enemy's face.

Yeah, it should do. I did fix some bugs to do with that but can't remember if it was post-alpha or not. I will keep an eye on that one!

Quote
Speaking of boosting, why is it so limited? Boosting through enemies is the most fun mechanic in your game, don't hinder it so much. What is really cool about it, on top of the destructive ability it has, is the way you can use it to gather several enemies near you and more easily get the combo bonus for taking them all out in a single hit.

Instead of granting them from time to time with dropped items on the floor, I suggest some sort of jauge or counter that increases with every enemy destroyed and regularly grants you additionnal boosts when you pass some thresholds. Treat the boost as a secondary weapon instead of an emergency thing you use only once or twice in the entire game and I am sure it will be more fun.

Good points on the boost. Originally it was going to be the main weapon but it was too difficult to use without invincibility and too powerful with it so I settled on the current mechanic as kind of a compromise. I do want to bring it back in more but have to watch it doesn't make things too easy.

There is actually a 'gauge' as you suggest but it works behind the scenes. The ammo/health/rocket drops are not random but pretty carefully calculated. I do like the idea of having something the player sees though that charges up somehow, this could work well. I'm not sure where I'd fit it in as the HUD is pretty tight and I'm happy with it but I will give that serious thought as I do really like the idea.

Quote
Your game is named "Jetboard Joust", not "Jetboard Trying-to-align-with-the-enemies-to-fire-at-them-with-my-peashooter-while-very-occasionally-jousting", so live up to it!  Wink

Haha - again, good point. I did also consider more of a nerfed 'joust' attack as the basic attack where you just ram enemies with the jetboard without jumping off it. There are issues with that though, mainly how does it work against the non-jetboarding enemies.

'Peashooter' is funny. I am tempted to rename the basic weapon that!

Quote
The player starts out on the floor. When I first tried out the controls, I boosted in a wall and died, which was a bummer. Why not spawn the player on top of a building instead, or even better, make boosts destroy buildings instead of killing you if you happen to collide with one?

Again, good points. I really don't like the way you can die like that either. Destroying buildings could work. Another thing that I had considered was just to stop the guy in mid-air do he lands safely on the jetboard regardless.

Quote
I am not a fan of upgrading in general and I approached the game with an arcade mindset so the upgrades didn't sit right with me. It can also be a pain developement-wise as you would have to balance everything (coin drops, upgrade power, etc.). In my case, i never managed to get enough cash to upgrade anything other than the pistol after finishing the first stage, which is a bit of a let-down.

Again, I think this is a personal taste thing. Upgrading is pretty key to the game and there are a gazillion very popular games out there with upgrade mechanics so I don't think you can really discount it. I've tuned it so you should get roughly one upgrade per level to start with (assuming you bother to pick up the coins). This has a pretty dramatic effect on each weapon's usefulness. Also upgrades remain consistent between playthroughs but you probably figured that out. You should be able to pick up the shotgun after the second level and start upgrading that pretty quickly too. 

The main jetsuit/jetboard are deliberately tough to earn upgrades for but these will also be awarded in-game for defeating optional miniboss type enemies.

I'm also going to be adding more cash bonuses for the first time a level is completed and for completing a level 'row'.

Quote
The static noise effect on the upgrade screen is rather good looking, but I would only apply it to the BG and not the text I am trying to read.

Hmmm - will take a look. That might look a bit odd. No-one else has flagged that as an issue. I may be able to add something to the shader so that the text distorts less but I think separating it totally from the background will look off.

Quote
I had to stop playing after 3 runs because the BG camera movements were making me feel nauseous. I tend to feel a bit sick in some first person 3D games but usually not with 2D games. The camera is flailing around a lot and it is kinda disorienting. Maybe putting the player character at the horizontal center of the screen at all times can help alleviate this issue?

Fair points. No-one else has really brought this up but I agree it does swing about rather drastically. Part of me likes the way it does this, at points it can feel very dramatic and cool, but it can also be quite disorientating as you say. I will put in an option to turn it off, maybe even to adjust the amount of auto-panning it does.

Ironically I tend to play it with the camera fixed centre most of the time as it's impossible to capture small GIFs otherwise. It make it much easier to line up jumps and react with certain weapons when you have  longer range of vision though.

Quote
I don't like the Vlambeer-style camera shake. Every single action makes the camera shake. Even touching the ground and shooting makes the camera shake. That does not help with the aforementioned camera movement issues. I suggest an option to disable the camera shakes.

I will almost definitely add this. I really like the camera shake and it seems to have become pretty much an expected trope of this type of game but I can understand why some people may not dig it.

Quote
The music is alright!

Thanks!  Cheesy

Quote
When a civilian is abducted, the only indications we have are the message as well as the radar on top. Why not also have an arrow on the side of the screen, just like you do for items?

Good idea! I will definitely try this out, also maybe something to make it more obvious on the radar.

Quote
On the name entry screen, the listed controls display some letter keys to perform the action - for example, "X" to confirm the name. However, presing X simply adds "X" to the name.

Yeah, that one I know about. Thanks for pointing it out though.

Quote
I hope all that feedback was helpful. Good luck!

It's been extremely helpful so thank you for providing it! Keep an eye on this thread and/or the DevLog and I'd love to have your input at beta or pre-beta stage which is hopefully not too far away...
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M.Knight
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« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2018, 11:22:30 AM »

The kind of shoot'em ups I play are mostly Japanese and arcade-style, so that's why several of my comments are indeed personal preference. If you have a certain style of shmup you want to create that's a bit different from those standards, why not but I would be careful not to move too far away from some of the basics that makes these games timeless and fast-paced. On the other-hand, you can afford some freedom as you are mixing genres.

About some of the other points :

- Monochrome art : Sorry if it wasn't clear; I am not recommending ditching the monochrome aesthetic, but adding a higher diversity of shades to make some items stand out even more if needed. Increasing the variation within each color, in other words.

-Ammo mechanic : Wow, some of those other weapons look like a ton of fun! The Gravity Hammer in particular is hilarous. It is pretty clear that these weapons are much more powerful than the main pistol and that they should have limited ammo. Having the main pistol fire an infinite amount of bullets alongside ammo-limited powerful weapons is a setup that works rather well in Einhander and I think it can fit your game too.

-Jousting : Having a joust attack as a replacement for the pistol would change the game feel a lot I think, as it would become much more melee-centric. You also mentioned some balance issues which are absolutely valid. Having the ability to joust a bit more often would be nice though.

-Upgrading : Yup, it's a matter of taste. I actually prefer having relatively static weaponry, or several fighters/ships/characters with their own weapons if there are more playstyles and weapons.

If you can balance the upgrades for the entire game, that's nice! One thing that I would suggest is to make sure more than one upgrade's first threshold can be reached after the first level. When I played, I could only upgrade the pistol and that goes counter to what the upgrade screen promises, which is a relative amount of customization. Here, for the first level at least, I am actually locked to a linear route with the pistol. The only other choice I have is to not upgrade at all. I don't think this leaves a good first impression of the system if I can't even experiment a bit with it when the game presents it to me.

-Camera shakes : Thanks for the toggle!
While many modern indie games use lots of camera shake, it isn't mandatory IMO. If you take a look at classic and modern arcade shmups, if they use camera shaking, it's only at very specific moments such as a mid-boss or a boss exploding, to add some stylishness to it. However, they manage to make the other explosions and actions feel good with the sound design, or the visual effects, not with the camera shaking trick which is actually super cheap, can interfere with lisibility and requires much less effort than those other effects.


I can't promise anything but I can playtest the future versions if I have the time.  Smiley
« Last Edit: April 18, 2018, 11:29:43 AM by M.Knight » Logged

bitbulldotcom
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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2018, 05:46:20 AM »

Hey - just wanted to say thanks again for the input. I am  going to take all that stuff on board. Working on bosses at the moment but hopefully in a few weeks time I'll be on to balancing the 'final' gameplay...

Quote
One thing that I would suggest is to make sure more than one upgrade's first threshold can be reached after the first level. When I played, I could only upgrade the pistol and that goes counter to what the upgrade screen promises, which is a relative amount of customization. Here, for the first level at least, I am actually locked to a linear route with the pistol. The only other choice I have is to not upgrade at all. I don't think this leaves a good first impression of the system if I can't even experiment a bit with it when the game presents it to me.

I take your point here but it's difficult to offer the player more than one upgrade after the first level as they will only have one weapon unlocked at this point. I guess I could unlock a second weapon by default but I'm a bit loathe to do this as I prefer them to be 'earned' by raiding the enemies jetboards. I don't really want to introduce enemies armed with anything else other than the pistol in the first level either - consequently I am unsure how to offer more than one upgrade but it's something I shall ponder!

cheers
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bitbulldotcom
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2018, 06:48:25 AM »

Just to prove I do listen to feedback - implemented a bunch of the above suggestions here.

Keep 'em coming...

 Smiley
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M.Knight
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2018, 12:26:04 PM »

I enjoyed reading that thorough analysis on the blog post!  Hand Thumbs Up Right
The whole removing the "no fun" parts thing also seems a very good method to improve a game. And it sounds so simple when you put it this way.
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nkm
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« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2018, 12:45:32 PM »

Played a bit:

Pro's:
  • Controls are perfect.
  • I actually like the inertia here, it feels natural.
  • I like the fact that everything you do has audio-visual feedback. It seems very polished.
  • The gameboy-like art style and sfx are excellent.

Con's:
  • The obvious lack of content.

Your core gameplay and controls are solid in my opinion. Well done! A nice foundation to build upon.

nkm
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bitbulldotcom
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« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2018, 09:51:53 AM »

Pro's:
  • Controls are perfect.
  • I actually like the inertia here, it feels natural.
  • I like the fact that everything you do has audio-visual feedback. It seems very polished.
  • The gameboy-like art style and sfx are excellent.

Con's:
  • The obvious lack of content.

Your core gameplay and controls are solid in my opinion. Well done! A nice foundation to build upon.

nkm

Thanks very much for the feedback - glad you like it! I spent a lot of time on the AV feedback so it's good to know these things don't go unnoticed!

There'll be a ton more content in the final version , at least 20 different enemy times plus almost 20 different weapons and 5 boss type enemies. Most of this is done  Grin
 
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bitbulldotcom
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2020, 05:28:00 AM »

Well, it's been a while but tons of progress has been made and I'm about to release the first batch of beta builds for PC and MacOS.

If you fancy giving Jetboard Joust a spin please sign up for the beta here.



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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2020, 11:33:18 AM »

There doesn't seem to be anywhere to try the game out now (the download links just go to the main page). Is it only available by signing up for the beta?
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« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2020, 10:34:24 PM »

The subscribe button does not work for me. I assume it's because of tracking scripts on the page that my browser/vpn is blocking. I'm not interested in adding the discord channel because I barely use discord.

It would sure be nice if there was a direct download link, or better yet put the game on itch.io even if it's just a one-level demo.

Which platforms are supported?
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bitbulldotcom
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2020, 11:34:38 PM »

Hello everyone! Sorry for the lack of response, I've been in something of a dev-hole the past few months.

A very belated update from me to say that the beta is still available but will only be so for another three weeks or so as the jetboard Joust will (finally) be launching on Steam Oct 23rd! Beer!

So, if you want to give it a go and pass on your feedback please do! Direct download links for Mac and PC are available here. The game has come on a long way!

And.. for some reason none of the image I post are showing up any more



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