When you’re trying to create a funky new indie game with a retro flair, the first place to look is the good old Nintendo. Not to mention, I’ll take any excuse to bust out my NES. When we were originally putting the Touch of Death concept together, the first place I went was to a game called Kung Fu.
The core concept of Touch of Death features a centered character making high and low strikes through Shaolin inspired movements. Kung Fu, features a hero that uses high punches and low kicks against about 6 different types of enemies. It uses characters with long, protracted attack animations that project where and when they will hit (especially on bosses). This is exactly the type of reactionary play I want to emulate, except we’ll be doing it with enemies that move at different speeds and are more timed to our music. Kung Fu also features levels that scroll both to the left and to the right. It’s a simple flip of my draw surface to accomplish the same effect in our engine. That’s definitely going in.
There’s also value in exploring some beat em ups. Games like Double Dragon, River City Ransom and even Renegade have some excellent examples of how to simulate the ‘you vs. an unruly mob of unfortunate to be there enemies’ feel that we need to accomplish. I like how all the games have little tweaks to their AIs in how handle enemies during their downtimes. You’ll see how they slow down, but never stop, moving around the player if possible. This actively keeps the player engaged on all the enemies on the screen, as opposed to just the one directly in front of him. If you keep punching that rube in the face for too long, his partner is going to shank you in the back, or the guy on the other end of the screen is going to throw a pipe at your head. We need to add more elements like this, I think adding a few types of enemy with a ranged attack that you would need to punch out of the air, would do the trick, plus it would be in keeping with the circus like antics of heavily choreographed Hong Kong cinema fights.
Finally, you can’t pull out the NES without playing some Ninja Gaiden. Or some Ninja Gaiden II. These games were phenomenal, and for my purposes, the sequel employs some of the most wicked physics on any platform, in two very different ways:
Environmental Physics: high winds, icy terrain, dark backgrounds, and even occasional total losses of light help to keep this game fresh from level to level. We were originally intending on using weather elements mostly as post process filters to create more levels, stretch out our art a bit more, and add some challenge. But revisiting this game reminded me that you need to incorporate all those elements constantly, and consistently to use them to their maximum benefit. If I can even turn these effects on and off mid level, it will go a long way to making a simple side scroller gain a lot of character, and allows for some really dynamic levels, especially in an Endless Mode sense.
Enemy Movement Physics: those damn eagles in particular. They are a perfect example of how you can use a simple acceleration on a bad guy as opposed to moving him at a linear rate to make their timing so much more difficult. There’s a whole heirarchy of enemy difficulty in fact, and it’s relation to their movement is not coincidence: it was painfully laid out level by level. Easy enemies move at linear rates, then come enemies that bounce at you, but at linear speed, then come enemies that move slowly, and then accelerate when you’re close. Finally come the rat-bastard eagles (4-bars of health, really?) who move fast, at a non-constant rate, and take advantage of large y-axis swooping motions to throw off timing even more. They’re a medusa head from Castlevania on crack, who if they miss, they turn around and try again. This, needs to be a late level Touch of Death ninja. In fact, this whole game provides some great guidelines of how you can use different rates of movement to make 2 normally easy enemies, very, very deadly when you have to fight them in close quarters.
I’ve always known there is insight available in classic old games. And when you’re building a simple engine, it’s good to draw inspiration from some of the games that did it best, and did it with a lot less.
PS – For the funk lovers out there, I found a funky search engine that actually played Dr. Funkenstein when I first looked at it. Seems legit
For the music fans: this week has been heavily b-boy influenced so here’s some b-boy favorites, featuring some greats and some newer bands keepin it fresh and funky: