The Difficulty That Was Undecided

The Turtle Who Had Wings Logo (Placeholder 4)

As I continue work on The Turtle Who Had Wings, I’m slowly reaching the point where certain things I’ve been putting off need to be added. Two things I haven’t yet really touched will be the subject of today’s post. Those are: bosses and difficulty settings.

I can’t exactly completely ignore bosses, given that the plot demands their inclusion, the players would yell at me if I didn’t include them, and the game is short enough already. Difficulty settings aren’t strictly necessary but would be nice. These are two separate subjects, so I suppose I’ll tackle bosses first.

The Problem with Bosses

One thing that worries me in designing bosses is how I can design them without making them laughably easy. As you may be aware of by this point, The Turtle Who Had Wings makes heavy use of a targeting system. Most techniques will still work without a target, but some of these are fairly weak or lack a niche compared to other moves on the same character under those conditions. To clarify, here’s a list of moves for each character, with moves that require targeting crossed outmoves that are pointless without targeting underlined and moves that don’t care italicized:

  • Magnet: Magnetic Holdup, Rail Pulse, Magnetic Implosion, Magnetic Pull, Mega Magnetic Implosion, Burn the Ashes
  • Spark: Volcanic Eruption, Phoenix Blaze, Raining Talons, Shell Slider, Phoenix Wingbeat, Burn the Ashes
  • Shock: Sprite Burst, Zoom Slash, Shock Strike, Shocking Dash, Sprite Blitz, Deafening Thunder
  • Paisonya: Entrapment, Puppet Ballet, Sound Wave, Spiked Dash, Puppet March, Deafening Thunder
  • Ruyo: Arise, Blaster Shot, Jikangan, Sun Burn, Combo Attack, Blades of Havoc
  • Shi: Pinning Blades, Shield Shot, Whip Crack, Power Attack, Enemy Capture/Shot, Blades of Havoc

As you can see, aside from the completely immune Spark, every character has at least one move that doesn’t work without targeting, and three have a move that’s pointless without targeting, but Magnet and Shi effectively lose half of their respective movesets. Also, while every character here only starts with two of these moves (one of which is a high-cost combination attack), the normal attacks each character starts with all work fine except for Ruyo and Shi, who’d much prefer you unlock other moves before the boss fights (as their starting moves are just about pointless without targeting). An interesting position for them to be in, since they have the most boss fights in total.

There is, of course, a perfectly logical option in not disabling the mechanic for boss fights, but then I end up in a situation like Senran Kagura BURST. Here are two videos to explain what I mean, the first (gameplay from 1:24 to 3:56) has the player playing the game normally, the second (gameplay from 1:21 to 2:31) has the player using the so-called “risky” mechanic where they trade defense for power. Both videos are the final boss fights for these characters, so only the bonus boss is harder for these two.

As you can see, both fights are a joke due to certain mechanics that weren’t disabled for boss fights (launching the enemy and comboing in the air in the first, and the risky fighting style in the second). The only reason any of the bosses may be hard is because they have minions to distract you, only give you the health you had left from the preceeding level, or combo you back if you give them a moment to breathe.

That said, I absolutely hate it when a game turns off mechanics against bosses, like how JRPGs make bosses immune to status ailments when there’s no sense using them against normal enemies. In those cases, I wonder why the mechanics even exist, though that’s not as much of an issue in this case.

Potential Difficulty Settings

Well, it’s not as if I have a solution for those, so I may as well move on to the other issue. Difficulty. As you may know, most of The Turtle Who Had Wings‘ difficulty stems from two main threads: The multiplier mechanic and enemy density. I’d rather not mess with enemy density, given potential performance and spacing issues that would need to be thoroughly tested on every level of the game (yes, that has been as much of a concern as actual difficulty thus far). However, the multiplier mechanic is completely ripe for this sort of thing, as I found out thanks to Atman’s feedback from the latest internal build.

To recap how that mechanic works, all stats for the player characters are influenced by three different values: Health, Stamina and Sync. The multiplier starts with ×0.01, then ×0.33 multiplied by the percentages of each of those values is added to it, defaulting to ×1.00, though it can go to ×1.33 if Sync is maxed out (nothing else can result in a multiplier over ×1.00 except temporary power-ups).

KIU Intensity

So, of course, an obvious way to adjust that mechanic would be to mess with that ×0.33 with some sort of slider, then use that to mess with the player’s score at the end. This actually reminds me of Kid Icarus: Uprising, which I’d previously said I’d wanted to borrow from, quite a while back.

Another thing I could have the player decide before entering a level, following the same thread of borrowing from Kid Icarus: Uprising, is the amount of money they bring into a level. This would work similarly to betting hearts in that game, except the amount brought into the level has a functional purpose and isn’t tied to the other setting. As you may know, money in levels are essentially lives, so this would pretty much be the player ballparking how much they’ll die when playing.

Unity-NGUI Comparison

Both of these could be put on a screen after picking a level but before starting it, in addition to choosing which character to start the level as. I’m actually working on implementing these systems during my currently rehaul of the menus to move from Unity’s terrible built-in UI system to a popular third-party one that runs better, makes more logical sense, and looks better even when just using placeholders.

Since I’m putting up this post anyway and probably wouldn’t bring it up separately, why don’t I bring up one more thing?

The Whole Idea of Achievements/Trophies

This is something one has to consider when designing a game nowadays, of course. Unless you’re Nintendo, but it’s already been confirmed by a few developers during the Wii U’s design phases that Nintendo’s designers have never used a Sony and Microsoft console.

Achievement Unlocked - Obsessed

Unlike most people, I don’t hate the idea of achievements, but I don’t like lazy or grindy achievements, nor do I appreciate achievements that require pointless actions the game doesn’t track nor reward you for. I quite like when the achievements have some sort of humour to them, though, like how the trophies for Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory takes a potshot at reviewers (who seem to always give the game consistently bad scores to the point that, despite improving vastly between installments, its average score only rises by ~2/100 each time) in the first trophy’s description.

So what could I do with them? Good question. I was thinking of something along the lines of referencing a bunch of different (mostly obscure) things for the names of the achievements/trophies while having a half-vague half-serious description to tell the player how to do it. Some examples:

Accel World Haruyuki Flying

Name: “Please Keep Up The Pace”
Reference to: In Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel, if Saki is your current reyvateil, she’ll say this if you’re keeping the rhythm correctly.
Description: Get yourself perfectly in sync.

Name: “It’s Calling For Me…”
Reference to: In Accel World, the protagonist says this shortly before taking flight for the first time, referring to the sky.
Description: Touch the ceiling. (Note: As in, be the highest one can possibly be in any given level, the point where the game just stops you from going higher.)

Name: “Blast Away!”
Reference to: In Sonic Heroes, Sonic would say this when doing a team attack.
Description: Attack together as a pair. (Note: This is referring to the combination attacks. The player would need to get the reference.)

Reference to: Yes, I know this one without having seen or read Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s Engrish for the name of Dio’s Stand, The World.
Description: Obtained Ruyo’s Japanese-named time-slowing technique. (Note: It’s named “Jikangan”, which is a Naruto reference. Means “Time Eye”.)

Name: Not A Truther
Reference to: From Drake & Josh.
Description: Survive the eternal fool’s first attack. (Note: The first attack from that boss will always a move named “The End”.)

What I’m most worried about with this is whether or not I’ll end up making achievements only where I can find a joke. But oh well, I don’t really know myself.

I could really use some feedback on all of the things I’ve discussed in this post. What do you think I should do regarding bosses, difficulty and achievements? Go ahead, speak up!