Shmup Design

Any good game design articles on shoot ’em ups? Also, what do you personally thing makes a fun shmup?

None that I know of, besides this which is more of a history article:
and this, which is kind of a beginner’s guide:

I don’t totally know. I have a huge list of shmups to eventually play, but I haven’t gotten very far into the genre.

I’m gonna say the same thing I always say for what makes a good game: Depth and challenge. Interesting choices.

There seem to be two schools on what makes a good shmup, there’s the danmaku school, and the more classic reactive shmup school. From an outsider’s perspective it seems like there’s a division between games that are considered great because they have good scoring systems that are difficult to master, like perhaps Ikaruga, and games that are considered great because they’ll fucking kill you. There’s games that curtain the screen in bullets of all different sizes in intricate patterns that must be weaved through (like touhou), then there’s games where the enemies are reactive to your position and patterns and try to attack you in ways that you need to react to and counter (like mars matrix).

Some basic notes I took on the Touhou scoring system are that its various components require you to choose between one another and put yourself in harm’s way. The most iconic is grazing bullets of course, if you have your character sprite touch a bullet without it hitting you, your graze score goes up, which scores points and acts as a point multiplier I believe. This means you need to get close to bullets to gain points, rising death. Even better to get closer to the bullet’s source where many bullets will pass by you, but that’s dangerous of course. Next, there’s item collection, which can mean weaving across fields of bullets to get in position to collect items. Then there’s the point of collection, a line near the top of the screen where all the items will be collected automatically, but that’s of course where the enemies are, so that’s dangerous, and you can’t shoot them there. Bombs earn score based on how many bullets are on the screen, so more bullets is higher score, which is dangerous for obvious reasons. Intentionally losing lives to get more bombs is advantageous for scoring too, so you’re not allowed to keep all your lives if you want to score the highest, you need to put yourself right next to death at some point. Basically, they really want you to go up close to the bosses and potentially get your shit rocked.

I have written a little about how I’d design a shmup privately, and most of it involves emphasizing the reactivity of enemies, trying to cook up new behaviors for them that emphasize decision making from the player.

4 thoughts on “Shmup Design

    • Chris Wagar May 20, 2016 / 5:13 pm

      Thank you very much. It seems interesting already.


  1. animeisbestwatchedwithfriends May 21, 2016 / 10:35 am

    Good site, i hope you continue to deliver.


    • Chris Wagar May 21, 2016 / 10:40 am

      Thank you. I have posts scheduled every day for the next two months.


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