Reflection #7: Why Axis Doesn't Need a Bow

I previously spoke about bringing Axis Descending to Unity. At the time the decision made quite a bit of sense. I was hitting a wall when it came to certain performance issues. The finger was always pointed at the fact that it was made in Flash, but that was just me blaming the first thing that came to mind. The engine is fine. It had everything to do with my own inefficiencies with the code, not double checking to ensure assets were given the appropriate cache parameters, overloading certain areas with assets and so on.

Axis Descending will remain in Flash. He just won't have a bow or as much clutter around him. Among other things.

The game needs to get cut down a bit. Over the course of its development I would come up with these great ideas and decide to implement them. Feature creep. I would think "why not?" and make it happen, building out new attacks, new weapon types, bows and more without considering "why should it?". Overall, the bow presents a few problems. First, it complicates an already complicated animation system. To maintain responsiveness and a certain level of tangibility with the player character's interactions with the world and how they actually animate and move to show that, numerous animations are in place to represent current states and modes they can take on. Wielding a bow in your hands isn't the most important thing to implement but it did feel right. Use a bow, you hold in your hands when idle. Attack with your sword, you now hold that in your hands when idle. Understandably, a number of visual bugs popped up time and time again when my logic wasn't compensating for new additions or changes to the other animation behaviors.

RIP Axis with Bows, but we're all better off without you...
Another issue relates to power balance within the game's combat system and the relationship between the game's mechanics and narrative. If you can hit enemies from afar, why get up close and risk taking damage? Well, you could introduce ammo, right? If Axis is a swordsman, why is the bow the strongest weapon in the game? This would make the bow the most efficient way to tackle any encounter requiring physical attacks to overcome. Thematically, this makes no sense. Axis is a swordsman. He is quick. He is nimble. The combat rewards you for timely swordplay, effectively using your dodges and parrying enemy attacks. The enemy design should reflect his just as much as the player character's ability/action design.

If you have a bow you need arrows. If they are required for puzzles players can be frustrated if the appropriate ammo isn't readily available near the puzzle location. How can a bow be used to solve puzzles? As it was, the bow was only capable of firing horizontally across the screen. Implementing some form of omni-directional or cardinal firing system would increase the scope even further. Something like that may not even resolve the issue of how the player can, in a fun way, use the bow as a means to solve puzzles. Shooting switches? Hitting things from far away? The camera system doesn't compensate for that "range", either.

So, the bow is being removed. No bow. No arrows. This is one part of a series of measures I am taking to simplify the core mechanics, reinvigorate my own interest in the project, and improve player engagement.

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