Reflection #8: Why Axis Needs to Charge Up his Dash

There is something to be said about simple ubiquitous mechanics and design patterns and their role within your development process. If it is so prevalent is it worth your time? Is it feature creep? Is it misuse of your time? I mean, no matter what level of experience you have you simply won't always know.

A recent situation had me second guessing some of my choices at work. A friend of mine made a good point, discussing their leadership role and how they feel they should be challenging their own thoughts. I do have a fair amount of responsibility. My choices and guidance will lead to very particular ends and goals. Are they the best? The right way to go? Why me, why not this person or that person? You have to ask yourself these questions. Leadership or not, really. It shows you care, that you put in the necessary time to apply a sound strategy, remain efficient and execute a plan to the best of your ability. I'm fortunate. My circumstances provide me with the means to develop my games on my own terms, timeline and with low levels of risk. I'm not doing this to earn income. I'm creating games to tell a story, exercise a vision and maybe make some extra income on the side. I am thankful that I do not have to worry about quick decisions in the long term on a scale of "eat" or "don't eat". With my academic career, however, this does impact more than just me. I'm altering the potential future by providing the right platform, to the best of my ability, for future industry leaders.

Whoa. Let me allow that to sink in for a bit.

A typical attack doesn't just need one animation for a swing. What if it showcased the player's aptitude? These 3 variants all have the same length and hit/damage timing.
As I rebuild the world with the new bitmap workflow I'm going back and doing a second pass on some of the game's mechanics. I want to make the core abilities look and feel great. This means allowing the player to do thing. Simple! Metroidvanias have this precedent mechanic when it comes to late game mobility and the player's ability to get from place to place. It makes sense. This genre involves a fair amount of backtracking and exploring previously explored areas. Making that easier to do in a way that circumvents the monotony of slaying enemies is a no-brainer. Metroid games feature a Space Jump, allowing you to fly through the air. This ability can be upgraded to be the Screw Attack which destroys most enemies if you collide with them while Space Jumping. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night had the Gravity Boots, providing a quick "down, up, jump" button input that'd send the player character soaring upward. Hollow Knight features a similar dash ability for horizontal movement.

To that end, Axis has the ability to "charge" his two abilities that enhance player vertical and horizontal movement. The Super Jump and Super Dash, tentatively named, take on the aspects of the genre's mechanical precedents. Press down, up and jump to leap into the skies. Press the dodge key after dodging midair to launch yourself forward. They will be augmented to provide invincibility frames and special attacks to suit that "late game" experience.

I don't want players to feel bored. I want players to feel empowered when it comes to the idea of navigating areas again and again. No big deal. You have this power with user-defined magnitude. Need a quick boost, tap the dodge key midair. Need to fly across the screen to get to somewhere specific? Give that key a brief hold and release to cover more distance. Faster. This didn't take much to implement, really.

The question is whether or not it should be here. Was it worth the time? It represents familiar mechanics for the genre. It takes into account what was done before, why it has been recreated, and takes the opportunity to improve upon that formula. It has already received very, very positive responses and samples are noting the similarities it has with other game's in the genre. These comparisons are a strength in my eyes. It shows it reminds people of those design patterns. There is a healthy amount of nostalgia and enthusiasm that comes from moments like that.

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