Sunday, August 7, 2016

Episode 124: Shoot Em Ups

This is episode 124 of Roguelike Radio, where Mark Johnson is joined by James WhiteheadBen Hendel-Doying and Chris Park to talk about roguelike elements in Shoot Em Ups ("Shmups").

You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.

Topics Discussed:
  • U.N. Squadron and R-Type as the inspiration for Really Big Sky
  • Mixing genres as inspiration for Mysterious Space and Starward Rogue
  • The progression system in Really Big Sky
  • Procedural and handmade aspects of Really Big Sky, Mysterious Space, and Starward Rogue
  • Bullet patterns as terrain and Super Hexagon
  • Responsive PCG-like bosses in Warning Forever
  • Tactics and strategic choices in AI War and other roguelike shmups
  • Speed upgrades and player experience
  • Score in shmups with PCG
  • The future of roguelike-shmup hybrids
  • Other games discussed

Join us next time for a recording from the New York 2016 International Roguelike Developers Conference!


  1. An excellent Rogue-like Radio episode. Looking forward to more episodes in the future with a focus on how the boundaries of the Rogue-like genre are being pushed.

    Or maybe a Rogue-like episode simply about where you draw the line on what is or isn't a rogue-like for the ambitious.

  2. AFAICT the boss in Warning Forever is procedurally generated, in the true sense of this phrase (procedurally generated = created by a computer algorithm rather than by hand), even if it is purely based on the play rather than randomness.

    I am aiming for meaningful score in HyperRogue -- to have high score you have to collect lots of treasure, and the more treasure you collect, the harder the game becomes -- but the best players don't seem to be interested in playing for score (possibly because of exploits which allow getting very high scores in very boring ways -- hard to avoid in a complex game, although there are also challenges which focus on smaller fragments of the game, so they should be exploit free). Also, some of the best players say that playing HyperRogue is like playing a shmup (I am not sure exactly why), and there is also a shmup mode -- almost all of the game remade as a real time shooter.

  3. Mark, what are your shmup highscore records?

  4. I think it's an interesting pattern that people who tend to enjoy rogue-likes also tend to enjoy shmups.

    In some ways the characteristics of the genres are quite similar. In the traditional sense of both genres the game state doesn't change from run to run, and progress is determined by the player improving their knowledge, memorization and execution of game mechanics. I think this is probably the most relevant similarity. This concept that the replay value is derived from invoking a desire to improve personal skill rather than relying on gimmicks/unlocks. Whether it is going for a 1cc or high score, or gaining an ascension under new constraints, it is these personal goals that keep us playing.

    This being said, in some way the genres are polar opposites. Shmups reward quick/intuition based thinking while roguelikes reward slow/analytical thinking. However, in a world where streamlined games on rails are becoming the norm, it's actually a pretty rare concept for a game to reward human improvement vs character improvement at all. As far as I'm concerned these are the only two single-player genres which truly reward human performance. They have the ability to invoke a sense of competition and high level play because of the difficult challenges they present.

    However, while I think most people would argue that procedural generation is essential to and really what makes roguelikes enjoyable, it tends to have the opposite effect for shmups. The draw to shmups is the idea that complete mastery over the hardware and scoring system is a possibility. The beauty and enjoyment of shmups comes from 'knowing' the game inside/out and developing strategies to optimize your play. While memorization is a big part of this, it's unfair to call it simply an exercise of that, as the challenge doesn't come from the memorization. The memorization is implied. The challenge and enjoyment comes in having the skill to overcome what is presented to you, while still knowing 100% what to expect. To a casual player of the genre, this layer of enjoyment never really surfaces if they just credit feed until the first time they complete the game and then never play it again.

    While procedural generated shooters are fun for a few playthroughs, I ironically tend to get bored of them more quickly than more traditional, static shmups. I think a casual player of shmups can easily overlook the depth of some of the seemingly simple mechanics, and I'm not sure a procedurally generated shmup could ever be considered tier-A in the genre without a designer having a very solid understanding of the genres and the both the communities.