In the upcoming release, v1.3, we’re overhauling how our powerups work, trying to solve a major design flaw in the current system. As it stands now, the way our powerups work is: 1] you have to kill an enemy to cause it to “drop” some powerup. 2] you then have to tag this powerup, which moves around and can be hard to get, and 3] once acquired, it only lasts for a tiny window of time. These rules didn’t add up very well inside frogatto, because of our pacing. It took a while to figure out what was wrong, and here are our thoughts on the subject:
The drop-and-grab design is really common in flying shooters like Raiden, or Gradius, where there is always a constant and numerous stream of enemies coming at you. In the story mode of frogatto*, this isn’t remotely the case. There isn’t a constant stream of enemies, and that’s a deep and very intentional part of our design – a central part of gameplay in frogatto is confronting some jumping puzzle, killing off the enemies around it so you’re not interrupted whilst you try to pass it, and then passing it. What generally happened in frogatto was that you would kill an enemy, acquire a powerup, and usually, most of the powerup’s duration would expire before you had a chance to really use it. In engineering-speak, this was a “perverse” design – not just a bad sequence, but the “worst possible” sequence we could have chosen. The best possible sequence with a setup like that would be “acquire the powerup, and then conveniently encounter a constant stream of enemies during the powerup’s duration”. That “best possible” sequence really could have only been managed by either making the powerups themselves cause the monsters to appear**, or by ensuring there are always a constant stream of enemies, and neither of these were really feasible.
What we’ve chosen to do, is to switch most of our powerups to a “mana” system; rather like zelda. Powerups are permanently acquired abilities (which will generally be quest rewards), and tapping a “switch” key (currently “D”) toggles between them. This ensures they now have optimal availability during the times when they’d be fun to use. Mana regenerates slowly, and the blue cubes (which used to boost powerup duration) now recharge a bunch of mana, quickly.
This also allows us more flexibility in designs, since quite a few designs work terribly with “timed duration”. We’re adding a few basic powers to the next version of the game – we’ve reconfigured the energy shot as one of them, and there’s a new, very short-range fire-breath. Any ideas you have would be welcome in the comments, or on the forums. We’re not removing time-limited powerups completely, but we’re likely to limit them to a scant few items like “invincibility” or “time-slowing” – and we’re likely to make them taggable items sitting on a level, rather than dropped items from enemies.
An example of what the new HUD looks like, with the energyshot as the active power:
* Our arcade mode is a LOT more like those shooters – you’re constantly forced onwards, and on a few levels, you run into a constant stream of enemies. Of course, you never could unlock the powerups before entering the arcade levels in the past. We might consider having a few “time-limited” powerups on the arcade levels, or flagging all the character’s mana-based powers as active before starting the level. One fun idea might be treating the mana-based powers you acquire in-game as achievements, and only unlocking them in the arcade levels if at some point you’ve unlocked them in the story mode, in the past.
** this actually isn’t completely crazy – in a game where there’s some inherent reward for killing monsters (like XP and EQ in diablo 2), spawning some unique monster could be a good thing – they did that with shrines. Doing some combo with a shrine that gave you a time-limited powerup, and spawned an enemy vulnerable to that, might be a cool idea, but in frogatto, we don’t have special rewards for killing random monsters. Monsters are just an obstruction, in frogatto, not an end in themselves.