Thursday, 9 January 2014

Controlling Chaos Guns

One of the most important aspects of any game is to be able to control your character. Chaos Guns is quite complex game - you have opportunity to walk, run, shoot in 8 directions, reload, switch to secondary weapon, change ammo type, pick up and drop items, opening doors, turning switches and equip your characters with tons of guns. I decided to create a control scheme, where you can do everything with single button joystick. Design is heavily inspired by Hired Guns, however, because of different angle of view, there are major changes, which you need to know, before you start playing. I have summarised basic logic below. I hope you will find it interesting.

Alright, so do you hold your joystick now? Good. You character has basicaly three modes - walking, shooting (or action mode, as I call it) and then menu. Between those, you can switch with simple press of your only FIRE button you have. No matter what you do, your character is able to move, shoot or access advanced features, just press the button and it should be clear in which mode you character is.

In walking mode, it's simple. Use your joystick to freely move in any of 8 directions. If you hold down a FIRE button and then press joystick in any direction, it will activate a special feature, which is unique for most characters. Example of special feature is running. Your character can now move significantly faster, however it will drain some extra oxygene, so you cannot really run around that much. But it could save your skin sometimes. Release FIRE button to return to simple walking. Some characters are having different feature, activated this way.

If you encounter an enemy, it's right time to start shooting. Simply press the FIRE shortly and stance of your character changes. Now you can shoot with your joystick in any of 8 directions. Yes, in Chaos Guns you are required to stand to shoot, you cannot shoot while moving (with  exception of above mentioned special moves, when some characters are allowed to shoot while moving - it depends on each character). I love older Resident Evil games and to improve a survival element, I decided to go this way.

Are you done with shooting, are all enemies dead? Maybe they've dropped something? Good. Let's have a look. Press a FIRE button again and as you can see, little menu appears. Your character is still standing and you have four options. LEFT access the local map. UP pick up object on the ground. RIGHT switch primary weapon. DOWN access inventory. If you don't want to do anything from the menu options, just press FIRE again and your character automaticaly reloads primary weapon and returns to walking mode.

This is very basic overview, how to move around and shoot. It is very intuitive after a while, you have to just get use to it. Let me describe some common situations.

You are walking around and then you encounter enemy. You have to position your character in line of shooting, then press FIRE and shoot in that direction. Are you out of ammo? No problem, just press FIRE (menu appears), FIRE (automatic reload + back in walking mode), FIRE (back in action mode) and you can easily continue with fight. So basicaly it's three times FIRE button, which you can press really quickly and without any problem, you can hold your position. You might need run away or just move a little to have clear shot - after second FIRE you are in move mode again, so if needed - just walk some steps and with FIRE you are back in action mode. Simple!

Another traditional situation is, when you run out of ammo for your primary gun. Imagine, that you are in action mode and familiar *click* out of ammo sound sounds. What to do? You have to switch to secondary weapon with different ammo type, right? No problem. Press FIRE - menu appears. Push your joystick RIGHT - this will switch your primary weapon to secondary and it automaticaly reloads this weapon, returning you to move mode. So - one more time: FIRE! And you are again in action mode, with secondary weapon reloaded. Continue shooting, until last enemy is dead.

Following this logic, it should be more clear, how the menu works. Switching weapons will always close the menu, returning to moving mode, however picking up a object from the ground (UP while in menu) will keep the menu visible, so you could go to inventory (DOWN) immediately or you can continue walking after simple press of FIRE button. You really just need to remember, that all three modes are in a loop.

Few words for inventory - LEFT or RIGHT will move items in a strip by one in respective direction. While HOLDING FIRE you will move in inventory much faster with LEFT or RIGHT. But most important - UP - means equip or use. You can equip up to two weapons - primary and secondary (which you can switch between via ingame menu, as mentioned already above), one armor and then some extras, like airtank, anti-radiation suit etc. Equipped items has blinking light below.

What is also very important - you can USE an item with UP direction, while in inventory. This way you can heal yourself with a medkit (or repair kit in case of robotic character), eat some apples, apply drugs and also this way you can change the ammo type for your primary weapon. So yes, you can expect some extra ammunition types in Chaos Guns.

Best thing about inventory is, that it is very inteligent. Really - if you pickup a new object, it will have a little asterix, showing the status of "new" - and at the same time, new items are listed always first, when you open a inventory. On top of that - if your character is injured, it will be a medkit, automaticaly listed first, when you open the inventory. Logic follows, that medkits are the "middle" of the inventory, on the left side there are all your guns and ammo, on the right side there are consumables, keys and other quest items. You will never be lost inside your bag.

Allow me to describe you a practical usage of inventory in game. Imagine, that you don't have any weapon with you and you are chased by pack of bloodthirsty monsters. While running away, you will notice some gun lying behind some tree (important note: not every time you will find a gun with ammo, but usually there are some bullets left in a magazine). Walk to the item and let joystick ballet begins! Press FIRE (action mode, however without any gun, you can't do anything), press FIRE again (menu will appear). Now press UP - you will pickup a gun and menu shall stay visible. Don't forget, that you are still chased by monsters, so hurry! At this moment, you could press FIRE and continue running, but let's face our enemies - press DOWN - inventory screen will pop-up. Because gun you took is a new item, it is automaticaly listed first. Press UP again to equip a gun, as primary weapon. Now press FIRE - you are back in the game, in walking mode, with your gun equipped and reloaded. Now you could press FIRE one more time - action mode - and with your joystick you can start shooting those anoying creatures.

Does it sounds complicated? I believe it is not. After a hour or so, you should get use to it.

However, I'm still testing some alternatives. For example - what if instead of cycling three modes, you would have direct access to shooting, inventory and reload with multiple pressing of FIRE button? Something like "holding FIRE + directions = shooting", "double FIRE = open inventory", "triple FIRE = reload"? I'm still considering these alternatives, which you might select in the main menu, before start of the game.

I have stated before, that whole game is playable with single button joystick. That's almost whole truth. Obviously, main menu will be accessible with your keyboard only - press ESC. Also HELP button on the keyboard will show short explanation of control schemes, you can press in literary anytime during the game. On top of that, when playing with two players only, you can switch between your characters with LAmiga and RAmiga keys. And of course, if you don't have four joysticks (or splitter for parallel port), you can use the option of keyboard controls (arrow keys, WSAD, your choice) - but even in such a case, you have four directions and one FIRE key.

Even if Chaos Guns are heavily inspired by Alien Breed, Chaos Engine and Hired Guns, pace of the action will be slightly slower, so you should be able to focus on your ammo status, to move to best position possible and similar things. There is a discussion, why not to have medkit as a shortcut via ingame menu, instead of map (LEFT on the menu) - which would speed up action a bit. At the same time, forcing players to open whole inventory for simple healing means, that you have to find safe place to do so. And that's what I'm aiming at. However, it always depends on what's more fun to play, so these details might change in final version (or even in demoversion).

I hope that now you have clearer idea, how Chaos Guns are played, see you soon with further updates!

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