Post feature RSS Dev Diary #1 and Features Rundown

A Quick Death is moving towards completion so I wanted to give a quick update on where it is, features currently implemented and being implemented, and plans for the future.

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What is It?
A Quick Death is a two-player competitive western showdown that started in a game jam about ~6 months ago. It started as a very classic twitch-based "who can pull the trigger" first type deal, but was expanded to having a risk/reward system with a slowly increasing accuracy gauge and obstacles. The goal, obviously, is to be the first to shoot your opponent.

What makes it different than just your average twitch-reaction game?

  • It's one button! I've always been interested in how much you can do with one button. Not that this really differentes it in the twitch reaction category.
  • Also, the accuracy gauge - how likely you are to hit your opponent with your gun. (you have six shots, btw)
    • Waiting causes your accuracy to increases over time, represented by the cone in front of your character shrinking.
    • Firing at your opponent reduces your accuracy and increases the bullet spread of subsequent shots.
    • Your opponent firing at you also reduces your accuracy, but not as much.
  • Obstacles - It currently features about a dozen different obstacles, hazards and modifiers in a bunch of different combinations (crap in the way, wind, rain, lightning, destructible terrain, etc.). I'm adding more all the time.
  • A fun scoring system based on tennis advantage rules. Games consist of seven rounds on levels with various obstacles. The winner has to win by majority of seven, but must win by two. The game keeps going until that is reached. It's also got a pretty cool "intensity" mode where if you and your opponent are in a stalemate for too long, everything moves faster and accuracy gain rate incrementally goes up each passing level.

Right now the game is separated into two distinct modes:

  • Endless Mode - Here, players just continue playing endless rounds on random stages until they decide to quit. The stage list it draws from is about 30, containing some stages that are a little too crazy for "regular" point-based mode (combining many obstacles and hazards at once, for example). It still keeps score, but it's purely a for fun or even practice type mode for two players.
  • Classic Mode - This mode consists of (ideally) 7 rounds where players compete for the most points on at seven stages. Within classic mode, players have the option of choosing from a stage list (list of seven base stages to compete on), that all contain different stages with different hazards and obstacles with limited overlap. Players can also choose what kind of scoring they want the game to use here.

For scoring, I have two distinct "systems" for scoring. First off, rounds begin on a new stage and players score a point from winning on a stage (shooting the other player). After a point is scored, the next round begins on a different stage. This continues until one player has enough points to win the entire game.

The two scoring systems I have are:

  • One is your typical best-of-seven system that, at the end of seven rounds just gives the win the the player who has the most point. Of note, the game does not end immediately when a player reaches four points, it just continues for seven rounds, even if the other player has no chance to come back. This is a problem I've fiddled with a lot, but I generally like to give players the ability to play on every stage they've selected, or else they just might never get a chance to play on the later stages in a list.
  • The other scoring system is a tennis-similar advantage based scoring where the winning player must win by at least two points, with a minimum of 5 points to win the entire game. Starting at 4-4, players go into deuce similar to tennis. Gaining a point here gives a player the advantage, and winning another point awards them the game. If at any time the other player scores while their opponent has the advantage, the game goes back to deuce. Even though there are 7 "set" stages for advantage scoring, once the allotted stage list runs out (this is only possible if deuce is achieved) stages begin to be selected randomly until a winner is determined.

Although that second scoring system seems convoluted in explanation, it seems to be extremely intuitive to players in my playtests, albeit occasionally taking them one game to fully get. The other fun thing about advantage scoring is it allows the (completely optional) intensity modifier that makes everything faster on each consecutive round after the first deuce. Generally makes games end faster, but also makes them more and more well intense as they go.

Anyway, those are the current game modes and such in A Quick Death. I'm happy with the amount of options I have, even though they don't sound like too many. My other big "mode" addition is going to be a Hero Mode that gives each player a set of special abilities they can use throughout a game activated by building a gauge from round to round. I have a lot of this implemented in code already, but I need to get new sprites for each individual hero. I think my next update I'll focus on some design of what I have for my hero characters, if there's any interest in that.

As for what obstacles you can expect in the final game, here's a sampling of what I have now:

  • Wagons/Caravans - Kind of the bread and butter obstacle of the game. They pass in front of both players, and it blocks shot from both directions.
  • Bottles/Boxes - These block your shots as well, but can be destroyed. It creates somewhat of a game of chicken on which player will destroy them first, as the other player may be able to react quickly and shoot in response.
  • Wind - Wind blows in either east or west directions, affecting accuracy of the corresponding players. Wind towards a player decreases their accuracy significantly, while blowing with a shot increases it. Wind can change rapidly, and is indicated by a small flag in the center of the stage.
  • Rain - Rain slows accuracy build time. That's it. It's usually combined with other obstacles, however
  • Lightning - Lightning occurs on dark (nighttime) stages. When lightning strikes the screen flashes, temporarily increasing both players accuracy fora short period of time, as the whole stage is brighter. This becomes an opportune moment to try to kill your opponent.

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And here's two weirder, experimental mechanics I've been working on:

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Development Challenges

  • The biggest challenge I have right now is clearly communicating the concept. At first blush, it looks like an incredibly simple videogame (and it is), but there's more to it. Most people that I give a demo to seem to think it's just a who can mash buttons faster but quickly learn there's more strategy to it than that, and then end up really enjoying it. However, it's really hard to sell that point, so getting interest has been challenging.
  • The other big challenge, for me at least, is art. I'm looking to bring a lot more obstacles, levels, and characters (there's just the one right now) to the game, but that's tough for me at this stage.

Future Plans

The biggest plans I currently have for A Quick Death are an in-development Hero Mode. This mode allows each player to choose from six unique characters with unique game-changing abilities that allow them to change the course of the game. I'll be going over the design of these in future updates.

Additionally, I'm constantly working on new obstacles and mechanics to add to the stages.

Thanks for reading! You can follow A Quick Death development on twitter at @axiomaticgames. And we are currently sitting on Steam Greenlight!

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