I've been spending some time trying to improve the core gameplay. I'm not quite sure how to define what that is, but the approach I use is simple: generate a random map with enemies, trees, power-ups, etc. The more fun it is to play, the better the core gameplay is. Since, after all, that's what you will be doing most of the time, is hopping around and shooting at things. That's my current theory, anyway.
One hiccup has been on how to vary the weapons and power-ups. Do I let the player select weapons doom-style, or do I have the player pickup power-ups that provide an upgrade, similar to Contra? If I go with power-ups, then how long do I let the power-ups last? Do they last until the end of the level, until the player dies, or is it a timed limit? So many choices, and each one makes a major difference in how the game feels and progresses.
I have a solid idea of how I will go about it, but that might change in the future. However, I wanted to show off some of the power-ups I implemented lately that add some spice to the gameplay.
Power upgrade (yeah it's kinda sorta like a rocket launcher)
So I call it a "power" upgrade, because everything fired from the flamethrower should be a form of fire. Instead of a rocket, I'm trying to go for a feel of a powerful, condensed, explosive, fireball.
That red flame above the toad's head is a timer. The flame appears when you acquire a power-up and will diminish when the time is up. The flame will shrink when you have ten seconds left, a visible warning to the player that their time with the power-up is almost over.
Spread (triple-fire) upgrade
I tried a spray first, where it fires both straight and diagonally, but for some reason that didn't feel right. It was also a bit off-putting. Instead, I went with what you see above. It's more like a triple-fire power-up. It's looks great, feels powerful, and is also much more fun than the old spray-like version.
Rapid-fire-power-triple-thingamajig (and fire shield)
Yep. Probably the best power-up you can get. It's the power upgrade plus triple-spread-fire. Total carnage!
Also in that gif, you might notice a bunch of fireballs circling around the player. That's another power-up, the fire-shield power-up. It will damage any trees or enemies that come in contact with it.
Bringing it all together
Now I just need to implement these into the levels in an ideal way. In some cases, it'll require modifying the levels to allow for more space to wreak havoc, which I think is a good thing. I'm hoping it'll allow for a more engaging experience.