Shields Up!

Today, we wanted to give you a little peek behind the curtain of development at Cipher Prime. This is your window into what it’s like to make a game from the ground up. The struggles and surprises of development laid bare. Today we are covering the addition of a game-play element to Tailwind – the shield.

Shields are ever-present in games today. You can ask any child what a forcefield or shield is and they will have a complete answer for you. Not just simply that it stops bullets or lasers, but what it looks like, how it works and how to overcome one. It’s so common modern film doesn’t need to take a break from the action to explain what shielding does for a spaceship or alien. It’s a given!

But in the bullet hell world of Tailwind, one hit is all you can take. This simple mechanic bred super-twitchy game-play and precise movements in seasoned pilots.

To find out more about what the addition of a shield means for Tailwind we turn to Dain (@dainsaint) and Will (@willstall) –

Why add a shield?

Will – The main reason is: don’t nerf the game buff the player.

Dain – Yeah Andy Schatz (@andyschatz) did a talk on buffing the player not making the game easier.

Will – It makes general sense right? You can make the game easier or give the player more power. The player feeling more powerful is fun.

Dain – …and you can challenge the player more.

Will – …and a good game is kinda about that tug of war so it adds agency too. When you don’t have the shield you feel really vulnerable  when you have the shield you can afford to be more risk adverse so it creates this push and pull rather than just be a constant “oh something hits me I’m dead” and we really wanted the game to be a bit easier too.

Dain – It gives the ability to have that danger of anything could kill me at this moment but if I could just get over there and get this thing then I’ll be a little bit safer and that changes the emotional state of the player back and forth.

Once it was in testing what did you discover about it?

Dain – Well we made it so that when you loose the shield it kills enemies in a radius. That made it an offensive weapon. So normally you take a shield as a defensive thing it protects you but now you have a something you can choose to detonate.

Will – Yeah originally we had it so that if you picked up another shield on top of the one you had it wiped the screen. That was OP so we changed it to this more confined space around the player.

Dain – So we made it so you can get the shield out of the big rocks. But you cant hit the rocks by dashing cause that kills you. But you can lightning through them. You can set up the lightning so when it goes off you blow up the rocks. So you can spend a full charge to get a shield. This adds an interesting decision for the player.

Will -What is interesting is that before the shield no one could finish the game. Once we added it just about everyone got through.

Dain – Which doesn’t really have an end screen.

Will – You just blow up…

More power ups in the future?

Will – so yeah pickups will be a thing we’re working on. Cause they’re fun. Going back to the buff the player idea. What I found was that before we added the shield I was bored playing my own game. That shouldn’t happen. The shield added a missing piece.

Dain – When we added the shield it made us pissed. And that’s what should happen. You should be upset you didn’t put it in the game sooner.

That’s it for today!. Keep up-to-date with us on Twitter @cipherprime. Learn more about Tailwind at http://www.cipherprime.com/games/tailwind.