Rival Megagun has two players working through the same shmup stages, taking down ships and dodging enemy fire. However, as players start to do well, they can send drones and other attacks in their opponent’s direction, interfering with their game. If that isn’t enough, a player who’s playing well can turn into a full-on boss, using a colossal ship to finally finish the job.
Siliconera spoke with the team at Spacewave Software, developers of Rival Megagun, about the work they had to do to create competitive elements in a shmup being played by two players at once. Also, they delved into how they designed their boss ships to be challenging, yet fair to players as they tried to take each other out.
PVP isn’t a common theme for shmups. What drew you to bring this theme to the genre?
Spacewave Software, developers of Rival Megagun: Actually, the fact that it’s so uncommon played a big role in what drew me to create a PVP shmup. I have fond memories of playing PVP shmups and have always wanted more.
How did you come up with the play style where both players are working through stages, but can interfere with one another? Why create competition in this way?
It’s pretty standard I think. The split-screen style of play is common in the versus shmup genre. It stems from competitive puzzle games like Puyo Puyo or Tetris Attack, for example.
For Rival Megagun I really wanted to make the core gameplay as close to a classic single-player shmup as possible, so the PVE mechanics are familiar in that way – scrolling, shooting, dodging, chaining waves of enemies, etc. I didn’t want the competitive aspect to morph the genre into something other than a classic shmup.
What thoughts went into the ways in which players can interfere with one another?
The ways in which players can attack each other have gone through many, many iterations. There are currently 3 methods of attack: Drones, Special Attacks, and the Mega Gunship.
Drones are extra enemies that spawn in your rival’s field. The general idea behind drones is to reward the player for performing well and allow them to attack their rival without losing focus. This is an indirect attack which happens automatically as you perform well (bigger chain = more drones).
The Special Attack is a charged attack with more of a risk/reward aspect. You are vulnerable while charging, and need to focus on dodging while looking at both screens to time your attack well. Yes, Rival Megagun encourages screen-peeking!
The Mega Gunship is the "oh shit" attack. Suddenly you’re battling your rival head-to-head. I wanted there to be moments of high adrenaline (maybe with some screaming), so that’s the idea behind this one. It requires highly skilled play to achieve quickly, and can be paired with other attacks to be even more devastating.
Rival Megagun allows the player to become a boss in a shmup. How did you design the varied bosses players could become and their attacks?
In order to balance the bosses, called "Mega Gunships", I follow a standard that I created. There are some exceptions, but generally each Mega Gunship has a fast aimed attack, a large spread attack, and a slow bullet-hell-ish attack. In addition to these, each one has a special attack, which could be anything from a melee strike to homing lasers. I’ve noticed that some people handle different attacks better than others, so if you know your opponents’ weaknesses you can use that to your advantage.
What thoughts go into creating a solid boss for a bullet hell shmup? How did you shift those abilities to a playable character for a shmup?
The goal is to create a boss that is fun and challenging for both players. The key for the boss player is to make the Mega Gunship feel as fast and responsive as possible without making it hopelessly difficulty for the defending player. I also focus on "bullet composition", which is basically making sure all of the attacks play well together and can be combined in a way that is challenging, fun, and never impossible to beat. Mega Gunships also have the ability to aim and manipulate or curve their bullets, which adds another layer of control and ways to catch your rival off-guard.
Did the constant competition change how you would design the rest of the shmup play? What ways did it affect the creation of the stages the players would be working through as they picked at one another?
Yes. While I try to keep the shmup gameplay as close to the classic genre as possible, of course some changes have to be made. For example, the stages can potentially go on forever. The difficulty gradually increases and the stages are designed to work with varying playtimes. This also means that enemy waves appear somewhat randomly. Bullet composition is a big focus of designing stages and enemies. The enemies and bullet patterns in each stage are designed to play well when combined with each other, and with drones and other attacks.