Weapon Selection and Upgrades Discussion

Discuss shoot-em-ups, and games in general.
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Weapon Selection and Upgrades Discussion

Postby MsTei » Wed Mar 25, 2015 2:44 am

Hi everyone,

I'm working on a shmup, and we're reaching a point where we need to think about weapon selection and upgrade design.

Here are a couple common ones:

Weapon upgrades via killing enemies (enemies may release collectable orbs, fill up a bar, etc):
Such as Geometry Wars, Self Destruct, Ikaruga (bombs can be collected via killing enemies), Jamestown (bombs can be collected via killing enemie)

Weapon upgrades based on picking up a power up dropped in the field
Super Stardust (bombs too), PixelJunk Shooter, Rez (bombs too), Tatsujin (bombs too), Geometry Wars (bomb detonates on touch)

Weapons selection based on picking up an orb (usually dropped by random or specific colored enemies) - unfortunately, can cause some players to pick up weapons they DID NOT want to pick up.
Tasujin, Robo-kid

Weapons selection via controller - all weapons available during play
Thunder Force, Super Stardust, Dead Nation, Hellfire

Weapons selection based on selecting specific ships
Jamestown, R-Type, Silpheed (haven't played this, but heard out of many weapons, you can only choose two for your ship)

What other weapons upgrade and selection design have I missed?
What types of upgrades/selection do you like? What don't you like and why?

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Re: Weapon Selection and Upgrades Discussion

Postby monoRAIL » Wed Mar 25, 2015 5:39 am

There's also the Gradius technique of awarding the player items which they can then spend on a variety of upgrades. This has the benefit of getting them to chase upgrades on-screen, but also gives the flexibility of tailoring their upgrades to each level. Some games also have a store where the player can spend currency won in-game on a selection of upgrades. Trouble Witches has a store which the player can visit more than once during the level. UN Squadron has a store that the player visits before each level, so they have to already know what kind of enemies they'll be up against before they make their purchases (by playing the game many times).

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Re: Weapon Selection and Upgrades Discussion

Postby MsTei » Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:55 pm

Ah yes, an upgrade store! Forgot about that, thanks!

There's also a camp of players that don't like upgrades, because fully-upgraded weapons tend to be very powerful, while un-upgraded weapons tend to be too weak (especially if you've upgraded fully and died, losing all your upgrades). This part does drive me nuts as I'm trying to strike a balance between upgrades being significant, while not being a necessity. But then, why upgrade at all? I think it's cooler to upgrade, but the design balance is making things difficult.

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Re: Weapon Selection and Upgrades Discussion

Postby Prado » Fri Feb 12, 2016 3:34 pm

I like the weapons from Axelay. This game has no power-ups, but you unlock a new weapon each stage beaten

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Re: Weapon Selection and Upgrades Discussion

Postby lzardo » Sat Feb 13, 2016 3:23 pm

I think it all depends on the kind of game you are working on...

If you are working on a "real" shmup such as Ikaruga I think you should have NO UPGRADES at all, Ikaruga relies on that color swaping scheme and all you can collect is energy for powering up the secondary weapon, but you necer actually upgrade it.

Problem is, such a game relies a lot in level design everything must be perfect or it´s going to be a complete failure, I can´t remember any modern game that works, except Ikaruga.

Axelay is a good example, yes, no power-ups, but you loose the selected weapon each time you take a hit.

On the other hand, if you are doing something to the mobile market, specially a "free" game and expect to make some bucks out of advertising, you need a powerups store and force the player to repeat a lot of times each level to increase her weapons (or pay for IAPs)

That´s what I did on the game I did, it´s not really something I´m proud of, but it works.

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