Die Hard 5 opens this weekend... I've been thinking on it all day. Guess I'll combine that thought train with the Top Down Shooter. Ever get a chance to play 1996's "Apocalypse" starring Bruce Willis? It was for all purposes a "top down shooter", but with a slightly more angled camera (to exploit the environment models/likeness of the star Bruce Willis a bit more than a straight up and down view)
Here's some screenshots:
Here's a gameplay video:
In order to keep in pacing with the demands of the Playstation One, the game was basically a series of "action hallways". You always moved forward killing stuff, and along the way, you perpetually picked up powerups that enhanced the way you killed stuff. Very fast-paced, very arcade-y. As you can imagine, the "Twin Stick" style gameplay (one stick to move in directions, the other to shoot in directions) left you fairly limited with regard to camera control, but the game was designed in such a way that finding an appropriate angle wasn't a concern during gameplay.
Let's assume you want a strict top-down perspective, as is illustrated in Construct's most commonly viewed tutorial. This is... well, good for learning but as far as end-game result, you'll end up with many more top down shooters looking/feeling like carbon copies of themselves just for lack of innovation outside of the guide.
- Kids love science fiction. Let's follow a cyberpunk/dystopian future example as shown in the screenshots/videos above.
- We need to have some type of light platforming elements for "walking" variety. I suggest an "Ocarina of Time" jumping mechanism where simply walking towards an edge on the floor causes you to hop a set distance in that direction. Whatever looks right in relation to your player's movement speed. This will give you an opportunity to have environmental hazards in place of simply setting up waves and waves of enemies to attack you. Things that jump to mind are acid pits, broken highway segments that fall many miles below to the floor, exposed electrical wiring, deadly laser grids, etc.
- Most players will be using hard UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT controls while playing the game... diagonals only really when attempting to strafe around the inevitable hordes of enemies. I would suggest that all platformer elements be aligned to the hard U/D/L/R directions so that they are passable.
- For the sake of system requirements, I'd recommend a slightly different approach to enemy waves. Rather than try to push the engine with hundreds of generic baddies, think about the movies "Alien", "Predator", "Terminator". When you encounter an enemy, they should be nearly overpowering of the player, forcing that player to rely on preserving weapon/ammo pick ups rather than spitting out rounds constantly for the sake of "ooh look at the special effects!".
Ever play Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road on the NES? They had a weapons system I was in love with. As you destroy enemies/world objects, you pick up currency. You could also win currency by "prize fighting" tougher key enemies also hidden throughout the world. The weapons you can buy are all "extras" over a simple basic weapon... the special weapons are best suited for boss fights.
Note the little red pulsing things the enemy drops? Currency.
You can note similarities between Apocalypse and Ikari Warriors in that they're both effectively "Action Hallways" with obstacles in the way. Ikari Warriors required no jumping, but you can see ample opportunity for there to be such a thing.
I propose that we borrow from Ikari Warriors II:
- Hidden shops that require some form of explosive to open up. Perhaps there could be a (left click) shoot function and (right click) grenade function... as both are considered "primary" weapons, the resupply ammo can be dropped from common enemies at random or discovered in ammo crates littering the landscape. Think "The store owners barricaded themselves in their shops" and to get to their wares, you have to blow the door open. These stores exclusively contain the higher-end weapons that you can't find among ordinary enemies.
- Your mind can run wild coming up with many weapons, but in general, you want the 1) "average damage click-dependent rate of fire weapon" as default. 2) "low damage high rate of fire click + hold fire weapon" 3) "high damage, slow rate of fire, slow traveling rocket-type projectile" 4) "Wildcard weapon. High damage, up-to-you rate of fire, but strange trajectory weapon". In Ikari Warriors II it's the boomerang, in Contra it's the spread fire/spirally doo-dad weapon.
More later... eh... a fight seems to be breaking out in the living room :0
EDIT/RESUMING/SUMMARIZING: (Jeez. Why am -I- the one that has to settle things?)
Ideally, what you are doing is confining the play area to a vertically or horizontally scrolling play field. Backtracking would be okay if there are, say, objectives to be met, but you run the risk of allowing players to "exploit" the stores by going back to them whenever they like as opposed to making players think wisely as they pass by one.
While your player never alters his overall elevation, he CAN hop over minor obstacles that he doesn't wish to come into contact with. This allows you to plan stages around:
1. Wide areas to be filled in with dense hordes.
2. Areas that require strategic "Star Tropics" style hopping/puzzle solving (Player has to hop across stones to reach a control lever that extends a drawbridge across an unhoppable gap)
3. Confined areas that forces players to rely on weapons purchased from stores to attack fewer, immensely powerful enemies. (placing them after stores is a good idea.) Think about a guard tower with one guy firing an ungodly stream of bullets at the player, from which they must seek shelter until he's done firing (reloading). If they stood out in the open and tried to just outgun him, the player would die each and every time. By placing ONE enemy you are then free to place dozens of projectiles.
4. Some kind of end boss battle or (the cheap way out) extended survival wave finale. A way to ensure that all of your player's acquired resources are used up in a more dramatic fashion that gunning down common enemies. Think combat against a slow moving tank, helicopter, or mecha (if we're keeping with the sci-fi theme).
With a few frills along the way for immersion's sake:
1. Exploding barrels.
2. Weapons crates.
3. Destructible objects (Storefronts, abandoned vehicles, you name it... stuff that takes 10 precious shots to destroy that may ultimately yield nothing but visual pleasure).
4. Voice acting. This is a great storytelling attribute you can afford to implement because of the "vertical or horizontal" scrolling stage design. "Oh great, more lasers." etc. Be a writer! Think of Bruce Willis over here... they can be one-liners or actual story-driven narrative (Player comes across half-eaten human bodies strewn about) "What the hell... these are teeth marks. What could have- OH S***!" (Flash spawn boss character) and so on.
5. Since you know the "direction" of the stage flow, you can design trackside detail with a fixed perspective to fake a 3D overhead view. Think like Ikari Warriors... you can see the wall facing the player, the roof, but nothing behind it. Mind your collision boxes.
6. Rather than keep a traditional high score, keep a "Body Count" instead. Every 100 enemies slain, an extra life... a blood-soaked nod to Super Mario Brothers and its coins.