Drawing the player in. Narrative, Mechanics, and Spectacle. I am afraid that #ShootABit needs more of a hook. Let’s make it right.

ShootABit BulletHell Roguelike Android Market

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am going to be writing more about game design now to help fuel changes to my games. I am a big fan of Agile Development and ContinuousDelivery so I want to release a version of my game #ShootABit with each blog. The focus of our first go at this process will be related to the Extra Credits Video that talks about the first 5 minutes in a game.

In the video the EC crew puts forward the idea that in most games today reviewers and players judge much of the game within the first 5 minutes of gameplay. In this time frame a developer needs to be able to sell the narrative, hook on mechanics or wow with spectacle to be successful. In this blog I would like to explore these 3 aspects of the first 5 minutes to help improve #ShootABit and hopefully you can get some inspiration from me to help with any development you may be doing.

The current state of Narrative, Mechanics, and Spectacle in #ShootABit.

Today on Android and iOS #ShootABit has little narrative, some interesting mechanics, and a bit of indie spectacle. It’s time to self-evaluate on these topics to see where we can improve with the next release. I want to be iterative about this so I will make small changes with the goal of eventually fleshing this out to a full solution.


In the video, some interesting topics are brought up. Narrative has many forms which we can perhaps tie into. One form of narrative which does not exist in the current release is Mystery. Mystery will suck people in simply due to the human nature aspects of being curious. This is a great hook and I would like to capitalize on this but currently have nothing implemented for it. Another interesting point made about Mystery was that “InMedias Res” is a storytelling format where the author starts the story in the middle instead of the beginning. Then aspects of the earlier story are told periodically to fill in gaps and create a sense of mystery for the person experiencing the media. With “In Medias Res” you also can start right in the middle of the action instead of building up your storyline which makes for a better initial experience. Amnesia is another one where the discovery becomes that of who you are and why you lost your memory. I have played some great games and read some great books that use this technique, however I am not sure it has a place in #ShootABit. The video made it a point to mention it is extremely hard to draw people in with characters alone, especially in the first 5 minutes. Luckily they followed that up with the point that the world can be a great hook. I think the world of #ShootABit is the best narrative hook that the game has so far. Maybe we can focus on our strengths and build this out a little bit more.

Maybe we can build out a Narrative Checklist for the first 5 minutes:

#ShootABit narrative selling points:

  • Mystery: “Why are we killing these aliens? Why are they pouring out of these portals?”
  • In Medias Res: “There is a battle going on. How did it come to this?”
  • Amnesia: N/A
  • Characters: “Who am I and why am I in this ship?”
  • World: “Voxels in spaaaaccceee!!!!!”
  • World: Space Invaders like invasion happening to our home galaxy. Portals opening everywhere with aliens to kill!


Back to the video; EC describes Mechanics in their broadest form. They say Mechanics in this sense are “Anything you do instead of experience”. This is where I believe #ShootABit shines. There are many little elements that I have added to the game over the years that I think are really cool but there is an aspect of mechanics that I believe I failed at spectacularly. In the video they mentioned that many successful games will create a saturated initial experience where all the mechanics are available to the player in a simplified format. The example they used to great effect was the first level of God of War where all of Kratos’ power are available to the player but accessible by spamming one button. This shows the player they are in for a treat if they only cope with the initial grind.

God of War Level 1

#ShootABit starts the player off currently with nothing but a pea shooter gun and the most basic ship. In fact, the player has no idea what they can become unless they spend many hours playing the game. Looking back on my friends who play tested the game, they liked it and played longer then the players who just download it. I am wondering now if the reason my play testers played so much (beyond the scope of the playtest) was because they knew what to look forward to. I think there is room for improvement here as we go on to the next section. You can see many of these features in the original trailer for #ShootABit

#ShootABit Mechanics Hooks:

  • Ship, Damage, Armor, and Gun Type Upgrades
  • Localized Ship Damage (Each Voxel has its own health)
  • New Game Plus Style gameplay
  • Dones, Homing Missles, Guns
  • 2D Space Normal Enemies, 3D Space Bosses
  • Tilt Controls
  • Circular Warp Gate Exit Defense movement
  • BulletHell like enemy mechanics
  • Temporary Collectable Power Ups
  • Combo bonuses for killing multiple enemies in a row

Unfortunately, there is no Saturated Mechanics Experience at the beginning of the game yet.


Sometimes we just have to get people to say wow. The video talks about how Spectacle is the shortest lived way of bringing a player into  your game and usually is reserved for those triple A studios, however I believe #ShootABit does have a layer of spectacle.

I think we can say the boss fights and new particle effects are “Woah” worthy for at least a while. Especially with the Voxel aesthetic. It is not obvious to me where I can grow here without breaking the bank so I may leave Spectacle off the list all together for the next release.

One last note they mentioned which was interesting was the idea of back to back intros like in Fallout 3 where you first experience the vault, then you exit the vault as two separate and compelling introductions to the game.

Next Version #ShootABit

Ok so here is where we talk about what should go into the next release. I have a few ideas on how we can improve narrative and mechanics.

Narrative Improvements
·      Begin to develop a storyline
·      Add a few voice elements to give some depth to the world they have entered and create a sense of in medias res.
Mechanics Improvements
·      Add questing system to improve narrative
·      Add new movement modes for the player
·      Add exploration mode to broaden the player’s perspective of the world they have entered
#ShootABit New Combat Modes

Time to start building see you next time. I might try and get my play testers to talk about these points with the new features and make a follow up post.

Finally, I want to add that saturated simplified experience so he player can see what it is like to be fully upgraded for a short time. I think that will be a bite more than I can chew for now so I will go ahead and slate that for a later blog post. Stay tuned! Here is a workflow I want to follow so I can revisit some of these blogs in the future.



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