Moon Fields on Parsec at about 2pCST! Get up on that discord
A Moon Fields Game Design Post:
THE BEFORE TIME
So, previously The Moon Fields was an analog stick + 7 button game. This was so that it could be played on all the modern controllers, but also a JoyCon and/or GameCube controller. There were 5 item buttons, a Dash/Jump button, and an aim button. Most players seemed to deal with the controls just fine, but a few players seemed to actively dislike the Dash/Jump. Let me explain: each tap of Dash/Jump pushes you forward essentially making mashing the analog run, but when you hold the Dash/Jump button you charge a jump for 12 frames and leap into the air.
Some players hate this. They say they hate it because holding is weird. I think (and now believe c/o the most recent testing) that they also hate it because of the 12 frame delay. The problem is — the 12 frame delay is integral to the design. You can’t just jump out of the way of every attack. There’s a backflip if you tap the Dash/Jump w/o pushing the analog stick, but that doesn’t give you any horizontal mobility. You have to choose between 1) running away, 2) flipping over an attack, or 3) slowing down and charging a big jump.
THE PRESENT DAY
For a lot of reasons, I didn’t want The Moon Fields to be an 8 button game. I definitely didn’t want to make it an 8 button game purely to add a jump button that broke the design. So I decided recently to add a “Shift” button. Shift is implemented, and I’ll explain what that means for the game now and what it means for the game in the future (aka the next week).
So right now The Moon Fields is an analog stick + 8 button game. 5 item slots, aim, Dash/Jump, and now Shift. Shift doesn’t do anything except shift the Dash/Jump button to be just a Jump button. The 12 frame startup is still there - it just means that if you hold Shift and tap the Dash/Jump you will go through the 12 frames charging that jump and then jump. Even if you’re standing still and push Jump – if you’re holding Shift you’re going to start charging a jump. Even if you let go of Shift or Dash/Jump — once you had held Shift and tapped Jump you’re going to Jump. Jump just happens.
THE FUTURE AS TOLD BY A GENIUS OR FOOL
It’s already implemented.
Shift + Item Slot 1, 2, or 3 will activate Item Slots 4, 5, and 6 respectively. It’s already there. I just need to implement a 6th slot in the character select screen. That means buttons for slots 4 and 5 are unnecessary. Does that mean I’m going down to an analog stick + 6 button game like God Intends For All Good Fighting Games? No. Well, maybe.
I’m planning on making The Moon Fields an analog stick + 7 button action game again. 3 Item Slots, a Shift, a Dash/Jump, an aim, and a “Last Item” button. Having a defensive action accessible via in index finger is super key for high level fighting game play. Bottom face button is Dash/Jump. Left, Top, Middle face buttons are the Item Slots 1-3. R1/RB is Aim, L1/LB is Shift. R2/RT is “Last Item”. It’ll always recall the last slotted item so player can put their Shield or whatever defensive item in that key last slot. Right?
Like I said, maybe. The next paragraph is design written by an alternate universe Raffy.
I’m planning on making The Moon Fields an analog stick + 6 button action game like God Intends For All Good Fighting Games. I know there are good fighting games with less than 6 buttons, but I can’t think of one with more. And fuck me if I’m gonna try to be the first. 3 item slots, Shift, Dash/Jump, and “Last Item” will replace aim.
Aim as a verb in this game means planting your feet and looking in the direction of your analog stick. If you want to aim you have to stop moving to trigger the -stop moving- part. To aim now you hold Shift+“Last Item”. Now, this is seemingly very obtuse Japanese feeling game design to me, but holy hell does this feel right. It’s complex for complexity’s sake. You wanna aim one of your last three items? Stop moving, hold Shift, tap Last Item, and now you’re planted and lobbing all the throwbombs as fast you can muster. You wanna aim one of your first three items? You have to stop moving, hold Shift, hold Last Item, let go of Shift, and now you’re planted to throw any of your first three items.
Why is this appealing to me? Because I’m insane? Maybe… The game is totally playable (and winnable) without this stupid shit. You can totally play a 3 item slot character (and many people do!) and never touch the Shift or Last Item keys once. It’s that once you want to commit to something deeper and more complex… you have the ability to do these things because you will overcome small stupid hurdles. Maybe this seems exclusive? I don’t know. I don’t really know if I care…
I glossed over the fact that I’m adding a 6th item slot. Some local designers that believe in elegant game design seem to think that 6 is too much. Personally I think it’s more opulent than excessive. The mental cost to juggle these things in a player’s head? That’s fascinating to me. Sometimes I can handle juggling 5 item slots — that’s why I want to do more. I don’t feel good being comfortable at 5. So… Shift key here I come.
- That took a lot faster to code than I thought
- Obviously I was wrong about what would work (and what wouldn’t)
So, what I ended up doing:
Analog Stick = Move
X = Dash/Jump
S/T/C = Item Slots 1-3
R1/R2 = Shift
L1/L2 = Aim
Move+Dash/Jump = Dash
Shift+Dash/Jump = Jump
Dash/Jump by itself = Evade/Backflip
Shift+Item Slots 1-3 = Alternate Item Slots 4-6
You can still Move and Hold X to do a jump. I think some people might be annoyed by this, but it’s definitely clearer to me in my head. I think I’ll put a “beginner” control option somewhere that disables the original jump command, but I think it’s still useful for pros.
I do still sorta miss having the shoulder button be an action button, but not as much as I thought I was going to. I also am incredibly happy with how clean everything feels with all the main actions on the face buttons. It just feels less cluttered without that “Last Item” button.
I think some of ya’ll played Moon Fields at the meet up! Please let me know what was positive/negative/weird about it!!
I ended up playing a round of it. I wasn’t there for the setup and the tutorial got skipped so I have no idea what was going on really!
I played Brave Cat and my only abilities were to shield and smack with a big hammer, seemingly. If there were others I could not figure out what.
- Looks gorgeous. The motion blur, lighting, shading, it’s all amazing and I really dig it
- Sound design is incredibly chunky. It felt good to smash!!!
- Characters were really distinct, I never got lost or didn’t know what was going on.
- Smacking somebody is very satisfying.
- I liked mashing A to run around, even though I forgot about it for the first half of my session.
- Too many rounds. I think 3 of us ended up each getting a round of 3 under our belts, and in the last round we played a total of 7 to find a winner. So it was something like 16 rounds in total, and I regretted my character choice for the back half of it. I think it would be better to just have it so that two wins decides the whole thing as the default so people can try out different characters rapidly, and early losses/goofups don’t feel so heavy.
- I was confused by jumping, but I was also drunk! I can’t remember how it worked, just that it was kinda wacky and I wished it was just a button.
- If this is meant to be a party kind of game, maybe at the beginning of each round show something in each corner showing that person’s movesets and which button does it, to reinforce how it works and let people drop in with ease.
Again, I missed the tutorial so I don’t know if that would have helped with the issues I had. I did have fun playing it though! I really just wish I could have swapped characters very frequently to get a sense of what other people were doing, not just try new tools.
Thanks! That’s super helpful. It really needs more of a party-mode-helper
Wow it looked even better hands on than I remembered from the already impressive stuff seen here! Yeah the lighting in particular adds a very cool air to each environment. If there’s any way to implement just a bit more motion in them (particularly grass/leaves) without too much difficulty, I’d love to see that.
Sound effects were SUPER satisfying though I remember nothing of music. This could’ve been just us playing at lower volume though, I hear stage tunes in these vids.
I played Big Hat for couple rounds then Eye Nite/Knight? most of the rest, movement feels nice and I don’t mind jumps requiring more input - but I constantly felt like I struggled to stab or swipe the intended direction. Not sure if there was an element I didn’t catch, like not quite facing the right way first or picking up that my blows kept bouncing off objects. This was the only thing that lost me as I’d end up attack mashing 2/3 of the time. Possibly just a controller or input issue?
Arrow bombs were awesome if not seeming a little op, though I don’t doubt there’s more balance among ranged abilities.
Generally agree with Clint’s points, multiplayer was fast and furious but could definitely benefit from some light overlays or instructions throughout it.
Very curious what single player is like.
Yeah I dunno if I emphasized enough exactly how good it looks. It’s like a diorama, but a murdery one.
I think having a little crosshair on the ground where melee would strike could help a lot
Thanks for the feedback. I really am stoked ya’ll are into the aesthetic.
I’m not sure how to deal with onboarding new players vs. making it smooth for expert players. A game like Smash Bros. doesn’t do any kind of concession for new players, but I feel like lots of indie party games concede to new players by just not having a lot of content.
I guess I really need to get this single player adventure mode out to onboard new players.
I always felt like the yellow c-stick on SSB:M for the GC was a concession to newer players. I recall that one of my friends who played as a swordsman and was a cheap, stupid bitch about it, would spam the Hell out of that thing.
Not sure how that could possibly translate to this. I don’t think it’s too bad to have a learning curve to what is ultimately an arena-based fighting game with this much variety. People gotta discover what works for them.
anyone want “cheap, stupid bitch of a swordsman” as a user title?
This is a good point. I guess I was always designing for the Joycon/Gamecube, but now that I’ve split the control scheme between beginning and advanced players, I feel like this chimera of a control scheme is now open to weird stuff like right stick goofiness.
Ok, let’s do some design theory.
The C-Stick lowers execution barriers so that new players can do the same things that advanced players do. They can do Smash attacks, but comboing attacks into each other will still be out of their reach unless they practice. In Smash4 they let you customize what the C-Stick does and that might even bridge regular players over to advanced players. Even if it’s not better in any way to customize this stuff, it could get players thinking about what would make them better.
I don’t know the equivalent for The Moon Fields. Items are activated by:
- Which button you’re pressing (X, Y, or B)
- If you’re pressing the shift key (RB/RT)
- If you’re moving or not moving
- If you’re in the air or not
I’m not sure how I can use the extra controls on a Dual Analog controller to help get over these execution barriers. I think people have the most trouble with execution re: aiming, so…
- Your character always has a particular direction.
- While moving you rotate 720*/s (12*/frame at 60 frames)
- Attacks stop you from rotating this way
- Different attacks have “Turn” values.
a) Agile attacks have high Turn (180* max) and immediately turn your character to the direction
b) Heavier attacks have less Turn (90*, 45*, 15*) and only rotate so much before the attack
I am thinking the Right Analog stick can help with the turn, but the whole point of turn is that you have to be deliberate and slow before using heavy attacks. An agile attack saves you up to 15 frames.
One of my current ideas is to use the Right Analog stick to attack in a particular direction, but I need to have some sort of time delay and a sensible way of activating the attack. There are gamers who immediately ask for “Dual Analog” controls to move and aim separately, so I’m worried that they’d just think it was gimped Dual Analog controls.
Meh. This is suboptimal. I have to keep thinking.
Hydlide/Ys bump combat for beginners.
I think all Melee pros use the c-stick for some portion of their smash attacks, because it’s strictly superior to smashing with the analog stick if you want the move to come out as soon as possible. The c-stick doesn’t allow you to charge your smash attack, so it comes out immediately, while using the analog stick to do smash moves delays the attack as long as you’re still holding the button/direction. It’s only worth using the analog stick to smash if you want to charge the attack; otherwise you’re using a method that’s harder to execute for no benefit.
The c-stick also allows certain movement that’s impossible without it. For example, you can move forward with the analog stick and do a backwards aerial attack with the c-stick at the same time. If you tried to do that with only the analog stick, you’d slow down when you input the backwards input for the aerial attack.
I’m not sure the c-stick is strictly a concession for beginners, but rather a useful addition to the controls that also happens to be easy to grasp.
You make a fair point. Clearly my experiences have been colored by a cheap, stupid bitch of a swordsman.
I changed the Character Select a little bit. Previously it was a list of items X, Y, B, Shift X, Shift Y, and then Shift B. This was a legacy setup for the previous X, Y, B, RT, LT setup where items 1/4, 2/5, and 3/6 weren’t related. I think now that there are two “item palettes” XYB and Shift+XYB, it’s important to have adjacent items next to each other.
I’m tempted to put explanatory text where it says Equipment. Either it’ll say what you’re supposed to do, “Please confirm your selection,” or it’ll scroll information about the currently selected item. I worry that that information will make people sit around on the character select screen forever, bu… idk…
I could also maybe display the current item larger right there. IDK, we’ll see.
utterly adore that UI
So I’m developing the control scheme for a PC gamer that doesn’t have an XB360/XBone/PS4 controller.
- Analog moving and aiming
- Many accessible buttons
- At least one button that’s mashy (for dashing)
What I came up with is:
- Mouse controls a cursor that is connected to the parent object
- Holding LMB walks the player in that direction
- LMB + Mash ‘D’ to Dash/Run
- LMB + Hold ‘D’ to Jump
- Tap ‘D’ to Backflip
- LShift to Plant Feet and still Aim (this is legacy from controller input, less important because mouse aim + move button)
- EWQSA are Item Slots 1-5
- RMB is a duplicate for Item Slot 1
- Spacebar duplicates Item Slot 5 (or whatever the last filled item slot is). This usually means Spacebar = Block or some kind of evasive maneuver
If you’re interested in trying this out here’s a really simple demo file I made in the past couple days https://drive.google.com/file/d/1y2a7NvFKES0eygvePUgN-uLerVAUOQlj/view?usp=sharing
*TFGH control a right analog stick that rotates and zooms the camera. Very unimportant, definitely secondary controls. I was thinking it’d be on Alt+WASD but testing in Unity made that kind of annoying. Maybe I’ll switch it to Ctrl+WASD
I’d recommend dropping the analog movement and reverting to WASD/arrow keys for movement. It’s not ideal but it seems ‘good enough’ for PC players.
A couple more notes about ‘hold LMB to move’:
- This is ergonomically painful and will hurt people after a short time. I could feel it starting to cramp my finger after about a minute.
- While it’s extremely responsive at +/- 90 degrees and feels like direct input (and I started thinking about some interesting ‘mouse guided’ games), flipping directions causes a delay as the target cursor flips around and breaks the metaphor, revealing that the player input is being read indirectly. This conflicts with an assumed direct input and doesn’t feel very good.
I’m not sure about doubling up run and jump on the same key.
I’d use spacebar for a more primary input – it feels pretty good to mash on a keyboard and is easily reachable. Jump or ‘tap to dash’ would work.