DUX

By: Derek Yu

On: June 30th, 2009

DUX, a new homebrew Dreamcast R-Type-based horizontal shoot ‘em up, is drawing the ire of hardcore shmup players on the Shmups.com forum, in a back-and-forth with the developer that I rubbernecked last night. The main problem, I gather, is that not only were many promised features left out of the final release (like multiple game modes and loops), but the game’s scoring system and continue system are also broken due to a few simple oversights and bad decisions. The creator, one of the members of NG:DEV.TEAM (Last Hope), tries to play down the bugs rather than accept them straightforwardly, drawing further criticism (okay, intense hatred), but also admirably offers up a free patch to people who purchased the game.

Why does this interest me? Well, there is, as Bill of the2bears puts it (source), the obvious “train wreck” factor of watching a developer go head-to-head with the most intense type of video game fans. It’s also not every day that a full-blown Dreamcast production comes out. But what I really found fascinating about all of this was 1. the relationship between the developer and the fans, and 2. the ideas and history behind the shoot ‘em up genre that make its fans enjoy it so intensely in a way that most players don’t understand.

To summarize the points of conflict, scoring is of the utmost importance for a hardcore shoot ‘em up player, and in DUX there is currently a bug which allows the player to “counter-stop,” or max out his or her score, in the first level. Also, by committing suicide, one can abuse the game’s checkpoints and extends to max out their lives and score. The final shmup sin that DUX’s creator committed is forcing the player to continue, which makes it difficult for players who consider continuing to be cheating and are aiming to “1cc” or one-credit the game.

For many people, the whole thing no doubt sounds like a bunch of loser assholes whining about technicalities that 99% of the population wouldn’t give two shits about, and indeed, perhaps given some of the ravings and crude insults hurled at the developer (e.g. “Don’t ever make games again”), there is some truth to that remark. But I think there’s also something fascinating about hardcore shoot ‘em up players, the purity of the genre, and how the improvements made with each generation of games seem incremental and yet appear to make a world of difference to the players who play them. It also brings in to question more generally why people play different types of games – is it for entertainment, challenge, art, completion, or what? For shoot ’em up players it’s obviously about the challenge as well as the eye and ear-candy.

And finally, yes, the relationship of the developer to the player, of which, like any relationship, the creator is at the ultimate mercy of the consumer, who generally has no interest in the hardship of creation or the feeling of having a work analyzed and criticized. On one hand, this is the way it is and will probably always be, and perhaps this kind of artistic Darwinism is necessary to further the growth of games and art, and the creators, too… on the other hand, I think one of the great things about independent game development is that it blurs the line between creator and player in a way that I believe moves the medium forward (and backward, and side-to-side) in a more positive and proactive way.

As for DUX, the game certainly looks pretty, and if the scoring bug and continues don’t bother you, and you have a Dreamcast, it’s probably worth the $20 for you. Future versions of the game will also hopefully have this bug cleared up.

  • Rad

    SHUMPs and their fans have always baffled me because they are the one genre allowed to be critically difficult to the point that they cause many bad game situations (forced to remember patterns, tech/glitching advatages, etc.) that somehow are positives in the SHUMP genre

  • http://www.dreamofwinds.com/lonely/ Aquin

    Uh oh…and here I thought making a schmup would be a laid-back idea.

    *sighs* well, too late to stop now. :P

  • SEH

    Mars Matrix made me realize I’m not cut out for hardcore shooters.

  • http://blog.jamesgecko.com James

    I don’t think most of the people in that forum were upset about the bug per-say. They seemed more irritated that the developer was in denial about the whole thing; he repeatedly insisted that the bug didn’t actually break the game, and it was several pages in before he even mentioned fixing it.

  • MasterShake

    If it was another other crowd that was being catered to (but who the hell says hardcore SHMUPers are being catered to anyway, in this case?) then nobody would’ve given two shits about the supposed “bug”. They would’ve been passed for very normal and typical implements. But the fact that these guys are making a ruckus out of the fact that someone out there isn’t tickling their every fancy just goes to show how shamelessly gamers tend to point fingers at devs.

    Though criticism is vital, these are not valid criticisms in any way considering for any normal person (which is a statistically more yielding audience that SHOULD be catered to) they’re completely average.

    Not every SHMUP has to be a bullet hell 1 continue frenzy ala Cho Ren Sha 68k (one of my favorites, that I have cleared on 1-Up). And these “hardcore” fellows have to understand that.

    Honestly, if you want a challenge, play it with your eyes closed or something, but don’t hound the dev for implementing perfectly normal things like continues (gasp).

  • Derek

    Just to clarify a point: in this case the problem was that you were forced to continue, not that the game had continues in the first place.

  • Paul Eres

    “the creator is at the ultimate mercy of the consumer”

    well, it’s important to distinguish between the vocal disgruntled minority and the silent majority — often the people who complain about various things in games aren’t accurate representations of the player base as a whole; so i think that in some cases ignoring criticism rather than ceding control of your game to the complainers is the best course of action. other times the complaint is justified and the developer is just being stubborn. it’s hard to say in this case though; possibly a mix of both

  • MasterShake

    How can someone be ‘forced’ to continue? There is such thing as rebooting the game, right? I mean, it’s not super-convenient, but it gets the job done.

    Game-Shark has been around for two decades, where players learned to go out of their way to manipulate parts of the game that were never meant to be manipulated. Yet it suddenly becomes such a hassle to just press the Reset button?

  • Lyx

    Come on mastershake, now you’re really trying to win an argument for the sake of winning it, not for the sake of making sense.

    Your previous post had some (though, not all) valid points, but your last one really is bordering on sophism.

    As for “the poor developer being the slave of the players”. Well, i guess that happens if both of the following applies:

    1. Your intentions for making games primarily depend on acceptance of others (cash, fame, etc)

    2. The amount of people to which your game may appeal is “barely sufficient” and you therefore cannot afford to loose a significant amount of “fans”

    In other words: You become a slave exactly when you are strongly DEPENDENT on others.

  • RobF

    Every criticism is valid, you just have to choose whether to take it on board or not.

    I posted over on Bill’s blog about this basically saying that if there’s one audience you should ignore first, it’s the more ardent of fans. You *cannot* win with ardent fans because it’s not about you or your game, it’s about control and ownership. It’s just the way of extreme fandom.

    It happens with movies (you can’t have an Alien prequel {insert list of reasons why cos I say}), it happens with games {left4dead boycott, hullo?} and it happens with music (I piss you not, I recently saw a blog for “Stop Leonard Cohen playing Tel Aviv” – for the love of all things) and really, we don’t talk about the Dr Who forum I visit on occasion *shudder*.

    Where it gets awful messy is when you have something like Dux. Seriously, I love the Dreamcast to bits, ’twas a beautiful console for the last gasp of the home arcade but what? 6 people and a goat have an active interest in it these days and you only have to look at some of the retro boards with “modern games are shit” papered all over them to know you’re in a sticky situation from the off.

    What to do? Do your thang and step back. Let them piss, let them whinge but don’t pay any attention to the bile, vitriol or whatever else pours out of their gobs. Filter through the gobshite and pick up what you need from it and move on. They’ll wear themselves out in the end.

    Or blather on until the end of eternity with no-one else giving a toss ;)

  • MasterShake

    It makes perfect sense. I’m a man of the SNES era and the Reset switch was a solution to many, many of my problems.

    If people are willing to go out and buy a 30 dollar trinket to manipulate the coding of a game–which was never meant to be, and is even tabooed in some circles–what’s so hard about pressing the reset button? Is that really so far fetched?

    And the success of the game commercially is dependent on others, yes. But we’re not talking about whether it’s a successful game or not but whether it’s a good game or not. That’s mostly the dev’s handiwork, with or without the reception.

  • O

    With shmups perhaps more than any other category besides strategic board games, that kind of rigidity is the whole draw. They aren’t played for the ambience, or artistic message, or whatever. They’re played because the various conventions make them a very specific test of skill.

    It’s unfortunate that the developer didn’t realise this, and allowed himself to become convinced that didn’t apply to his product, and seems to be so bad at dealing with his audience in general.

  • O

    Wait, that maybe sounded a bit more critical than I intended it.

    While that thing is unfortunate, I’d still probably fork out for it if I had my DC with me. Because I’m pretty bad at shmups for someone who enjoys them so much.

    And I’m not saying the forumers there aren’t dicks, but the general criticism of the points Derek mentions should’ve been predicted and preempted through testing.

  • MasterShake

    That’s the thing though, O. It’s an R-type clone. If I recall correctly R-type was probably the slowest of any SHMUP I ever played. It wasn’t particularly about avoiding volleys of hundreds and hundreds of bullets by the breadth of a single pixel. The source material itself wasn’t a hardcore SHMUP (in fact, it’s been called a “strategic shooter”), so I don’t understand what these guys are expecting. Alchemy?

    How do you take R-type, the farthest thing from a hardcore shooter (to which those “conventions” do not apply), and turn it into a hardcore shooter? You don’t.

  • O

    MasterShake: to answer your question, you’re ‘forced’ to continue in the sense that the game won’t let you enter a score until you’ve exhausted your continues or finished the game.

    As for that last thing, bullet hell isn’t the only real type of shmup as you seem to think. Even if R-Type is some special genre all of its own as you suggest, its replayability would still be negatively affected by a scoring bug which randomly gives you six billion points, and its challenge would be negatively effected by a lives bug.

    All of which could’ve been avoided by testing the product.

  • Tim James

    Appreciated the background, Derek. Like a lot of random things in life (politics, computer hardware, equipment-based sports) it’s sometimes nice to just get an initial info dump of one guy’s opinion of the status quo for informational purposes, then if you’re really curious to move on from there (like hey, the comments section of a blog post) and discover the subtle inaccuracies to the stereotype.

    Feel free to include plenty more from-the-hip analysis for those of us that don’t follow this stuff.

  • MasterShake

    Well, I didn’t mean that bullet hell is the //only// type of hardcore SHMUP, but rather that R-Type by nature is just not a difficult game. It’s the farthest thing from hardcore I’ve played.

  • O

    And from the reports on the forum, people who preordered found it significantly easier than R-Type, missing some features relevant to that (difficulty modes and loops with increasing difficulty) which were listed on the website.

  • HAL 9000

    I still plan on buying this game. I love the shmup genre and just by watching the alpha videos you could tell it was not going to be the hardcore bullet hell shooters that a lot of fans look forward to. Anyways one of the main reasons this game stands out for me is definitely the visuals. It looks beautiful in every aspect.

  • Ezuku

    Kind of amazed that enough people own dreamcasts to even warrant new stuff. Anyway…

    The scoring and insane difficulty are basicially the driving factor behind SHUMP games. If you’ve got those broken by bugs in your game, it’s a huge issue. There are more of an issue than in other genres.

  • RobF

    Insane difficulty as a prerequisite for a shooter can cock off, frankly.

  • AmnEn

    You guys are getting slow, it took 5 comments to start demonizing gamers.

  • http://gamejolt.com/profile/toadsanime/578/ Toadsanime

    ‘Don’t ever make games again’.
    Sounds like a lot of the fans are inconsiderate douche bags if you ask me.
    Comments like that aren’t at all helpful to the developer, and as an Indie community I feel we should be more supportive with our feedback by giving constructive criticism.

  • Tim Langdell

    Sorry. i was watching EdgeTube.. i mean, YouTube. Now.. where are these gamers who need demonizing? I’m all for that.

  • Paul Eres

    i predict langdell jokes in the comments for every single post from now until tigsource ends :(

  • Mulder

    I’ve been following this Tim Langdell stuff since that first post here on Tig Source and the conclusion I’ve come to is this:

    Tim Langdell doesn’t exist.

    From what I’ve read, I don’t think anybody has actually met or seen Tim. He reads like a fictional boogeyman, invented by somebody as a joke or hoax or something.

    You’re probably right, Paul. We won’t hear the end of it until Tim has served whatever purpose he was created for.

  • Jason Dyer

    I find it interesting that in the platforming genre, the second “bug” might indeed be considered a feature.

    Is it perhaps because Super Mario Bros. had an infinite lives bug, so it’s more traditional?

    Some measures of “good” or “bad” are simply fixtures of the culture of the community (see also roguelikes vs. the save feature).

  • qnp

    Good read.
    Not your usual TiG Source post, but very entertaining, specially as it delves into a bunch of topics that are good food for thought for any dev and gamer.

  • http://www.spellofplay.com/blogs/hobbe hObbE

    He, really good post there! Interestingly enough I got my shmup TWTPB ripped on the same forum :)

    I think it seems like the shmup scene is driven by a few very “important” voices and they have their pet devs…

    Anyways, goes to show I should have involved the gamers in development from the start I guess :P

  • THE EDGE FROM PIZZA HUT

    “how shamelessly gamers tend to point fingers at devs”

    OH fuck off if you can’t take criticism don’t make games, same goes for musicians with music and directors with films.
    Your consumers are allowed to say and think what they want about your shit.

  • Paul Eres

    sure, people are allowed to shamelessly point fingers, but when they do it they’re still shamelessly pointing fingers. people are allowed to bang their heads into a wall too, but that doesn’t stop others from calling it stupid

  • avoidobject

    R-Type isn’t hard? Are you kidding? R-Type was brutal. It’s the kind of shoot em up that doesn’t need a thousand bullets to kick your ass.

    Read any review about the game. Go to GameFAQs. Everyone pretty much says the same thing, R-Type is a really hard game.

    Maybe you are just good at it. But that doesn’t change the fact that it has a reputation of being pretty damn hard.

  • avoidobject

    and to say R-Type isn’t hardcore is nuts. Irem wouldn’t have even bothered making R-Type Final if it were a series catered to casual gamers.

  • Julian

    Are we honestly talking about the audience that would buy a $20 Dreamcast homebrew shmup as if they were “average consumers?” We’re not talking about soccer moms and frat boys here. Only the most hardcore would even be interested in such a thing.

    MasterShake, R-Type is not an easy game, it’s just relatively easy to 1cc because of the deterministic and relatively uncluttered nature of the level design. Unless you’ve impossibly lucky, there’s no way you’re going to clear the game on your first try, no matter how good you are. It’s a test of memorization and precision moreso than reflexes. It’s a different type of difficulty, but it’s difficulty nonetheless.

    But that’s all tangential to the issue. The problem here is not that the game isn’t difficult, it’s that the game is BROKEN. When score is the measurement of your progress, and you can max it out in the first level, that means that your progress through the rest of the game is irrelevant. This is equivalent to a competitive FPS capping your kills at 10 in a deathmatch, or an RPG stopping you at level 5 (which you can reach in the first two hours of a 30+ hour game). It’s crippling a core value of the game. Sure you can still play, but why? This is not a design choice, it’s not a feature, it’s a bug and an oversight. You could argue that being able to max out your lives is a feature, and I’d let it slide. If you don’t have the willpower to resist using the trick, that’s your own fault.

    The continue issue is equally egregious. It’s a simple thing to implement, it’s the standard, and it damages your core audience’s experience with the game. There’s no artistic statement here, and it’s not a conscious design choice that gives the game a unique flavor. There’s no reason to make a player use a kludgy work around like completely rebooting the game when it’s this simple to fix.

    I’m all for designers making risky choices with their games, and sometimes that doesn’t resonate well with an established fanbase of a genre. You don’t necessarily need to cater to your players’ every whim. But when there’s something broken or unbalanced in your game, you do need to at least own up to that, and fix it if your platform supports patching. You owe it to yourself, moreso than the players, to put out the best game you can.

  • avoidobject

    Exactly, we’re talking about people who still have their Dreamcasts. That’s as hardcore of an audience as you can possibly aim for.

    The fact that person is developing for such an audience is questionable in the first place. Maybe he’d be better served making this game for a more casual audience.

    But even then, the game has bugs that would still need to be addressed. Hardcore gamers aside, the bugs and problems reported with the game are completely warranted.

  • viperphase1

    Yeah. Perhaps if this game were aimed towards casual gamers, say on the PC, rather than people who play homebrew on their aging Dreamcast systems, “features” like being able to respawn and continue over and over again would be forgiven.

    In fact, forced continues would actually be helpful to those who aren’t hardcore shooter fans.

    But yeah, things like being able to max out your lives and high score by dying are obvious bugs though. No matter what the audience is.

    Dying should take away your lives not add to them. And continuing should reset your score or make it so you earn less points than you would if you stayed alive.

    These types of things should obviously be fixed. The rest could be forgiven if the developer had made the game on a different platform, for a difference audience, rather than the hardcore Dreamcast shooter fans.

  • viperphase1

    Yeah. Perhaps if this game were aimed towards casual gamers, say on the PC, rather than people who play homebrew on their aging Dreamcast systems, “features” like being able to respawn and continue over and over again would be forgiven.

    In fact, forced continues would actually be helpful to those who aren’t hardcore shooter fans.

    But yeah, things like being able to max out your lives and high score by dying are obvious bugs though. No matter what the audience is.

    Dying should take away your lives not add to them. And continuing should reset your score or make it so you earn less points than you would if you stayed alive.

    These types of things should obviously be fixed. The rest could be forgiven if the developer had made the game on a different platform, for a difference audience, rather than the hardcore Dreamcast shooter fans.

  • avoidobject

    I’m reading this thread and the developer didn’t handle it well at all.

    For example, he canceled peoples preorders for disagreeing with him. That is just something you just don’t do.

    People were also reporting actual bugs (the scoring bug) and he started making fun of people who play the game for the score.

    Yeah, he received some harsh criticism. But the way he handled it makes his critics look like saints in comparison.

    Just by reading the TIGSource article alone, you don’t really get an idea of why things got ugly. It wasn’t all the fault of the fans here.

  • Christian

    Man i barely play SCHUMPS and i’d buy this ’cause it looks gorgeous

  • Julian

    In fairness, after reviewing the thread, it seems the counter-stop-on-level-1 enabling bug takes some pretty specific conditions to reproduce. It’s not just hide out in this corner, it’s hide out in this corner, on this type of TV, with this type of cable. It’s clearly a true-blue bug though, and his behavior as neatly summarized here by avoidobject is irksome. Especially as a small independent developer, it’s in your interest to have a good rapport with your customer base. Cancelling preorders, denying that bugs are bugs, and mocking your players is not only bad form, it’s a bad business move.

  • Ghegs

    Hi, thought I’d give an insider’s look at the situation, as someone who has been with the shmups forum for quite a few years.

    RHE, the developer of DUX, and the forum have been at odds before which partly explains the tone of discussion. When Last Hope was released there was a similar wave of criticism about it and RHE stood firmly on his opinion that the issues reported were not bugs or bad design decisions, not unlike what’s happening here now. The beef has never been about the fact that DUX (as well as Last Hope) is an R-Type clone and not a bullet hell; the forum appreciates R-Type greatly, the users even voted the game to the latest “Top 25 Shmups of All Time” -list.

    The forum can indeed be very harsh in its criticism, both to commercial and independent shmups. There are certain conventions that are expected to be met (like being able to NOT continue) and shmups meant for casual play are rarely received well. Like Derek said in the article, for players of the genre it’s about the challenge. Challenge that comes from difficult, interesting situations, not from bad design like poor visibility.

    Hopefully this will open up the viewpoint of the shmups forum and its users at least a bit. I’m the first to admit we can be a tough crowd sometimes.

  • Joe Tombob

    Bah. SHMUPS are gay.

  • Arty

    This is sub-par as an adventure game.

  • MasterShake

    I guess I’m good at the game, then, cuz honestly I can’t say R-Type was at all difficult to me. How can you say it was, though? The ship had an invincible shield that one could project at enemies, extremely broken weapons and the enemies didn’t really even seem to care that the player existed.

    But eh. To each their own.

  • Julian

    It’s not about the weapons or the force, it’s about level design that puts memorization first. Killing enemies and absorbing bullets isn’t sufficient to make it through R-Type. You need to know to be in the right place at the right time. If you dodge left instead of right at the wrong moment, you get trapped and slowly crushed. There are unavoidable instant deaths if you don’t know they’re coming. Like I said, it’s easier to 1cc than most bullet hell shmups. It’s comparatively simple once you’ve memorized the levels. But if you have the skills it’s possible to complete a bullet hell shmup on your first try, which cannot be said of R-Type.

    Perhaps more to the point on original topic, every R-Type game has a yes/no continue option. Claiming that the conventions don’t apply because it’s a different subgenre is simply false. This particular convention has been followed consistently within the subgenre that supposed exempts DUX from it.

  • Anthony Flack

    Normally I’d side with the developers over those damn hardcore SHMUP fans, who have kidnapped the genre and kept it locked in the basement until it can no longer function in regular society.

    But any score-based game with exploits that let you max out the score is broken and should be fixed. That isn’t really a matter of opinion.