Do You Remember: Axelay ?
The great question I often ask is, When is the sequel ? It has been just too long since this game came out and although it still holds its own. I really see a possibility to upgrade it with some interesting upgrade mechanics that I saw moba's and hack and slash type games. That big "sequel question" pops up in my mind now and then, and then the longing grows like a bad intestinal problem, shrinks again in the realization that it will probably never happen by the hand of Konami.
There have been several games like this in recent history. Ikaruga, Zeit², Razor 2: hidden skies. But none of these really touched or iterated on the DNA of Axelay, they were more like Galaga or R type clones, which isn't bad by any means but I really really miss a proper Axelay Sequel (or clone). So I'm been pondering on this idea for quite some time now, because I really would like to see an axelay sequel that combines the best from a moba, Diablo, and from the original game.
The axelay gameplay dna
Axelay added lots of dimension to this genre. For example you not only need to strafe and evade bullets from ships, the projectiles from enemies sometimes moved in interesting ways. In addition to ships, there was actual passing structures that you needed to avoid. Rocks, buildings, doors, lava fire, cave walls, worms etc... And ofcourse you had the 2 different perspectives, sidescrolling and topdown scrolling. Axelay threw you in densely structured levels with visual background and function. This gave you the idea that you were actually "in" the level and not just hovering above the world where your only obstacles are other ships. Even bosses and minibosses were placed in the scene in such a way that you had to maneuver around them.
Combined with different types of enemies and how they behave in these levels and made you change your gameplay to approach them, the "inclusive" level design that made you feel you actually were in a space ship or cave, this gave Axelay a nice "3d dimension". And I think the recently funded kickstarter project Dimension Drive comes closest to that DNA, and even adds something to it, namely the "switching screens" mechanics. This makes it interesting to avoid "stuff" in new ways.
The weapons were also interesting in a sense that you had this vulcan blaster that you could manipulate to shoot from the side and back of your ship. The lasers you could get in very late game were also a bit like that. They'd form a curve behind your ship, damage stuff behind you and converge in front of you.
So as I'm still looking for that definite axelay upgrade for a long time, I've had this ... ahem... design document growing in my head i'd imagine I would want to play:
General design ideas
On top of that Axelay DNA I described above, I have the following ideas:
The axelay would be heavily upgradable with a diverse range of items and abilities, shields, movability, kinda like a dota hero but
with a firefall twist and a few other differences:
Leveling is permanent/cross world:
The leveling would be permanent (across world maps) as the players progress trough the level. There's a base damage of energy output (damage, attack of speed) that can be done by fire/cast abilities and then upgrades to the abilities themself can further increase these stats kind of like in Dota where your base stat upgrades by leveling and then items can further increase them.
You start with 1 ability and end with 4. There will be more abilities than there are slots and you'll have to choose what you want. Imagine stuff like void's chronosphere, or "illusions" of your own ship. That whole Dota schtick could infuse such fun in an R type shooter like this. It wouldn't be all about "attack as many invaders as possible with happy ship twitching", but it would more be about doing this tactically with interesting "spells".
- Enemies and bosses and environments that behave in such a way that they give several opportunities for you to shine out with the abilities you select and give you a nice metagame.
The story doesn't need to be something incredibly deep or bloated. But it would be nice tro have an intro fmv describing that the Axelay returns to their home planet and our hero is welcomed. The Axelay itself is being dismanteled and research in a station in orbit. Part of the armada's virus could be identified and researched. Because of all the trouble your people has gone trough it was decided that the research station would be shut down, the virus was secured and stored safe and sound: SO THEY THOUGHT!
After years, nobody noticed that piece of junk flying in orbit anymore and the citizens of the planet below would just think that the space station was about to decay and become neutral and then the people's space authority would set in motion a plan to go and dismantle it in orbit. As the command was given to do so, something strange happened. The automatic thruster system could no longer be controlled remotely. An investigation was done and the original Axelay pilot was sent to research the problem.
On his arrival in the station, he came in the research lab where the Axelay was stored but something was odd. The ship was brimming with energy and he climbed aboard to shut it off. As he was about to do that, the ship started to phase into some sort of flux condition. A flash of light, a shimmering glow on every piece of equipment, then it happened. The axelay and it's pilot was suddenly somewhere else but where ?
The axelay was floating on a planet with high clouds and floating rocky structures. He has seen this before. He kickstarted the Axelay's engines to prevent them from falling down and was immediately met with dozens of enemies. Back into action! The reason behind it all ? It's a secret, even to me. Until the odd chance that somebody will work on the game because of this design idea, I'll let you know :P
The ship's equipment system:
My "dream Axelay" will have 6 equipment slots divided in the following categories
Primary weapon slots:
2 slots are for fire and cast abilities. Instead of primary and side slots from the original game. You can equip weapons on slots 1 to 2, and cast/rocket abilities go in slot 3. They are immediately available on each button. (no switching).
2 slots are for the former "bay" of the ship and can shoot rocket/cast abilities.
Then there's an engine "slot" which determines the thrust and movement speed of the ship but also function as a cap which will be rasied as new engines are assembled from engine parts found over the world (which can have the usual MMO color coded qualities on them). SO they can bestow the player with more headroom to equip more "expensive" primary (slot 1-2) abilties.
A rare exhalted engine (could be a possible loot drop that has 30% chance from dropping at the final boss batle in hardmode) could upgrade your ship with 3 abilities, the benefits of the engine and the ability to equip exhalted qualities of shields that are dropped but not
usable in the early game.
The last slot is for shields. There can be all kinds of shields configurations. More hitpoints, more damage reflection, it can have "ultimate" mode (which can be activated by the player) that has the shield cascade damage back to several enemies, or "double reflect" damage received depending from the types of "ults" that can be found in the world. THose shields can all be found as loot drops
Level lock-in and respec tokens:
Whenever you equip a set of abilities/weapons/Engine/shield, it locks in for the level you are going to play. So whenever you hear "arms instalation is complete, good luck" you are semi stuck with what you chose. Because there will be a very small chance that you find a respec token inside the level. Dropped as a rare item by enemies, you can respec "on the fly" to something that you think is suitable in the level. It's a possible convenience but don't always count of it to happen in any level.
Also, you know how in Axelay, you don't have enough slots to select all the weapons you have ? Choise of the weapon yo think which suits your playstyle the most should be important before round start, just like in the original Axelay.
I'd like to see an iteration on that, where you can pick up nice flavors of the same weapon randomly throughout a level, and then mount it in your ship before the next round begins. You start with 1 slot, leveling up unlocks 2, until you get a max of 3 , or even find a legendary weapon deployment module that lets you equip 4 spells, but this will be very very rare, and you'll have to play the high level areas several time to get a chance to catch this module, For example let's propose that this sort of stuff has a 10% drop chance when you finish a boss a certain way
Abiltities, (cast and shoot abilties)
The axelay ship received a huge enhancement upgrade in the process described in the story paragraph. There will be several abilities that can be found in the world. But not so that it becomes a noisy affair to choose from. The depth will be about the choises that you will make when entering a level, and what you will choose when you find a respec token in the level. (remember, low chance for that)
Once in the level there'll be a chance to upgrade equipped abilities. But you'll not be able to upgrade abilities that you have currently not equipped. So choose wisely.
- Default (slow starting laser from the classic game)
- Straight lazer (the bubbly signature blob shooting laser)
- Needle Cracker (as the classic
- Wind Laser (the red beam lazer emanating from the back of the shield and converges into focus fire from above but does damage on it's side)
- Morningstar (the spinning particles that surround the ship and burst outward if you let go of the button
- Round Vulcan (the lasers that can be aimed backwards and in front of the ship as you hold down the button
New would be that you could upgrades / modify them in interesting ways such as splash damage, armor piercing, acidious bleedout. This depends from some creatures in the world which have a chance of dropping these upgrades for your guns. Imagine that with the needle cracker you could upgrade that so they become needles green with acid so they bleed out enemies. (or you can mount that mod on the vulcan cannon if you preffer this)
Casting Abiliteis will be something new as it's an alternate to the "bay" slot for the usual cluster bombs, macro rockets and explosive bombs. the original laser gun (with classic behavior and upgradable)
INteresting alternates to just using rockets in the bay could get very esoterical like:
- Time reverse rockets (which make enemies go backward in time). YOu could methodicly attack a mid sized creature right when it touches your ship and it would go backward and you can harm it further for more points .
- Web plasma interfold. This device shatters in 10 litle devices that will home in and attack 10 surrounding enemies and will create a plasma lavice, they will then detonate the lavice destroying all enemies. But an upgraded version of this would just make it elastic and trap virtually anything also bigger classes of enemies.
- Energy python. The energy python is a self homing laser system with daisy chained emitters that you can guide inside enemy territory to litterally scribble away the enemy like a pencil. But whenever one enemy is hit it will loose energy, it's in essence a secondary craft that you use untill you use all of it's hp by destroying the enmy one module at ta time.
- Black Hole generator: It's a vortex of suction that will suck in smaller enemies but only slow down bigger enemies like bosses so it's attack rate slows down, giving you more time and space to defeat it.
- freeze time, enemies are frozen for 5 seconds. Can be applied on large enemies.
- Liquifier. The liquifire viral attack can semi liquify any mid sized enemy in sight and enable the axelay to destroy it much more quickly. Or when applied on a large enemy, it enables the axelay to use conventional bombs to destroy it more quickly instead of having to look for weak spots. The phase shift upgrade could be used to temporarily move large enemies out of the way while you're coping with the rest.
- posess - you can posess enemy ships for 30 seconds, enabling you to steal certain secrets from the enemy if there's a ship/object having secret data, like a secret key to use inside enemy structures so it can lead to bonus areas, which on their turn lead to weapons you would otherwise never find.
- Foe to friend (enemies that are cursed with this attack will becvome your friends for 30 seconds or untill death if it comes sooner
Remember that all these cast abilties are on a cooldown and you can only equip 2 at the same time and they are locked in for the duration of the level unless you find a respec token as described above in the slot system paragraph.
The levels would be similar to the original game. They would be either either top view, or a side scrolling view, but also a new "combined isometrical" view where you'd have to switch views in order to navigate well trough the levels while battling. There would be the same environmental traps and elements of the world that you have to circumvent, but all in a modern setting and look. Whether the "combined tactical view switching idea might be preferrable for all levels, it would have to be experienced. To my gut feeling it should be restricted to specific levels, as we want to retain as much authenticity to the Axelay game as possible. If we would have "combined view switching" in all levels, it might reduce players' apetite for it.
The enemies and their metagame:
Normal enemies are a large amount of ships, airbourne creatures or flying bikes and little flyers that can have 3 sizes. Small, middle sized and large. Depending on their size they might have a little trick to them. Very fast, almost untouchable by a certain weapon, weak for another weapon, not prone to any attack but to stasis or some abilities i'll outline below, as they become the only means to get rid of these kind of enemies. Could even be a small mobile operational bases that you have to momentarily phase shift out of this dimension in order to get true, and then quickly puzzle your way trough it before it reappears.
The formation and flow of these enemies should be generally "game changing" like in the original game. For example It would be interesting that there are minibosses in the middle of the map that have to be tactically approached by the player in a satisfactory way.
Anyways, the enemies's strength will follow the powercurve according of the leveling up of the ship. It will do so dynamicly. A calculation will be made to form a discrepancy between ship abilities and creature health but as levels progress, that gap will close and by the point we reach the space armada, the powercurve will be slightly overpower the ship. What that means we must balance if this idea would ever even make it to a game. Because theory is one thing but gameplay satisfaction is another.
As the creatures reach a certain level themself they start throwing more damaging attacks that are different from their "easy" versions. Ofcourse there are some creatures and robots native to certain levels. So variation should come from that also.
Miniboss and Boss spaces:
One example of a miniboss space would be that you're inside a large space ship flying trough cargo (like the second level of Axelay), suddenly: doors close before and behind you and you are trapped into sort of a reactor room that you can shoot with your abilities in side view but you'll have to switch to isometric view to evade its structures that block out certain zones in the Z axis space which you can't really see when you're in side scrolling mode. If that reactor is destroyed, you need to escape the structure quickly. This is just a small example.
Levelboss spaces are are like an arrival areas and serve as end of the long tunnelshaped/linear level. Bosses force players into a mix of "top down battle" and 3d battle.
The top down attacks will have the boss just do some melee attacks, jumps and atempts to body slam the axelay from above. During this event you just need to quickly maneuver around the horizantal plainfield to avoid them. Dynamic switching might be applied here as a nice "upgrade" to the original game's meta game.
The bosses can shift their attack methods (and will be telegraphed to the player and this happens randomly) so players have to shift to top and side view mode so they can avoid a set of ranged abilities and attacks that require the player to be moving in 3d. to avoid those attacks. This can alternate depending the boss' behavior until it is downed.
As an alternate, In some levels, inspired by the level 2 mech boss of the classic game, it will be a continuous isometrical experience that has the best of both worlds, both the environment (doors, lasers, moving panels) and the boss will work against the player.
Boss loot drops:
Bosses should have a chance to drop a rare, or exhalted "plugin" for your ability. For example the arachnatron could drop a spiderweb mod for the missile launcher that modifies the missile to change into a web casting system which will slow incoming enemies on impact. These mods tie in to the "cast" abilities /Rockets that I described in the corresponding paragraph above.
There's lots to be explored and what I have in my head has to be translated to something that everybody could enjoy by people who are more pro than I am. How are we going to tackle difficulty, balance and make a rewarding experiens out of this. A game like Heroes of The Storm proves that you can have a casual moba that is still rewarding. I want this in Axelay 2.
The great thing about Axelay was that its difficulty ramp across levels was rather parabolic and not so much straight-to-the-top-harder each level. This made you enjoy all the mechanics the game had to offer, and this I'd like to see translated in a new sequel.
I'm literally sounding off with this re-imagining of the Urbanite level song. It totally doesn't sound like it in terms of melody, but I hope I've conveyed the Axelay spirit enough, enjoy!