Face down impossible odds as a steadfast samurai. Hold your ground and lay waste to the approaching robot hoards.
What is Kick Slash Samurai?
Kick Slash Samurai is a two button rhythm action game where players try to kill as many approaching robots as possible before they are overwhelmed. It was born from the desire to create a simple action game and then to wring all of the creative juices out of it. Players take on the role of a lone Samurai facing down the invading robot horde. Players can either kick robots to push them back for a short period of time or slash to destroy them for good. The catch is that after each slash the Samurai is vulnerable for a short window of time. So players will have to manage the incoming robots wisely. They must learn when to play defensive and when to go on the offensive. What these simple mechanics create is a kind of rhythm game based around when to kick and when to slash. However, if a robot ever reaches the lone Samurai it will self destruct, taking our hero with it.
What Lessons Will You Take Away From Kick Slash Samurai?
1. A persistent High Score is 85% as good as a Leaderboard
I really wanted to have a persistent leaderboard in Kick Slash Samurai but when push came to shove I realized that I was just not going to have the time to properly implement it. That is when Bennett Foddy suggested that I instead add a simple persistent High Score. This took about 10 minutes and improved the game dramatically. In a simple action arcade game such as Kick Slash Samurai a High Score gives players a goal. Which gives them something to achieve. This can also lead to indirect competition by players trying to beat each others scores. All of which is great for the game.
2. Don’t let randomness design your game
The random number generator is a powerful tool in the game designer’s arsenal. It can create tension, replayablity, and unique situations. But it must be used wisely. Nothing randomly generated will ever be as good as something hand crafted with thought and purpose. If I return to the design of Kick Slash Samurai one of the first things I would fix would be to add enemy patterns to the game. As it stands a random enemy is spawned at a set interval. This works fine but the trade off is that as a designer I had no control over what enemies players would see and in what order. It would have been more interesting to create patterns of enemies that I had tested to make sure they were fun to fight. These patterns would contain any number from 6 to 10 enemies and would dictate when and how they spawned. These patterns would then be randomly chosen by the enemy spawner. Patterns would create another level of depth to the game in that players could learn these patterns to improve their scores.
3. Audio/Visual Feedback is everything
When players press a button they expect something to happen. It does not have to be the thing they intended but something has to happen. An important part of Kick Slash Samurai is the fact that after the player slashes there is a recovery time before they can slash again. If the player tries to slash during this recovery time they will be unable to, which in most cases leads to players being killed by robots. This left some players feeling frustrated and made the game seem like it was not working properly. I received many complaints about this, some people said that the slash was too slow, some said that the controls did not feel very responsive, some thought the game was just broken. I was important here to understand what they were really saying, the solution here was not to speed up the slash but to add more audio and visual feedback. Now, when players tried to slash during the recovery time the samurai would let out a grunt and would jerk back and forth ungracefully on screen. This let players know that the game knew that they were trying to slash but that at the moment it was impossible. After this addition people no longer said that the slash was slow, or that the controls felt unresponsive.
4. Make the UI intuitive and easy on the player
With a quick action game like Kick Slash Samurai it is imperative that players be able to quickly and intuitively jump right back into another run of the game. The more button presses in the way the more people you will lose at Game Over. In Kick Slash Samurai players are just one press away from jumping back in. Because of this I have seen people play tens of games in a row. It is also important to consider what button players must hit to return to the game. For Kick Slash Samurai, if players hit the slash button while on the Game Over screen they will jump right back in. If they hit Return they will be taken back to main menu.
5. Players will rise to the challenge
Don’t be afraid to challenge your players. Players want to feel a sense of accomplishment. The first time play Kick Slash Samurai they are likely to die to the second enemy. But because it is so easy to jump back in players will try again. Kick Slash Samurai is hard, but players steadily will get farther and farther and when they break their own personal highscore they get excited.
6. Secrets are cool
Seriously, secrets are super cool. Players like to feel like they discovered something new. My favorite moment with Kick Slash Samurai was during one of the final playtests. Several people were gathered around watching one playtester who was doing particularly well. When all of a sudden he discovered a secret in the game, and he and everybody watching went nuts. Secrets are another way to give players stories to tell about your games. Don’t ruin the surprise by telling players where to look.