Raxen’s Run : postmortem of my March #1GAM pew pew game

This post is some reflection and navel gazing regarding my One Game a Month game, Raxen’s Run. Just want to play the game ? It’s here on Kongregate and here using Native Client for Chrome (Linux FTW!).

  • Raxen's Run


It’s essentially an on-rails score attack shooter. It can be finished (without giving away too much, in under 10 minutes play time), but it gets hard. It appears that as of the time of writing (10-Apr-2013), no one has beaten the last sector yet.


I decided early in the project this would be my first experiment with Kongregate. Could a simple but (hopefully) amusing Unity game without a massive art asset budget capture the attention of players enough to make some ad revenue ? Like ANY ad revenue ? Well, given the stats from the past 10 days … I’d say not in this century. This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise – from everything I’ve read, Flash games (and increasingly Unity Web Player games) make the bulk of their revenue from sponsorships (eg, fgl.com) rather than ad revenue. I think Raxen’s Run would really need another iteration of features and polish before it was worth trying get it ‘sponsored’.

Business mumblings aside – I quite like Kongregate as a platform. I’ve obviously been aware of them for years, but hadn’t paid a huge amount of attention to the details. Their highscore and achievements system is cool, and it’s nice having inbuilt chat right there on the page. Here’s a little Unity (web player) class for sending highscore and achievement events to Kongregate: https://github.com/omgwtfgames/unity-bowerbird/blob/master/Scripts/Web/KongregateAPI.cs

You simply define the names and types of the various events you’ll send using their web interface and then you can submit stuff like:

KongregateAPI.submitStat("score", 1337);

Their dead simple API is already giving me some ideas for further development of https://github.com/omgwtfgames/omgleaderboards :)

The cutting room floor

Part of One Game a Month is actually shipping the final game with a beginning, middle and end, even if it’s a ‘minimum viable product’. As a result of having finite time, there are usually a bunch of features you would like to add to a game which never make it. Here’s a quick dump from my TODO list of things I cut in order to finish in a reasonable time:

  • Turning tunnels
  • Moving barriers
  • On/off laser traps
  • Charge shot
  • EMP powerup (kill all on screen)
  • Octo-enemy boss
  • Console log stream in ship dash
  • Camera shakes upon collision
  • Velocity display in dash / HUD
  • Sound toggle
  • Pausing
  • Music
  • Intro text – I wrote some cool “noir” intro text with some backstory, but decided to hold it back to use if I ever expand this into a more substantial game + world.

One feature I did add, as suggested by Andrew Dieffenbach on YouTube, was Rez-style targeting. I had to fire up the old PS2 with Rez to remind myself how it worked, but it was worth it. I never got a chance to add any visual feedback, but the laser has a sloppy auto-aim which can be tuned to be more or less forgiving. It took a little bit of futzing with a grid of multiple raycasts in Unity, but it seems to perform fine. This will be particularly useful if I decide to make an updated version to release on other platforms, since sloppy auto-aim is a must when using a gamepad (Hello OUYA!).

Nah, nah, nah .. I’m not listening !

I appreciate feedback on all my games, since as I designer you can’t really ever experience your own game in the way that other players do (except maybe in extreme cases, like severe amnesia). But should you take the feedback of players to heart, and is it always worth acting on ? And if so, how many data points do you need to make the feedback statistically relevant, given all the biases of vocal minorities vs. quiet happy players etc  ?

At least two people have commented that Raxen’s Run is too glowy or “overbright”, and it makes it hard to see stuff. This is a point of conflict for me, since while I agree that it’s sometimes hard to see enemies properly, I don’t see this as a bad thing. The heavy glow effect acts to make the entire scene visually complex, to the point that sometimes enemy positions can be ambiguous, and you may only be able to infer their position based on how they distort nearby lines, or just fire wildly at a blob of glow. I like to think of it as a bit like driving into the sun – it’s more challenging and dangerous, but for me that’s what makes Raxen’s Run more exciting.

I’d be lying if I claimed that I set out to make a game exactly along these lines. My first point of reference was “The Challenge of Nexar” (the Star Wars vector-game influence is purely subliminal). I experimented with some image effects in Unity, alongside the handy little Vectrosity plugin. Once I hit on this particular look, it informed the design from then on. I’ve tried turning down the glow, but with less glow the game loses most of what makes it interesting to me.

Now excuse me while I write to Terry Cavanagh to demand an easy mode in Super Hexagon . . .

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>