How Roto Force rethinks the familiar “Dash and Fire” gameplay

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Roto Force developer Anton Klinger has been creating small games for ten years, but one of them, Pixel Soldier, suddenly turned into a multi-year project. The game was developed for the Game Boy jam in 2016. The goal was to create the game in ten days, but that was just the beginning of what later became Roto Force.

The programmer who became the solo developer of Accidentally Awesome, Anton Klinger, created a game with a certain pattern of movements. The inspiration he drew for Roto Force originally came mainly from the 90s action movie Alien Soldier. However, after many years of development, he turned into a completely different beast. Game Rant talked to Klinger about the development of Roto Force and, in particular, about the “jerk and fire” game mechanics.

Dashing Development for Roto Force

Klinger liked the way Alien Soldier played and the way he combined dashing. Alien Soldier has combined aspects of the traditional Mega Man platformer, most of the pedigree of the classic Contra, and even the aesthetics of the R-Type arcade shooter series. However, Klinger was attracted by several very specific tricks. An interesting multi-purpose jerk mechanic has appeared in Alien Soldier, which has made the game faster. In addition, he liked how the character could walk on walls and ceilings depending on the scene.

Although Klinger did not develop Roto Force as an arcade game, he wanted to incorporate these aspects into his game. The GBJAM 5 rules did not regulate the controls, but only that the game would be dedicated to the Game Boy and would have appropriate color restrictions. However, Klinger wanted to push himself more towards the control scheme.

So the dash is quite defensive, and in order to defeat bosses quickly, you need to run as little as possible, because the time spent on the dash is the time spent on shooting.

The movement would be standard, with four directional buttons, and the firing button was mandatory. However, instead of jumping, Klinger gave the game a jerk. This allowed the character to move quickly from one surface to another. He decided that while this might be the preferred method of dodging enemy bullets, only walking would allow simultaneous firing. The jam application was sent, and the crowd continued to evaluate their favorites. Pixel Soldier took 12th place in the overall gameplay among almost 400 participants, which attracted Klinger to the project for a long time.

Weapons and balancing in Roto Force

The game wasn’t over, and Klinger wanted more from the mechanics he developed. The next stage of development will be to improve weapons, increase the dynamism of the jerk and add bullet patterns. Initially, there was only one weapon in the game; a machine gun, which is still the first weapon introduced to Roto Force players. However, Klinger quickly noticed that adding weapons was more than necessary: it was fun.

Weapons will evolve from static firing dynamics to unique weapon properties. For example, they can fire bursts at the beginning and increase accuracy later, have homing abilities or a boomerang trajectory. It would also allow Klinger to make it important to know when to stop firing the weapon. The properties and behavior of the weapon will change depending on how long the player will spray. This may mean that short bursts will be more efficient or that you will need to release the button to start the charge.

The load on Klinger increased even more, since now it was necessary to balance the weapon. Although one thing remained unchanged. Each weapon reached the center of the stage, ensuring that they would always be viable to some extent. In addition, he wanted to make sure that there was at least one stage or opponent where each of the different weapons would be better than any other. The simple Game Boy-inspired control scheme had to stay, too, which meant there was no room to change weapons. Instead, new weapons were unlocked as the stages progressed, and switching between action-packed levels occurred by clicking on the corresponding bubbles with an improved jerk.

Rotation made it Roto Force

By the beginning of 2022, Klinger was ready to turn perhaps the biggest page in the history of the game. It’s time to change the name to Roto Force, which properly reflected the main feature of the game: screen rotation. Other names were considered, but Roto was a unifying aspect among them. The updated gameplay has made Roto Force more visually impressive and seemingly more dynamic. Instead of the character running and racing around the edges of the map, the map was rotated so that the player remained at the bottom of the screen.

We had several different versions of the name, Roto Rush is one of them. Part of Roto stuck, we just didn’t decide which name to choose at first, until we finally settled on Roto Force.

The dashboard has also been improved. Instead of rushing straight to the opposite wall or at a 45-degree angle to the other two, the player could aim the dash with the mouse.

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