Reviving the Phonics Shooter

I started a project ages ago, a game that was to be a shooter intended to help students learn phonics. The ship shoots sound bullets; all the enemies have letters on their ships and are only vulnerable to the sounds those letters make. Some ships are therefore only vulnerable to one sound, while a C ship, for example, is vulnerable to two.

I can’t remember why I stopped working on it. Judging by the last time I accessed the project, it might have had to do with Ultra Hat Dimension and our decision to polish and ship the prototype we made for Ludum Dare. Regardless, it’s been a good long time. Although I opted to continue using the Godot Engine to make it, I decided to start again from the ground up.

Re-Making Progress

It only took me an afternoon to get back to pretty much where I was before. That could say something about how well I relearn long-disused scripting languages. Alternately, it could say something about how much I learned in the process of getting to where I was in the first place. Or both.

Either way, I am back to having a ship (programmer art triangle ship, yay) the player can move without leaving the screen. Bullets successfully fire and make noise when they spawn. The bullets also despawn when they get offscreen. I don’t have the starfield background back in place. For one thing, putting it there is trivial. I also changed the aspect ratio of the game, which means I need to redo the “art.” I do not have any collision stuff implemented. I was only partway into that when I stopped working on it before, anyway, though.

A Design Change

I made a different design choice this time, and it’s a pretty big one. Before, the player had to push a button to fire bullets, but now the ship just fires constantly. That may not stick; the bullets can’t fire too rapidly or the sounds clip. When you combine that with not being able to control when bullets fire, it gets harder to actually shoot things.

However, I’d rather the student hear the sound over and over again while they play. It better suits the educational objective of getting them to associate the sounds with their corresponding letters by making the sound a constant presence. I plan to use IPA symbols to represent bullet types, but I also don’t care if the students remember IPA symbols. The audial awareness they’ll get from hearing the sound over and over again is far more useful.

Difficult(y) Ponderings

I’ve been considering ways around the difficulty problem and am thinking about having spread fire be the default way of bullets. If they start with three bullets in a narrow spread fire pattern, they should be able to hit things pretty easily even without controlling when bullets happen. Upgrades can increase the number of bullets in the spread for more directions or give the player turrets that shoot directly ahead.

These are balance issues I can’t really address until I get enemies spawning, enemy bullets spawning, enemy attack paths into place, and collision working. It’s gonna end up being a balance thing, and I have a bit of work to do before I get to that.

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