[Feedback Please] Physics-based-rhythmic-fighting game

edited in Projects
Hey all,

I hope everyone is staying sane and healthy during these mad times.

Recently I've been playing Apple Arcade titles and felt inspired to try create something that looks and feels cool on mobile (eventually).

I present to you a physics-y rhythmic-y matrix-y fighter:
Witchdoctor Duel


Grab the latest win/mac build here:
Password: ash

My aim with this is to get it to a place where it feels compelling enough to pitch to a mobile publisher.

I'd love to get feedback from the community, specifically around:
  • What your general thoughts are while playing? What do you love / hate?
  • Are the music / beat-timing mechanics clear to you? Time slows on each beat, so it's advantageous to release moves on a beat so that you get a full beat of movement before the next time-slow. Also if you release moves on the beat you get an extra power boost. Any ideas on improving this?
  • If you've had any experience or success with mobile stores or publishers I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and what to add or avoid.

Thanks and happy dueling!


  • Played around a bit. It's quite fun and pretty cool seeing the characters do some sick moves.
    Music's great.
    Sometimes the yellow enemy gets to go twice. Not sure if that is supposed to happen.
    What about super moves after charging up enough energy?
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • @iamdavidnight thanks for checking it out and sharing your thoughts.

    Beats are by Aesop Rock for the most part, I'd love to find someone who can conjure some sonic magic if I take this further :)

    Regarding yellow having 2 turns ... there is a "stun" mechanic. So once a doctor gets hit in the head (or knocks their head too hard into the floor) they get stunned and skip a turn. Currently there's an effect that plays when this happens but it's obviously not clear enough at this point. Good to know.

    I like the idea of super moves and/or charging. Ideally I'd like to have those happen coupled with the music / beat. Right now you get a slight boost (and hit with more force) if you release a move close enough to a beat. Another idea I'm playing with is if you get 2-4 well-timed beats in a row then you get a super-move. Is that kinda what you have in mind?

    Thanks again.
    Thanked by 1iamdavidnight
  • Yes exactly! Rate it would juice it up a bit! Keen to see what you come up with. :)
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • edited
    I downloaded this last week, but with Ludumdare and whatnot only got around to playing it tonight.

    I found it quite difficult to tell why things happened when they did. Sometimes I'd see what I thought were particles around the head region, but no damage would be dealt. (I see that the camera moves in when damage is dealt, which feels pretty great, but I feel like what triggers that isn't very clear.) Similarly, I'd sometimes land a crazy first shot that'd knock the other character off-screen for an instant win, and it wasn't clear to me why I was so successful on those hits and not on others.

    Something that might feel good is to have armour on each limb. The thinking is that the armour might add weight to the characters, so that a fully-armoured character is much less likely to be one-shot off of the screen (whereas someone who's lost most of their armour might be easily knocked away). It could also provide more reward for hitting various limbs, for knocking off pieces. (Otherwise, I see a lot of hit impact particles, but they seem to have little gameplay consequence.)

    I never really understood the beat-matching. I could see the squares changing scale, but I wasn't sure if my timing was supposed to be when they were scaling up, when they were scaling down, or in between, and I didn't notice any difference regardless. (I've got friends who're working on a beat-matching game where you shoot in time to the beat for bonuses, and I similarly struggled with their game. They ended up moving toward a Guitar Hero-style indicator for clarity, because then you know if you were early or late, and what your timing window was supposed to be. It's not an elegant solution, but it's clear.)

    I know it's a prototype, but I liked the visuals anyway. I like the dark, moody background and the bright characters and fx, which stand out. I'm not particularly excited by "Witchdoctors" as a theme, but maybe you have ideas for its potential that aren't really shown here. The music's badass, and even though I wasn't sure what I was doing, the fighting visuals and the camera feel nice and juicy!
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • edited
    @Elyaradine thanks for taking the time to play & write that up. Really enjoyed your LD entry btw.

    It sounds like the two biggest issues right now are lack of clarity around events (David mentioned this too) and seeing some things that don't seem to have a consequence.

    The limb armor is a cool idea. I've been swaying between a more traditional "health" system or something like you mentioned with armour... where taking hits makes you gain momentum and means it's easier for you to get flung into the off-screen void. The amour idea kinda combines both, which I like. Could also feel amazing to see the bits breaking off and flying away in slow motion between moves.

    On beat-matching, I've heard similar feedback when watching friends play... so the game is still far off the mark there. At this point I'm not sure how core I want to make the beat stuff, but the idea still intrigues me and I'm aiming for duels to feel like a wicked tribal dance rather than a fight. The vid is a good reference, thanks. This has got a much slower pace than that Soundfall clip, I wonder if there's a way to take advantage of that.

    Thrilled to hear you liked the visuals! There's still lots of cool things I'd like to try there.

    On the theme, I'm kinda imagining them as these otherworldly, woodland creatures that engage in these duels for the fun of it. Like a favourite cultural pastime. Was "witchdoctors" off-putting to you or just meh?
  • ashashza said:
    On the theme, I'm kinda imagining them as these otherworldly, woodland creatures that engage in these duels for the fun of it. Like a favourite cultural pastime. Was "witchdoctors" off-putting to you or just meh?
    Oh, I'm not put off by it; I just don't think of it as being particularly "cool". There could be many reasons why a witch-doctor themed game would be super great, but I feel that you'd end up having to work a bit harder to show this (and that's fine, if you're set on it. Maybe you've got something up your sleeve to make people think "Oh damn! I should've thought of witch doctors! It's such a cool theme because <reasons>!"). If it was a witch doctor potion brewing game, however, that seems like a stronger combination to me than witch doctor fighting game, I think.

    "Fighting woodland creatures" sounds more interesting to me, personally.

    This is very thumb-suck from me, of course, but the point's just that it's worth spending a bit of time picking a good, matching theme. It makes it much easier to come up with new content (because you can then easily reference other elements of the theme in other media, or in the real world), and makes it easier to capture peoples' imaginations when talking marketing.
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • Aww I can't open it on macOS Catalina. Would it be a problem for You to record some gameplay?
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • @Elyaradine Those are great points, thanks.

    @dummy and I spoke on the MGSA Discord a bit. I thought I'd just write my key takeaways here in case they're useful for anyone else:
    • It seems like making macOS builds ain't trivial anymore. See this guide.
    • For dummy, the core-gameplay isn't intuitive for enough. A player should be able to get the whole idea immediately.
    • If aiming for higher-end smartphone, it probably won't require too much optimisation. In his experience even 10 physics based characters on screen at once worked fine.
    • When aiming for mobile, it's worth thinking about portrait vs landscape layouts. Players prefer to play in portrait.
    Thanks for trying this out @dummy!
    Thanked by 1dummy
  • Can someone point me to research regarding mobile-player layout preference?
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • edited
    @watman Good question. I looked around but couldn't find hard data about portrait vs landscape games (and their success). There's a bunch of articles and although thoughtful, they didn't really provide data.

    This raised good points and concluded that your orientation pick should largely be based on the type of game and where/how it will be played.

    This much older piece mentioned "As of writing, there was exactly one portrait-mode game to be found among the top twenty bestsellers on both stores.", so that's counter evidence (albeit ancient).

    For the idle boxing game that @dummy released, it seems like portrait was the right choice. Looking at popular tycoon games on the App Store I found a mix between portrait and landscape titles but when you add the "idle" keyword, they're almost all portrait. This makes sense to me because many of them are the type of game that you'd like to pop open quickly and check-up on your progress (and not want the added friction of having to flip your phone around).

    For the physicsy fighty thing I'm working on, I've only ever considered landscape (because that's how fighting games are usually laid out) ... dummy's comment made be think about the orientation more consciously, so I appreciated that.

    If anyone else finds solid data on orientation, I'd be keen to take a look.

    Also, hoping to have a new build of this for folks to play in the next few days.
    Thanked by 2watman dummy
  • Intuitively, try holding your phone one handed in both portrait and landscape, see which one is more comfortable and can go on for longer. Portrait is a comfort thing, and two-handed play is far more involved. It sounds dumb, but every little thing matters when we're talking about player bases at scales of millions.
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • People with small hands and large phones ("phablets" were a category specifically pushed on women for a while) have different comfort requirements to people with large hands and small phones. (I don't know how the new foldable phones fit into this mix because I've never tested one.) No matter what mode I'm still using both hands, though. If it's portrait I'm holding the phone with one hand and interacting with the screen with the other. Even on a small phone I'm not using my thumb from the hand that is holding the phone because it's uncomfortable and I can't reach the entire screen. If it's landscape it's like holding a gamepad controller or a PSP-type device with both hands, in some instances, which is usually comfortable, but in other instances this is not viable (the Kingdom Rush games, for example).

    There are so many variables that it really comes down to making sure that the orientation suits the gameplay and the controls are comfortable within the format, or at least configurable, such as for a landscape game with "stick" controls on either side that ideally should be relocatable by the player to fit his/her comfortable hand span.

    (This is why I was asking about actual research because everyone has theories. They're all valid considerations but they're often narrow perspectives based on a game dev's personal experience of using devices.)
    Thanked by 2Tuism ashashza
  • edited
    I've gone to bigger phones and gone back to a smaller one, and yes with bigger ones I struggle with either portrait or landscape. But if I'm holding a phone one handed, portrait is still the go-to option even if I can't reach everything.

    Of course, the game style matters, but for a big enough share of the market, portrait = easier. And as you say, if you're using two hands in both orientations, then... Then there's no difference practically whether it's portrait or landscape in terms of which is preferable/more useable, unless I'm misunderstanding you?

    The most ideal is for both modes to always work for everyone. More accessibility is good. But if there's not enough resources or if the game design doesn't fit both, then one of the two need to be picked.
    Thanked by 2watman ashashza
  • OMG I just lost everything I typed because it didn't save a draft and I thought it had.

    "Big enough share of the market" is why I was asking about research. I'm not saying it's wrong but it's a very broad statement and that can lead to incorrect assumptions and bad design. (For a topical non-gaming, real-world example, those Perspex screens that were put up in Pick 'n' Pay stores above the till points, specifically above the cabinet that houses the till operator's computer, amount to the health version of security theatre. Many female customers, in particular, don't stand at that part of the till in a normal setting because it is too high and they can't see the till operator so they either opt to stand right before it, at the end of the conveyor, or right after it, at the credit-card machine. The Perspex screen doesn't extend to either of those places. I would not be surprised to learn that the screens and their placement were conceived, designed, and approved by tall men who didn't think beyond their own experience when they go shopping. Consequently they do very little to help the till operators stay safe and are a waste of money.)

    Using both hands in either orientation doesn't necessarily mean it's more comfortable. It depends on the game. The Alto games require landscape but I tend to control them with my right hand (and hold with my left), which obscures the right hand side of the screen and that is where the obstacle line of sight is. (It's not a direct comfort issue, except that I find it easier to use my right hand as it has more dexterity for that kind of game than my left hand but it comes at a cost in this case in that sometimes I miss pertinent visual information. I consider it a design flaw and it results in player frustration, although I don't know that there is an easy way to fix it.)

    I was asking about research because people were making what seemed to be very definitive statements about orientation and they didn't align with my personal experience or theoretical consumers I envision when I test games (and so far there seems not to be any research to back anything up; also, nothing any of us has said is incorrect, as much as it is contradictory). Ultimately it really comes down to making sure you pick the right orientation for the game you are designing, based on where and how you anticipate people will play the game (quickly in a queue for five minutes versus at home on the couch for half an hour), which is based on the type of game you are making, and how you intend to lay out the controls on screen, if you're doing that, or what the control scheme is (one tap but where are people likely to tap?). You then need to test it thoroughly, preferably with a variety of people and device sizes.
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • Hey all,

    I'm still working on this and wanted to share progress. There isn't a new build yet but here's to moving pictures...

    Better context
    After feedback from @iamdavidnight & @Elyaradine, I've added blatant UI to better indicate what's happening:
    This is super-placeholder but it already adds a lot to players feeling in control and having context of what's going on.

    Control / Input
    I've spent most of my time trying to get the input system right. I'm learning more and more that a player's feeling of control is critical in making something enjoyable. Too little control usually means people get frustrated... too much usually leaves no space for challenge. The initial prototype often had situations where I watched people try to do something but dragging a straight line from a limb didn't pull of what they wanted. So I've changed to a gesture input system where you draw out a shape and your witchdoctor/creature tries to follow the shape.
    This feels sooo much better. Now you can draw one-two punches, round house kicks and body dodges... there's still wonky stuff happening sometimes, but it's approaching good.

    More Enemies
    Instead of just a 1v1 fight, there is now a queue of opponents which get progressively more difficult.

    I've paused working on the music / beat timing mechanics until I can get the basic movement and fighting to feel engaging enough. It feels like if the fundamentals are off no amount of rhythm can save this. :P

    I'm still having fun working on this, so I'm planning to add a few different "levels" to play and will share another build.
    Thanked by 2Tuism Lesedi_Mosadi
  • Hey I played on PC. Here are my thoughts:
    Maybe I am not the target audience for this kind of game so please take it with a grain of salt.

    I found the music and ambience cool. The camera movements are also really nice and the environment is cool.

    I don't like the combat as it is. I didn't find it satisfying. I would like it if they were on the ground and threw more satisfying punches and kicks or headbutts even. I don't like it how they float. and their whole bodies move by a misterious force. The force should come from them pushing off the ground.

    I don't see a need for the game to be based on the timing of a beat. I think I would actually find it more fun if it was just turn by turn.

    I don't like the theme of witch doctors. It doesn't really link up with anything I know about. Maybe a theme of guys that are more likely to get into a fight such as drunk guys in a club? I think it would be funnier.

    Hope it helps.

    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • Hey @Plenopterix, thanks for trying it out.

    I hear you on the combat, it sounds like you'd prefer it to be more grounded in reality. Heh, grounded. There is definitely a floaty-ness to it right now that I'm not happy with yet. The float is mostly there because I've found it results in more dynamic poses which look cooler. But I'm keen to try experiment with a level which is less floaty and see how that feels.

    Point taken on beat timing. I'm curious to know if that's general or specific for you. Namely, do you like like rhythm games generally and this game just didn't feel good (imho it's definitely bad right now)? Or do you not find rhythm mechanics enjoyable generally?

    Sounds like you'd prefer a more grounded theme too. I've gone more ethereal because I'd prefer to have things less violent and feel like there's more to explore in a reality that doesn't quite mirror our own. "It doesn't really link up with anything I know about.", I really like that statement, it makes me think of things in a new way. There is a bit of a story I'd like to tell with this, so I'd be curious to see over time if linking parts of that story up with this reality makes it resonate better with you.

    Thanks again!
  • I prefer fighting games to rhythm games. I'm not drawn to rhythm games really.

    I think a great fighting game has to be violent. Maybe they could be rain dancing haha. But don't let me obstruct your creative vision.
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • If you're aiming for mobile stores, I believe you limit yourself pretty heavily if you're making a particularly violent title. It discourages the stores from featuring your game, reducing some of your organic marketing. It's one of the reasons why even though you do see "violent" titles on mobile stores, the violence, if present, is almost always cartoony and tame. In particular, they seem to be quite sensitive about blood, even if it's cartoony.

    But also, I disagree that fighting games have to be violent, though they're less common. Smash Bros is a very obvious, successful example.
  • edited
    I'm with @Elyaradine here. It would bring about a bunch of restrictions and I don't think it's an essential component for a fighting game to feel great.

    A quick search of Apple's guidelines had some interesting notes:
    1.1.2 Realistic portrayals of people or animals being killed, maimed, tortured, or abused, or content that encourages violence. “Enemies” within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, real government, corporation, or any other real entity.
    2.3.8 Metadata should be appropriate for all audiences, so make sure your app and in-app purchase icons, screenshots, and previews adhere to a 4+ age rating even if your app is rated higher. For example, if your app is a game that includes violence, select images that don’t depict a gruesome death or a gun pointed at a specific character.
    Overall with this game, I'd love for the duels to feel more like a dance than a fight... and on that note I've got a new build to share!


    • New input system - Now you can draw lines, arcs, squiggles and creatures follow the movements more predictably. I've spent most of my time here.
    • Health - Instead of the discrete 3 / 3 health units from the previous build, this build has health bars which feel less rigid (especially when facing multiple opponents).
    • Levels - I've added a few test areas to play with mechanic ideas. The visuals & audio are all very placeholder right now.
    • The rhythm / beat-timing part of this is still far off the mark, hoping to address that soon.
    I'd be interested in any feedback you have, particularly regarding:
    • Are stuns & blocks clear? In the last build it was pretty unclear when / why you were stunned.
    • How do you feel about input & movement control? Are the creatures doing what you expect for the most part?
    • What levels / mechanics do you enjoy most while playing this?

    Overall, I'm still enjoying working on and playing this so I'm going to continue iterating on it.
  • If you'd like comparison feedback you need to keep the old builds up as some people (me!) haven't had a chance to download and play yet.
    Thanked by 1ashashza
  • @watman good idea. I considered it but felt for this build it's enough to play only the latest and say if things feel good or not. I also didn't want to make anyone feel like they'd need to commit to playing before and after before giving feedback. Will keep this in mind for future though.

    If you'd like access to the previous builds for historical purposes, I'd be happy to put them up for you.

  • Definitely for historical, thank you.
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