Phobos Down - A minimal 3D twin stick shooter - Feedback needed!

Phobos Down is a semi-casual twin stick shooter where you get to mow down waves of unique aliens on an uncharted planet. You have only three weapons but you can modify them to suit your needs along the way. Every run is different.

Download (Windows/Linux): Phobos Down on Itch.io
Wishlist on Steam: Phobos Down on Steam

I have been working on this hobby project for nearly three years now and it currently has all the core mechanics in place but lacks a lot of content and polish. I need your feedback to make it better!

5 Likes

Just played this, did all 7 levels of the weekly mission and had a great time!

I can tell you’ve put a lot of work into it.

As you asked for feedback:

Weapons

  • I really enjoyed the sense of progression due to upgrading the weapons. By the end of the game, all three weapons felt really powerful and it was great. Some upgrades seemed a lot more useful than others (damage and fire rate being more useful than the laser sight for instance) but I think that’s part of the fun.
  • It would be cool to see more dramatic upgrades (like the sniper rifle) show up from time to time - the rocket launcher blasts setting things on fire, exploding pellets for the shotgun, a minigun upgrade for the assault rifle, etc. They could be rare, and balanced to be a bit OP for their level but to quickly fall behind. This would encourage players to switch upgrades more often and give them interesting choices about if they should finally get rid of that level 2 flame upgrade now that they have access to a level 4 blast radius upgrade. This is exactly what happened to me with the sniper rifle - I enjoyed switching things up a bit for a level, and then on the next stage I replaced it with a fire-rate upgrade which made the gun feel great.
  • For at least the first few levels, the assault rifle didn’t feel as effective or “juicy” as the other two. Getting hits with the rocket launcher makes you feel powerful and skilled, it’s really satisfying. The shotgun is good fun too, it feels like a shotgun (though I think it could do with a bit of recoil on the player and knockback on the enemies). But the assault rifle felt more like an automatic pistol to me at the start. I think just upping the rate of fire a bit (even if that means reducing the damage a little to balance it) and maybe adding a very small spread would go some way to fixing this. Then it just needs a little more “juice”…
  • You may well have seen this really great talk already, but it explains what I mean by juice far better than I could: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJdEqssNZ-U. I’m not suggesting you just do everything he lists (you’ve already done a lot of them!) but I think taking on the ideas that feel right to you could help here. As I said earlier, by the end of the game all the guns feel great, so it’s a balancing act to bump them up at the start a bit and still try to keep that sense of progression. Giving every hit a small critical hit chance could do wonders, and it’d help the assault rifle as it has a higher rate of fire and more chances to crit.

Enemies

  • The enemies you have are satisfying and feel different from each other, but I think the game would benefit a lot from just a few more types being introduced as the levels get higher (not just recolours). I like the lumbering walks a lot. My favourite enemies were the little ones that rush you - they demanded attention and forced me to change what I was doing a little, which is good.
  • I quite often found myself falling into a pattern of circle strafing around a mass of enemies while I whittled them down. This was probably the least interesting way I could have played, but it was effective, so like most players I did it anyway. I think this could be addressed by any or all of:
    • Introducing uncommon new enemies that specifically meddle with this strategy, for example by separating themselves from the pack and trying to flank the player, or running at them in a difficult zig-zag pattern.
    • Having the enemies dislike clustering for too long. If a few start running for a nearby hill while this is happening, then they create a new and interesting situation that the player has to adapt to and solve.
    • Giving enemies a small chance to get their aim a bit wrong. Since they largely aim directly at the player, if you are always moving perpendicular to their line of fire, they will almost never hit. If they sometimes fire a few degrees off target, it actually increases the chance of them hitting you while strafing - which means you have to dodge, and are kept on your toes. You’d have to experiment to get it to feel right.
    • having (perhaps the bigger enemies) get “frustrated” if you keep circling them. They could give a big roar, rear up, and charge at you with an unexpected surge of speed. The player can either focus them down or move out of the way, but either way it breaks up their pattern and gives the other enemies a chance to spread out of their blob.
  • I think you randomised the stats of each spawned enemy a little (either that or some just somehow ended up faster than others). This was good. I think there should be a bit more of it - like occasionally meeting an one enemy in the pack who is twice as fast as normal to shake you up a bit. You could only allow this when the player has near full health, to avoid players feeling cheated if an unexpected rush kills them.

Missions

  • The missions worked but I’d have liked a little more variety in objectives and layout. You can probably take that with a pinch of salt, because I say that in almost every game, but it’s true for me. Maybe one level has you trying to get through a winding valley and escape, another is just a boss fight against a big bad bug, and another gives you a very small plateau to defend, with bugs pouring up the (to you) impassable sides while you run around activating turrets, which you have several of, and trying to take out the biggest threats. I can imagine some people preferring the consistent game loop though - I might be the odd ball here.
  • I do think something more dramatic should happen when a building is close to being destroyed. I lost one while it was off-screen in… I think it was the first mission… and I didn’t really know what had happened. A big explosion effect emanating from “over there” would’ve explained it, but warning before it was destroyed would be even better and help raise tension.
  • I liked the zoom in at the start, it let me identify the map layout and where the buildings were very quickly - almost without thinking of it. You could use that as an opportunity to use some UI elements to highlight those buildings even more.

General

  • I think the whole thing is really slick and well put together. I like the weapon wheel, and it feels consistent with the upgrade options. I like the vibe the game gives off. It’s really cool.
  • I noticed this more in the beginning of my run, but my bullets often hit the ground on the way to an enemy. I got used to using hills to stop that from happening, but it did feel a little off. I’m not sure what the best way to address that is, but it might be worth experimenting.
  • I often forgot how much health I had, and only very rarely felt it as a pressing concern (even when it should have been). I think you should make the player’s health more obvious, at least when it’s low. A red or black vignette effect with increasing intensity as your health gets low, maybe coupled with zooming in the screen, could be really effective there. It would limit the players range of vision, making them feel more penned in, more vulnerable, the lower their health gets and really ramp up the tension. Maybe when low, you could use markers at the edge of the screen (as you do for off-screen enemies) to highlight the nearest health packs, just to help them out a little. If you did do this, it would be important not to let the field of view get low enough that the player could get killed unfairly (by an off-screen bullet coming in too quickly to reasonably be avoided for example).
  • My favourite moment of the whole run was when I did something stupid, got a bit cornered and lost most of my health. I ran toward the nearest health pack I knew of but there were enemies on it, so I had to run around one of the crates I was meant to be protecting while all the enemies shot it and me and I desperately activated all the sentry turrets and bombs around it. The stakes were high, so it was exciting, but also just using all those turrets and bombs was really cool! I think you should try to encourage this, though I’m not sure how off the top of my head. I feel it’s kind of a shame that those cool set pieces cost the player points, because they’re fun and it means people are incentivised not to use them. They could probably be made a little different from each other too - maybe the orbital strike allows you to target somewhere other than where it is, maybe there’s another type of gun turret that you grab and control for a bit, getting firepower at the cost of being able to move.

So yeah, those are my thoughts having played it for an hour. I hope it’s helpful for you, and I’m happy to (even further) elaborate on any of it if you want. For now though, congratulations on your game! And thanks for a really fun hour… I should probably get back to learning Godot!

2 Likes

Whoa! This might well be the most comprehensive feedback I’ve ever gotten for a game. Thank you so much!

First of all, the game is still a work in progress and I will be adding more enemies, weapon modifiers and special devices. I have a lot of ideas for these and you just gave me some more.

The missions worked but I’d have liked a little more variety in objectives and layout.

The missions objectives could indeed use some variation but I like to keep things simple. After all, the player was sent there to specifically protect the cargo. I’m currently testing some secondary optional objectives that could add a tiny bit of variation. I have also planned some more decorative objects to add visual variation to the mission sites.

I do think something more dramatic should happen when a building is close to being destroyed. I lost one while it was off-screen in… I think it was the first mission… and I didn’t really know what had happened. A big explosion effect emanating from “over there” would’ve explained it, but warning before it was destroyed would be even better and help raise tension.

Currently there is only the blinking white indicators at screen edges that notify player when a container is getting damaged off-screen. Perhaps that indicator should become more visible when the container is badly damaged and maybe play some kind of a warning sound.

I noticed this more in the beginning of my run, but my bullets often hit the ground on the way to an enemy. I got used to using hills to stop that from happening, but it did feel a little off. I’m not sure what the best way to address that is, but it might be worth experimenting.

This is a common problem for a new player before learning that the heights matter. So far the only thing I’ve come up with to make this more visible is the dimming of the aiming reticle when there is no line of sight to target. Then again, hitting the ground does no real harm as the weapons won’t (directly) damage the player.

Maybe when low, you could use markers at the edge of the screen (as you do for off-screen enemies) to highlight the nearest health packs, just to help them out a little.

This should already be there. It should show white indicators at the screen edges but they might not be visible enough…

I feel it’s kind of a shame that those cool set pieces cost the player points, because they’re fun and it means people are incentivised not to use them.

This has already been changed in the current development version. I decided to remove the score costs on all devices because, like you said, it disincentivises using them for no real reason.

Again, thank you for the very useful feedback. This is very much appreciated!

Hey no worries.

It’s a little selfishly motivated to be honest, I’m trying to think about the games I play with more critique so that I can more easily critique my own game (when I get there). But even so, happy to help. :joy:

The missions objectives could indeed use some variation but I like to keep things simple. After all, the player was sent there to specifically protect the cargo. I’m currently testing some secondary optional objectives that could add a tiny bit of variation. I have also planned some more decorative objects to add visual variation to the mission sites.

Perfectly reasonable. Secondary objectives are a great idea. It’s always nice to have a risk vs reward option, or something to push for when “just winning” becomes easy. The leader board helps with that obviously. A letter ranking after each level could also be a good motivation to replay levels, up-skill and embrace the game’s systems.

Currently there is only the blinking white indicators at screen edges that notify player when a container is getting damaged off-screen. Perhaps that indicator should become more visible when the container is badly damaged and maybe play some kind of a warning sound.
This should already be there. It should show white indicators at the screen edges but they might not be visible enough…

Good idea. I’m not the most observant person, but I totally missed the white indicators. I guess when there are enemies on screen my focus is on them, so I probably only looked to the edges when I had no one to fight - hence spotting the red ones.

This is a common problem for a new player before learning that the heights matter. So far the only thing I’ve come up with to make this more visible is the dimming of the aiming reticule when there is no line of sight to target. Then again, hitting the ground does no real harm as the weapons won’t (directly) damage the player.

Yeah this is a tricky one. Something I’ve seen in games with similar considerations is a second reticule that shows up if the bullet will hit an obstacle. It’s usually connected by a line to the main reticule and indicates where the bullet will actually land. This is difficult with weapon spread though as “where it will land” is a region not a point. It’s fairly obvious when it happens already, but you could also use a puff of dust when a bullet falls short to further highlight it. It’d also look cool when you’re assault rifling the side of a hill and loads of dust kicks up which the enemies then burst through.

A semi-relevant technique I’m aware of is to give the player’s bullets two different collision sizes: a small one (or ray trace) for eg. terrain and obstacles, and a bigger one (or a sphere cast) for enemies. Both collision checks are ran and the one that hits closest to the source counts. Sometimes the collision check to hit enemies is bigger than the bullet. The player doesn’t notice, but it means sometimes when their shot would hit an obstacle, it instead goes past, and sometimes when they would JUST MISS the enemy, it still hits. The inverse can be done for enemy bullets, making cover easier to use and giving the player lots of exciting near-miss moments (when truthfully, if it was fair they would have been hit). Since you’re adding more decorative objects, there will be more opportunities for cover in the game, so this could become more relevant. The key to stuff like this is that the player doesn’t notice the cheat, but still gets the benefit (who knows, maybe you’ve already done it!).

This has already been changed in the current development version. I decided to remove the score costs on all devices because, like you said, it disincentivises using them for no real reason

Glad to hear it! I look forward to seeing your next showcase. :+1:

This is really important. Either an automatic companion. Or, just autopilot for player. It doesn’t have to be an entire army content.

I’ve been reworking drop pod and device handling and making new more recognizable low poly models for the devices. Here are some examples:

sentrygun

beacon

droppod