• Role: Lead Designer & Engineer
  • Team size: 1
  • Date: September 2012
  • Engine: Flash
  • Available: Click Here

Orbit was a arcade bullet-hell for iOS devices. PlOrbitScreenShotayed top down, the player controls a spaceship that orbits a huge HAL inspired eye in a big boss battle type showdown.

The game was in reaction to many of the other prototypes i had been creating over the past several months which all tended towards methodical/puzzle/strategic play. To break away that niche I delved into the twitch based genre of bullet hell shooters.

What was new about it?

Bullet Hell games have been around for a while, Ikaruga and Geometry Wars are fantastic examples of the genre. However, when you look at all of them, most of them all play in a similar fashion. The game is vertical, with enemies streaming down towards the players ship, raining bullets.

I had been constructing prototypes for mobile/tablet design and wanted to push myself creatively to see if could develop a control scheme that would serve better on a touch screen device. Most action games created rely on a virtual joystick, which in my opinion takes up valuable screen real state.

Looking back through older prototypes of mine I saw that I had once used a circular method of movement in a drunk driving simulation. That clicked.  By binding the player to the circumference of a circle they are only given two options, Go left, or Go right. Which fits perfectly with the iPhone, by pressing the left hand side of the screen, the ship rotates counterclockwise, and by pressing the right the ship rotates clockwise.

Designing the Game

Bullet Hell games are all about creating patterns and directing the player where they can go. Depending on the rate of fire, the number of rounds, and the reload time of the bullet spawners an infinite number of patterns are available, which becomes the fun part of the design process.

Over the course of the game the player is challenged by five different stages of bullet patterns that get progressively harder.

The bullet patterns are the meat of the game, but to add flavor there is a powerup system, which gives added bonus’s to the player. Double shot, rapid fire, creating a shield, are all genre standards. However, I wanted to add a bit of Galaga to the game. One of the powerups allows for a second ship to be created that is 180 degrees opposite from the player. And the way all of the bullet patterns are designed there is consistently a safe spot 180 degrees away from the player’s ship. So in theory as long as the player next makes a mistake, their firepower is doubled.

Choice has always been something I strive to give the player and at the beginning of the game they are face with 1 of three. More aggressive players can get a permanent increase to their damage, defensive players can get an increase to the number of lives at the beginning of the game, and the last option doubles the amount of powerups that drop from the eye.


Experimental, Flash