Z-Exemplar is a side-scrolling shooter in the tradition of R-Type, Gradius, Nemesis and other classic arcade games from the past. Borrowing its aesthetic from the computers of yesteryear (specifically the Sinclair ZX Spectrum) Z-Exemplar combines bright, bold, 8-bit pixel art with frantic action and an epic mission to conquer a galaxy of almost 1000 planets.
Z-Exemplar was conceived as a love letter to the ZX Spectrum. Proudly retro, the game embraces the limitations of its 8-bit inspiration to deliver a fast-action, guns-toting, laser-blasting quest with intuitive gameplay and long-lasting appeal.
But it's not just nostalgia for its own sake.
There is something hugely appealing in the 8-bit aesthetic, something that can be absent in photo-realism. There is space for interpretation, for imagination and a vague assemblage of pixels can evoke in players a different emotion from that engendered by more detailed, distinct images. With the added vibrancy of the ZX Spectrum’s colour palette, this pixellated aesthetic gives Z-Exemplar’s visuals a unique and distinctive feel.
On its surface Z-Exemplar's gameplay appears simple - shoot anything that moves and collect the booty they leave behind - but the over-arching goal of the game is anything but. You are tasked with conquering all 960 planets that make up a hostile galaxy with each planet's defenses uniquely configured. As you explore the outer reaches of the galaxy, the defenses become stronger and enemies more lethal and numerous. There is abundant challenge in Z-Exemplar, challenge that grows with your experience.
To turn the battle in your favour you can access an arsenal of over 20 upgradeable weapons that transform your basic fighter craft into a devastating war machine - selecting the right loadout for each planetary battle is essential.
Z-Exemplar has now been released on all its intended platforms - PC, Mac, Android and iOS.
The reaction to it has been positive across the board but one thing that has been mentioned more than once is the touch control for mobile versions. It's fair to say I may have underestimated the range of types of controls players prefer when it comes to playing games on their mobile devices. My intention had always been that the game would be played purely using a form of drag-controller.
I was wrong. In a number of ways.
Firstly the drag-controller I implemented initially was fairly hard-coded and there was little the player could do to tailor it to their own needs. Additionally on certain devices the drag-controls simply didn't function they way I had intended them to. This didn't make a great first impression and I think the game may have suffered because of it.
As a result of these controls not being up to the task I received a lot of feedback from people who loved the game but were struggling to play it! I hastily implemented an on-screen D-Pad and dynamic joystick in an effort to assuage some of the more negative comments but, as I’ve said in previous posts, I don't have much love for either of these control methods.
I knew the game played best with the drag-controls I’d had in mind initially so I went back to the drawing board and revamped them, allowing for various settings to be changed so the player could tailor them to suit their needs.
Z-Exemplar plays much improved with the updated drag-controls.
The player is now able to define the size of the drag area to suit their need.
A smaller drag area means larger ship movements but less accuracy -
a larger drag area gives finer control over the ship.
The final update with these controls was released this week and so far everyone that has used them has found the game a lot easier to play. I just wish I’d taken the time to get them right the first time around - important lesson learned!
When you start developing a game you have certain goals in mind that you hope to achieve and one of those, for me, was to get a review on TouchArcade.com, the site I probably visit more than any other to get my fix of mobile gaming news (outside of IndieDB of course). Any rating would have done - even a lowly 1 star would have sufficed so I was super excited when I read their review of Z-Exemplar...
The full review is available here
That's all for now.Thanks for reading.
Converting Z-Exemplar to mobile devices required some tricky touch-screen optimization. If it wasn't done right it could make the game unplayable.
An update on Z-Exemplar post-launch focusing on player and press reaction and some technical issues that had to be addressed.
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