Friday, April 18, 2014

Beat Hazard: Shadow Operations Unit DLC

Contained within this cost-efficient DLC package is a brand new ship hangar with a "make your own ship" option, Steam Workshop support for sharing your ships with others, new ships we've never seen before that all have different gameplay characteristics, and missions to go with each ship.

The Ship Hangar is the meat of the update.  Remember the old "Ship Skin" option under Game Settings?  Well, that got replaced with this.  Each ship has its own set of three Shadow Operations Unit missions, and doing these will let you rank up within the Shadow Operations Unit.  Doing so unlocks more ships and ship customization options.  It's all extremely straightforward and integrates well with the game.  The missions are essentially challenges, like "Score 4 million points on a single track" or "Complete two tracks on Hardcore difficulty".  Each mission has a death penalty resulting in loss of some or all progress on the mission, so it basically forces you to get better at the game.  Rising to a challenge is precisely what gamers want, and this DLC allows us to do that, without ever really making it tedious.

I've played around with the ship creator a bit, and its range of options is amazing.  You can set your fire spread, the Beat Hazard weapon spread, and even the coordinates of the guns on the ship so it'll match up with whatever graphics you're using.  I haven't made any ship graphics to import yet, but there's already a plethora of ships available on Steam Workshop, so even if you don't want to go through all the effort of making custom ship graphics, you can grab a ship that someone else has made and use that.

To keep everything balanced, each ship now has its own leaderboard.  I'm unsure how this works with Workshop ships, but it's nice nonetheless.

Overall, the Shadow Operations Unit DLC is a good example of DLC done right.  A lot of thought went into it, and it does it unobtrusively, allowing you to disable the missions in the options if you so desire.  In fact, the other major content DLC for Beat Hazard, Ultra, is also a good example of DLC done right.  It was basically a completely new game with refurbished mechanics that freshened everything up and made everything less predictable.

I'll take the opportunity to remind you that Cold Beam Games is one guy.  One guy made this game and all its DLC.  That very same guy is also active in the Beat Hazard community forums on Steam, where he handles bug reports and feature requests directly, and also socializes with the community that's built up around his game.  This makes him one of the better indie developers out there, in my opinion.

Good job, Cold Beam Games.  Can't wait for Beat Hazard 2, since you said that's the next thing coming down the pike.

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