Icebreaker: Missing

Icebreaker is not a game about precision aiming. No quick mousework is required, and nothing dodges your blasts. It’s controlled by an eight-direction digital D-pad or its equivalent, and the things you’re shooting at are mostly either slow and predictable, or completely stationary and arranged in neat lines. And yet, I find I miss fairly frequently. Why?

For one thing, collision detection seems to be somewhat buggy. Or maybe not; I’m having difficulty making up my mind about this. It’s definitely true that when a seeker pyramid is approaching me from due north, and I shoot due north, my shot will occasionally go right through it, possibly destroying a red pyramid directly behind it. But understand that seekers don’t simply glide rigidly from place to place. Rather, they trundle and sway, wobbling like they’re made of rubber. Sometimes they look like they’re actually leaping. I can almost convince myself that they’re leaping over my shots, or, more likely, swaying out of their way — the oblique isometric view means that the grid-lines are diagonal, so what looks like moving straight down could be a series of diagonal tacks. Or it could just be a glitch. The framerate and the speed of the shots are such that the shots actually do skip stretches of pixels between frames, visually if not internally.

But there’s another factor, and one which has got to be deliberate. I said that the grid lines are diagonal. And I said that you could fire in eight directions, including diagonally. But diagonal shots don’t follow the grid lines. They’re at a slightly different angle — off enough that you can stand still and blast at a row of three red pyramids, and destroy the first two but not the third. I’m not entirely sure if the same applies to diagonal movement, because movement typically involves frequent small stops and adjustments to deal with attackers, but it probably does. This difference sometimes allows the player to pull off shots that would otherwise be impossible — for example, shooting a red pyramid on the other side of a green one that would otherwise block the shot. But mostly it’s just something that you have to get used to.

1 Comment so far

  1. Andrew Looney on 23 May 2010

    Again, great review pages! I’ve really enjoyed these.

    Yes, there’s a confirmed bug (in the Windows version only) that causes shots going north to occasionally miss when they clearly should have hit.

    Yes, it was a deliberate choice to have the diagonal angle of shots not match the angle of the tiles. Well, sort of. That one actually started out as a bug, but we decided we liked it better that way. (I even tried changing it to match at one point, and ended up changing it back.)

    What level are you up to?

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