When we first came up with the DieselStormers sidescroller, we tried a classic console approach for a retro feel, play-style and control scheme. In light of the fact that it is nigh impossible for the popular free-aim style to have identical gameplay on both consoles and PC, we opted initially for a game with no aiming at all.
In the original design, the player could only choose where they were shooting at by changing where they were shooting from. The idea was to force the player to move around and interact with the map more, rather than to simply sit in one place and aim.
But most of the people who tested that early version did not find the retro feel we were looking for, and instead thought the no-aim just made the gameplay finicky and irritating.
So we went over the design, and decided to swap the no-aim for a Contra-style discrete aiming. The idea was to make a sort of compromise, with an effort to maintain as much of the original retro feel as possible, while satisfying the demands of the players. Many things had to be reworked, including animations and level design, to match the 8-directional discrete aiming.
Although these controls were generally very well received at this stage on a controller, it just didn’t work with a mouse and keyboard. So, having Steam as our first target platform, we wanted something that really supports mouse and keyboard, since that’s what the vast majority of our players would be using.
So, after a year and a half of development, we finally fully swapped over to free aim. Even more animations had to be made, level design had to be rethought again, and we had to revisit and rethink many of our choices in terms of play style.
But, ultimately, players’ feedback triumphed, and the game is now fully implemented with free-aim.