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Just a simple and probably stupid question.

I noticed that many iOS and Android shooter games tend to avoid using traditional buttons in favour to autofire.

The very first reason to do so is to have more space in the screen available for graphics. However this takes away some satisfaction to the user when "pressing the virtual button". I understand that the fact that smartphone buttons would be only "virtual" is a good design reason to remove them and add autofire, but I was wondering which sort of comments your users (if u are one of those developers) have given you about this choice.

In short:

  • Does autofire add to the gameplay?
  • Does a game without autofire (and hence buttons) result inadequate for a smartphone and/or become less fun to play?
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I don't think this is something you can answerin general. In my opinion this really depends on the actual gameplay. I'd split games into two categories:

  • Games where you essentially shoot most of the time: This are classic shoot-em-up games, like R-Type, Solar Striker, Gradius, Parodius, etc. In these games most people will want to permanently shoot anyway, with the occassional priming/charging up of shots. These games are perfect for including an autofire Option (maybe even forcing it).

  • Games where you don't want to shoot all the time: This are usually platformers and other games where precision is more important than just shooting everything appearing on screen. Reasons for this could be anything, from limited ammunition to limited number of projectiles on screen, etc. Classic games for this group would be all the Metroidvania games (like Metroid, Castlevania, Contra,...). Contra might actually be a game where autofire would work. But others, especially Mega Man or Metroid won't work that way. These games use ammunition and with autofire you'd just waste like 99% of it.

So what should you do? Think about the generic gameplay in your game. Do you want the players to shoot all the time? Do you want them to think before shooting? Are you providing unlimited ammo or any incentives to not shoot all the time (like weapons overheating)? Once that's decided, pick what you think fits best. Or even better: Just add a toggleable option or let the Player play a simple/short introduction/tutorial stage and ask them whether they'd like autofire turned on or off.

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I would argue that even in games where you should or have to shoot all the time, making player do it plays into more immersive experience. –  nirth Mar 18 '13 at 10:12
    
Yeah, I wouldn't force it in general, but this really depends on the actual gameplay mechanics as well. E.g. it could be possible that you only steer a spaceship and use special abilities, while basic weapon fire is automated (see "Armada Online" for an example). –  Mario Mar 18 '13 at 10:15
    
@Mario thank u for the nice and clear answer. In my game I do not need the player to shoot all time and wanted to give an incentive to be precise (e.g. extra score if precision target is achieved). This is because I wanted the player to immerse more in the character. Your answer gives shape to what I had in mind and, in addition, ensures me (I am a newbie indie developer and wanted to double check things with the community). Thanks! –  mm24 Mar 18 '13 at 15:30
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