This thread is about creating some discussion on the fundamentals of items that you gather. Fundamentals like... you can lose rings but not lums.... only coins carry across levels... lums don't give lives but the game has infinite lives... etc. I am after some ideas on how to make collecting a ring feel better to the player, so this post is looking at the parts of rings/coins/lums that make a player want to grab one that he sees.
If not a discussion of fundamentals, this thread is also just a place to throw any ideas around and bounce them off each other. What else might rings do that isn't too cheap? That is, if anyone else is interested in such inanity heh.
Well here's one guy who was; a blog from 3 years ago about game fundamentals. On this particular page he has written about rings, comparing them to Mario's coins and finding fault with their handling of suspension, positioning and survival.
Back in the day it was completely common for a platformer to have something to gather strewn all over the place. I always thought there must be some cheap psychology to it and not much more, like either constant reinforced support throughout the game or simply a way to increase play by there often being something to jump at, even if trivial. But there was always some justification for gathering those items even if the justification was a 2nd priority to simply having them there. Different games justified them in different ways, so collecting items feels different in those games.
I thought I'd compare rings, coins and lums and see how it goes from there. For these comparisons I am making the assumption that no-one cares about the score (seriously I can't even remember if Mario games had a score), and I am ignoring the gameplay of just wanting to collect as many as possible if the game doesn't even acknowledge the effort. The games I refer to in this post are the classic Marios, classic Sonics, and Rayman Origins (I haven't played the original).
· In my opinion coins feel like the most worthwhile to collect, largely due to their low quantities. Repeatedly headbutting a block for its coins doesn't feel too stupid in a Mario game.
+++ : A huge positive with coins is that collecting one is never, ever meaningless. The coin you collect is still counted after the level, is never un-counted, and counts towards something that never stops functioning.
+++ : Collecting coins is never, ever necessary. No problem ignoring them, but if you collect one it is only a good thing.
+++ : Coins come with variety. Silver coins, outline coins, bubble coins, POW items, coins that fall, bricks that give coins, bricks that turn into coins.
--- : I can't really think of a single negative to coins that is in terms of coins. I could say that they don't do certain things, but they would be things coins aren't trying to do. Coins keep it real simple.
+++ : The biggest plus for rings I think is that they directly affect the game as it plays; you can drop them and there is need to chase them. Fairly unique among platformers and for me this particular aspect always made rings so much funner than coins.
+++ : When it is a matter of health, finding rings is more satisfying than finding coins.
They make the game really easy as the player is permitted to screw up, over and over again. This means:
+++ : that there is quite a strong statement that the fun of the game comes not from staying alive, but from playing around freely.
--- : that bucketloads of tension are thrown out the window if the player doesn't about the quantity of rings carried.
--- : In terms of their main function (protection), the more rings you collect the more meaningless they become. 1 ring is all you need, 32 rings is all that will make a difference, but after about 10 to 15 it's easy to stop caring. This means that for the majority of rings collected, the motivation actually switches to that of coins: extra lives. But done in an arguably worse way.
--- : When you finish a level, every single ring you collected that was greater than 50, 100, or 200 turns out to have been a complete waste of time. I think this particular issue with rings is quite significant and that we don't notice it so much perhaps because it's simply what we're used to. But it sits at the back of the player's mind reminding him that if he isn't going for an extra life, that ring in the sky is completely meaningless. This also reinforces the part about the more you get, they less they're worth. There are 292 rings in Emerald Hill Zone act 1, but if you have 200 you may as well stop noticing them.
--- : Apart from the 10 ring monitor and lightning shield shenanigans, there is literally no variety in collecting rings. Not even moving in the air. They're really quite lifeless.
A quick description since not everyone has played Rayman Origins. Lums are little yellow critters with eyes and arms, found floating around, or by killing enemies, or escaping from pieces of scenery that you attack or touch. In the latter case they are contained inside bubbles that can deliberately position themselves away from you as well as float upwards before popping, bringing a time limit to their retrieval. Apart from being something to gather lums have nothing in common with rings or coins, as Rayman Origins uses infinite lives. You collect lums purely to win electoons, required to unlock 10 particular levels which in turn unlocks an extra level that shows no mercy. Electoons also unlock optional skins. In most levels, finishing with 150 lums grants you 1 electoon, 300 gives you 2. Gaining 300 is never a huge challenge. Once you earn an electoon you can't go back and earn it again. If not gaining electoons, lums have no meaning apart from setting records.
+++ : Lums have character, loads of it. So much that in some levels you know the music is the lums singing.
--- : Can be a bad thing too. Collecting a king lum makes me embarrassed if someone walks in the room due to all that burbling.
+++ : They are collected in a few different ways: enemies, floating, and released bubbles.
+++ : They move around in pleasant patterns.
---- : Some patterns just mess you about, making you question if it's worth collecting some.
+++ : The game acknowledges and records the maximum you have collected in a level.
--- : This is literally the only endgame of lums.
+++ : King lums temporarily double the number of lums gathered, creating a kind of "Bonus Time START!" scenario. While it applies to the player's progress this is a bit of extra fun.
-+- : It is often still surrounded by the tension of the level dangers though. Can be a good thing but not always.
--- : I think lums are pretty terrible at filling the role of something to gather. Their positioning and discovery is fine but their reason for existing has a use-by date. Lums are an n-times-only affair before there is no reason to collect them at all apart from records/completionism. And for the majority of Rayman's levels, n is something like 5, if that. Five or less tries at most levels before lums lose all meaning.
--- : Farming. You have to farm lums. It's a mechanic that the game is built around and that's fair enough; the game is long enough to handle it and lum collecting doesn't push into frustration. It does push into trivial though, I assume in order to avoid said frustration. There isn't a good middle ground; the gameplay isn't built to keep a player happy despite repeat failures, but is built to avoid repeat failures. So farming them is what you do. It's a chore you have to do and thus every lum that floats out of your grasp or every heart you lose (costing you 5 lums later) or every king lum that you mess up isn't compelling, only boring. I just generally dislike farming put into a game if the farming itself isn't the focus of the game. Even in Rayman it's not the focus. I enjoy the game but collecting lums is the last thing I want to do (and the last thing I complete).
--- : Basing gameplay on a mechanic that eventually stops being a mechanic raises its own questions about replayability, compared to games that are played without such a mechanic being used to compel the player. This point is really straying away from the topic though. Rings don't do this so it's not worth dwelling on.
Having written all that, a few more things to consider:
· Bashing lums is all well and good, but it's worth remembering that the life-gaining feature of rings and coins also becomes quite meaningless to a player. Consider Episode 1 with the ridiculous triple digit lives counter. Not to mention that lives really stopped having much significance years and years ago; today's gamer has absolutely no interest in ever being told they have to start the whole game again. However it is at least something, a something that always exists; there's always a free life to feel good about when you earn that reward. Who runs out of lives in Sonic 3? Now who likes the free life ditty when you get 100 rings in Sonic 3? Exactly. I believe that simply having a reason to collect a collectable is more important than the reason itself.
· In the classic Sonics, there is the player who wants to enjoy and complete a level, and the player who wants to gather a lot of rings and make it to the end without losing them. These guys are playing very different games; the latter meeting a tension that the former barely notices. Mario and Rayman don't have this distinction.
· Needing to reach the end of the level with 50 rings was a method of creating that tension, a method that became less and less significant over Sonic 2, then 3, then Knuckles where even 20 rings could get you access to the crappier bonus stage. It's funny that the bonus stage that awarded you the most rings was, itself, now the biggest reason to get rings in the first place.
· Even if you removed the catch-your-dropped-health mechanic from rings, that is still a hell of a lot of "hearts" floating around the levels.
· Stereo chiming was the business.
Can anyone think of a motivation for ring collecting that works like coin collecting? As in, suspended across levels, always having meaning, and still completely optional.
Any good ideas for changes to rings that don't completely mess up the game as we know it?