Discussion in 'Fangaming Discussion' started by Deef, Sep 19, 2012.
No probs, buddy.
So... you're making a fangame, right? I'm still confused.
Fan game yes. Single-screen game, no.
What if it played like Flicky? Except instead of gathering birds you're gathering rings. And the lions are the badniks.
But it's, you know, faster and stuff.
If you replaced the boss of Casino Night Zone with a series of enemies (and made thet playfield smaller so that it didn't need to scroll), you'd have a single-screen Sonic the Hedgehog game.
You mean, kinda like a single-sceen, 2D, respawning Robot Carnival?
Y'know, in fact, that's not a bad idea, though it doesn't have too much of a Sonic gameplay feel.
So Deef, this point would reinforce the idea that a full game could completely utilize that very aspect of Sonic's physical reaction to the environment. Stages could have more focus upon ground curvatures as well as elements that would help direct (or misdirect) Sonic from them (springs, flippers, etc.). Much of Sonic's playability strength comes from the design of the stage, and how he interacts with it. Therefore, since the ideal single-screen Sonic game would be fully designed around accentuating this factor, a full game could also do so with enough creativity.
Ok. I'm going to work with this but you'll all have to excuse a bit of a build up while I lay my thoughts out.
So the (1) headbutting, (2) jumping towards a physical point, and (3) surviving are what make Mario Bros. compelling. (I number them so it's clearer when I refer to them). The player wants to know: "Do I have this skill to pinpoint these headbutts to upset the baddie?", "Do I have this skill to jump up and reach these locations before the enemies recover?", and "Do I have this skill to dodge the baddies to keep playing?".
Can I do this to achieve that? Right there in your face, arcadey compulsion.
And these aspects translated well into Super Mario Bros., where the progressive stages still frequently test the player's skill at the things that made them experience compulsion in the original game, while layering on the more long-term play that the arcade approach can't provide.
The suggested Sonic analogy is that compulsion comes from handling motion, influenced by terrain and gimmicks.
The player asks: "Can I exploit the surroundings, to kill the badniks?"
This looks a little bare. Mario had more going on. One aspect to Mario gaming (that I've seen in an interview I believe) is giving the player a simple task, at the same time as another simple task, at the same time as another simple task. The combination of several simple things happening at once, functioning as 1 mission. This combination translates into Super Mario Bros. frequently, as you see yourself still doing the 3 things described above, all in the same piece of play. To be honest maybe it's so easy for Miyamoto to increase the challenge by piling on more simultaneous simple tasks, that he had to hold himself back. Reach the red coins while staying on the moving platform while dodging the lava while shooting the baddies while catching the powerup before the time runs out.
What have you got Sonic?
I'll leave this question open in order to get on with this post.
The terrain or gimmicks would almost definitely have to change; there's no other way about it really. One thing that's a strong focus in any arcade context is that the challenge has to grow. The player will stop feeling any interest as soon as the challenge becomes too hard or too easy. And it's a safe assumption to make that the growing challenge has to apply to the skills that the player feels compelled to play.
In Mario Bros. it was a no-brainer: moar enemies, faster enemies. Headbutting, jumping, and surviving all depend on what Mario's enemies are doing, so pushing the skills being played was simply a matter of making them do more of it. From there it's just a matter of playtesting and balancing.
But how can a game alter and increase the challenge of terrain handling? (Not to be confused with jumping.)
Logically there are only 2 ways to increase the challenge of anything: make the goal harder to achieve, or the tools used to achieve it less effective. In the case of Mario Bros., it's almost entirely the former. Mario's jumping, running, and (usually) headbutting don't get less powerful or more difficult to use, but the things he must do with them become more difficult to achieve.
Sonic can go both ways, first taking the simple approach and simply shrinking badniks, or creating badniks that fire, or a boss that moves fast, or whatever. Looking at that picture I attached, this is something I can imagine would work, quite simply making it more likely that you'll miss your target or hit it badly. The good thing about this approach is that if you can guarantee the targets' increasing difficulty is intuitive, not abstract, you can guarantee the player won't feel like they're being increasingly nerfed.
But could that be enough? Would the player get bored if the terrain never changes, or are we just assuming that because we suck at imagining the targets increasing their difficulty on their own? That is something to really explore imo, because speaking for myself I forget to think hard about just how much you can do with Sonic's badniks. They have literally triple the potential of Mario enemies (elemental attacks, directional protection, ground-to-ground attacks, different character moves), but we honestly never see any of that potential tapped into. So I do think it's worth asking: How much can the challenge grow, while still being fun, before altering the terrain if we really put our minds to it?
I'll leave that question hanging too.
Just a few notes to finish this point though:
· Perhaps no matter what you do with Sonic's enemies, you still have to bring it back to the terrain if the terrain is what the player is going to enjoy, otherwise you're focussing on something other than what you intended to focus on.
· Changing terrain isn't much of an ask anyway, even if we ignore the fact that this is discussion for a full game. Bubble Bobble wouldn't have been so good if the levels didn't change. Meanwhile, simply rotating a Sonic playground is a workable idea.
· "Terrain" can be anything that the player uses as an aid to their movement, even badniks themselves, however whatever the new terrain is it would have to be reliable, which badniks are not.
· This image might first appear as rather claustrophobic for a Sonic player, but it is bigger than the space given to many single-screen arcade ventures. Or imagine this image filling the height of the screen you're reading on now. (Filling a widescreen would involve a little more complexity in design, to keep things interesting in horizontal travel where gravity isn't in play.)
This all is missing one big aspect of the gameplay experience too: tension. It's one thing to say "The goals are harder to achieve." It's another thing to say "You are closer to losing the game." The terrain play that we have discussed so far does not talk about the latter, and if the tension isn't there it's not going to work as a game. Ok that's all pretty obvious, but I bring it up because I think it's possible to insert tension in the wrong way.
I think it's important that the tension being applied pushes the player to focus on the things that are being used to compel their play. In Sonic's case, the motion/terrain/etc.
To clarify what I'm on about, back to Mario.
Mario Bros. applies tension rather simply (dammit Mario, getting everything right through simplicity). As the challenge of the goals/the three tasks/the most compelling play/whatever increases, so does the likelihood of losing the game. Get hit, you're dead, and all three of those Mario skills apply to managing that tension of not dying. Headbutt dudes; you temporarily stop them from being a threat. Kick 'em away; now they're gone for good. Dodge stuff; well then you've stopped yourself from dying in that instance. There's a timer too, like every arcade game, just in case the player starts to think of turtling. No pun intended.
So, to show what I mean about inserting tension in the wrong way, here are a couple of ideas:
a) - What if Mario Bros. applied tension purely with the timer?
b) - What if Mario Bros. applied tension without the timer, but with lives and number of steps (so after X steps, you can't move anymore)?
Example a) means that the third of those 3 playable skills is completely out the window. Dodging is no longer part of the game, because tension was applied badly.
A better example is b) however. All 3 skills are still in play; the player is still pushing all those things to avoid the tension of getting hit and killed, but now instead of doing it quickly we've got the player doing it conservatively. Sure, the player is going to get better at those three skills but now it's more by coincidence than sharp focus. A bit like Paul Atreides in a knife fight; he eventually won but only because all his training with a shield coincidentally, and luckily, made him just good enough without.
So still on example b), instead of getting better at chasing down a headbutt, the player waits for enemies to do all the walking. Instead of launching himself all over the place to kick upended baddies, the player uses a strategy to have them all vulnerable on the lowest platform. Instead of dodging like a turkey in the middle of thanksgiving, the player just camps the safest spots. Heck, the map would even have to be reshaped. In short, it's all buggered. The skills are still in play but the whole thing is a soggy mess just because tension was applied in the wrong way.
So now it makes sense as to why I just made such a big deal out of it. Back to Sonic.
What tension pushes the Sonic player to focus on the skills being used to compel their play?
· Should it be a timer? It could work. The player will work on their flow because they have to keep it going to save time. Problem? It becomes a time attack. A good player will start playing, stuff up in the first 5 seconds, and already know that they won't recover from it.
· Should it be lives? This is a problem, because now it's a game of survival again. Is the player meant to deal with dodging for his life, or playing with flow? If it's going to be a matter of lives, then really we want the player to lose lives when they are performing badly at the compelling skills. NOT because they're bad at dodging, but because they're bad at using the level to keep flowing. So... how?
I got a good idea. :D
Many oldschool arcade titles use the combination of a timer with an omnipotent, menacing enemy. I always loved that... you get too slack and the game wakes up and kicks your arse. Blue's Journey was one that especially freaked me out as a kid.
Then think of the lightning shield in Sonic 3; rings chasing you around.
What if tension was simply applied by something like that? Something that chases you like elastic, obviously with more ease than Sonic 3's rings. It could be a series of things; really it's an idea that could use a bit of twisting, but for example... there's a trail of things following you. As they catch up with you, they disappear. If they all disappear, you're dead. You could implement rests from their pursuit, bonus additions to the length of the trail, and blah blah blah blah blah.
The point is, the tension is being applied in a way that slaps the player right in the face with the very skill we're trying to milk.
Balloons could be an excellent example... they pop when they touch Sonic's spines. Meanwhile, they also affect his decent, perhaps converting falling to something more like bungee-falling. The fewer you have, the more abrupt your falls, or whatever. Just throwing it around.
Anyway, that's neither here nor there for a full game, but the ideas were flowing so I went with it.
1. Can we think of more than terrain handling for what makes playing Sonic compelling before exploring a whole stage?
2. Can we push the player's skill to grow without actually changing the terrain? Just curious really, because changing the terrain is already easy.
3. Whaddayareckon of my tension implementation? Ok, really, the question is what's a good way to connect tension to terrain handling in a full game? Cos I'm not sure that my idea is so good, for that situation.
I added this video just for its reminder of that arcadey (not necessarily Soniccy) feel. The music is a big part of this, I think.
Curiously, the Master System games were stripped of a lot of Sonic's key features. It was a case of having to turn around a problem with the 8-bits instead of evolving to 16-bits, such was the case of Mario. This is what leads us to a lot of differences that might actually give you the answer you're looking for.
I'll use Sonic 1 for Master System as an example and as a paradigm.
So you are looking into the fundamentals that made Mario's gameplay, well, playable. But, first, let us see what exactly we are taking out when we nullify the elements you spoke of.
A priori, you would take from the player the very notion of failure and success. The life system is the primary indication of what's "hazard" and what's "bonus", since the most basic sign of frustrating failure is not dying or getting a game over in itself, but having to go through all that you've already gone through without anything you've collected so far. So if the gameplay is reduced to going ahead x standing still, you're not actually playing, since the experience can be basically the same.
However, the line between the "no lives" system and an "infinite lives" system is blurry. Take Braid, for example. There is no such thing as "dying" and that makes the game, at first easy in that aspect. If it was a purely platforming game instead of a puzzle one, it would be rather bland.
This would make the game rely too much on its own principles, which would make of the game more of a showcase than a game. This would also completely deny us the possibility to enhance the gaming experience with risk vs. reward features, since the power-ups generally make your playthrough easier, but you normally have to go out of your way or overcome an obstacle to get them. Thus, you wouldn't have much more than an A to B system. It would be more of an algorithm than a full-time game.
Same as above, but with the plus of destroying the benefit of curiosity. See, it would make the game much more of an algorithm. Getting the coins has no value in itself. The game, I mean, Mario sees no purpose in getting them. The experience of reward which comes with the coins is exclusively on the player's end of the equation. You cannot be curious about what's not there. Think of the coins as sidequests.
Now, see, I am going to use the metaphor of the paper.
Consider a game as a sheet of paper. The obstacles and hazards are painted in black, whereas the ways you can actually go through remain unpainted. every single game is a puzzle within this metaphor, since every obstacle can be simplified as a dot, a line or whatever. In this context, the coins are not black nor they are white - they mean something to you, but, to the game, they mean nothing. It doesn't make a difference. So you could say the coins are something very, very unique - the gray spots. If you take away the gray from the sheet of paper, the gameplay becomes rather predictable for every player - there is only achievement vs. non-achievement (roadblocks). But, with them, gameplay becomes more based on what the players want and their desires, individidually.
In Sonic, we have that in speedruns and time attacks. The game sees no difference between completing a stage in 0'29" or 0'28" - but you do.
So here is the catch - if you take away from Sonic the life system, the rings that fuel this life system, the HUD that shows your score and every notion of risk and reward, what do we have?
Within the given framework, all you have to do (but also all you can do) is to set A and B and get from one point to another. From that point, you are building a game. Super Mario Bros could have a lot of elements in the screenshot you posted. The possibilities were absolutely endless. Such is the case with Sonic. Since the 8-bit systems hindered Sonic's gameplay in such a way that they didn't have at hand the systems that rewarded the player for having more than 99 rings (one life is, in terms of score, 5000 points; 99 rings is worth 9900), they were also given the chance to build completely different paradigms from scratch, using as a base only Sonic's core gameplay. The sketch you made? There is an entire level based on that: Jungle, Act 2.
People may claim it's un-Sonic-y. I say hell, no - this is a side of Sonic we could and should see more often. Having less tools to explore the levels' geometry to stimulate or prohibit building speed, they had to rely on more platforming - but still using what was core to Sonic. That's what amazes me about the level design in Sonic 1 and 2 for the Master System. That was also what made them harder, probably.
EDIT: Oh, about tension. That's where badniks come for, mostly. The timer also does that, but what I think you are on about are self-sulfilling prophecies. Mistakes that the player wouldn't commit if the danger was not there in the first place.
So, let's take Green Hill, Act 1. It's the first self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of tension we have in that game.
Look, the crab's own presence says "you are closer to losing the game". That much, the player does not want, so s/he gets careful around it. However, waiting to see what it does is exactly what makes it more dangerous - it won't spit those balls of doom unless you wait for it to release them. So, in fact, it's the player that puts him/herself into more danger. With time and experience, you'll just jump over it/kill it and realize you were never in danger at all. This applies for every section in which building momentum is required, but some kind of hazard (spikes) makes you fear making a mistake and, because of such fear, you end up making a mistake anyway.
Oh, to clarify about removing the "well balanced life system", I was really meaning the "well balanced" part of it. As in, a hit in Mario Bros. kills you dead. While Super Mario Bros. combines life and powerups in a way that works superbly for the game that it is. So I was really just saying "Imagine Super Mario Bros. 3 where 1 hit kills you, always."
On that note, Rayman Origins is a good example of a team trying to pull off infinite lives in a platformer. It almost works, but really doesn't, but the game wouldn't have survived well any other way either.
...... You know, these are all rhetorical questions! I used them to point to Mario Bros. 1983, to highlight how there are Mario elements in play even before those other design features existed.
Anyway, regarding your Jungle Act 2 example, you said "Still uses what is core to Sonic."
Well, what is core in that case? His motion play is gone. The rings play didn't exist. I believe there aren't even any enemies there upon which to exert his omni-directional attack. In other words, what's the uniquely Soniccy part? Because Mario's got most of that scenario covered already.
Or perhaps that's what you're saying. "Sonic is a platformer too." Well that's true, but in the most traditional terms (which are all this scenario can present) Sonic platforming is just outright not as tight as Mario platforming. Going back into 16-bit, there is such little platforming in the Sonics where you don't have plenty of landing room. Whereas Mario is presenting platforms 1 body-width wide by the start of the 2nd level.
So I guess what I'm saying is Yes you could do anything with Sonic, but if there aren't any uniquely Sonic parts to it, then you're just producing Generic Game 437 with a blue guy jumping that's not Mario. It could be fun too, but if it's not focussing on what's Soniccy then it's really not extracting anything that makes Sonic in particular compelling, and that's what I'm trying to extract in this topic.
I did really like Jungle. I'm confused though how you say Jungle is like my sketch above; it seems the complete opposite to me. My image is meant to be highlighting just how much reach Sonic has with only a few curves. The only similarity is that they're both a big space making up their own rules, but one is not very Soniccy.
Meanwhile the freedom you mention, well a lot of that is still there even with the rings, the powerups, and the lives all in play. We can still create a level drowning in original platforming ideas after getting things Soniccy.
So identifying the Soniccy elements is the start of my question. And then I would pull apart gameplay ideas. Just stalled on how you say Jungle 2 was using what's core to Sonic.
Gotta take a disagreeing angle again. Good description of self fulfilling prophecies, but no I'm sure I was seeking tension for the sake of something to punish the player for not actively playing. The badniks in the classics do often fit your description, with Sandhiphopopopolis' ghosts being a good exception.
*falls asleep* Zzzz......
I see, I see~! But, in that regard, Mario has a very interesting association of life and power. The powerups also give you "extra lives", and the more hits you take, the less power you have: the harder the game gets. It's an interesting logic that, in fact, thrives in shoot-em-ups more than in platformers.
That section in the picture is the last one. There is much more down there. For instance, there are sections in which you can grab rings and jump on the next platform before the camera reaches you (which would kill you). The ring play is there and what's the most Sonic-y about it is that it's completely anti-Sonic in a way. See, Sonic's speed is still there, but you have to control it. The way you can bounce off the piranhas and monitors and land on another platform - at the cost of missing what was inbetween - has, to me, a very Sonic-y feeling. In fact, trying to take advantage of the momentum to climb up faster is one of the most complicated actions in the game, but it *is* possible.
This, too. We've had, in the official titles, a very uninteresting focus on speed and the rest of the game is made in order to show you just how fast Sonic is. Well, before being a Sonic game, Sonic games are platformers - so Sonic's speed should come after the platforming in the equation, at least conceptually. That's his speed, go find out what it can do.
No, not the one with the baloon. The one with the big ring.
Of course, but that's where it becomes interesting. Freedom, when things become Sonic-y, transforms into a matter of choice. My interest is bent by the elements on the screen - my freedom is already attached to it. Complete, utter (and meaningless) freedom is completely devoid of choice - the rings have a meaning to them, but I may or I may not want them.
When we don't have any elements that bend the player's interest, which would be the case if we just left him there with no goals or rings or enemies or lives, the experience would be solely based on the movement in itself. This, and nothing else. This can't be the case, since the movement is what we give the player for him to have fun (and achieve goals) with, not the fun itself.
There is this game - I think it was originated here at Retro, because it's so Retro-ish to do this kind of stuff - which puts Sonic in a maze and there's a rabbit... thing... that points you the way to the end. It's really tricky and has some neat ideas in it. But the point is - play it. Is it a Sonic game or a game with Sonic features? The line is blurry and we can't rely on the character and his abilities alone to take the decision. It's a very thin balance.
Badniks play a number of parts in the classic games. The Motobug, I think, is the most primitive example of badnik that punishes you for doing nothing. He's coming at you, and you MUST jump. In this case, I believe skill tolls like Spikes and that star from Metropolis are just the sort of difficulty you are talking about. They punish you for standing still or for playing the wrong way. Naturally, spiked balls from Marble Garden and Casino Night do the job, too. But it's difficult to tell. They may work as self-fulfilling prophecies or skill tolls - it depends on the player's behaviour and objectives more than the designer's intention.
This post is verbose because I'm confused.
Regarding the lives and powerups: (Parts hidden for the sake of the thread's direction.)
Yup. I really like this method too. It doesn't go soft on you for messing up, it doesn't create confusion about what a powerup is, and I just like the logic of "the closer you are to running out of hits, the more likely it is that you'll get hit." It's another kind of tension I suppose; instead of making each hit just a static "try again" (lives still do this), each hit increases the stress/play. I wonder if I'll find myself wanting to see this in a Sonic game. The shields do it actually, but something's definitely not working there.
Regarding speed and platforming:
Mmm I see what you're saying. Excluding perhaps Angel Island, every zone in Sonic 3 will at some point put the player at top speed with zero effort. What your point makes me think now is that there are different ways to apply the old "Speed vs platforming" shtick. It can be a reward, it can be sporadic areas of rest, it can be buried in the platforming. I think what you're referring to is visible in a fangame called Freedom Planet (it's a few threads down). It has rolling and loops and quarterpipes, and the speed is there, but it definitely is a case of "You want speed? Then go and fight for it," as the levels never just switch it on for you. As a result, the focus of the gameplay really is on something else.
Something for me to ponder anyway (it's going into the notes); I'm just very wary of putting Sonic's main focus up against the platforming of Mario.
As for the game you suggested... with the rabbit... I think I'm gonna need a little more info to find it heh.
· Relevance to topic:
Bringing this thought to the topic, do you have any ideas for how to bring your perspective of "Speed should come after the platforming" into a single screen game, in order to enhance it in a full zone game?
Regarding the image:
I'm still confused about the Jungle comparison because the big ring image I posted is all about terrain and momentum. Use the curves at the bottom like a halfpipe, with careful jumps and rolling to gradually jump higher and higher each lap until you're making god-like leaps that see you dealing with whatever's happening in the air while still needing to get your landing pinpointed on the right part of the slope. It would actually be a bit difficult I think, and the trees are there as vertical guidance.
This is where a lot of the focus of this thread comes from, but I'm a bit confused about what you're saying with the freedom angle.
To be honest I think you were misinterpreting those opening questions somewhat. I wasn't asking "What happens if we remove these restrictions from Mario?" I was asking "What happens if we remove these so-called fundamentals from Mario? Wouldn't then we expect his games to suck?" Then I pointed to Mario Bros. 1983 to watch everyone suddenly remember "Oh yeah, Mario was already good, regardless of his Super Mario Bros. fundamentals." From there, I asked "Ok so how is Sonic 'already good'?"
The idea was to put focus on exactly how Mario played in 1983 that made him compelling before a full level even existed, to learn from that, and then apply the lesson to the tools that Sonic has.
So we come to the freedom point, where I said "We still have freedom to do what we want with the player's interests even after implementing Sonic's unique/defining features," but I'm not sure exactly what your response is pushing. I agree with it largely, but I don't know what it's actually trying to say. All I was pointing out is that focussing on making things "Soniccy" does not practically reduce the of possibilities, and therefore that I don't see the value in removing those Soniccy things for the sake of freedom. Otherwise you're just left with that game about the blue guy that jumps.
I'm just confused about where you were going with that. I'll point out that when I say "Soniccy", I'm thinking motion.
Regarding motion and fun:
You're saying the movement (or control) is what we give the player in order to achieve goals that the designer defines, and that it is achieving the goals that is fun, not the movement itself. I say the goals are just an excuse to let the player enjoy the movement, and that the movement itself can even deliver some fun completely on its own, which is why it keeps people playing once given a little direction. As long as there is a point of reference and some kind of collision possible, there is the capacity for the player to get something out of the movement alone, even if collision, or distance, mean nothing.
This is represented by the fact that racers especially (but practically any genre involving motion) have some games that are simply "more fun" to play -in the controller- than others, regardless of features, objectives or whatever. Sega Rally would be my shining example here. I didn't focus on time attacking a lot in that game, and I raced a friend a bit but not a lot, but I would always play that game, driving around, and think "Jesus this is so good to play." The way it handles was utter playability for me personally; it's one of my most respected games and there is still no racer I find more enjoyable. It's glorious. My mate actually thanked me for making him buy it.
Meanwhile, a generation later in V-Rally 2, I would get frustrated at how the cars felt. I found myself designing tracks in the track editor purely to create ways to make the cars' handling more fun (a particular corner just after a particular elevation on a particular gravel type). Being a track editor where I'm defining the length of the course already, it proves that goals were not influencing my enjoyment, but the movement itself. You could say this is about the goals that the player is setting up for themselves on the fly; they just wanna see what they can do. It's a very dynamic thing and all the player needs is motion, limits to that motion, and a way to tell they're moving. Make that fun first, THEN chuck a game on it. I reckon anyway. Despite all my Mario comparisons, I'm quite "anti-Mario" in the idea of "Here is what you have to do, go do it." I much prefer the "That wasn't really in the script" feeling that I get from Sonic games.
Sorry for going on, but another example is NiGHTS. It's just a dumb score attack....... that is awesome. It's fantastically playable because you are working the controls in a very fun way. Yes in the name of achieving something, but that achievement is not the only thing driving the player's enjoyment. It's easy to pick up NiGHTS and just faff about, especially with the L+R controls. The score attacking is just an excuse to do more of it.
I don't moan about the boost or homing attack because they make goals too easy to achieve. I moan because they make the motion too plain.
I imagine this is all pretty obvious to you anway and we're just fumbling semantics, but yeah, now I've gone and written it.
So movement isn't just what we use to reach fun, it is a large part of the fun itself. It is in fact the real core of almost any action gameplay in my opinion, and this is what I have always seen as Sonic's biggest card.
What does this have to do with the thread though? Well, if we don't value Sonic's motion, all we have are goals that can be chucked into any game with a platforming basis. That's why much earlier I replied to someone that I don't care about score attacking. It's generic, and it comes after the play. It drives the play but isn't the play itself, just like score attacking drives Mario's headbutting and jumping, but isn't the skill or fun of headbutting and jumping itself (and likewise for death motivating dodging). Ie, of being Mario himself.
So when you talk about Jungle working Sonic's core (lol, Ab Sculptor Relief), and about movement not defining the fun, I'm a bit lost. I'm really looking at literally how the movement creates compulsion that the player feels, like it did in Mario Bros. 1983. A desire to test their control, at being Sonic himself.
Yeah there are a few examples in the Sonic games, but when this thread heard the idea of a single-screen Sonic game that focussed on a Casino-Night-esque chamber, I was still comparing to Mario and that's what jumped out at me. Sonic is missing tension in this single-screen idea, and apart from a few examples, and bosses, there's quite a low amount of it in all his levels too. Maybe not a bad thing at all; it's ironic that Mario has the pressing timer, not Sonic, but I wouldn't want that to change.
I was just pushing the exploration of tension for a single-screen game, to tear it apart later for a real level once it's more fully formed.
Since you're not focussing on terrain handling at all I won't bug you about that point of post #28. But I do ask if you are onto something else you could suggest for creating compelling Sonic play without leaving the screen. And any more tension thoughts if you have any?
It would appear I was the one to confuse things. I somehow assumed I could relate Jungle Act 2 with your sketch just because both had a vertical orientation. I'm so sorry, don't mind me on that point.
Well, there are, indeed, various ways of mixing them. It's but a matter of harmony in giving and taking - which is why ideas for a single screen game must be taken with a bigger picture in mind. Or, at least, so I think. So, I mean, you give the player some sense of speed and then stop it, as to say "do you like that? Come get more!" In that sense, I think I must agree that Sonic's movement is a piece of fun in itself. Playing around with him is fun, but I find it difficult to make a game out of this alone. Bending the player's interest and access to it, alternating between putting speed as a reward and as a gift perhaps is what it is all about.
The game with the rabbit... I can't seem to find it. On anywhere. I must have dreamed of it at some point. It was a game with only one stage, a maze, and sometimes you would find a weird creature that, if I remember correctly, resembled a rabbit, who would point you the way to the finish. But the point is: take away from the player the sense of having to go forward (no matter the direction you consider "forward"). Is it still Sonic? This can be applied in a single screen, too.
Now, as for single screen game ideas: speed has many faces. Movement is one of them, sure, but reflex is another one. Many bosses have the ideas and force the player to use speed without movement. Aquatic Ruin, for example. It could be a lot faster. More arrows, more levels to climb. Another example...? Star Light Zone, with its clever and simple design. You can hit Robotnik both with his own bombs or launching yourself to the air (which is the interesting part that we could use here).
It's nothing too special, though. You may find this frustrating, but that's what I think: what's special about Sonic is how he overcomes the obstacles, not the obstacles in themselves. So force the payer to explore everything Sonic has, making him dodge threats and hop quickly between falling platforms. The sense of speed may not be there, but the speed is and so is momentum.
This is a very deep question; the one about freedom. Don't make me dwell in it or you'll see A LOT of rambling about the most abstract of things. But, basically, I agree with you - making things Sonic-y don't take away your freedom. Just transforms it. Freedom, as a concept of mine, is like the air. It's there, but you don't notice it unless there's smoke around. The smoke, in this case, is Sonic's unique features.
Alright, this is confusing. Allow me to try and explain better. There you are, at your house. There is nothing impeding you from breaking all of your windows and chewing the glass pieces obtained from this action. You are free to do that. However, unless I point this out to you and offer you other options. That's the thing, options. Freedom only becomes tangible (and therefore experienceable) when you are given options. You could have broken the windows of your house, but, instead, you just opened them so that some fresh air would come in.
Coming down to Earth and games: when you present a gimmick to the player on a place where he's not, you give him/her a choice, which will affect the player's behaviour based on their preferences over what is more important or urgent. If there is nothing there, the player will not even consider the possibility. There is no freedom in this case (not in the player's mind), because he couldn't grasp the options at his hand, simply because nothing called the attention. This is why alternate pathways don't mean much by themselves and why I think Sonic's motion play is insufficient. There must be a motive and an end. Now, I'm sure you know this and are just pointing out we must know what's in the middle, what's unique to Sonic. I'm just being nitpicky and boring - mind me not.
Yep. I do agree; I don't think motion play alone is enough either. It's just that I see it as the first reason the player is there even if the game is saying otherwise. So while goals provide a reason to keep playing that would not exist otherwise, in my mind they're definitely lower down the list of priorities. A necessity, but a clear secondary of two necessities. My mind thinks "Design the motion first, then just chuck in whatever for goals as long as they complement the motion." Maybe that's just me.
I checked out Jester's Challenge (ty CBL). In my eyes that's definitely something I would call "Only a game with Sonic features, not a Sonic game." The speed and the rolling would be the only things to give it away should it be reskinned to Mario visuals, but the speed and rolling are not complemented at all anyway. Whereas if you took the approach of no goals, no direction, but at least a hill or two and rolling that works, I would say "Yep, that's Sonic. Shame there isn't much to do." You raised this example to point out the thin line of identifying what is and isn't "Soniccy", but to me it doesn't feel so grey.
Anyway, yes goals are necessary, completely. Not disagreeing. We might just have different perspectives on what matters more. (There's also the part about goals that is confirming good performance to the player; something that current gen developers wouldn't dream of forgetting to do, but I usually fail to consider. You pressed the A button?! Amazing! Out-freaking-standing! -_- But this is going off point.)
Since goals are like an afterthought for me but somewhat important for you :D , do you have any more suggestions of goals to work in a single-screen game that generate compulsion to play? That can then be transferred to a full game?
Funny, I was think of exactly this today and thought up an addition to Sonic's/Tails'/Knuckles' moveset that would seem cool, not tacky, and increase the amount of potential for reflex play, hopefully without breaking the influence of momentum (very important I believe, that the player often knows they can't stop easily). I say this because as cool as Sonic CD's intro looks, Sonic is not huge on twitch gaming. Almost entirely not, with bosses being the only real suggestion otherwise.
Anyway I'm all for exploring every way to exploit Sonic's movements to further gameplay options. Reflex is definitely a part of that even if I don't praise the classics for it. Now I'm wondering why I didn't think of it explicitly adding to the terrain-handling concept. So now I can say:
Mario has headbutting (aiming test), jumping (pursuing over obstacles test), and dodging (twitch/reflexes test).
Sonic has flowing (terrain understanding test), and really, all of the above. I was unwilling to champion Sonic's gameplay as being the same as Mario's but, in my mind, if the flow aspect is the most prominent, the rest are ok.
Still, pushing twitch gameplay is a bit tricky to imagine. I still am uneasy to try and celebrate it for a Sonic game. I think the best way to challenge this thinking is to literally take Mario Bros. 1983, chuck Sonic in it, and ask "Ok what do I need to change to make it feel as fair, balanced, and tense?" Hmmm... See, I just can't escape this soggy feeling about the way Sonic moves, but I am not eager to go messing with that either. Stuck. Starlight's boss is a great boss, but it still feels slow to me. But any faster and Sonic would not really be up to the pace. On that note, Ep 2 has much faster jumping. Probably better? So I'm maybe a tweak to the ph-ph-physics perhaps? To improve Sonic's reflex play. Don't know.
Or do you think Sonic is already nimble enough?
Nah, yeah, gottit.
Thank you, thank you~!
I think you're right in this aspect. Can't disagree. It's just that I think that one will not achieve its full potential without the other. You mentioned something interesting - there is a point where goals and motion converge, and that is exactly what seems to drive modern gen developers to point out that you did something trivial and try to chunk in some sensation of achievement in this alone.
Yes, I find that stupid, but we can draw something interesting from that. different goals stimulate different uses of Sonic's speed. So, for example, let's take Sonic CD 2011. There is that "find the statue in Wacky Workbench" achievement. This adds replay value as much as a "complete Wacky Workbench in under X minutes" (Time Attack) achievement, but it's a different kind of play that is not necessarily un-Sonic-y. And, in fact, there are plenty of other ways to reward the player other than a screen with words.
Say you have a platform and say this platform has a 1Up monitor, but~! You can only reach it if you can use spindash+jump, hit a badnik and bounce off in perfect timing and input. Now, we have double fun! Bouncing off and stuff is an awesome feeling, but a player wouldn't even consider doing it if there wasn't a reward for it. And it's the same sensation of a "OH MY GOD! AMAZING! YOU'VE JUST USED SPINDASH+JUMP IN A ROW! YOU'RE SO CLEVER!".
It's a puzzle. Like in your common puzzle game, but it's hidden by Sonic's unique way to overcome it. You have an ability, but there's an optimal way to use it in every occasion. It's ok to add this every now and again in a Sonic game.
S = Sonic
M = monitor (or any minor reward)
G = Goal
B = Badnik
Cyan-colored stuff = Encased in ice. Can only move/be broken if lever is pulled
L = Lever. Releases frozen badniks, platforms and monitors
Now, tell me. What do you see?
I think Sonic is fine as is (in the classics). It depends on the sorroundings and how they move. I'm sure you're familiar with Egoraptor's Castlevania sequelitis. You know that part in which he compares how the delay in the whip attack is perceived in both games? That's the thing. If the speed or height of your jump is made to be enough, then it's enough. If you make a game that accomodates the character's moveset, it'll be perceived as fine. Make a displaced environment and the character will be the one to feel displaced.
Or, since you're so fond of motion play, here is something that appeals more to you:
I still ask: what do you see?
I almost never post-- However this was so compelling that I just had to give my input!
I see what you're going for here, please read my entire post:
I remember long ago I used to play that site called Neopets, you've heard of it, right?
Within Neopets, there was a game called Snow Muncher. It was a simple but addicting game. Its gameplay mechanics are fairly simple, watch this video to see what I mean:
Now let's break the game down:
*Your goal is to reach the bottom of the level without overfeeding you Polar Bear. However, the only way to reach the bottom of the level is to feed your Polar Bear.
*As you progress through the level, your Polar Bear slowly gains "Weight". 5% per block, until he reached 100% and dies. However in the game there are special potions hidden called "Bloat-B-Gone", once touched it relieves 50% of your bloat percentage. However, these are usually hidden under other Snow Blocks, and if you aquire thr Bloat B Gone and do not move quickly enough the snow above will fall and kill you.
*Throughout the levels, you have several challenges. Obviously the first being your Polar Bear becoming bloated. Secondly the ever ticking clock, once it reaches 0 regardless of your progress within the level you die and start over. And third being the risks. Your Polar Bear is currently at 85%, and Bloat-B-Gone is just a couple of bites away. Will you risk getting further Bloated or crushed for slight relief? Or keep progressing and seeing of you can make it down in time? Or perhaps will you take the previous risks to reach a diamond for extra points?
Now we ask, why would users even take the risk of losing the entire game just to increase their score with onr Jewel? Well on Neopets.com, there a these things called "Avatars". They are small images that you can unlock, and can be use as an Avatar on the site. These are highly sought after, snd only the best players have very many at all.
Well in this game called Snowmuncher, once you aquire a certain score you are awarded an exclusive and hard to obtain avatar. Additionally if your score is within the Top 3 for that month that you are awarded a Trophey, which are just as rare and sought after as Avatars. This gives the users potential reasons to take risks.
Now let's connect that to Mario. The "New Super Mario Bros." titles, there are both Red Coins & Golden Medals.
Red coins are aquired a certain way. One must pass through a Red Ring to activate Red coins, which disappear after a short period. 8 Red coins appear, and collecting all 8 will grant the user a prize.
Now here's where we use startegy with this feature:
In the New Super Mario Bros. series, you have the ability to retain powerups. For example if you are Fire Mario, then you collect another Fire Flower, then this Fire Flower is then stored and can be accessed at any time to relieve you. Now the red Coins will always award you one Power-up above your current Power-Up. Lets say youre Small Mario. Then getting all 8 coins gives a Mushroom to become Normal Mario. If Normal Mario gets all 8 coins he is given a Fire Flower. If Fire Mario gets all 8 coins then he gets a life.
Now, let's say you're Racoon/Tanooki Mario, and you have a Fire Flower stored, and you want to eliminate your Tanooki/Racoon Power and have Fire Power + a stored Fire Flower because an up coming enemy hates fire. You find a red ring which grants 8 red coins. You would then purposefully damage yourself so that you become Normal Mario and then collect all 8 coins to aquire another Fire Flower.
Then we have Gold Medals. Each level contains 3, usually risky and difficult to aquire. Now why would the player risk their life tl aquire these Medals? In various Mario Titles, these medals are used to unlock new Levels & secret areas. The user feels a desire to aquire medals because they a) Grant a Gold Star status to that user when all are aquired and b) they unlock new levels & areas. It's a win win. Now where is Sonic lacking that risk or strategic game play?
While most modern Sonic Games contain a similar Red Ring system, how do they really reward the player? By unlocking dull & hard Sonic Simulator levels that play just like the level whose red rings you aquired just to play this? By giving extra music/artwork? There is no risk factor that will ultimately effect you abilities & gameplay throughout the level, other than aquiring Super Sonic which usually requires you to simply press forward. Now what I'm seeing with Mario Bros. is that you want to jump on as many Koopas as possible to encrease your score, or that you will take the risk & brave that Blue Crab for a hammer. Sonic offers risks not nearly as complicated or thought provoking. You don't think "If I finish this level at x time, then the Rainbow Level will be unlocked" or "If I risk my life to get this Red ring, then I may defeat x enemy later on".
Overall, I see no obvious single screen game play.
Mmm-hmm. I feel like I need someone to explain to me just WTF Sonic Generations is doing with such loud you-pressed-the-A-button celebrations. This is gaming now? It would embarrass me to play through that in front of friends my age. Lol, this makes me realise I haven't even bothered playing the modern half of the Generations demo.
I believe I address everything this post, but it's not in order.
Regarding the statue example:
Honestly that's a tricky example, because the main reason it works is actually the exception, not the rule. The biggest enjoyment of finding that statue comes from the statue itself, and how incredibly unique its reward is among not just that game, but all classic Sonics. It might be hidden, but how much its discovery is related to the game's motion is actually pretty low.
The perfect standard example of what you're suggesting is something more like Episode 2's red rings, minus the frequently patronising placement. (Or, Sonic 3's/CD's/Advance 3's hidden items assuming they all did nothing but stay hidden.)
Begin first tangent.
Anyway whatever the instance, it's an example of discovery from exploration. So yes, that's a way to reward Sonic's motion. The great thing about exploration in a Sonic game is that before the player even has a place to search, he/she has to push themselves to merely reach that place first. Sonic designers can put secrets in places that other games can't even put places. :D Like the first top route in Marble Garden Act 1. Before you can even search its nooks and crannies you have to make the landing to escape the hill you've been screaming down. THEN you can explore. So good.
Gotta admit though, there are almost as many "Use your strengths to reach this spot to explore" sections in the game that actually break it, than there are legitimate ones heh. Did you know that without cheats, Tails alone can access a broken, ghost town skeleton of Hydrocity?
Anyway, end tangent. Exploration good. Such a pointless tangent too because exploration is one of the things this thread isn't about. For one, exploration is an aspect of level design that I believe does come naturally to many people. Hiding not only things, but obfuscating access to places that have things, is something I couldn't forget to do.
For two, exploration is pretty much the last thing a single-screen game could do well without reverting to metagame exploration anyway. So I don't think this topic has much to teach on the matter.
Coming out of that tangent, I agree. There are different ways to stimulate use of Sonic's motion. And different uses of his motion, at that.
Use it to stay alive. (He supports fast escapes, rolling safety, and all directional attacks.)
Use it to maintain flow. (He supports terrain handling to maintain momentum.)
Use it to speed run. (He supports frequent choice between control and speed, plus tense accuracy in speed runs.)
Use it to explore. (He supports perfectly playable, clean transitions to upwards and downwards travel, as well as secrets hidden behind nothing but physics, as well as speed meaning large spaces can be created.)
Use it to push reflexes. (Mmmm............. dunno about this one heh!)
The above list actually sounds pretty cool heh.
Different goals push different uses of the game's motion, and as long as a goal doesn't push something that the game's motion can't handle well, we're all good. This agrees with what you raised about Castlevania and Sequelitis (yep I know the one). But I'm still going to come back to reflex chit chat soon.
Regarding the different ways of rewarding, I actually pull out three methods:
¬ Explicitly tell the player he did good.
¬ Give the player the carrot they had been chasing.
¬ Do nothing. The do nothing system.
Begin second tangent.
Obviously the first one has to be kept on a leash, preferably a leash manufactured before the year 2000.
The second system is the go to system. Still in danger of being patronising, but it's a balance that isn't hard to manage. Two good examples:
1. A water shield on top of a loop in Hydrocity. Its base is patrolled by a Turbo Spiker. Invincibility and red spring inside a room to the left. Dear Lord how many years passed before I realised how to get that water shield. It's hilarious how easily they hide things behind the "just turn around" mechanism. Anyway it's not that it was easy or hard, it's that it wasn't spelt out.
2. The lightning shield inside a wall in Mushroom Hill. The player frequently sees it from the wrong side of the wall and spends ages faffing about a solid wall, trying to get it. Good stuff.
The third system though? Do nothing.
The basis is that the player has invented their own goal, and has felt accordingly smug once they achieved it. No words, no lightning shield, nothing.
One can argue that this is far too subjective; anyone can invent any random goal that pleases their simple little mind and thus earn simple little smug feelings in any number of ways that can't be discussed objectively. But I beg to differ and Sonic games do a lot of this for me. I think this system can have some objective, reproducible discussion because I am yet again coming back to how the motion itself works. Examples:
1. The first fire shield in Carnival Night Zone. Get it by walking upside down.
2. A long section of watery pits and bobbing barrels, again in CNZ. Use SuperSonic and bumpers to attach to the ceiling and run upside down past the whole thing.
3. The Bouncing Challenge in Emerald Hill Zone. Rebounds built from nothing but momentum and gravity.
4. The loop jump trick.
Is it just me seizing every opportunity to be smug? Or is it that Sonic motion does indeed allow a player to feel more frequently chuffed about things they're doing without needing a single graphic to assert it for them? I think it's the latter. It's a sandbox approach to rewards. The flow of his motion responds to skill. The reach of his motion generates freedom. These things combined create more potential for smugasmic play, with no rewards.
Jesus, again with the meandering.
Oh yeah, so you were talking about methods of rewards and using that 1-Up example that you concluded with "a player wouldn't even consider doing it if there wasn't a reward for it." I am simply saying there's also the possibility of rewards that aren't even explicit, but simply invented by the player, and that the designer can actually deliberately nurture how frequently these possibilities occur. Heck, people still debate about whether the Bouncing Challenge was deliberately set up all along.
This many words and I've only made two points, and one of them just might relate to the topic. -_-
OK FIRST PICTURE:
You've sucked everything Soniccy right out of it.
No curves, no slopes, not even enough space anywhere to use his roll, except the ground, which has nothing to roll for.
Now, the player is going to pull the lever and go back for the thawed monitor, only to have a badnik to deal with. This badnik MIGHT push Soniccy play... but... . See? That is what my brain is trying to do with your picture. "Well I might have to run, then jump off the east wall of a loop to double back with enough speed to roll." But no. Can't do that here. Ok well we might get a nice little rebound and that's it. Mario does that.
The same goes for exploring the rest of it. I mean, I hear you. It's easy to imagine playing that scene as Sonic. And there's something fun going on with the whole bit about not thawing the eastern platform. But it's easy to put Bubsy the Bobcat in there too if we just reskin the obvious giveaways. The only exception really is that spin dash jump.
But this is exactly what you're saying. "Sonic is a platformer too."
Just because Mario is pure platforming doesn't mean other games can't contain platforming too.
And as soon as a Sonic game has 1 little piece of (significantly) unique Sonic play to its platforming, then that's it; it has started to free itself from competing with Mario and the designer can relax a little.
I'm still itchy about this though. I do understand with what you're saying, I just put a lot of importance in not having something where the player goes "Well for the most part, this is better in Mario."
What I really want to do with your picture is run to the bottom right, stop, turn, duck, spin dash, release, jump, get height, insta-shield, land on the spring with all that speed and then rocket up and away to a place that's about 3 screens left of where you're reading now in a glorious blaze of "F*** YOU MONITORS, I'm SONIC!!"
Which just raises the point that this design does not allow the player to stretch the game's motion at all. But I do acknowledge that it's not meant to; you're only presenting one thing.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the path of destruction I'm about to create. Lol.
Can't someone get both the lever and the shoes?
Anyway, see, this scene appeals to me MUCH MUCH more. The player can roar in to Sonic play, all the half pipes appear carefully designed be be un-abusable, the ceiling connection = win even if there's not much we can do with it.
Ok so this scene does lose the joy of poking around with sliding platforms and ambush-ready badniks. It doesn't have to be all flight and mayhem, I know. Plus the more "flowing" things get in a full game, the harder a time a designer has putting screens together in a way in a way the player can actually react to. So normal platforming is important, yes, ok.
I think this comparison is helping my mind form its own idea of where the balance is.
But I still am cautious about traditional platforming for Sonic. But I won't say it shouldn't exist; it should. But I'm still cautious. But I won't s-.... etc.
The reflexes chit chat/Castlevania:
Yes, the game caters to the controls, not the other way around. Otherwise we'd be doing a Ken Balough "Yo we need the retardo-Tails combo-moves to pass the levels, duh!"
Hmm, I've written a lot on this and scrubbed it all. I might come back to it later and just post this for now.
Glad to hear it was compelling!
Honestly, I'm not gonna reply yet. I've read it all; it's a great point I want to think about because it sounds like a definite factor to address in Sonic games. I already believe Sonic's shields are no match for the appeal of Mario's suits; maybe that's related here. Or maybe not. Either way, my brain is too full of other things now and I've spent too much time on the above ramble already heh, so I gotta get onto other things. I will reply later though.
- - - - -
Note to self: 5 uses, reflexes.
When this hits the 2nd page I'll post a summary of things so far.
I'm going to give a more complete answer later, but, for all that matters, I think what I'm going to post next summarizes a very important point of mine:
Yes, Sonic is a platformer. But that's not the most important. Well, you want Sonic-y elements. Here you go:
I only changed the geometry. Much better, huh? What's in red is Sonic at his Sonic-iest. But, now, let me make two small changes that will ruin everything.
See? I just destroyed the the level's harmony. There is now the easy way and the hard way. Guess what is the player going to choose? The easy way, most likely, no matter how much more fun the slopes are. What I just presented you here is terrible level design, even if it's overall much more Sonic-y than the first sketch. Why would I not jump on the empty platform and then on the moving one? Much easier, nothing to do.
So, my point is: think about the play, then worry about the Sonic-y apects of it. Adding possibilities for momentum is not hard - making the player notice the posibilities is much, much harder.
I love Snowmuncher. It's one of my favourites from Neopets. The reverse feedback the game offers is brilliant - let me just add that if you eat a block, all adjacent blocks that share the same color as the eaten one disappear too at no additional cost, which stimulates thinking ahead in lieu of (or in addition to) moving fast. The risk vs. reward dilemma is instrinsical to the game. It's what it's made of. It's brilliant and lots of fun.
I like that list. Seems to cover what we've discussed so far - but hey, we do have stimuli to use your reflex in classic Sonic. From the batbrains in Marble Zone to the intermittent platforms at Flying Battery/Metallic Madness/Scrap Brain to those rotating mini-platforms at Metallic Madness - think of how not enough reflex and skill, I mean, a quick response sends you to a lower level. Especially in Scrap Brain.
Now, does being deliberately set up really matter? Especially now, more than 10 years later? I do believe allowing this kind of more abstract freedom is very important and adds up a lot to the overall sense of motion, but... I want to give the player a strong impression in the first playthrough, mostly. It's important, to me, that the game gives off a huge impression.
No, and let me explain why not:
First-case scenario: the player is too slow and is left with the speed shoes. Wow, am I rewarding him for being slow? Heck, no! I'm demanding more player input. This Sonic needs more blast processing: there, you have it, now deal with it. The stage remains with the same level of difficulty, but now has a faster pace. I'm using speed as tool to stimulate the player to be better, have more skill.
Second-case scenario: the player is skilled enough to reach the lever within 5 seconds! Great, now the effort is rewarded with less need for effort. "Oh, Palas, fuck you. How do you want the player to keep his motion?" Well, I don't. Or, at least, I don't mind. He already showed me he can do it. And, most importantly, showed him/herself, having an experience related with speed. He used Sonic's speed. Good.
Now, let's exchange it. The lever on the top, the shoes on the bottom. Now we have less speed = less demand for speed; more speed = more demand for speed. This much I find horribly wrong and actually applies to full games.
Look, there is that theory of the three layers, right? "The higher you go, the more rewards, but it's more difficult to stay there". I'm against this. Let's take Spring Yard or Collision Chaos or Casino Night or Quartz Quadrant or, heck, even Jungle Act 1 to some degree. The bottom layer is actually harder. Has more threats and whatnot (sure, Jungle Act 1 has the log, but everything that's not the log will fucking kill you) - and the game constantly tries to push you down, but once you avoid it, the path is clear. It's punishing you for not having enough skill - but, if you do, the game gets actually easier and you can now perform speedruns and whatnot. It's a demand for input from the player, but, once you succeed, the game opens a gate.
If it were always the other way around, the easier path being the easier to stay on, the player would never ever be required to show skill! What a bland game that would be. Less rewards, less threats, less everything. No, that's not the way to go.
Separate names with a comma.