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Sonic vs Mario Bros. (1983)

Discussion in 'Fangaming Discussion' started by Deef, Sep 19, 2012.

  1. Deef


    (Ok so being the new page, here is a summary of things so far. You'll have to forgive how much this is my interpretation of/response to things, but I guess that's unavoidable since I'm the one writing here heh.)
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    The object of the thread is to identify, for a Sonic game, which aspects of gameplay provide instant, right-there-in-the-controller, compulsion to play. And to then discuss how to nurture or refine those aspects so they form a solid basis upon which to base a full game.

    This topic is inspired by the original Mario Bros. of 1983.


    Mario Bros. contained instantly compelling aspects of gameplay that carried over into a full game, quite convincingly, two years later. That full game was Super Mario Bros. for the NES, and in it we can see those compelling elements from 1983 forming a strong, persistent basis for the whole of Super Mario Bros.

    Following from that inspiration, this thread encourages readers to consider what Sonic gameplay would be compelling on only a single screen, purely for the purpose of focussing, refining then translating that gameplay back into a full-level Sonic game.

    To give a better idea of what I'm talking about, I frequently refer to three compelling gameplay aspects of 1983's Mario Bros.:
    ¬ aiming headbutts
    ¬ jumping to/reaching new locations with time pressure
    ¬ dodging

    Discussing all this in terms of Sonic is what this thread is about.

    The rest of this post is a quick rundown of what has been talked about so far.

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    The clearest gameplay element discussed so far has been motion play; Sonic's strong focus on using terrain and gimmicks to affect his motion and flow.

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    A question raised about motion play was how far we can push the growth of this gameplay (as in the challenge presented and pushing player skill) before having to change the terrain. I considered shrinking badniks, increasing enemy speed, etc.

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    Another question I raised was whether the single aspect of motion play was enough. I identified three aspects to Mario's play that all survived the transition to a full game. I also mentioned Miyamoto's approach of layering simple gameplay upon simple gameplay upon simply gameplay to form complex, involving gameplay. Next to this, identifying only 1 aspect of compulsion for Sonic play looks quite bare.

    This question is being addressed naturally as the thread rolls on, but I'll quote myself for the thoughts I only recently recognised, suggesting other aspects of gameplay that are quite relevant.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    The point of tension was raised, and is a point I intend to get back to. The idea of tension is that something is urging the player to keep their attention focussed on the play to avoid losing at the game. Breaking it into logical approaches, we have:
    ¬ tension that increases in intensity the closer the player gets to complete failure (from big Mario to little Mario)
    ¬ tension that decreases in intensity the closer the player gets to complete failure (not punishing the player further for low skill)
    ¬ tension that does not change, and simply leaves the player closer to complete failure (lose a life, repeat a level with a clean slate)

    Which of these is a stronger approach is going to be hotly debated. >:D

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    The question of how much to separate "Soniccy" gameplay from "common platforming" gameplay is being discussed.
    I don't know that we are still also trying to identify what the differences are. I think we aren't.
    (Are we? It feels fine in my mind.)

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    The existence of more than one way to balance speed and platforming has been mentioned. Speed can be presented as gifts, or as rewards, or as rests, or carefully interwoven into the platforming. Perhaps there are more ways. I don't think the topic has really made it far enough to explore this yet, but I could be wrong.
    I suggested Freedom Planet as an example of speed being present in the game, but literally never handed to the player; very much unlike Sonic 3.

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    Goal handling is where a lot of discussion is currently. Again breaking it down, I suggested that it can go 3 ways:
    ¬ Explicitly telling the player they achieved something, which is often horrific and excruciatingly patronising if you ask me.
    ¬ Giving the player something to not only acknowledge the achievement, but to encourage its pursuit in the first place.
    ¬ Doing nothing and allowing the player to enjoy achieving their own goals, only possible if a game has the structure to support this well.

    This ties in to the discussion of Soniccy vs unSoniccy play, as it is clear neither playable motion nor achievable goals are enough on their own. Where everyone's priorities lie around this matter might be personal differences, or might just be a matter of recognising semantics.

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    Reflex play is another sub-topic raised. I had asked if Sonic is nimble enough.
    I think the only thing going on here is waiting for me to decide if I have any further response.

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    The lack of upgrades has been raised, but discussion on this has not started at all. Sorry, just frick I have much less time than these posts would have you believe.

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    And capping off page 1 (for those who can't stand anything less than 40 posts per page) is the assertion that deliberately designed goals are a higher priority than creating a game that supports player-defined goals, which I completely agree with short of creating a sandbox game.

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    That's the summary so far. I numbered the sub-topics just in case it makes it easier to refer to them later. It's a coincidence that there are exactly 10.

    Manic and Palas, I will still address each of your last posts.

    It's worth using this space to thank you, Palas, for the images you're taking the time to construct and the help they bring to the discussion.

  2. Flipside


    For me, there won't be a new page until we hit 46 posts. It makes your post look so out of place. :P

    There may not be a lot of split second/twitch gameplay, but there's some. There's sometimes you have to avoid a spring that would send you into a hazard. It seems hard to have level layouts like that without being cheap though. Hard to do on a single screen too.

    There's some things that haven't been mentioned that are important though... Tutorials, intimidation, and multipliers.

    When I say tutorials, it doesn't just mean omochao. Doesn't just mean a wall of boring words. The game is paced so it feels like you learned it yourself, and it's not irritating if you already played the level before.

    You know that part in Marble Zone Act 1 with that stone block and the button you're obviously meant to push it on? That's a tutorial so you're not lost when you have to push blocks on lava.

    Egoroptor went over how awesome MegamanX's first level is too. There have been whole videos on tutorials...
    I think someone on the S1HD or Sonic 3 Game Gear threads posted one of their videos and I've been hooked ever since.

    And now intimidation... Would that drill car boss be the same if you put bunny ears on it? Not really... You don't want the player to be ashamed of playing the game in front of other people. Also, I think defeating intimidating bosses just feel more rewarding. Back in the 16 bit days, the easiest way to make something look good was to make it move in intricate ways. An angry orb thing isn't that cool. Spikey orbs are alright... Now make an angry orb with spikey orbs swirling around it, and it's cool. It's rewarding dodging the spike orbs that orbonaught throws and bonking him on the head. Even if it's just different colored blocks like the World's Hardest Game, or the World's Hardest Game 2, it still looks good.

    There's no reason bosses can't show up on the single screen.

    Ok, multipliers... The player wants it, but it's not instant death if they loose the multiplier. I tink it would be cool if every time Sonic defeated an enemy, a blue fliky came out and instead of running away, stuck with him. The more flikys you have the more the rings are worth, but if the fliky gets hit, it runs off. When you get 10 blue flikys, they turn into a pink fliky. 10 pink flikys make a green fliky, then red, then super sonic flikys. After you get all 10 super flikys, the enemies would just drop a ring. Since it takes 10,000 badies to get a super fliky, it would act like a shield and can protect itself.

    If you thought tails messed you up in the special stages, these little guys would drive ya mad. :P If you wanted a shorter arcade game, you could change it to 5 of each fliky. A gold fliky would be worth 625. Instead of the MAX number of super flikys being worth 100,000 it would be 3,125. I think this would work very well in a full fledged Sonic game.

    There's no reason we couldn't drop in powerups in the single screen game either. After you beat so many levels, a S3K style capsule flys in and drops an elemental shield, invincibility, or something nice like that. You could also have an upgradable Sonic 1 shield. If you have it when you get another, then you get a double shield. Do it again and you have 3, 4, or up to 5 shields. If you have the Sonic 1 shield and try to get an elemental shield, you lose all the other shields.

    I guess there could be other powerups like reverse gravity, 20 second Super Sonic, the orange homing attack shield, or a "nuke everything on the screen then laugh" item. I think I would enjoy that one.

    This fan game of yours had better be good... lol
  3. Deef



    I'm going to dismiss large chunks of your post, and then discuss what's left.

    Your post was focussing on the rewards that the player gets, which makes me antsy. If you're going to say "give rewards to make it fun" then the counter is "ok now they have the rewards from the start, is it more fun?" Obviously it isn't; what they go through getting them is where the fun lies. Definitely rewards or goals are needed to motivate that, but if it only encourages the current gameplay rather than manipulate and define it, it's off-topic. Why? Because if the reward has nothing to do with what the player is doing right now, the player will absolutely need to know what it does later before even considering it. That later reward might be good, might be bad, it might be cash payment straight out of your controller. But whatever compulsion it creates is entirely dependent on that reward, and not at all on the game as it is happening in the moment, which is what this thread is about. Player sees the game, player wants to play because of how the game plays, the game keeps these compelling fundamentals of play for the whole game.

    To give it some perspective from Snowmuncher, there's the situation where a player is about to grab a Bloat-B-Gone from under some snow blocks, at the risk of getting crushed, in the interest of being more able to grab a diamond for points, then possibly an avatar. This thread is talking about the risk of getting crushed. That bit.

    You mentioned 3 types of reward:
    · Affect the game (Bloat-B-Gone)
    · Score attack
    · Community-validated prizes

    Big ramble about score attack:
    The problem with score attack for this thread is that score attack is what makes a player want to keep playing, but not what makes a player want to play in the first place. Perhaps a good way to put it is that score attacking is an excuse, not a reason, because the desire to play was already there. Score attack gets layered on; it complements and it can be applied to practically any game. But if the things that the player can do are not appealing in their own right, score attacking is not going to save it.

    I'm a little glad it has been raised again for the chance it provides to really make that distinction. This topic isn't about how to make a game last, or about how to get the player to look forward to future achievements. That stuff is important but is also a later step of consideration that gets wrapped on top of what this thread is looking at, which is how to make things fun in the moment, so clearly that a player sees it and just registers desire to pick up a controller. Certainly some kind of goals will soon have to come into the equation, one approach being score attack, but again, later consideration I think.

    Personally I'm not big on score attack for a full Sonic game and I could go into why, but that's just me and I can't say it's bad thing if that's the focus someone prefers a game to have. NiGHTS, Ski Safari and Velociraptor Jungle Safari are great games that rely on score attack quite a bit, if not entirely, but in all three cases the score is not why I started to play and wanted to play more. NiGHTS and Ski Safari are great examples of being able to fail at a score attack but still know you had a fun game. Just today I had an awesome ski, then was surprised that I'd reached my 2nd highest score. Wasn't even noticing.

    Small ramble about community-validated prizes:
    One problem with community-validated prizes is, of course, that they require a community. More to the point, it brings enjoyment from something external to the game itself, and has little to do with the compulsion formed on the game's own merits. Like score attacking, if the game itself isn't fun, community-validated prizes aren't going to make the game itself more fun. This doesn't mean they won't make it more played however, and that's a kind of mind-game I don't like to design.
    Basically for this topic I just shy away from anything where the sense of desire to play doesn't come from the actual play. Get that right first, then chuck all the other stuff on top.

    Moving onto your Mario points:
    · The red coins example affects the game as it happens.
    · The golden medals do not.

    I'm basically cutting that down again and saying the golden medals are off-topic. Yes, they encourage the player to push their skills to get the reward, but that's all they are: a reward. Their value might be great and it might thus encourage some fun gameplay that wouldn't have been encouraged otherwise, but that value is external to what the player is doing now, and this thread is about what the player is doing now. You said it yourself when discussing Sonic's red rings; even unlocking extra stages can be dull. Whatever the reward is, it's going to be in the game. The game has to be fun already.

    Red coins however, feeding new powerups to the player, are a different story. Big Mario is desirable in a way that gets the player a little hyped then and there when he sees that mushroom. But you're not just talking about the powerup aspect (which Sonic has but its quality compared to Mario's is arguable); you're talking about the strategy aspect (which Sonic doesn't have).

    I'm gonna go both ways and ask both questions.

    Would a single screen Sonic game need a more prominent use of powerups to be fun?
    Would a single screen Sonic game need an aspect of gameplay that is about strategising powerup achievement to be fun?

    Can Sonic not be fun on a single screen without the gameplay of chasing powerups? Mario managed it:


    Because creating completely new aspects of compelling gameplay wouldn't be that hard to do, but I'm more wondering if we can identify, nurture and refine what we've already got.

    Sonic's powerups are definitely a topic that would be interesting to look at, but are possibly not in the topic of this thread. But you're free to challenge that.
  4. Deef



    So where were we...


    Dunno. I agree and disagree with things here. I think the image is putting a few concepts together so it's hard to respond to.

    Yes it is an example of bad level design. But I'm not sure what it's saying other than one can still make bad levels with good motion play. Well, one can make bad levels with anything. You're saying that the availability of well-crafted Soniccy play won't save a game from bad goal-setting and I agree, it probably won't (depending on what we call bad), and that goals focus is what helps give direction to the level design; something motion play will not do. And bad level design means bad game.

    To all that I say that I agree that it's an important role of goal setting. This doesn't mean however that I'm on board with the idea of goals first, Soniccy play later, but that's discussed later in this post.

    I believe you explained this because I was dissin' (yo) the first design you showed for being less Soniccy, so you had to defend the value of goals. Fair enough.

    I think we should keep an eye on what's off-topic though, and discuss that stuff in spoilers just to help keep things clean. Thread in a nutshell = "What compels?"


    I've spent way too long dwelling on this so I'll reduce it down to plain questions and statements. First, some motion wordage which is too boring not to hide:
    Motion is one thing, Soniccy motion is another. It is possible I just harped on about motion being "Soniccy" so much that I confused and distracted the question about compulsion that comes from goals (as opposed to motion), so my apologies for that.

    "Motion" is a fits-all term for the immediate interaction between the player and the game. Not literally just the character's motion itself, but the the control the player has over it, and the feedback the game applies to it.

    Catering to motion play is important. Setting goals carefully is important.
    I still believe our confusion on what creates compulsion might just be semantics. I do have to admit that Jester's Challenge shows that goals can indeed be the reason someone plays, and so maybe it's not semantics; maybe that's the kind of compulsion you're referring to. But I'm not sure that it is. Jester's compulsion (as I will now call it) is exactly what this topic isn't about; it's far away and deliberately described to the player, and not connected to what's happening right now on the screen/in the controller.
    · So if that is what you're thinking, then you're still challenged with the question of how/whether goals can create compulsion in a single-screen game.​
    · And if that isn't what you're thinking, then I'm still thinking it's only semantics. I don't think goals create the fun, I think they just give it reason to happen. When it does happen it's because something else was handled carefully, and the goals are what got the player there for that something else to do its thing.​
    Like coconut milk. You've got a drill and a coconut, and the fun is the coconut milk. If the milk is sour, you're buggered. If the drill is broken, you're buggered. But ultimately it's the milk that the player enjoys, not the drill.

    Happiness is the journey, not the destination, and such. It's what you do in achieving the goal that is the fun bit, not actually possessing the achieved goal.

    :colbert: If you're still seeing this another way, perhaps could you post another example of goals that compel play rather than (any) motion that compels play. If you want, try to suggest goal-chasing that would create compulsion for a whole single screen game. It's just that I think I would pull it apart to the point of saying "That's motion."

    Meanwhile, putting aside the question of which creates compulsion, we certainly appear to have a different focus on what's important:
    Not so much semantics that time (although you did initially agree with my quote there).
    I say get the motion right, then chuck in the goals. You say get the goals right, then chuck in the Soniccy motion. Heh. Really a designer doesn't want to get either wrong; we just appear to focus our interest from different angles.

    It doesn't matter, just as long as we remember that the thread is only looking at one segment of design: to try to identify compelling aspects of gameplay that are immediate, and that can be nurtured into a full game.

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    The rest in spoilers because it's off topic.
    I'll chuck these both here for easier reference. There's one thing worth poking at in sketch 2.
    Sketch 1

    Sketch 2

    In sketch 2, you would choose the easy way? Why?
    Sure it's a bad design of a level but saying the player isn't going to play on the curves is like saying that the player didn't really want to play in the first place. In reality, when didn't we deliberately take a different route in the classics just to mess around some more? If I was playing that level you sketched, I would pretty much head to the right and not even approach the goal until I'm convinced there's no other way I can play that stuff on the right side. I would try to lure the left badnik over there and mess around with that too.

    Yes, the extra play is too obvious to the player as being meaningless, but I believe that's the scale of this particular example of yours talking. The problem of the easy way being in the player's face wouldn't carry into a full game so directly.

    It would be more difficult in a real game for a sub-optimal path to permanently remind the player of how pointless it is. In a real game, it's more like this:


    The player would simply enjoy the hard path because the easy path is out of sight. It wouldn't even need to be more Soniccy than the other. And it doesn't help that you've gone and put an extra reward up there too. It's almost the perfect skill = reward alternative. But yes the difference is too great, it is patronising. But here's a fun question:

    If you only got one sketch to play Sonic in ever again, would you prefer sketch 1 or 2? See, I'd easily go for 2. And if you genuinely prefer 1, that pretty much sums up how huge our difference is in approach. I guess the real triumph of what I'd aim for, in a full game, is when a player gets near the end of an act, they turn around and head back into it. SFR and Sonic Classic Heroes both gave me a fair few time overs in EHZ1.

    Finally, it's funny to me how you say "making the player notice the possibilities is much harder." I'm more of the approach where I practically try to hide those possibilities from the player.

    I'll get to the rest of your reply tomorrow.
  5. Deef


    @ Palas (again)

    I figure it's clearer to use a new post for new points; break up the wall and all that.

    I intend to go into that list more in due course. But I can at least note here what nags at me about reflex gameplay in a Sonic game: low acceleration.

    A successful reaction involves the timing of two things:
    #1. Time to react to the presence of danger
    #2. Time, once reacted, to travel from being in danger to being out of danger.

    Focussing on reflex gameplay involves the timing of a third thing:
    #3. Time, once out of danger, to recover to a state for a new reaction.

    The first depends on the human so that's ok.
    The second and third depend on the game, and Sonic has some slow acceleration on his feet and some slow recovery in practically anything he does.

    Should this be changed?! What would, can we, could it, blah blah blah?
    I'm not really asking right here; I'm just saying that the timing of #2 and #3 pretty much break the idea of reflex play. Sure you still have to react fast enough (#1), but then you have to wait, and keep holding right, and keep watching, and now a second has passed, should be landing soon... ... . The perfect example is Sonic 1's final boss.

    So looking at your examples, Batbrains get you hung up on recovery time, while the most of those temperamental platforms aren't reaction, they're timing. Metallic Madness has those falling grey spiked-underneath platforms; that's reflex/reaction play, right? But yeah, see how slow it feels?

    Again, I'm not arguing for or against anything here, I'm just clearing up some thoughts and terms. (On that note, I'm using reflex play and reaction play interchangeably.)

    Sonic has 3 tools I can think of that address #2 at least. Jump, spin dash, and insta-shield. All three allow a very fast reaction. Jumping is still quite slow in motion, but instant in its changing of state.

    None of these moves address #3. Even the insta-shield is tied to the slowness of recovering from a jump.

    Anyway, just throwing this stuff down. <Customary re-alignment of this point to the thread topic of compulsive play goes here.>

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Well, logically, deliberately setting things up is all we can really do. Otherwise we'd be deliberately trying to create a feeling of "the designer didn't create this feeling." We both agree this kind of freedom is important, so to just answer your question of whether it really matters, I just point out that players who play the Bouncing Challenge would feel much less enjoyment if they knew it was deliberate. In fact, they probably wouldn't even go back to it. We agree it's important, and that's why it matters to me, BUT to meet what you're saying I agree that this:
    ... is, yes, more important. The abstract freedom thing is a big deal to me, but I still wouldn't look at it until after this strong impression you're talking about is defined. Making stuff not-deliberate is too shaky a foundation for anything but a sandbox game. It has to be spare enjoyment, permitted to not even happen, and not something to rely on.

    Relevance: I think the freedom to do unexpected things, unexpected by even the developer, is important to compulsion. The player will recognise the potential on display, and if they're interested in the game, that will generate further interest. I agree that this will not be why the player is playing at first.

    You know, I think I just really dislike the idea of being told what I have to achieve at all. It's like I need the game to manage its push to the end very carefully; as if that's the boring part for me. :S

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    :objection: Pretty sure I disagree here, but as is becoming a habit of mine, I'll reply later. :v:
  6. Palas


    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
    There's a lot to talk about, huh? Let me sit back.
  7. Palas


    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
    Not so much. I was going to do the experiment anyway, adding the same changes. What I was going to say was that goals can compel different motion play (if you are bold enough to not pull the lever, you will HAVE TO figure out that the other way is spindash+jump)

    My response in a nutshell: we can't make a tabula rasa experiment out of it. A lot of stuff *can* compel, but we need to display all the options to grasp nearly every possible player's attention.

    It's semantics, then. Because the whole point about Jester's Challenge was that the lack of a clear goal hinders the motion. There could be slopes and favourable geometry, but the way you play and what for - and the order of importance between goals and subgoals - would never be as Sonic-y. When you know that you'll have to go right, you can allow yourself the luxury of going backwards for a moment for whatever reason, allowing more fun because you are in control. In maze-like games such as Jester's Challenge, you are not in control. You can't be too lenient as to change your own course in favour of a minor reward, because you don't know if that will derail you. The main goal is always the first in the priority, whereas if it is a given, the priorities can be changed according to what's on the screen.

    Indeed. And it is important to mix perspectives to create surprising gameplay. So I think both of us need to see each other's view as a possibility at hand.

    The problem is that "ways" are something the players build, not the designers. "Way" is just the... manner... of the player to speak about the path s/he's been through, not taking into account the rest of the level. So if I don't chuck in enough goals to lure the player out of the main goal, even if momentarily, I can only know that's where s/he'll head, and calculating as I can only suppose a player would calculate, there is an easy way to do that. I'm a little confused about this, though, because there is something interesting - when playing RPGs, when I find out what's the right path, I always go back and check on the wrong ones to see what's there. Not only because I know there tends to be rewards at the end of the "wrong" paths, but I'm scared as hell of reaching a boss underleveled. It may be due to the fact that there is no such thing is "leveling" in Sonic, but I think I tend to always look for the most practical way to do stuff, since there's no danger of having something such as a rare item lost forever. Another example of how goals and the play itself together compels certain gameplay. But that's just me. As I've said myself, there are rewards in both styles. What compels or ceases to compel is fear.

    Hmm. I, for one, believe the "hard" and the "easy" paths are (or should be) connected all the way through. I don't like the idea of there being a void between them. So let's imagine there are some "inter-paths" pointing in either direction. This can be adapted to reality as, say, a badnik that attempts to throw you to the other path (and the origin and the destination pretty much make your level different. If there is a badnik on the hard path, there could be a reward, too. Or something to alleviate the player's pain, like a shield, on the easy path).

    I guess I'll have to concede here. I don't know how much of a reactionary I am, but I prefer to have less reflex play than to twitch on Sonic's movement.

    The rest is way too off-topic even for me. I am curious, though, about how our discussion is being seen by our fellows.
  8. Deef


    Oh dammit I meant to use that post #46 for Flipside. Just after I finished post #45. ... *cough*
    Hope my Colbert didn't appear stubborn. :colbert: It looks that way but not intended.

    I think you quoted a non-quote. Hit Ctrl-F and plug in: [[ The problem is that "ways" are something the players build, not the designers. ]]. That bit.

    Will reply and edit properly... Soon (tm).

    Note to self - Concentrate rolling temptation.
  9. Deef



    I was going to ask how on earth you managed to get 45 posts per page. The max I could choose was 40.
    But NOW, only now, for the first time, I have 45 posts per page. o_O I never did anything. I am even in the settings now... it still says 40. Well, whatever, 45 is better, hope it stays like that.

    * Goes back to page 1 to load Flipside's post. Forum turns into 40ppp again. -_- *

    Yup to all of this. It is there to be found in the games, but so rare. I think Yahtzee once commented on QTE games where the QTEs are so far apart that by the time they happen you've stopped bothering to stay ready for them. I think any real twitch gameplay in the Sonics is the same; the player typically stuffs up the first time then learns. I can't think of any exceptions anyway; any real twitch play that matters the first time the player sees it.

    This also makes note of the fact that if there is going to be any real twitch gameplay, there would need to be randomisation.

    Anyway, I don't really want to give it much more attention than this, since I don't think it's worth a whole lot. I suppose I could describe a distinction between twitch gameplay and reflex gameplay, and then I could admit that this is what Palas was referring to in the first place. The distinction would be that twitch = see & react. Reflex = react to many things while reading ahead. And that can combine timing as well as sudden attacks. Most of a shmup is about reacting while reading ahead, not pure twitch play. Whereas Vectorman's bonus stage is out and out twitchville.

    So, okay, reflex play could come into the story of compulsion and does deserve a space on that list (of 5 ways to play). I don't know when I'll actually get to looking at that list more closely though.
    @Palas, I feel a bit dumb for rewriting the terms so much with all that twitch talk. I could have just agreed with your Scrap Brain/Marble examples; of course skill and reflexes apply, even if twitch play might not.

    - - - - - - - - -

    Yes, important, even if only applied with subtlety in the middle of the game. But you haven't said anything regarding tutorials that is on topic.

    You're basically saying use visuals and mood to generate compulsion. A boss that the player wants to fight. A badnik that looks scary but beatable. Etc. Sound could be a part of this point as well.
    I can agree with this, and I wonder to myself, what did Mario Bros. did in this respect?
    If you ask me I would say "Not a lot". Perhaps the little turtles were cute enough when stuck on their backs to generate compulsion, but there isn't a lot else I could pick out. But I wasn't playing games in 1983 so maybe back then things felt different.

    I would just treat the suggestion as simply being about score attack, which I think comes after play and isn't the play itself. Except:
    That aspect of the suggestion is good. It's like getting big Mario, and knowing that you could get big Mario back after losing him is a compelling thing. Multipliers have a similar feeling, in my opinion. It's not that you'll get a better result in 30 seconds, it's that in 30 seconds you'll be better as a character at getting results. The prospect of not just achieving more, but of being more powerful to achieve, is a good one. Shields are an example of this too, but really they never implemented it well. I just wonder if there are any other ideas that serve the "more skill = more powah" that are not abstracted away from the real game (like score attacking is).

    Baby steps. Just a design thread for now. Ask me again in 2014.
  10. Deef


    Time to reply to this again hah.

    The reason I made this thread is because if I make a Sonic fan game, what I don't want is a game that is just going through the motions; ticking all the boxes but forgetting that, as a videogame, it is meant to be a fun thing we want to keep playing. I want the fun to be recognisable; as soon as you pick it up you're doing something playful.

    These days I frequently find myself appreciating a game more than enjoying it; not playing so much as watching myself play, wanting to see what the developer has done more than wanting to continue for the gameplay itself. Rayman Origins is one culprit that comes to mind. There are obvious reasons for this, and with Sonic fan games especially the "observing" feeling occurs an easy 95% of the time. I appreciate and admire, but where's the fun? On the plus side, if I can satisfy my own cynical demands then it can't be a bad thing. And I still believe it can be done; that a very fun and compelling 2D classic Sonic can be made, mainly because I can still look at other 2D platformers such as Mario, and register the compulsion they create. I occasionally find myself hooked on another game where I am indeed playing just to have fun. I want to keep playing.

    So this thread is about how the player can pick up a Sonic game and simply want to play more. Not to see what's next, but just to play now. Can a 2D Sonic still do that? This is the aim here. Not just lifeless quality, but fun.

    I referred to Mario Bros. of 1983 because it's easy to recognise the compulsive element of that game, and is then easy to see that carrying across into the Super Mario platformers. Sonic is a different thing of course, and I'm not interested in sacrificing any part of the identity of Sonic games (such as the large levels or easy survival) in order to mimic Mario compulsion, but I do want to explore what I can simply because I think pick-up-and-fun can be done better than what we see these days. It's like I want to put new life into the classic Sonic startup experience, yet not break the mould either.

    Before I put any more thought into a new post, here is my reply to Palas.
    You probably want to read the first one last. ;)

    Goals and motion:
    (This section has a tl;dr at the end).

    We debated and goals and motion a fair bit, and settled on calling it semantics. Or did we? Sorry to say I deny you that settlement later on, despite being the one to suggest it so much.

    This means we're still at:
    - your perspective being that good goal design is more important to the creation of compulsion, regardless (more or less) of motion.
    - my perspective being that good motion design is more important to the creation of compulsion, regardless (more or less) of goals.

    I thought and wrote a lot about goals, then finally had to ask myself why is it that I think of motion as the thing that matters so much?

    Control is what the player has the connection to. It's the player's communication with the game, and when it breaks down, it's what the player feels. It can't be denied that the more a game is about see & respond, the more its control affects the player's compulsion to keep playing. But that is control. Our differences were centered around providing Soniccy motion, and the geometry that favours it.

    And this is why it's a big deal to me:
    If there is a lot of Soniccy motion, there is a lot of opportunity. It's not that I like moving in big circles or seeing Sonic travel really, really quickly; it's that I like the feeling of opportunity, of potential, to defy the status quo. That is what I feel when I think of hills and momentum and big bounces and connecting to ceilings. And that feeling of potential to do what wasn't spelt out for me is what motivates me. That's pretty much what I get out of classic Sonic games; the very frequent feeling that there is probably something more I can do. Something else I can be good at, and if I can't quite do that yet, well I probably will be able to just around the next corner.

    The more Soniccy motion I can get a hold of, the more power I have to do the unexpected. If there is not a lot of Soniccy motion, it's like I lose those powers. With no hills and no speed, there's no way to explore the stuff that wasn't made obvious. There's no way to break out of this path or attack this sequences of obstacles in a different way; I am forced to follow the basic script because the flat ground is like my kryptonite.

    Massive list of examples (you'll thank me for the spoiler tag on this one):
    Carnival Night Zone: The large section that consists of 3 or 4 consecutive small water pits, each with a red barrel bobbing up and down, each with anti-gravity fields on both sides. All you have to do is get from left to right. I don't think anything can hurt you; you just have to deal with jumping the pits, getting caught on the barrels, and losing control in the anti-grav fields.
    Or you can get SuperSonic, jump onto the floating bumpers at the start, bounce left from those bumpers, hit the inverted quarterpipe that leads onto the ceiling, connect to said ceiling, then run, upside-down, across the entire section.
    Killing the mid-boss without touching the ground.

    Chemical Plant Zone: The elevator shaft of 3 or 4 sets of rotating orange blocks, forming a moving staircase for you to fight your way up as the water rises beneath (or above) you.
    Or you can hit the speed booster that appeared a couple of screens earlier, leap from the incline of the second hill, and launch yourself up through the bottom of the sliding platform section that is supposed to come after those moving staircases, skipping them completely.

    Wing Fortress Zone: Bump the power sneakers from below and let them fall. Then catch the rising platforms back to the top, leap off, crack open the power sneakers and go soaring with this massive, amped up, rebound. Super bonus points for pulling it off as Knuckles with a bounce-glide.

    Emerald Hill Zone: The Bouncing Challenge. 'Nuf said.

    Sonic Classic Heroes - Emerald Hill Zone: Instead of taking the red diagonal spring to the shield that's on top of a loop, then taking the yellow spring to the life that's between 4 Coconuts, you can hit the red spring, re-curl Sonic on your way down, crack open the lightning shield, bounce up to those Coconuts instead of using the yellow spring, bounce off each one of them in turn (attracting rings as you go), bounce off the extra life, then continue right off the edge... and you haven't even touched the ground yet!
    Or take the mobius strip before that same loop, leap out of the mobius strip halfway through and if you get it just right, with Sonic only, you'll make it to the top of the loop and you have now accessed a shortcut that didn't exist in Sonic 2.

    Sonic Classic Heroes - Casino Night Zone: Using Tails' flight to bounce off bumpers for stupid amounts of air.

    Hydrocity Zone: Using the slides and their hills to change paths. Using SuperSonic to run out of the top of the level. Using Tails access to completely break the level.

    Launch Base Zone: Using Sonic to reach Tails' high path, backtrack past a permanent gate, drop down, and again break the level. Admittedly we don't want level-breaking to be part of the deliberate design.

    Flying Battery Zone: From the very first floating platform that takes you downwards, spin dashing left instead of running left. You fly through the air, bouncing perfectly off a badnik, and catch the handles above. Admittedly this one is pretty obvious.

    Starlight Speedway Zone: Bloody all of it. I have no idea what's going on there.

    Lightning Shields: Dodging rings for as long as you can.

    Anywhere: Loop jumps.

    Sonic Adventure - Emerald Coast: Skipping most of the brown bridge at the start.

    Sonic Adventure - Icecap: Skipping most of the icey cavern by using the outside hillside to jump up to a different entrance.

    Sonic Adventure - Speed Highway: Jumping over half the level, from the purple rooftops at the start, to the helicopter pad. Going from the start of Speed Highway at Dawn, to the end of Speed Highway at Dawn, again in one jump.

    When I look at this:


    ..., despite the lack of explicit goals I already see the fun from the goals I'm creating internally, almost subconsciously. Because there are already things I can do in this scene to see how good I am at doing them.

    And when I look at this apparently broken level:


    ... I don't register compulsion to go the easy way to the explicit goal. I register compulsion to head to the right and use my own points of reference to evaluate myself with my own goals. That's where I will have more fun.

    So I strongly prefer ways to test my skill that the game hasn't explicitly ordered. All I need is something that visibly registers what I achieved. Reaching a ring, connecting to an inverted quarterpipe, or clearing a gap.

    As you can see, all of these examples require Soniccy motion and momentum. It's no coincidence that Labyrinth doesn't feature in that list. (I will note here that I talk about your Jungle comments later on, so hold off on responding about Labyrinth pros or cons here.) The point is that what I find compelling in Sonic gameplay is the presence of these things in my mind all the time; that potential to do more than what the basic script says. This is what compels me to play more, and this is a product of the motion.

    So, it's starting to sound like my preference for focussing on motion is quite a personal one. I can't even deny that, because a key statement for my tastes would be that I do not enjoy it when the things I am told to do become the main source of compulsion. This is my main reason for preferring Sonic games over Mario games. In Mario you can never jump further than you can already see, and more often than not, to defy the script you have to find some glitch. I like a good boss fight. I do not like it when the good boss fights are the best reason to play. I do not like it when collecting lums is the biggest reason I have for playing a level. That can sod off.

    I find it strange to say that now, because NiGHTS, a game I put on the highest pedestal for gameplay, is all about "Do THIS, and do it as best you can, every single time." And what is Mario Bros. of 1983 if it isn't about doing exactly what you have to do? Heck that's what I based this thread on. Even 2D platformer Alien Soldier is very straight down the line in telling you what must be done, and I really admire that game. It is very arcadey though. So I think this distaste I have for explicit goals is connected to the genre; the 2D non-arcade platformer that is Sonic and Super Mario Bros.

    So I suppose my angle is pretty personal, rather than a design concept that works from the start. In fact, I would say that what I'm talking about is a matter of depth - a motivation to keep playing that evolves. New players don't care or know about any of the things I posted above, and this thread is meant to be about fun that's readily apparent from the start, not fun that takes a while to unfold. But I do believe that at some point, all that motiony stuff I'm on about will start to take over as the compelling reason for the player to play more.

    But short of that, then I suppose I admit that it's like you say: Create the goals first, then figure out the motion. Sigh. But the goals are so boring lol. I just can't escape the need to give the player the room to stretch their skills and then even defy the goals. If you give me a goal and a path in a Sonic game, I'll make a little mess out of it.

    Some motion blurb that I can't resist leaving out:
    I could choose from an automatic city hatchback, or a manual rear wheel drive that is good for drifting. The hatchback is more accessible at first, but will soon ruin gameplay purely because of its limited motion options. When the driver looks at a patch of dirt, a grassy field or an oily carpark, or a jump that requires landing sideways, he can't even consider setting up a challenge for himself. Motion is the gatekeeper to how much the player can explore new ways to apply their skill. It's that expanding potential I like the feel of.... not just "Weeee physics."

    Or consider Tails in Sonic 3. His flight is quite uninteresting. Imagine if it was more playful, with more inertia, more significance when rising or falling or holding jump, or less ridiculous bounce when hitting a bumper. There are many ways that his flight could be tuned up to give the player a more compelling game, because just imagine the tricky things you could try in some levels if he had more dynamic flight. And this involves no changes to any goals created.

    Motion is not only the gatekeeper to what challenges the player can face, but also the gatekeeper to how well he can access and apply his human skills. An F1 pilot would be wasted driving a city hatchback; never able to reach the speeds that push his reflexes. Similarly, Tails in Sonic 3 doesn't just prevent you from trying new tricks, he also prevents you from pushing your skill in the few ways he can be used. He can attack badniks but his control makes this barely usable; Marble Garden's boss being the one exception. He can move in any direction in the air, but so slowly that it's almost impossible for dodging to actually be a part of his flying game. I think that feeling the player gets - of how well he can access and apply his human ability - is what makes the control and motion the critical factor in how much the player enjoys the game. That's why I wasn't big on your Jungle example, but I have that other comment to make on that later.

    Consider Sonic 4: Episode 1's special stage. I look at it and ask why doesn't it sway? Why does the swinging world have no play or inertia? Why did they drop that opportunity to let the player really feel the motion more intensely? Because I think that would have made it more compelling in its own right, and again, without changing any goals. (Having said that, very few Sonic special stages actually are super compelling in their own right, to be honest.)

    I will say that I think the latter half of this spoilered section has veered from *creating* compulsion to *refining* compulsion; from providing motion that creates the discovery of goals, to simply making current control better. But I still wanted to write it.

    Focussing more on goals now, I would say that a lot of the confusing discussion centres around these 2 concepts:
    1. If you have a goal, but no obstacles between you and it, there is no compulsion to play. There is no way to do well or to fail.
    2. If you have obstacles, but no goal, there is no compulsion to play. There is no correct direction, or need to tackle any direction in the first place.

    2b). But, if the player does take on these obstacles, it is because the player has created their own goals.

    So regardless of point #1, there must be a goal for compulsion to exist. I think (hope) we can agree that the core meaning of a "goal" is nothing more than a way for the player to measure themselves. A reference point by which the player can say to themselves "I have achieved, I have done well." This must exist. The thing I realise here is that if it doesn't exist explicitly, it still must exist. Failing to see any explicit goals, the player will either create goals internally, or not play. I will be bold and suggest that it really is as simple as that.

    So I have to admit that I agree with you. The movement can't create fun by itself; not truly by itself. If the player is getting something out of it, it has to be because the player is achieving something, which means there is a goal somewhere in the equation. Our key difference is that the goal can be something the player invented himself and that's what I personally really connect to in Sonic games. But when it comes to creating compulsion in a new game you have to start with things that are clear, so I guess what I've learnt here is that what I get most out of a 2D Sonic game is not the same as what creates the most compulsion when starting to play a new 2D Sonic game.

    (I therefore hold in mind several other ways to let the player have goals. Every obstacle, even unnecessary, creates a goal that the game won't explicitly acknowledge. Any path visible as achievable, but not instantly accessible, can become a goal. Any shortcut that doesn't look like it was made to be taken is a shortcut I want to create. And then we wade into the murky area of sandbox-like achievements, like the Bouncing Challenge which you know. Murky, because by definition the developer can't create user-defined goals, but merely increase their likelihood. I would enjoy designing these goals, the hidden and unnecessary ones, more than the deliberate set pieces.)

    This particular aspect of using motion to do the unexpected is a trait that is somewhat unique to Sonic games. It died off after SA1 if you ask me.

    - Things you aren't being explicitly told to do are a huge deal for me.

    - The game's motion, with its ability to affect the amount of unexpected, non-explicit goals the player can discover, is important when it comes to building the element of play that is about not being ordered around. This element is important to me because the more I feel I can do well at something greater than just what I am told to achieve, then the less patronised I feel and the more I want to play.

    - This element is also good for creating depth.

    - But I admit little of this is about creating clear compulsion from the get go. There has to be something stronger than hidden goals.

    - More ramble about motion, veering off-debate.

    - Ok goals matter; goals always matter in the creation of compulsion, because the player won't play if there aren't any, even if he has to invent some himself. The player pursues goals. Even when I want to "design the motion first", and when I think about how motion creates more compulsion for me personally than explicit goals, that compulsion is still coming from goal-setting.

    - When introducing a new player to the game, this internal goal-setting is less reliable for manufacturing compulsion than explicit goals.


    At this point I'd like to have it noted that I actually did go back to try and make this shorter, and it has of course ended up longer.

    And I'd rather rewards in the level be used mainly as rewards, not goals.

    Jester's Compulsion:
    I had the wrong understanding of what you were saying with this all along. I thought you were saying "Jester's is all about the goal, and that produces a large portion of the desire to play," and that's what I argued against. But you were really saying "Jester's doesn't make its goal clear, and that's what damages the player's desire to play." And that, I agree with. No direction, too much freedom, and then as you said you can't even tell when something will derail you. When you want to play, you just don't know where it fits, and the compulsion is affected. So I'll say it wasn't semantics after all. You made the good point that goals alone were damaging compulsion. The player needs to know that there is a point, any point, to what they do next.

    The Jungle screenshot:

    I feel like I totally get this now. It's like having a nitro button under your nose. Pressing the button and burning off at nitro speed can be a source of fun, until it gets old.
    But teasing the player with it is also a source of fun (for the player). Not just because you're manipulating the player into appreciating the good things more, but also because the developer (and player) is forced to explore what fun there is to be had in everything else.
    I wouldn't have realised this for ages if you hadn't brought it up.

    The three layers:
    I was going to disagree with this, but reading it again I honestly can't work out if you're for or against it.

    Some other random points for anyone to consider:
    A. What about a procedurally generated 2D Sonic game? So every 5 screens, say, the level structure is a random chunk for another 5 screens. Can anyone imagine that being something compelling? Why/why not? What could make it work?

    B. I found Sonic Fan Remix to be very compelling, because of the graphics. Hate to say it but it's true; I loved it. Graphics alone can create compulsion to play, but this discussion doesn't have that luxury. So, carry on!

    C. I still compare Sonic's immediate gameplay to that of Mario Bros. 1983. But for now that can wait for another post.

  11. Deef


    I know this thread turned into a hideous beast for which I am mostly to blame, yet here I am bumping it again because lately my studies are pushing me back to this exact question.

    Considering a new 3D platformer, I've got ideas for the main mechanics and the moves, but I'm still struggling to get the right feeling of that bit that makes the player want to keep playing. I am still trying to figure out what this idea needs, before I have to present it in front of 3 different classes.

    Assumption: The player is holding the controller.
    Question: Now what? How do you make them want to do anything?

    Some comparisons:

    * Mario Bros. (1983), racers, shmups, beat-em-ups
    = the player doesn't get a choice apart from putting down the controller. If you don't play immediately, you fail, so play or walk away.

    * Super Mario 64
    = the player is told what to do, and guided with a fairly heavy hand. However they can also do anything they wish, at a pace they wish, if their interest is high enough to self-motivate. (Edit - I'm not sure how it works in SMG. I feel like buying a Wii today just to find out.)

    * 2D platformers, 3D Sonics
    = the player is not told what to do, and not forced to play or fail, but knows to go right/forward. Challenges will soon be presented.

    * Super Mario Bros. 1, Sonic 1
    = not told what to do, very lightly forced to play or fail (first goomba/first motobug) in a way that forces involvement and encourages further interests.

    I think I'm asking, how can I give the player direction from which to branch out and explore, without making the 3D world linear (Sonic), or the goals patronisingly spelt out (Mario)?
    Like, what would you do if Mario 64 didn't have stars.
  12. Flipside


    Grrrr... YOU and your COMPELLING posts... I didn't want to use my 20th post just anywhere, but I guess I'll use it here. I was gonna try to use it on a Sonic 2 HD thread trying to get Taxman to make Emerald Hill Zone with Sonic CD sprites and controls with Tee Lopes music. :P

    Anywho, to answer your question, Deef, I think the best option for a 3D game is your 3rd Option.

    Maybe they could all work, but I like the 3rd the best.

    Oh and earlier when I said post 46 would be on my next page, I didn't mean I had 45 a page. I have 15 posts per page, but 45 is a multiple of 15. Oh and now that it's 2014... This game better be good. lol

    Again, those were some compelling posts about flat surfaces being Sonic's kryptonite. I feel like I'm experiencing something I know in a new and interesting way, witch is another reason I still like the old Sonic games. When I played that S2HD Alpha it put me in a weird mental state where I knew where everything was, but I want to explore everything. Like it wasn't even a game anymore, but more of a Legend. And after so many years, I only now realize that the original Sonic games do the exact same thing on extra playthroughs.

    It may not translate fully on a single screen game, but Sonic games are partially about exploration. Even if it's just "This Chemical Plant is cool. What's the next zone theme?" I think Sonic 3 took it too far, but people seem to like it and I'm not as familiar with 3.

    What 3 did remarkably well was make an interesting and surreal environment. Most of the zones told an interesting story too without a SINGLE text box explaining it. Plus... pixels age pretty well.

    An immersive interesting environment and awesome music should extend a player's will to play. Not sure if that's a reason to play or an excuse to play.

    I think those classic Sonics did a great job with saying "Get to the goal" but suggesting other goals. Alot of the levels had unique gimmics too that act sort of like a magnifying glass. You don't brag about the magnifying glass. You use it to look at the Physics and go "Oh, I didn't know I could do that before." They did a good job on teacher the player how to play (Except Sonic 3 at some crucial parts), good physics bla bla bla....

    What really wowed me the other day was NiGHTS flying around. I saw a YouTube video of someone playing NiGHTS Into Dreams for the Wii. I'm thrice removed from this experience, but when I saw the gamplay it felt liberating like I was the one flying. Don't know how they did that, but they did a good job. A little too good... ... ... I guess if the game mimics something you want to be, like a superhero, space marine or unstopable force, it will become more immersive and much more enjoyable. The act of "breaking the game" the way the designers intended can be really engaging. Sonic 2's Super Sonic gives you kind of the same feeling.

    Not sure... I guess make an intresting world that's worth exploring. Maybe have short but diverse levels. That way the player can say "Just one more level," and then find himself 6 levels ahead. Not quite sure what control scheme could be used in a game that gives the freedom of Sonic Adventure 1 Sonic or Mario 64 without ripping them off. (Though the triple jump is much harder to master than the Spindash jump.)

    Well, Extra Credits did a video about the "Aesthetics of Play" here
    They linked to a paper examining what makes games fun, but now you need a password to see it on the website... I'll give the link anyway I guess.

    They have 8 aspects plus one Extra credits added. Good games usually have 3 or 4 of these core aspects
    (Stimulates the senses. It could be visually impressive, good music and sound affects. In Tag, the sense of touch is a core aspect.)

    (Being something in-game that you can't be in real life. Like NiGHTS.)

    (Game as drama. There was a Back to the Future game like that released sort of recently for the PS3 in... 2010? Had a completely new plot and I liked it. That's the only reason I looked for some videos of it online.)

    (Game as obstacle course. Not quite the same as difficulty, but it could help deliver it.)

    (Game as social framework. Seems like a big part of New Super Mario U.)

    (Game as uncharted territory. Again, alot of the Classic Sonic games and Sonic Generations. It also applies to Glitch hunting. Man, Generations had some cool glitches.)

    (Game as self discovery. Seems like every console has this now with Mii's, the Xbox 360 aavatars... Even avatars and sigs on forums. Sonic actually does have a lot of self expression. SA2's Homming attack might act different depending on who is playing. And you can change the User Interface from Sonic Talking, to Tails Talking, to the Secretary Talking. Not really a core aspect though.)

    (Game as pass time. Tittle may be misleading. It really means you just want to tune out and disengage. Unwind while playing a good game.)

    Competiton (Added by Extra Creditz)
    (The ability to play against your friends to prove your the best. You can do this in Fighting Games. Sonic does it with Time Attack.)

    Sooooo... I like how a lot of old games don't waste your time, but every new Sonic game seems like 30% game and 70% extras. It gets irritating.

    I think the extra missions should be done away with in favor of new levels. I know it's harder to do, but it's better for the game. Shadow the Hedgehog managed to fit in 23 levels. They did it weird, but they did it. I want to have new experiences more than beating a level, then the same level with 200 rings, then the same level with 400 rings, then the same level in 5 min, then the same level with 800 rings. But most games Sonic Adventure and up do that stuff. Generations did some of them cool with other characters to help you out. I like the idea of Espio's Spider-man swing, but the way it turned out was "meh."

    What do you think? Do you think they're doing it right? Should it be done differently, or not at all?

    Hmm... Looking back, I feel like I know more about Sonic, but I should have known sooner. :P Thanks for making this "hideous beast" of a thread.
  13. MrAtlas


    Norwich, CT
    Atlas Videos
    Did I hear single-screen sonic? :ssh:

  14. Hez


    that would suck. It takes away the illusion of speed, which is what the game is all about. I cranked up the screen resolution of GHZ in Sonic Classic 2 and it was terrible.
  15. Deef


    I do to, especially as I like the sandboxy feel but with a token goal added. It's like giving the player something to be good at, but then backing off completely. It's also a big reason for why I prefer Sonics over Marios, because even in 2D Marios the player direction is still so heavy. But really each method has its own place. I wasn't presenting those points as options, just points to compare.

    I actually did go and buy a Wii with SMG just to see how it compels the player, and honestly I was really freaking disappointed. So forget it. On the matter of player compulsion I have no interest in thinking about SMG. Jesus, I thought Mario was patronising before played that.

    I was exactly the same. And SFR? Don't even get me started. I went over 10 minutes many times before I even completed the first act for the first time. But I don't know if I can get anything from that about this topic, apart from SFR being so good to witness. It was just the joy of playing something I knew, that still played so well (thank you Merc), looking so amazing (thank you Pelikan).

    To be honest, I'm against this idea. Wanting to see what's next is cool. But if wanting to see what's next becomes the main motivator, it means that playing in the moment is not, and I see that as a Bad Thing. Ecco: DOTF is the first thing I think of on this matter.

    Yes, but Mario Bros. didn't. I just say that to steer away from the visuals. Visuals do compel, definitely, so I'm focussing only on the gameplay. Likewise with the music. Music is such a big deal, it really is, and etc. etc., but I'm just thinking gameplay here.

    This is where I agree. And this is what I question in the most detail. WHY are the gimmicks a magnifying glass? What good bit are they enhancing the view of? And why is that good bit good? What about it is making the player want to do it again?

    And then I would carry on about the physics being like the player's connection with the character, or their way to use the screen as a communication of their thoughts, or some kack like that. As you can see, I'm not thinking deeply about it right now; haven't got time. :/

    Absolutely agree with all of this. It troubles me, when thinking in terms of design, that what I find most compelling is when I feel I am doing what the designer didn't intend for me to do. It troubles me because, by definition, that can't be designed. I can't design rewards that aren't designed. The best I could do is try to design rewards that fool the player into thinking I didn't design them... but I think that's asking too much.

    Regarding NiGHTS, I agree so much because NiGHTS controls beautifully, and if you were unfortunate enough to read the debating between Palas and I, you might know that I'm all about how the control feels.

    I don't see this as the kind of compulsion I want to create. I see this as the kind of compulsion RPGs use, tapping into addictive tricks. I don't want to keep the player playing, I want to keep the player enjoying.

    Oh man tell me about it. *coughSMGcough* But the amount of content is not really saying anything about what compels the player in the first level.

    I am struggling to stay in touch with the reason I wrote it, but I know it's important to me. I know Super Mario Galaxy completely let me down in the matter of how compulsion is generated, and there is certainly better, because the old Mario Bros. does it better.

    A problem for me nowadays is that I don't have time to think a lot about things like this anymore, and I'm realising that I want to have that time, so I'm rethinking how I do things.

    I can at least list what I don't like on the subject. I don't like:

    * all challenges being obvious.
    * challenges that are the only thing there is to do.
    * an absence of rewards/reason for straying from the goal.
    * goals being presented explicitly, instead of intuitively.

    I could say that Mario Bros. doesn't pass that 3rd point there, which would indeed make it less motivating for me.
    Anyway, can't think of more for now.
  16. Flipside


    Hey 21th post. :)

    It's a shame to hear about Super Mario Galaxy being uncompelling.

    Anyway, now that I think about it a little more, maybe all of those game opennings can work, but just need to be executed differently.

    I suppose the 1st option is excellent for an arcade game. All adrenaline all the time. I think I was looking for just one correct answer. I guess if all videogames were the same, they wouldn't be as exiting.

    And also, the stuff I said about short levels that make you say "Just one more level before I go to bed," there's more to it than that. Short levels are an opportunity for diversity. (I think that) It makes the player feel good while making them anticipate something different. Not necessarily more difficult. Just different. I guess it's hart to tell if shorter levels are the cause or affect of a better game because I've seen games do this successfully more than "more of the same" levels.

    So... What exactly IS a game? It's interactive. The player has to be able to make noticeable decisions, like moving right. The more time spent without player involvement, the less someone will want to play your game. You CAN make the player feel involved with a cool cutscene without any input, but if your game is 100% cutcene, it's not a game. It's a movie. :P

    So minimize player wait time. Especially loading time. One of the newer rayman games loads a tiny level about 2 screens long. By the time the player makes it to the other end, the level is usually loaded. Brilliant idea. One of the James Bond games loads durring cutscenes. When the next level is ready, you get the ability to skip the cutcene. For Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (PS2), all the levels and bosses have their own little loading screen to look at. It usually shows a drawing of one of the people you help with whatever level it is behind them. If it's a snowy level, there's snow shown in the loading screen.

    If you have a monster 2 Gigabyte level to load, maybe load a 65 Kilobyte Space Invaders game first. Have something for the player to do. Even if it's control the floating "LOADING" text. If your loading screen makes me pull out my Game Boy Advance, then you have failed.


    So let's see... "Breaking the game as the designer intended" seems to be difficult to pull off. The phrase sends a clear message, but doesn't tell you how to get to the completed game...

    A game I think needs a little consistency. Without consistency, the controls make no sense and the player isn't truly controlling your game. It's now a movie that taunts them. If Mario jumps in a car and that changes the control scheme, the play needs to know when he is in the car and when he is not.

    Repetition can be a very good thing. Doesn't matter if it's a game, a story, or a chorus of a song. But repetition is much more memorable when done wrong.

    If the game forces you (or encourages you) to replay a section over and over, you remember it and start to hate that section. Especially when you have to do something that feels pointless. This is why I'm starting to hate time attack in Sonic games. It's usually set up so that there is only one correct route. When you find the best thing, you stick with it and never change the pace. And even if you get to the end with a good time, if it's not good enough, you feel defeated, irritated, and restart the level. One time I tried to get a perfect score on some of the Guitar Hero Songs. I would usually get 80% there then miss a single note. Even though I lost, I kept playing the song until it was done. I kept trying over and over, sometimes getting perfect on a song only to get stuck on the next. It stopped being fun, then it became a chore, then I stopped playing for a long time.

    That repetition was a very bad thing. Sometimes it causes pain that's hard to forget, like a chorus of a song. It's infuriating to make no progress on a game you've been playing all day long.

    It seems like you need consistency, but the fun is in the chaos. Maybe "breaking the game like the designer intended" can be the same as having a good balance of chaos and consistency. Ok, I know what your thinking so I'll just say it... CONSISTENCY CONTROL!!! -hair turns yellow- -flies into space to fight the Death Egg- -wins and comes back drenched with robot tears- So the game needs to be controllable but chaotic. (or at least have the potential to become chaotic.) This would apply when dodging enemies or maybe find a crazy way to spin dash off a slope and hit 5 badnicks in a row. The chaos makes the player input more important. A little bit of practice should expand the player's options. Simple problems can be remembered and practiced mentally to find new results to one problem. I think Castlevania was designed so if you died somewhere, you could think about how you prevent it next time as you approach the problem. The thought the player would need to put into this would make a tedious section less tedious.

    Repetition can be a real good thing. I find myself coming back to my favorite games and songs. For all I know, balancing fresh and familiar might be trial and error. Immersion is cool, but so is unwinding and not having to deal with all the stress of the day anymore. Don't have to worry about all your goals, just the game's goals.

    But maybe the player doesn't really need a goal. Maybe the player just needs an obstacle.

    Well, I hope I've at least given ya something to think about.
  17. Palas


    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
    That is something I thought about recently (yesterday). It occured to me, while analyzing some playthroughs of mine, that even though desire is still the determining factor of where I'll choose to go, it's not necessarily the desire of the immediate. There are certain paths that, because of their smooth movement, are much more natural for me to take. But I still don't give in to Deef's hypothesis that movement is, in itself, compelling. I started to believe, instead, that when there's a conflict between what's natural (rolling down a slope) and what's compelling (a series of floating platforms leading to a reward), we achieve value, BUT it's somewhat hard to bend natural behaviours.

    And avoiding obstacles is much more natural (and therefore compelling, but not in a conscious level) than collecting rewards. Tetris is all about obstacles, not goals. Space Invaders, all the arcade classics. And you'll play them nevertheless. So I think it's much more of a scale than we've made it seem so far. It's all integrated, goals and movement, according to the level of tension we're imprinting.
  18. Deef


    Lol where the bugger have you been? Welcome back.
    I think that was a good point also that Flipside raised. But really I'm only posting to say:
    1. I should send you a little Unity game I made, with 2 different types of motion.
    2. Unconscious yes.

    Hate writing on phones so that is all.
  19. Palas


    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
    Is it, though?

    Single screens take away more than the camera movement. They give you field of vision - you are now moving a pixel-size thing in a map, knowing what's ahead and how you should react. The illusion of speed, in itself, means nothing - if it was, F-Zero would be instantly superior to Sonic. And isn't it somewhat awkward to think the camera movement is more important than the character pictured within its borders? Sonic and his movements matter - I'm with Deef until now.

    The thing is - what does the speed deliver? What's the adjective we'd use? Probably thrilling, and then we'd see how we can explore Sonic a little more. It can be thrilling to fall or to jump really high, and that doesn't need the illusion of speed as we know it. Likewise, when we spindash + jump into the unknown in a Sonic game, what's fun is not only how high we are, but how we don't know where we are going. If we knew where we'll land, it'd be no longer any fun. And now I'm with Flipside when he says unwinding and chaos are as important as consistency.

    Which takes me to the next topic:

    While it's true that we feel the most rewarded when we feel we shouldn't have been rewarded at all, this can be designed. I'll trace a parallel between platformers and RPGs: there are games in which certain combinations of equipments nearly break the game. The player always feels rewarded when he finds out about these, but this phenomenon must still be consciously designed. The only way by which you can do this are small tricks of reconnaissance and the illusion of the unexpected. You create a false, big entrance to the reward and a small one that the player will be taken to, but won't know it. Loops, for example, create situations in which you know how and where the player will be. 9 times out of 10, in the case of loops, the player will be at full speed. So here's what we do.


    So the big reward is brought by a non-natural way. It's unlikely that a player, on the first playthrough, will top and go up the loop. But since the minor reward above and the floating platforms are all visible, he'll know that it was my intention to drive him away from the bigger reward. Next time, he'll think things through. But that badnik that, necessarily, doesn't threaten the player directly (a projectile pointed downwards as a form of tension builder is more than enough, maybe something like those mosquitoes in Palmtree Panic) and flies from the left to the right at the moment the player could jump, bounce and reach the reward anyway feels like a "take that, designer" even though it was intended anyway, but masked by a badnik's primary function.

    It's a delicate balance and that, indeed, can't be done everywhere, let alone in a level as a whole. If there wasn't the minor reward, that elevator would feel strange, leading to nowhere (until you found out about the floating platforms).

    Please do~!

    Back to university :>
  20. Thousand Pancake

    Thousand Pancake

    Being a food you put milk on and then eat in the m Member
    What about N? You control a tiny character in a huge single-screen environment and it has a great flow and sense of speed. It's the closest thing I know of to a single-screen Sonic.