The Intrigue of Vivid’s Platforming
Trying to make a precision based platformer can be pretty taxing. It’s one thing to make a typical platforming engine. In fact if you looked up some simple tutorials online or asked a guy like me, making an engine would be a snap! But while it would only take a day to make such simple physics, it takes well over a year to make perfect game feel.
Today I wanted to talk about my approach with Vivid’s platforming. The jumps, movement, stopping, and reacting. All of it started before Vivid was even conceptualized. Back when I began programming my first few small projects. There I began creating different games that never saw the light of day or just stayed as blocks you moved.
Slowly I began understanding how to code a little better and tried basing character actions on how much fun it was to move them. Would they move in the exact same way every time? Or would they have to build up speed? These were questions I had to ask before thinking about how to handle the game. Would the jumps always be the same height? Based on when you let go of jump? Or could you not control them after pressing jump?
Vivid has many roots that it takes from, and it combines a lot of platforming traits. Some more dominant than others. For one, when Vivid runs, her speed influences her jump. No where near as much as Mario himself, who practically needs speed to pass some obstacles. Just enough to make some normal jumps easier if you get a full run. Vivid’s normal jump with no speed just barely gets over 4 blocks. At full speed she’s just shy of 5 blocks. This allows me to make sure the player can always get pass obstacles below 5 blocks, but never above.
Vivid also builds up speed and loses it. It’s something similar to a lot of platformers with physics, or just physics in general. When you stop, you don’t stop immediately. Vivid use to be a lot more slippery, stopping a few blocks after you let go at full speed. That’s how it was over a year ago. As I had more people try it, I saw places where it was unneeded and eventually made one that feels more natural. The same goes for building speed. It use to take her longer. Now she gets up to max in a little less than a second.
This is what I’m really wanting to talk about. Vivid’s speed and friction. Vivid has little to none in the air. So… if you let go in the air, you aren’t stopping soon. Turning may also prove to be a little slower due to no ground to get back to full speed. You do have plenty of control up in the air though, it’s not taken away from you like in Castlevania or other retro games. But you have a lot more control on the ground than you do in the air.
Some of the people who’ve been testing have found Vivid’s platforming to be too slippery or just plain difficult. And I say – Good!
Vivid’s platforming isn’t something you’ll typically get right away. Unless you’re accustomed to a range of different platformers, you might not easily get over every obstacle you see on your first try. Nor will you understand how to dodge enemies accordingly. It will take some getting use to and investment.
This is what I refer to as “Intrigue”. You get the player to see something they need to do and make it juuuuust challenging enough that they aren’t alarmed by it but may not have an easy time doing. In doing this they’ll try again, trying to analyze what they did wrong and counter it with a new solution. And lots of games do this, though doing it correctly can be challenging.
You die to a boss, but come back to it right away to challenge them again. Each time training yourself to properly dodge an attack or perfect a skill against them. Executed properly and the player may learn new aspects to the game. This is how Vivid’s own platforming and combat is handled.
You play through the demo currently released at this point in time for Vivid. You play it all the way through once. Likely you didn’t collect everything in the stage and probably had a hard time over coming some parts such as the room with the Timer Switch or the end of the giant cave where you had to jump over Color Blocks to get a Heart Collectible. Maybe it took you several tries to beat Tux.
But if you were to play just this same stage again (as opposed to a different stage that hands out different scenarios), you’d likely discover little new things you never realized. For instance, you stop when you attack. You probably found this very annoying in some areas. But if you jumped, because you have practically no friction in the air, you’d keep your speed while attacking. If you trained yourself to do this, you could attack while still having some control over Vivid when fighting!
These are all very small details in my game, but it’ll take an entire play through of the full game before you can master them. It’s the same when it comes to perfecting patterns or reactions in any game you play. In Vivid I’m trying to work with it and balance it so the player always feels a sense of accomplishment every time they beat a new stage. It also makes replaying that much sweeter.
While Intrigue is a huge part of a game, I feel most developers underestimate it as a tool. Or it’s just used unwisely. Learning a slow pattern or something that takes a while to get back to is awful. I could think of several bad examples of teaching patterns or bad habits to players. Battletoads racing section, Zelda’s formula of items used outside of dungeons, and heck, the internet itself for teaching you how to do a trick that was unintended!(Mach Ball trick from Super Metroid….which isn’t bad, but unintentional. Folk who use it commonly have forgotten how to complete Super Metroid naturally!)
Speaking of which, Super Metroid also has a good example of Intrigue with platforming. It has multiple sections in the beginning that require to jump up tall vertical shafts. One is shorter but on a time limit and the other has enemies to deal with. While you’re probably going to have a rough time doing these, that’s the point! It’s there to give you some practice before trying more dangerous jumps later on. When you replay the game (Or beat it in the escape sequence) you’ll see you’ve gotten a lot better at getting through it! And if the game Intrigued you enough, you might be walljumping like crazy up the walls!
That’s my aim with Vivid. While Color and Synergy are a huge focus, you always need to remember the main roots of your game. Vivid’s is platforming, so having it be one of the most fun elements is key. When you’re learning more about the game and just having fun hopping around, you KNOW something’s right!