Game Design Deep Dive
eBook - ePub

Game Design Deep Dive


Joshua Bycer

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  1. 140 pagine
  2. English
  3. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
  4. Disponibile su iOS e Android
eBook - ePub

Game Design Deep Dive


Joshua Bycer

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The Game Design Deep Dive series examines specific game systems or mechanics over the course of the history of the industry. This book examines the history of jumping – one of the oldest mechanics in the industry – and how it has evolved and changed over the years. The author looks at the transition from 2D to 3D and multiple elements that make jumping more complicated than it looks from a design perspective.

Key Selling Points:

  • The first in a series of books that focus entirely on a singular game design system or mechanic, in this case: jumping.

  • A perfect read for anyone interested in understanding game design, or just curious from a historical standpoint.

  • A must read for anyone interested in building their own platformer or just interested in the history of the game industry's most famous game mechanic.

  • This book is a perfect companion for someone building their first game or as part of a game design classroom.

  • Includes real game examples to highlight the discussed topics and mechanics.

Joshua Bycer is a Game Design Critic with more than seven years of experience critically analyzing game design and the industry itself. In that time, through Game-Wisdom, he has interviewed hundreds of game developers and members of the industry about what it means to design video games. He also strives to raise awareness about the importance of studying game design by giving lectures and presentations; his first book was titled 20 Essential Games to Study.

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CRC Press


The Legacy of Jumping

1.1      The Timelessness of Platforming
1.2      Why Platforming Is Not Going Away
Jumping, and by extension, platforming, have been around for over 30 years. It is the genre that kick-started Nintendo’s dominance of the console market; it was the most popular genre of game being developed in the late 1990s; and it still has relevance to this day.
For a lot of students and first-time developers, just being able to get a character to jump is the game design equivalent of getting a program to output “hello world.” Considering how much game design has evolved, it’s easy to look at platforming and jumping as being basic elements, and that is why this first book in this series is dedicated to it.
The line between the very best and very worst platformers is very wide, and it can be hard for designers and consumers to understand the difference.

1.1 The Timelessness of Platforming

When we look at the growth of the game industry, it’s easy to think that jumping and platforming are holdovers of a bygone era of the industry – like the evolution of transportation from horse carriages to modern cars. Despite all the improvements in graphics, hardware, and game design, platforming remains timeless.
The two philosophies when it comes to progressing through a game are abstracted progression and skill-based. Abstracted progression is commonly seen in RPGs as a way for the in-game character to grow. Skill-based is about the player themselves becoming better at the game. Many titles today feature a combination of the two philosophies: such as having leveling up and unlocks in shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty.
Platformers, along with action titles, are some of the best examples of skill-based design. Playing one, it’s all about the player figuring out how to guide their character through the level with no other systems getting in the way. Some of the hardest platformers challenge the player to rise up to their level with sections that require him or her to figure out the right path while having the technical skills to perform.
And despite that, there are plenty of platformers aimed at telling a story, and being designed so that anyone can play them.
The genre itself is almost like a blank canvas for someone to put their own unique stamp on, and despite how far the industry has come, it is not going away anytime soon.

1.2 Why Platforming Is Not Going Away

Since the early days when the first platformers were released, outside of Nintendo, many of the companies that grew the genre’s popularity are either no longer around or not making platformers anymore.
With the rise of cinematic storytelling and blockbuster titles like Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War, The Legend and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and many more, a game that is just about jumping seems old today.
However, like 2D design in general, platformers continue to be a go-to genre for developers for several reasons. First is the simple fact that 2D design continues to be one of the best entry points for new designers.
The implementation of jumping is universal among game design and gamers, making it very easy to pick up. You don’t need to spend a lot of time educating the player about what jumping is, and you can quickly introduce the mechanics and systems that make your game stand out.
From a design standpoint, it is far easier to develop and balance a 2D game compared to a 3D one. The simple fact that designers don’t have to worry about camera control (something we’ll be talking about later in this book) removes a huge technical hurdle for new developers. It is also easier to create an aesthetically pleasing game in 2D than it is in 3D on a small budget. Despite the fact that quality textures and character models will still cost good money, it is nowhere near as expensive compared to a 3D game.
Lastly we have the nostalgic factor. There are plenty of gamers who enjoy retro-inspired titles like Shovel Knight – that looks like a retro game, but has modern design elements to it. There are still developers working on games for retro consoles, and the “modern-retro” market does exist out there.
With that said it’s time to begin our history lesson: going back to the start of platformers.


The First Jumps

2.1 Defining the Platformer
2.2 Pitfalls and Plumbers

2.1 Defining the Platformer

The use of jumping as a mechanic in a video game did not appear at the start of the game industry. Early video games were played from a top-down viewpoint which didn’t allow for any kind of jumping. Even when we started to see platformer-styled games, there were still some discussions about what we call a platformer.
We’re not going to be focusing on individual games that much in this book, but it’s important to talk about major milestones in platformers and how they created the foundation for titles that featured jumping.
To start with, the term “platformer” originally referred to games where players would climb up or down ladders with platforms between them; without any form of jumping. There were several games released before and after what would become the standard, but since this book is focused on the act of jumping, we won’t be spending time on them.
The accepted modern definition of a platformer is a game where the primary mechanic involves jumping – usually over or around obstacles.
In 1981, we would get our first example of true platformer design with Donkey Kong.

2.2 Pitfalls and Plumbers

Donkey Kong by Nintendo was influential in the company establishing contact in the USA and their first major success in the arcade industry. Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi, it became recognized as our first introduction to Mario before he got his now famous name (in the original version he was called Jumpman). Donkey Kong’s design may seem basic today, but it was ahead of its time when compared to the rest of the arcade industry.
In the arcade, Donkey Kong was made up of four levels comprising four screens each.
As Mario, your mission was to reach Pauline, or the damsel in distress, while avoiding the obstacles Donkey Kong threw. The player needed to jump over the barrels that would follow the platforms down. Players could use the ladders as shortcuts, but a rolling barrel could roll down the rungs hitting the player.
If the player could reach a hammer, they would gain the ability to destroy barrels at the cost of being able to jump. The hammer was the only way to deal with flames that would appear when blue barrels reached the fire at the bottom of the stage.
The player’s ability to jump would be tested in stage three (stage two in the later home version), featuring the first use of moving platforms as an obstacle. The game was also the first platformer to use falling to hurt the player. Falling off a platform at any height would cause the player to lose a life. The use of fall damage appears on and off throughout the history of the game industry and platformer genre and we’ll return to this topic in Chapter 7.
Donkey Kong, along ...

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