Monday, April 17, 2017

The racing line, F-Zero X, and Super Meat Boy

at 7:00 PM
I was thinking - if you designed a platformer around a racing line, would the result be Super Meat Boy? This was a spinoff of trying to apply the concept to platformers and quickly coming to the conclusion that I like it even less as an analytical tool. Dustforce is another obvious one, but anything from that hardcorer genre or whatever they call it. Crungeformers?

Basically, when you're looking solely for route optimization you're asking the player to minimize dynamism, and Super Meat Boy et al. just come straight out and say anything that isn't exactly right is death. I mean, if the player is always trying to avoid walls and ice and pits, why even assign them different dynamics, right? It's like Gamasutra's approach treating all hazards as "off course". A traditional racing game compensates by ramping up the mechanical complexity (or, to look at it the other way around, the mechanical complexity of traditional racing games requires restraining dynamism in order to present a coherent game space), which drives greater suspension, which multiplies the effect of any dynamics, even at a very simple level. Boosting makes F-Zero X seem incredibly dynamic, but increasing acceleration for a fixed time isn't really that complex.

I guess that accounts for the unique design space the meatformer occupies. High speed, high reflex route pruning with immediate payoff. It's stripped of all the suspension and context that nonlinear car mechanics create and makes it such that you actually can define, and quickly test, a meaningful racing line.

Also, I realize I'm not exactly sure what "dynamics" means in the Critical Design model (since it's any word at all in the English language, I'm assuming it's in there). I'm just thinking of it as second order effects. As in, accelerating/braking/steering are mechanics because they are static input/output mappings; machines can always accelerate/brake/steer. Boosting, drifting, ice, etc. are dynamics because they change how the mechanics work (acceleration higher under boost, steering less responsive under drift, etc.). I haven't put a lot of thought into applying this definition outside F-Zero.

No comments:

Post a Comment