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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperDesignPlatformer mechanics to make speedrunning interesting
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lobstersteve
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« on: September 09, 2020, 12:39:43 PM »

hey guys Smiley
so i was thinking about speedrunning in platformers because i wanted to make a game, where the main focus is speed and i was thinking about good examples in other games, where a bunch of variables can lead to different outcomes in speedrunning.
what i mean is: in platformers with "simple" mechanics, like super mario world or super meat boy, you basicaly have to follow a perfect route, to reach a perfect score in the timer. In other platformers, let's say the game speedrunners, you have a hookshot, which combined with the momentum based movement, can lead to drastically different outcomes, depending on split second decisions of you while playing -> if you fall down with high speed, and use the hookshot as late as possible, your running speed later will be much higher, which can result in finishing a level seconds earlier.
I can't really think of many other interesting examples like this. You guys have any ideas?
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ThemsAllTook
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« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2020, 04:44:08 PM »

Offspring Fling is built pretty much entirely around this. What I noticed while playing it was that there's pretty much always some sort of input I can be making to go faster. A simple example is that in a space with a low ceiling, jumping is slightly faster than walking, so it's optimal to mash the jump button whenever moving through a tight space. Managing how many things you're carrying is crucial, since you move slower and jump lower the more you have on top of your head.

It's also a lovely game in general, so I'd highly recommend playing it for additional ideas.
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lobstersteve
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« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2020, 11:19:14 PM »

oh, that's actually a really good example, thx Smiley
i even played the game, but didn't think of it.
but i was thinking of a more action oriented game-style, so "carrying a thing makes you heavier" is not really an option for my case, i think.
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2020, 03:28:39 AM »

There's a racing event in Nevada, US called the Silver State Classic. Instead of racing against each other or against a clock, drivers are trying to finish at a very specific time (they compete in speed classes). The closest to their scheduled arrival wins.

The event revolves around speeding up on straights to make up for speed lost on tight turns and hitting checkpoints at specific times.

Maybe if momentum is a thing, that idea might be fun.
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lobstersteve
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2020, 10:24:15 AM »

haha, that sounds interesting also.
but that might be a completely separate game idea also.
i'm thinking more about rather traditional speedrunning goals.
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2020, 08:00:32 AM »

There was another thread somewhere on here I was reading yesterday, but I didn't save the link. Sad But one of the suggestions was to support multiple speedrun categories, like any%, warpless, etc. I think that's a great idea, personally. Take Celeste, for instance. Its collectibles, the strawberries, are completely optional even in terms of unlocking the epilogue (for that, you need crystal hearts), but there's a separate All Berries category for runners grabbing all of them. With games that are really heavily optimized, like Super Mario Bros. or Ocarina of time, you often see a proliferation of additional categories.

Another consideration is RNG. The simplistic truism is that speedrunners hate RNG, but it would be more accurate to say that speedrunners hate situations where they can do everything right and still lose time because they got unlucky with some random element. So if you can figure out a way to include randomness that doesn't waste time, or affect the difficulty, then the runner will have to react to the game instead of relying on muscle memory.

This would be difficult to get right, though. I can think of a few hurdles, but since I haven't experimented with this idea at all, I probably shouldn't go into any more depth since it would all be speculative.
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lobstersteve
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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2020, 10:44:20 AM »

thx Smiley
but i'm thinking of a very specific game to make. and there should be only one "main route" that is all about speedrunning.
maybe to give more examples of mechanics i think about:
in the mario moblle game your running speed increases if you consecutively jump on enemies' heads.
in mario kart you can do tricks right after jumping off a ramp to increase speed.
general short-cuts.
something like collecting coins, and after a certain amount you can activate a boost for a period of time.
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2020, 06:49:27 AM »

As a study in speed vs skill vs reliability, I'd like to prescribe sylvie's cute jump (windows only)

Consider the idea of uncertainty/unpredictability in the abstract.

If in a "simple" platformer focused on speed it feels like you're really just doing 'the right path perfectly', the only alternative is a mechanics that involves being hard to predict in some way.

Imagine a level with a hundred branches. If one is obviously the fastest, it is the one that someone concerned with speed will always take. If they all seem to take approximately the same time and each one can be mastered independently in order to go a little bit faster, suddenly you have a game that will take much longer to speedrun.

Take this principle with you into a game with one "main route": how can a hundred equally-potentially-viable routes coexist in the same space? Maybe you have a boost that you can use once in a level; design four different places where a boost would really help with your speed, and now you have a choice, something to figure out: which of these places will save the the most time? Maybe there are four different characters with wildly different movesets; if you design each level so that every character has a pretty viable way to speedrun through it, now you have another choice between 4 options. 4x4=16 routes.

With the examples you gave, think about how these present ambiguous choices to study as a runner:

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your running speed increases if you consecutively jump on enemies' heads.
As your speed increases, you'll probably pass by certain enemies. So if I have four enemies in a row (ABCD), maybe they're tightly-packed enough that I can only really jump on one or two of their heads. Do I jump A->C or B->D? (Maybe it's also viable to slow myself down to hit A->B->C->D because of the long-term gains?)

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in mario kart you can do tricks right after jumping off a ramp to increase speed.
This doesn't seem to leave much room for variance. It's just a straight skill test: do this, or you're doing it wrong.

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general short-cuts.
Maybe a shortcut is harder than the regular path; is it worth it to risk my run on something I can only execute 50% of the time? 70%? 90%? (see cute jump)
Maybe there's a resource you get on the main route that you miss out on by taking a faster shortcut! Do I want to get an additional boost, or take this alternate faster path?
Maybe a shortcut is actually not even that much faster, and it's close enough that you're not sure which one will be faster once you've cut it down through practice?

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something like collecting coins, and after a certain amount you can activate a boost for a period of time.
Put coins somewhere out of the way: maybe it's more difficult or more time-consuming to get those 3 coins. Is the cost of getting them now worth the boost you'll get once you have 10 of them? That's difficult math, but you have to design it so that it is actually difficult math!

You can stack everything on top of everything else. Maybe there are 3 boost coins on a shortcut that's much faster than the regular path but it consumes a boost to get into that shortcut in the first place. Remember that the goal is always to have as many viable (so: similar/same in terms of time) paths as possible! And also remember that this is an impossible goal, because there is always going to be an objectively fastest route. So you get as close as you can, waging a war against human ingenuity.
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« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2020, 12:30:55 PM »

I would suggest to focus on interesting platformer mechanics first, and not on the speedrunning aspect. Speedrunning is a meta game that will arise automatically then on top of the mechanics. That's the natural order, not the reversed one.

Truly interesting platformer mechanics are a minimal set of actions which allow you to express a wide variety of action/traversal puzzles. They are orthogonal, which means that each mechanic has its purpose and cannot be replaced by other mechanics to achieve the same effect: a mechanic has to have a unique "cost-to-benefit-relation". Now the concept of orthogonality sounds simple when it comes to pure math, but tends to become a gray/fuzzy area in games and therefore needs experience and familiarity with your own mechanics to be properly translated. Then it becomes a metric to judge the depth of your mechanics. Ok, but what do I even mean by "cost-to-benefit-relation" of a mechanic? For example, consider "shinespark" in Super Metroid. Its cost is the required space and time to build up the required speed, and the benefit is the respective environmental reachability afterwards. Likewise, what is the cost of the wall-jump? Seemingly none, but it adds a huge benefit to enviromental reachability. This arguably tends to lessen the depth of the environmental traversal (in case this is an important point), as various distinctly different arrangements of level-geometry become essentially equal/indistinguishable (and thus less meaningful) in respect to reachability (This is also a sure way to allow the game to be broken even when you as designer don't intend it. But this should not be confused with depth.)


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J-Snake
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« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2020, 12:59:04 PM »

In that sense, I think a reasonable suggestion is to simply take a look at a variety of platformers and their mechanics and then extract their cost-to-benefit relationship until you have a reasonable pool of mechanics to choose from for your own game. This will also help you to come up with your own ideas on a tangent. The knowledge of the cost-to-benefit relationship will help you then to come up with interesting mechanics as you are able to make educated decisions what makes more or less sense to be added to your system.
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2020, 10:37:52 AM »

oh sheesh, thx for the detailed answers.

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If in a "simple" platformer focused on speed it feels like you're really just doing 'the right path perfectly', the only alternative is a mechanics that involves being hard to predict in some way.
well, that depends on how "simple" the platformer is. if it just has super precise controls, without acceleration, friction etc. it is generally hard to design it in speedrunning in mind, yes. but even then you could have stuff like shortcuts, and i don't think they are only about unpredictability. it could be made pretty clear to the player which path is faster, but one of the paths is for example harder to enter (let's say the player has to jump between 2 spikes close to each other. super meat boy does that a couple of times, especially in later levels). and yes, a person that has speedrunning in mind, will try to take the fastest route. but let's say you are a gamer, that wants to beat the game for the first time with a better rank. he took the first 3 shortcuts perfectly, and then another one comes up: will he also risk it, or will he take the safer route to first beat the game well enough, and then try to perfect it in a full speedrun? maybe that's a question about human psyche^^

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in mario kart you can do tricks right after jumping off a ramp to increase speed.
This doesn't seem to leave much room for variance. It's just a straight skill test: do this, or you're doing it wrong.
i think it actually does. jumping off ramps is maybe a bad example. but let's say, you can roll off (by pressing down arrow f.e.) shortly before you land, and this will increase your speed for a short amount of time. that adds some strategy to your gameplay. you have to think about doing longer jumps, and jumping over several things, or landing on the ground more often and using this trick to boost your speed.

and thanks for the other ideas, like scattered coins, places where a boost is recommendable, stacking ideas together Smiley
« Last Edit: October 21, 2020, 10:58:10 AM by lobstersteve » Logged

lobstersteve
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« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2020, 10:56:55 AM »

thx for your reply also J-Snake Smiley

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I would suggest to focus on interesting platformer mechanics first, and not on the speedrunning aspect. Speedrunning is a meta game that will arise automatically then on top of the mechanics. That's the natural order, not the reversed one.
i wouldn't say that tbh. of course 99% of platformers are not only about speedrunning. but let's take dustforce f.e. speedrunning is basically part of the game. each level has ranks, and the faster you can beat a level, the better your rank and that's how you unlock more levels etc. the game has almost 0 hazards and the goal is to use your momentum to beat the level fast. it's like a racing game, but as a platformer. most games are not built around that, but i wouldn't say it's a bad design philosophy.

yes, cost to benefit is a good point. but i don't have anything in mind currently that would fit the picture. maybe something like going out of your way to collect stuff, which will gain you a boost or something afterwards. this, combined with some risk/reward stuff  Shrug i have a pretty short game in mind, so i also want to keep it simple. but i'll think about it a little more Smiley
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J-Snake
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« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2020, 11:56:35 AM »

"Speedrunning" is not necessarily a bad design philosophy if that is the ultimate goal. Just be aware that you are limiting your design then to just that special case category, to a racing game. Have fun on your journey Smiley
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