Poultry Questions Prototype
Using the jump-kick move from the game "Overgrowth" as inspiration, I intend to create a 2d platformer which combines it's movement and combat mechanics to create one smooth, intuitive system.
Research History and Thesis:
What I would like to develop is a 2d action platformer with an economical control system which allows for many different types of interactions with minimal inputs. I’m hoping this would result in a game which is easy to understand but has a high skill ceiling. In addition, I’m hoping that this system will be tight enough to support fast-paced gameplay and improvisation by players who have mastered the controls. I chose this as a goal because I practice parkour and I enjoy games which simulate the feeling of traversing an environment and reflexively reacting in a fluid way.
In “A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design”, Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark explain that “Verbs are a kind of rule; they’re the most important rules of a game. By a “verb,” I’m referring to any rule that gives the player liberty to act within the rules of the game. Any rule that lets the player change the game state. Any rule that lets the player do something . Verbs are the rules that allow the player to interact with the other rules in the game: “jump,” “shoot,” “fall,” or “flap” in the case of Joust . Without verbs we have a simulation, not a collaborative story-telling system.” In my game, the main verb that I would be using is “tuck”. This is an integral verb in parkour, and is used in many different moves. As Mark Brown explains in a video continuing the discussion of verbs, “Versatile Verbs” are a way to create “interesting gameplay full of tricky choices and player expression… derived from the most fundamental interactions with the game.” Brown defines “Versatile Verbs” as actions which can have multiple uses depending on how or when they are performed, citing the “Jump” verb in the Super Mario series as a Versatile Verb. Understanding how “tuck” can be used as a verb to create different effects will be important for me during this project. Jumping itself is caused by tucking and untucking like a piston. When flipping, rotational speed is controlled by tucking and untucking. Landing from heights safely involves tucking and rolling to dissipate downward momentum.
I also intend to marry combat into this control system. As I noted in my intent statement, a large influence on my game is the 3d Fighting Platformer Overgrowth, which uses a physics based damage system to help merge its platforming movement and its combat with a powerful jumping kick. It's the unconstrained nature of the combat and its marriage to the movement that lends Overgrowth its charm. When reviewing Overgrowth, Brendan Caldwel at Rock Paper Shotgun said “The fighting itself can be a mix of graceful, brutal, speedy and bone-breaking” and his colleague said that the two things that set Overgrowth apart from many 3d stealth and fighting games was its fast and efficient traversal system and its brutal combat.
Game System Flowchart
Use directional controls (either analog stick or arrow keys) to run while on the ground.
Press the action button (either the “Right Trigger” on controller or “Space” on keyboard) to roll or crouch while on the ground.
Release the action button while crouched to jump away from surfaces.
Press the action button to tuck while in the air for more responsive rotational control in the air with the directional controls.
Release the action button while tucked to jump away from surfaces.
Landing on the ground while not rotated upright will prevent the player from moving again until they orient themselves upright again by rotating.
I definitely did not meet my intended experience with this prototype, however, it is difficult to say whether the cause is a failure of design or merely a failure of implementation. I was not able to implement many of the small interactions which I had hoped would create a versatile movement system. Rolling is one example of a mechanic which I feel would have helped smooth out some of the gameplay. In addition, the systems I was able to implement were not implemented well. Often the game prioritized orthogonal angles making aiming at certain angles difficult. The jump itself was floaty, and interacting with geometry mid-air (a main method of movement) could often result in either convincing the game that an airborne character was on the ground, capable of running back and forth and jumping, or altering the player characters angle of rotation, offsetting its relationship with other game objects and creating some interesting bugs. In the future, if I were to continue with this project, I would recreate all the mechanics, focusing on coding my own physics rather than using default unity gravity and collisions. This would hopefully give me a finer level of control and reduce bugs.
“A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles behind Good Game Design.” A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles behind Good Game Design, by Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark, Addison-Wesley, 2014, pp. 13–20. An important read to understand concepts of game design. In this specific chapter, Anthropy and Clark explain verbs as important rules in a game system which govern how players can interact with the game world. Every game has main verbs which determine how a game plays, feels and what it is about. This provides a framework for thinking about design, one which I used to build out my systems through the verb "Tuck"
Brown, Fraser. “Overgrowth Doesn't Feel Ready to Leave Early Access.” Review of Overgrowth. A pragmatic and cynical review of Overgrowth exposing it's strengths and weaknesses as a 3d fighting platformer. This review was helpful in illuminating some of the pitfalls of Overgrowth and design challenges to build around.
Brown, Mark, director. The Secret of Mario's Jump (and Other Versatile Verbs) | Game Maker's Toolkit. YouTube, YouTube, 27 Feb. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7daTGyVZ60I. Another brilliant video by Mark Brown. This one takes the concept of "verbs" from Anthropy and Clark and explains how they can be used to great effect when considering their versatility. For instance, how Mario's jump acts differently when tapped, held, used before or after the crouch button, used while spinning, changing direction or running and when used in contextual situations like while sliding down a wall. This helps in understanding not only the concept of verbs but how they can be used to create complex game play with intuitive inputs.
Tarason, Dominic. “Overgrowth's Sixth and Final Beta Adds the Story Mode.” Review of Overgrowth. Rock Paper Shotgun, www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/10/08/overgrowths-sixth-and-final-beta-adds-the-story-mode/. This is an optimistic article released shortly before Overgrowth was finally released and it shows Dominic's assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Overgrowth as a game and it's systems, which I draw inspiration from in my project.