Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Death by Gravity: A Brief Definition of Platform Games
To tame the beast, it is always best to first understand it, so what is a platform
game? At their core, platformers are games that require players to make their way
through environments composed of broken ground by leaping from one safe area
(a platform) to another. The in-game challenges can include other obstacles, but
the player must always defeat the game via acrobatic gameplay. Early 2D games
could only offer dangerous falls and the occasional elevator as obstacles, but game
technology and design has gone on to evolve additional elements from physical im-
pediments such as jumping enemies, armed opponents, and booby traps to more
cerebral physics and puzzle problems. As this technology has advanced, the tradi-
tional platformer market share has declined, though while the pure platformer is
a rarer beast than it once was, the genre continues, and its staple ingredients have
been incorporated into a wide variety of other games. Titles such as Splinter Cell
and Assassin's Creed are not straightforward platformers, but they contain gameplay
sequences and design principles that owe their heritage to the pure platformer. It
is worth bearing in mind that the advice in this chapter can be translated to cover
platform sections of gameplay in many games, even if the game as a whole is not a
5.2 Learning to Run: Story and Game Objectives
In every story, the protagonist has to have a motive, every plot a denouement.
Equally, every game has to have a gameplay objective, be it stacking blocks ( Te t r i s )
or surviving gun battles by killing everything in sight ( Doom ). For gaming stories to
work well, the protagonist's motive and the game's gameplay objective should match.
If you are writing a game that involves shooting guns, then the story must involve
conflict so the player can frame his gun-toting actions. In the case of platformers, the
objective is simple—the main character must travel to somewhere. Platform game-
play is all about movement, with the game character being required to go from one
geographical point to another. The story goal for reaching the next geographical
point can be anything you decide, but the story must involve travel, because that is
what the game is about.
Early platformers often involved the main character needing to reach a villain
to put right a wrong. In Kirby's Dream Land , Kirby is trying to retrieve the food
that King Dedede has stolen from the land's inhabitants. In Super Mario Bros. , Super
Mario Bros. 2 , Super Mario Land , Super Mario World , New Super Mario Bros. ,and
Super Mario Galaxy , Mario must rescue a kidnapped princess. Such basic settings
serve as story frames; they outline an objective so the player is given a motive for his
gameplay actions. The game character is not just traveling; he is traveling to some-
thing. Mario is not just out for a morning jog; he is rescuing a princess. Providing
an objective is the most basic purpose of any game story.
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