Game Development Reference
CONTROL FEEL is the moment-by-moment experience of projecting
intent through an interface.
Way back in 1985 Shigeru Miyamoto created the progenitor of all platform
games, Super Mario Bros . Mario is a short, mustachioed Italian plumber
who saves princesses, slides through pipes, and eats mushrooms. And
he jumps—a lot. He jumps constantly, over and over, thousands of times
throughout the game. In fact, in his original 1981 arcade incarnation,
Mario was actually named Jumpman.
On the surface, there's not much to Mario's jump. You push the A
button, Mario pops into the air, and gravity pulls him back down. It seems
like simple physics—but it's not.
The length of the button press matters. A quick tap makes Mario do
a short hop. Hold the button down, and Mario describes a tall, lazy arc
through the air. This happens because Mario doesn't just gain an instanta-
neous boost at the start of the jump. Rather, he is propelled upward as long
as the A button is held, within the limits of his maximum and minimum
The second half of the jump is equally unrealistic. In real life, objects
tossed into the air describe a parabola because they accelerate downward at
a constant rate due to gravity. But Mario doesn't do this, because his grav-
ity is not constant. During his ascent, Mario's gravity is minimal. After
the apex of his jump, it triples, and he slams back to Earth. But despite his
massive gravity, he can't reach dangerous speeds because he can only fall
at a certain maximum speed. Once he reaches this terminal velocity, his
gravity is effectively zero.
There's more. Mario's maximum jump height isn't constant—jump-
ing from a run allows him to reach greater heights than jumping from a
standstill. He can control his horizontal movement in midair, but not as
much as when he sprints on the ground. And if the player wants to jump
just as Mario lands, he can press the jump button a few frames early and
Mario will automatically jump the moment he touches down.
All this for a jump controlled by one button, in a game released way
back in 1985. At first, this level of complexity seems almost absurd. But
it's the only way to create great control feel. Miyamoto designed and tuned
each rule to enrich the experience in a specific way. Some, like the extra
height players can get by sprinting, raise the game's skill ceiling. Others,
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