“Back in my day…”
While searching the “online ether” gathering information about 2D platformers which (hopefully) will help me improve the design of the game I am making in the context of the tutorials in this site, I came across a 2009 article about the characteristics that made old platformers “great”.
Without being too exhaustive, the author identifies the three points that, for him, represent a shared base of those great ‘old-school’ platformers that are seen as references even today, namely:
- The Moveset – the player’s characters abilities and properties. The moveset should be clear and accurate, held by a quick and responsive interface, originating precise controls. Also, integrating the moveset with different facets of level design improves the “fun factor”.
- The Levels – they should be composed of various zones each having a unique look, with numerous interactive objects, clearly distinct (visually) from the (decorative) background. The level elements should work as a playground to the player, and create a wide array of experiences, setting up how the player enters and leave a specific area.
- The States – they define the behaviours and properties of “game objects”, setting the enemies and bosses’ behavior, challenging the player to decipher their patterns and using various techniques to defeat them. This allows the player to “learn” the game mechanics, giving him a feeling of realization and motivating him to continue playing, improving his previous performance.
Simple as it may seem, this article should really be taken into account. Especially if we think on how well these “rules” apply to games such as “Sonic the Hedgehog” or “Super Mario Bros”, true landmarks in platformers’ world, and to more recent titles, like Little Big Planet or Dexter (just to point out a 3D platformer).
There is however another trait I would like to point out (there may be more equally important): the main character. It is not a coincidence that the best platformers of all times originated amazing franchises centered on their most recognizable element: the Hero. It doesn’t matter if he/she/something speaks or not, looks cute or not, does anything more than running and jumping or not: they have “this thing” that makes them memorable. I probably should read more about character creation and design, and write a tutorial about it when the time comes.
Anyway, this is an excellent article, which you can read here (and you should, for it has more information than the one I synthesized in this post, and some cool YouTube videos as a companion to the theory), and the ideas will be included (in the possible extent).