Design Challenge

Designing an Beat ‘em up couch game with a movement system that makes the characters feel responsive and flexible.

Problem statement

How should the player be able to move around the map so that he has the right amount of control and options to use the “wall hit” mechanic to its full potential?

Desired result

after completing this research document I know how the players is able to move around the map so that he has the right amount of control and options to use the “wall hit” mechanic to its full potential. 

Audience needs

This isn’t the first beat ‘em up couch game that is developed and it certainly won’t be the last. But because of this we can look at the audiences needs from other similar beat ‘em up games and see what the players find appealing and what not. The games chosen to look at are Super Smash Bros, Brawlhalla and Celeste. The reasons for choosing Super smash bros and Brawlhalla are because these are the inspiration for the making of my own game and look the most similar. The reason Celeste is chosen is because the controls are praised to be fluent and easy to use. More can be read about this in MachKovech, S (2018, 25 januari) his review or the video that the Game Maker’s ToolKit (2019,31 juni) released.

Let’s start with Super Smash Bros. The movement is direct and responsive. When running the characters movement speed goes from zero to max speed in a snap. This way the player knows how fast the player goes because it is consistent. When stopping the character has a stop time for about 0.5 seconds. The player has to take this in account when running. The characters in Super Smash Bros have a lot of ways to move around the map. First they have the normal jump and after that they can use a second jump in any direction. The character will then be launched to that direction. The player still has control over the direction but it’s a bit harder to move back. So you have to be careful to what direction you jump in game. And last the player can use abilities to move the character in the air. Most characters can use these abilities to any direction. This can feel like an extra jump. If you want more information about Super Smash Bros then I recommend that you read Cabrera, D (2019, 11 dec) her article about the movements in the game.

The second Game is Brawlhalla. This game focuses more on the weapons side. Each player has two types of weapons that can be used after they are picked up from the ground. These weapons have different abilities and just like in Super Smash Bros, they can be used in air to get a free jump. The difference is that in Brawlhalla. these can be done multiple times in on air moment. So you can have 2 extra jumps from only using the weapons. Just like Super Smash Bros has Brawlhalla responsive movements and a double jump. Brawlhalla also has an dodge button. When you press this in the air the player stops movement and floats in air for 1 second. This can be used to stay in the air for longer. So you have 5 ways to stay in the air for longer. If you want more information about Super Smash Bros then I recommend that you read Combat Mechanics (2019, 17 jan).

For the last game we are going to look at Celeste. The game has a few tricks that makes the player movement feel smooth and responsive. When the character in Celeste is jumping of a cliff, the player has still 6 frames after not touching the ground to press the jump button. The reason for this is so that players don’t get the feeling they get cheated and can always press the jump button in time. In a study done by the Central Washington University they came to the conclusion that a normal player has a 360 milliseconds delay in reaction. This is taken in account with how many time the character in Celeste has to press the jump button.  More about this can be read in the article: Reaction Times Differences in Video Games and Non Video Game Players. Celeste also has a dash button where the character gets launched in a given direction. The control is taken away when dashing but as the player you always know where the character will end up.

Prototype and testing

With this information and a lot of user testing we can determine what the ideal movement for the characters are for this specific game. for the prototyping most of the movement methods where implemented in the game. The player had 2 jumps, one dash and one way to extend airtime using a specific ability. To test the movement the players needed to move around the map. After some testing the where 2 conclusions:

1: The player has no wall jump that limits the places and movements the player could go.

2: The player has too much ways to stay to long in the air with the abilities.

To fix the first problem the character was given the ability to do a wall jump. I made it so a wall jump did not count as a jump so that the player has a reason to use one. this led to some problems. The players had trouble knowing when the player could jump or not. This could be fixed by giving the player some indicator to see when they are out of jumps. In Celeste they did this by giving the character her hair another color. 

To Fix the second problem where the player can have to much airtime using the abilities is had two options. Make it so that the player can only use an ability one time in the air, or make it so that the player can’t use it to stay longer in the air. After some testing I choose for the second option because I want to give the player the ability to always be able to attack in the air. Instead of removing the extra airtime I gave the first attack of the combo a push down and in the second attack an push up. This in turn made for a great new mechanic where the player can use this ability to get down to the ground way faster.

Camera movement

When playing the game all characters need to be on the screen at the same time because there can be multiple characters at the same time on screen. If there are no more than four characters it’s possible to use split screen but in my game it’s possible to get up to 8 players on the screen at ones. when splitting the screen up for 8 players, it’s going to look too small for every player. For this reason there is chosen for a camera that changes depending on where the characters are on screen so that the map doesn’t has to be a specific size.

After implementing this and doing some user test I came to the conclusion that the constant moving of the camera distracts the player and makes it harder to see where the characters are going. This is because a lot of movement is happening at the same time. To make it so that the camera moves way less I choose to only change the camera’s X axis and not the Y axis. This makes the camera movement look more smooth and less chaotic.


Advice

When looking at other similar games, prototyping and user testing I came to the conclusion that the characters in my game need to have at least:

  • 2 jumps
  • wall jump extra jumps
  • Dash that resets when touching the ground
  • Ability that makes the player stay longer in the air

This movement makes it so that the player can move freely and easily around the map and can use the environment to its advantage when applying the “Hit wall” mechanic.  

References

  1. Cabrera, D. (2018, 11 december). Smash Bros. Ultimate guide: Movement and attacks basics. Geraadpleegd op 18 november 2019, van https://www.polygon.com/super-smash-bros-ultimate-guide/2018/12/11/18135306/movement-attacks-directions-buttons-walk-run-dodge-special
  2. Central Washington University. (z.d.). Reaction Times Differences in Video Game and Mon Video Game Players. Geraadpleegd op 19 november 2019, van https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1689&context=source
  3. Fandom. (z.d.). Combat mechanics | Brawlhalla Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia. Geraadpleegd op 18 november 2019, van https://brawlhalla.fandom.com/wiki/Combat_mechanics
  4. Game Maker’s ToolKit. (2019, 31 juni). Why Does Celeste Feel So Good to Play? [Video]. Geraadpleegd op 18 november 2019, van https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yorTG9at90g
  5. MachKovech, S. (2018, 25 januari). arstechnica. Geraadpleegd op 18 november 2019, van https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/01/celeste-review-with-amazing-twists-this-2d-game-reaches-such-great-heights/

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