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Game design rant #1: Double jump.


I was reading an entry on Elsa's Blog entitled E for Effort: I can't jump. and it got me to thinking about the Double Jump in games.

I have just finished playing God of War 3, and although I have really loved it and had my mind blown away quite a few times, I kept having my experience shred to tiny pieces every now and then because of a relentless, ennoying, mostly pointless and unrealistic game mechanic: the Double Jump. Actually, the culprit is actually its cousin from hell, the Double Jump then Glide, but they are the same breed.

Lets start with a bit of history. It all began in the year 1984 (queue flashback soundbite), with an arcade game thats the first to feature a character that can jump twice and it is called Dragon Buster !!! Yeah, never heard of it...

Anyway, this feature has been added to a huge list of games, some of the most famous are the God of War series, the Devil May Cry series, Dante's Inferno, Darkstalkers, Jak and Daxter, the Metroid Prime series, and whole bunch of other action, adventure and fighting games.
The idea behind the double jump is a good one. This is probably what went on in the designers' mind:

Designer 1 - "People keep complaining that our character doesn't jump high enough, or long enough, and that plateformers are too hard in 3D. But if he jumps any higher he will look silly!"
Designer 2 - "Make him jump twice then! If the guy messes up, he has a second shot. Plus we can hide some stuff in a few higher places."
Designer 1 - "That's not stupid, Let's do that!"

Some games use this mechanic beatifully (Metroid Prime, Ratchet and Clank), will both be useful as an adventure mechanic (high ledges, a few gaps, combat), but also as a form of safety net in case you have trouble with depth perception in 3D games.

But along the way came some other designers:

Designer 1 - "Hey man, heard you're implementing Double Jump for the main character. That's great, the players were saying it was hard!"
Designer 2 - "Yup, Now we have to make the holes bigger"
Designer 1 - "Cooooooooo~ Wait. What ???"
Designer 2 - "Yeah! Make em bigger, you know! So the players think its even harder! We're adding holes with the sides that are just a bit too far apart from each other, and others that if the player doesn' trigger the second jump at the exact right time, he plunges to his death and does it over !"
Designer 1 - "But... why?"
Designer 2 - "To screw with them, Bob! Just to warp their little minds! So they spend 30 minutes in the same part of the game, and break their controller. And wait till you hear what Bill proposed !!!"
Designer 1 - "Who the hell is Bill?"
Designer 2 - "The Janitor. He told us to put a bunch of huge holes in a row and if the player misses any single jump... Its back to square one! Genius!"
Designer 1 - "What the ... I have to talk about this to Fred."
Designer 2 - " Nah, he's busy working on the sequel, we'll add wings to the hero next time, to make even bigger bloody holes !!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHARGH!!!!"

Well that's how I imagine it happened...

While checking my stats in God of War 3, I noticed that out of 142 death, I had died twice in combat. That leaves 140 jump related issues. 140! I remember I litterally spent 30 mins in a section where there were something close to 4 double jump glides and some action. Now I am not a particularly great platformer player, but I noticed the same deaths when my friends were playing, and I am sure I am not the only one. This is the same type of issue that I have with Dante's Inferno (to a lesser extent).

Some of you will certainly disagree and say "you suck". Probably, but I am more a gamer than a lot of people out there that buy these games, and if it's tough on me, imagine them! I agree with adding a little spice to a few jumps, but almost all jumps in GoW3 needed the Double Jump, and quite a few required the glide.

Why? Does it add value to the game? Did the game feel more exciting? Was the gameplay depth fathomed ?

I really cannot undertand why this game mechanic is not being used better. When 95% of the gap jumps in your game require a Double Jump, then you are doing it wrong.

I believe the Double Jump should be used as a tool for the player, not a crutch. Using it that way free's the player from the stress from falling in a hole and be more aware of his surrounding, and let's the designer use the mechanic as a reward (unreachable hidden treasure and the such), using it as added value.
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About Brain Candyone of us since 3:48 AM on 04.20.2010

My Name is Alexandre, I am co-founder of Brain Candy and this is my personal dev/rant/random/QQ blog.

Brain Candy is an independent games studio from Paris, France and was founded by 3 industry passionates.

We strive to create great products for the gamer crowd and will always listen to the public's feedback, whether it is positive or negative (we'll just smack you in the face if we don't like what you're saying).

We hope you will enjoy interacting with us as much as we enjoy making games for you!

Some of my favorite games are:

The Half Life franchise
Final Fantasy 3/6 and Tactics
Wipeout 3 and HD
Secret of Mana
Fallout 1/2

Our Website: https://www.braincandy.fr/

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PSN ID:Yshaana


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