Jumping to conclusions

December 18, 2015
Posted in 2015
December 18, 2015 Jori

Hello, everyone! Through vicious combat and a ruthless political scheme on my end, I was ‘given’ the honors of writing the second blogpost. My name is Jori Kamp and I’m Turtleneck Studios’ game designer. My work consists of prototyping new game mechanics, constructing new levels, and playtesting and iterating on the game. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about the process of the character’s jump in RITE of ILK and showcase why it’s important.

RITE of ILK is an exploration game in which platforming plays an important role. The players are often found jumping from one spot to another. Something as simple as jumping can already become complicated when you consider that players need to be able to grasp the depth of their jumps and the gap between their jumping spot and their intended landing zone. Additionally, we want to make jumping as fun as possible and make it feel awesome!

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The jumps in ILK use what we like to call a “Mario jump” (Nintendo, please don’t sue us). The jumps in Mario games work really well because the longer the player holds the jump button, the higher Mario jumps. This gives the players a sense of control over the jumps they take. RITE of ILK’s jumps work in a similar fashion: the longer you hold the ‘jump button,’ the higher a player jumps.

Image: the short jump (just tapping the ‘jump button’)
and the high jump (holding the ‘jump button’)

With much love we created a jump that incorporated these aesthetics. However, a break-up soon ensued. Our lovable jump, in actuality, wasn’t loved very much at all. There were a few causes for a broken heart:

  • The jump felt OK, but never had that oomph that made it amazing
  • The jump felt floaty
  • The jump lacked weight and impact

At first we thought that our temporary jumping animations were part of the problem. After I started delving deeper into the issue, however, I figured out there was more at work than just the animations.

In the graph below you can see how our old jump worked. When a player jumps, (s)he goes through a symmetrical arch – the player first goes up, has some hang-time, and then goes down at the same speed as the character’s ascension. The problem here is the momentum of the jump and fall, which is exactly the same, and as a result feels static and floaty.

Image slider: graphs showcasing the ‘old’ and ‘new’ jump

After a player jumps, the feeling of falling needs to realistic and almost immediate. This makes the jump feel more energetic and powerful, and also makes it easier for the players to control their jumps.

In the graph above when you move the slider, you can see the new jump’s graph in comparison to the old jump. This is the result of keeping the build-up unchanged and increasing the momentum velocity when reaching a jump’s hang-time. In a nutshell: the jumping player goes up at the same speed, but goes down at a much faster pace. Physics!

You might’ve noticed in the graph comparison that the new jump’s height is a lot lower compared to the old jump. Jumping is an essential part of our gameplay, we wanted to implement a feature that combines the best of co-op and jumping and encourages the players to help each other reach higher heights. The mechanic we came up with was called the “bow” and could be activated by pressing the ‘bow button.´ One player would bow down and be used as a platform by the other player to give the other player a little reach boost.

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Herein lies a major flaw. The difference between spots where a normal jump would suffice and where a bow jump is needed were almost impossible to see with the naked eye. This meant that before a player would attempt the jump using the “bow” feature, a player would try to jump somewhere by him/herself and would miss that somewhere by just a few inches. This meant two things:

  • Players would jump “normally” first, fail, and then succeed by using the “bow” feature. Meaning that high jumps wouldn’t be cleared the first time.
  • The co-op part of jumping (“bow” feature) starts from something uncertain and negative: failing.

To counter these two problems, we wanted to create a bigger contrast between a “normal jump” and a “high jump.” We lowered the jump height of the “normal jump” and added a new cuisine to our menu: a gameplay mechanic that allows a player to literally be thrown high up into the air.

Image: the “bow” feature in RITE of ILK

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Throwing players high up into the air is a lot more fun than jumping on their backs and, consequently, allows you to reach a lot higher, which increases the contrast between a “normal jump” (single player) and a “throw jump” (co-operative).

The new changes make our jump feel a lot more stable and players have a clearer understanding of when to use which jump. The only downfall is that this whole ordeal means that our current level design will need to be adjusted in order for the new jump to become usable.

Image: a prototype of the new “throw system”

Who would’ve thought that something as simple as a jump could give me such headaches…

Turtle out

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