First Person Platforming

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First Person Platforming

There's a time and a place to jump around. Most first person shooters aren't it.

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Intersting that Yahtzee again mentions bullet hell games in EP, considering he hasn't reviewed one. I can see why he hasn't-they tend to be niche games rather than big releases. Still, I can only imagine what Yahtzee would have to say about the Touhou series.

I've found that the Metroid Prime series are pretty good first-person platformers. I think of them as platformers, because more of the point of the game is maneuvering through the world, whereas the enemies are just stuff to clear out of each room before you do so. I think that's the reason I have no problem playing the Prime trilogy, even though I suck at FPSs.

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I find it difficult to even know my positioning when in some third-person games (a fact that the swinging blades in Dark Souls like to continue reminding me of), so if I was ever asked to perform precision platforming in a first-person game, I would politely decline.

I never had a problem with missing stuff when I played Mirror's Edge. Maybe it's a PC thing, I dunno. It does seem like it might be harder to do that kind of precision platforming using a thumbstick to look around.

I found Quantum Conundrum to be just fine from a first person perspective... And going into third person would sort of lessen the impact of a few certain moments in the game.

what about holding down a button so that you auto jump over a ledge and also the character can grab and climb ledges? Would that help?

I absolutely loved Mirror's Edge, though I think it had more to do with how connected your body felt with the character rather than the gameplay. There are so many little details in the way the camera moves and the movements of the hands and feet that really make you feel like you're piloting a person and not a floating head. If you bash open a door, your head tilts to the side a little bit as you wind up, and then as you smash your shoulder against the door, your vision shakes abruptly. I could almost feel myself smashing that door open. Things like that are so much more immersive than say Skyrim, where opening a door is like watching a ghost butler lazily swing a styrofoam board open.

First Person Platforming needs different controls - namely a "jump when I run out of floor" button and a "jump to the place I'm looking at" button.

ColdBlooded:
what about holding down a button so that you auto jump over a ledge and also the character can grab and climb ledges? Would that help?

Probably. I reckon that having a visible shadow underneath is the single most important thing to ease 1st person platforming- even moreso than being able to see your own body. Sure it doesn't help the perspective problems of guessing a platform's exact distance from you... but it's a start.

guitarsniper:
I never had a problem with missing stuff when I played Mirror's Edge. Maybe it's a PC thing, I dunno. It does seem like it might be harder to do that kind of precision platforming using a thumbstick to look around.

People have said it about the console version, too. "I can do it" does not equate to "the mechanic is fine." I've played through a bunch of broken games in my life, and that does not make them okay. Of course, it's fun to blame those filthy console gaming peasants.

Little off topic and maybe I missed the joke but...

"You wouldn't turn the act of breathing into a quick time event."

Alakaizer:
I've found that the Metroid Prime series are pretty good first-person platformers. I think of them as platformers, because more of the point of the game is maneuvering through the world, whereas the enemies are just stuff to clear out of each room before you do so. I think that's the reason I have no problem playing the Prime trilogy, even though I suck at FPSs.

Yeah I was going to mention Metroid Prime. I haven't played Mirrors Edge to see how it works there nor have I played Quantum Conundrum to see how apparently difficult it is, but in Metroid Prime the solved the first person platforming problem by simply tilting your perspective downward when you jump so you can see where you're landing. It probably also helps that you move a little slower than your typical FPS, and I don't know if the platforming is ever as difficult as Quantum but it certainly isn't as punishing. Regardless though this is a FPS series where platforming is part of the game and does actually work.

Zachary Amaranth:

guitarsniper:
I never had a problem with missing stuff when I played Mirror's Edge. Maybe it's a PC thing, I dunno. It does seem like it might be harder to do that kind of precision platforming using a thumbstick to look around.

People have said it about the console version, too. "I can do it" does not equate to "the mechanic is fine." I've played through a bunch of broken games in my life, and that does not make them okay. Of course, it's fun to blame those filthy console gaming peasants.

The only time I ever platformed in a first-person perspective was escaping the favela in MW2. The problem, as Yahtzee says, is the timing. With third person you can just wait until your character reaches the edge and THEN decide to jump. With first person you have to preset the moments you press the buttons based solely on your feel of the speed of the character. All your actions are more or less preset. And when your timing is off, you usually don't have an opportunity to reorient yourself. I got through the favela pretty easy on my first play through (I only had to retry it once because I missed the rope ladder at the end). When I went back and replayed the level however, I fell down so many times it seemed like the only reason the militia hadn't caught up and torn me to pieces was because the game felt sorry for me. Maybe it's just easier to remain aware of perspective when you're playing on a PC format.

It works and its bloody fun, Yahtzee man you are getting old.

RandV80:

Alakaizer:
I've found that the Metroid Prime series are pretty good first-person platformers. I think of them as platformers, because more of the point of the game is maneuvering through the world, whereas the enemies are just stuff to clear out of each room before you do so. I think that's the reason I have no problem playing the Prime trilogy, even though I suck at FPSs.

Yeah I was going to mention Metroid Prime. I haven't played Mirrors Edge to see how it works there nor have I played Quantum Conundrum to see how apparently difficult it is, but in Metroid Prime the solved the first person platforming problem by simply tilting your perspective downward when you jump so you can see where you're landing. It probably also helps that you move a little slower than your typical FPS, and I don't know if the platforming is ever as difficult as Quantum but it certainly isn't as punishing. Regardless though this is a FPS series where platforming is part of the game and does actually work.

It's also important that Metroid Prime has a heightened sense of spatial awareness because they sometimes take you out of the first person, mostly for morph balling. It also helps that the platforms are relatively wide and often account for a bit of a margin of error. Most of the platforms are the same space apart as what you can jump.

WhiteLung:
Little off topic and maybe I missed the joke but...

"You wouldn't turn the act of breathing into a quick time event."

That is exactly what I thought of when he said that :D
Also, I think that's the way I'm going to explain Portal's mechanics to the uninitiated from now on: "It's a first person shooter, and you're the bullet."

Platforming depends on a sense of awareness of one's position and full confidence in the ability to move. Unless they perfect virtual reality soon, let's leave the jumping to the dashing rogues and furry creatures :P

Haven't played Mirror's Edge, but I finished Quantum Conundrum last night. I found it quite satisfying. Indeed, there's several places where the first person perspective works against the precision jumping necessary. I didn't find any of this too conflicting until the reverse gravity puzzles where I kept boucing off the ceiling and falling to my death because I could not gauge how near I was to it and keep my eyes on the path I needed at the same time. I also got fried by lasers a couple of times because I didn't get that the bottom of my character box was not yet over them. Still, it's nowhere near as bad Yahtzee makes it sound, although the reverse gravity puzzles were hardest to me because of the other detail, the ambiguity of how the physics works.

In any case, I agree that first person platforming has always felt a little off to me, compared to PoP or Tomb Raider, or Rayman, or Sonic, or.... etc, where you can see where the character IS, which is the whole point of platforming. A strange mixture happens in Amnesia, where the first persons perspective is crucial to the atmosphere for fear and the smooth interaction with the objects on screen (great engine, I insist) yet in some situations (few and far between) the perspective makes jumping from one place to another, or climbing, rather cumbersome.

Oh, and Yahtzee, your friend trying to infiltrate the building in DX:HR by jumping and failing totally didn't get the point of the game. I remember about 3 different ways to get into that building, if it's the place I'm thinking of. Only one required jumping.

The topic of first-person platforming seems to be coming up more and more over time, yet no-one is making games with it.

disappointed:
First Person Platforming needs different controls - namely a "jump when I run out of floor" button and a "jump to the place I'm looking at" button.

I'm actually in favor of this, but why don't we revise it a bit?

Since first person games are about lining up your sights and being as accurate as you can with them, why not do the same thing with platforming. If you look at a ledge you want to jump to in real life, you'll immediately be able to tell if you could make it or not, given your spatial awareness. Games to not offer this spatial feedback in the first-person perspective.

So how do we get it to work? Have the indicator at the center of your screen tell you if you can or not.

-When it lights up green and you press the jump button, your character will automatically make it to the jump.
-If it's yellow, you'll only be able to make it for a running jump, so a little more work is required, but it will function as good as green if you do it right
-If it's red, you can't make the jump at all and your character will miss if you attempt to do so.

This will make the flow of the game a lot better, because you're not busy meandering around trying to contemplate if you'll make it or not. Your character should already KNOW if the jump is do-able. Since this is an interactive medium and communication between the player and his character is vital, this is the only direction I think first-person platforming would work.

EDIT:
Also, if there are any would-be game designers reading this post, feel free to take this idea and experiment with it as soon as possible. I want YOU to be able to make a game where this will work. ;)

Not sure how I feel about first person jumping, but if ever, it should be done like it's done in, say, Dark Souls:

The moment you carelessly run (because you're impatient or just careless and free and too merry to safe the world or become the new Antichrist) and fall to your death, or you alternatively manage to stop just a pixel before falling to your character's certain, imminent, brutal death, it really feels... uncomfortable. You get the breath-taking, tingling sensation that is usually reserved to waking up from feeling like falling, hearing someone important to you just died or watching people hurt their personal bits when skateboarding. Your body tells you something wrong just happened, and that's the best bio-indicator of eemurshun to me right there, even though we're looking at the player character like shroom-munching astral walkers.

Can't think of any FPS where that really was the case lately. Mirror's Edge fascinated me for a bit, then it started to annoy me and I hated it before I put it down forever. It was a shallow, soul-less husk of a game, all prettied up in minimalist lingerie and distracting make-up, and the most hilarious thing apart from the crappy cartoon sequences that had a much less refined art style than the minimalist 3D portion of the actual game, was probably the 3rd person hack that showed us how our heroine was really just a magically moving camera on a broomstick.

If first person experiences of proper platforming are to succeed, you obviously won't be having control over any camera, since the camera is supposed to be your eyes. To fix that, we'd need some supernatural mumbo-jumbo or a switch to an over-the-shoulder or a controllable camera.

Not even proper 3D would work, because we'd still have to learn the basics of how things behave in the in-game world, and by the time you got things down, an average 90% of players/onlookers will feel inclined to toss some cookies or go call the dinosaurs.

Why Mirror's Edge works is because it isnt about precision. Timing will always be a factor in platforming, but you're thinking about where to jump and run to continue your path smoothly. Nothing in Mirror's Edge is difficult, but it can always been done better and faster by someone more skilled and better at finding efficient routes.

Cerrax:
I absolutely loved Mirror's Edge, though I think it had more to do with how connected your body felt with the character rather than the gameplay. There are so many little details in the way the camera moves and the movements of the hands and feet that really make you feel like you're piloting a person and not a floating head. If you bash open a door, your head tilts to the side a little bit as you wind up, and then as you smash your shoulder against the door, your vision shakes abruptly. I could almost feel myself smashing that door open. Things like that are so much more immersive than say Skyrim, where opening a door is like watching a ghost butler lazily swing a styrofoam board open.

Exactly. Its a very kinetic game with some weight in every action, instead of the floaty "jump from platform to platform" of yesteryear (and Quantum Conundrum apparently). With how you interact in the world of Mirror's Edge you never have a problem with spacial awareness.

Dondonalien44:

That is exactly what I thought of when he said that :D
Also, I think that's the way I'm going to explain Portal's mechanics to the uninitiated from now on: "It's a first person shooter, and you're the bullet."

Platforming depends on a sense of awareness of one's position and full confidence in the ability to move. Unless they perfect virtual reality soon, let's leave the jumping to the dashing rogues and furry creatures :P

Nice avatar ya got there.....

*sharpens knife*

Headdrivehardscrew:

Can't think of any FPS where that really was the case lately. Mirror's Edge fascinated me for a bit, then it started to annoy me and I hated it before I put it down forever. It was a shallow, soul-less husk of a game, all prettied up in minimalist lingerie and distracting make-up, and the most hilarious thing apart from the crappy cartoon sequences that had a much less refined art style than the minimalist 3D portion of the actual game, was probably the 3rd person hack that showed us how our heroine was really just a magically moving camera on a broomstick.

That's a stupid comparison and you know it. Of course its just a floating camera, its a first person game and there isn't a need for animating the character model. But your character "space" still has properties of how it interacts with the world around it.

Also while the cartoon sequences were terrible, it has nothing to do with this conversation. I think you're just looking to justify your hatred of the game at this point.

Don Savik:

Headdrivehardscrew:
lingerie broomstick.

That's a stupid comparison and you know it. Of course its just a floating camera, its a first person game and there isn't a need for animating the character model. But your character "space" still has properties of how it interacts with the world around it.

Also while the cartoon sequences were terrible, it has nothing to do with this conversation. I think you're just looking to justify your hatred of the game at this point.

Thank you for your valued opinion and let me hereby express my joy at agreeing with you to some extent.

As this looks like it's about to get personal, I declare a drawing duel upon thee. Draw me a me and I'll draw you a you. How 'bout that?

You'd think things like this would be engraved in some kind of all encompassing book of rules for developers regarding "dumb or bad ideas you shouldn't have for your game" by now.

It's up there with third person traversal and having a camera that doesn't position well enough for you to see where you're grabbing or racing games where the camera is too close to the car or too low to the ground. All these camera issues are just so damn obvious by now their really is no excuse for them at all anymore.

Mirror's Edge works because you can see your feet. When you need to jump precisely, you can just look down and see when your feet are on the edge of the platform.

Whoa, this made me remember that GoldenEye didn't have a jump button, even though there were parts where jumping looked like it was possible. That's why I claimed the 1st Medal of Honor Game was superior when it came out, because you could actually jump over shit! And replenish your health and carry weapons over from level to level in the same mission. Progress! I can't remember if HALO had any big jumping-platform parts, but you got some sweet hang-time in the air.

The only real first person games I got all the way through were the Metroid Prime series. Though mostly a shooter there was more than the average amount of platforming in those games for a first person perspective. But it rarely bothered me because there wasn't much consequence to missing the landing. Besides the fact there there was a DOUBLE JUMP that made moving in the air a lot easier, if the worst happened and you fell into the void of death you simply end up prince of persia style back on the last solid surface you were on with a few points off your health bar. If I actually had to go back to the last save room every time I took an impromptu phazon dip I would NEVER have finished a single one of those games.

I really have nothing to add to this except to applaud the marvellous use of the term "gobshite." It's one of my favourite words, and to see it used by Yahtzee, and on The Escapist, really warms the heart.

I completely disagree with the Mirror's Edge critcizism.
You ever do long jump yahtzee? You're not looking at your feet when you jump. Why would first person platforming be any different?

Mind you I think the main thing that games have missed is that, when you're in first person and platforming you do things differently in different circumstances. If you're taking a leap off a building like mirror's edge, then it should be as it IS in the game where you don't focus on your feet, you judge your distance to the edge and jump when appropriate because in real life that's how it would happen.

But if you're talking about slow, smaller platform progression, then there may be a great emphasis on foot placement and that sort of precision is generally not emulated in first person games.

1nfinite_Cros5:

disappointed:
First Person Platforming needs different controls - namely a "jump when I run out of floor" button and a "jump to the place I'm looking at" button.

I'm actually in favor of this, but why don't we revise it a bit?

Since first person games are about lining up your sights and being as accurate as you can with them, why not do the same thing with platforming. If you look at a ledge you want to jump to in real life, you'll immediately be able to tell if you could make it or not, given your spatial awareness. Games to not offer this spatial feedback in the first-person perspective.

So how do we get it to work? Have the indicator at the center of your screen tell you if you can or not.

-When it lights up green and you press the jump button, your character will automatically make it to the jump.
-If it's yellow, you'll only be able to make it for a running jump, so a little more work is required, but it will function as good as green if you do it right
-If it's red, you can't make the jump at all and your character will miss if you attempt to do so.

This will make the flow of the game a lot better, because you're not busy meandering around trying to contemplate if you'll make it or not. Your character should already KNOW if the jump is do-able. Since this is an interactive medium and communication between the player and his character is vital, this is the only direction I think first-person platforming would work.

EDIT:
Also, if there are any would-be game designers reading this post, feel free to take this idea and experiment with it as soon as possible. I want YOU to be able to make a game where this will work. ;)

I'd love to have that system in all platformers, not just first person. Trying to judge the limits of a given set of physics is always irritating.

Mirror's Edge sort of had some indication, where things would light up red if they were important, but they didn't take the idea far enough. With a system like you describe in place, it would be possible to have more complex and less linear maps, as players would be able to explore more easily without having to experiment through death.

On that note, the rewind system found in recent Codemasters racing games would be handy too. Braid had it but more as a puzzle element than a player aid.

I'm not sure it would work with quantum conundrum, but for Mirror's Edge, I think a great solution would be to have an "edge animation" like so many third person games (the Genesis Sonic games come to mind here). When you're running towards the edge, instead of approaching the edge being truly continuous, perhaps you have a visual change in, for instance, arm motion (perhaps forming two fists and pulling them back just before you go off the edge) or an automatic ducking action as if you're coiling up like a spring just before you jump. In fact, I think Half-life one tried to do this but instead left the coiling to the player as well. The extremely long jumps are performed by crouching just before you jump... think how helpful that could be if you notice your character's vertical perspective dip drastically, indicating it's time for an impressive jump. Additionally, if you're heading towards a small platform and can change directions in the air, perhaps when you are close and also headed in the right direction, you'll begin to stick your arms and legs out in a fashion indicating you're about to land. You can make that context be very significant, while being almost unnoticeable to the player because it will seem natural. And, even if it doesn't, they'll get used to the actions and notice them when they play.

Yahtzee Euro, can't airstrafe.

Pretty simple fix for all of this: grappling hook.

Problem solved.

Not going to make that jump? Grappling hook.

Need to get a higher vantage point so you can see a ledge that you want to jump to? Grappling hook.

Want to pull off some sweet combat where you can pull yourself into an enemy and kick them into a wall, or pull them towards you into your awaiting fist before sling-shotting them through a nearby window? Grappling hook, grappling hook, grappling hook.

Also, mirrors edge had the basics but it lacked complexity. Very few surfaces were "sticky" enough, what you needed was some computer controlled spikes or hooks on your hands and feet that would dig into a wall or slide down a steel pipe allowing for more fluid movement. The whole up/down thing was serviceable but imperfect.

Another thing that's the problem isn't spatial awareness, it was momentum and speed. The controls need to be revised to give you a sense of weight. It shouldn't matter how big the ledge is, only how sure you are that you can fling your weight towards it, instead of a straightforward jump button there should be more complex moves which become context-based depending on what kind of surface you're on and your particular orientation.

Someone above me had a similar idea, but the way I'd implement it is to have a combination of the spikes/hooks I mentioned alongside your grappling hook gun and a context-based movement system.

Say you're on a ledge and you need to make it to another ledge, there are multiple methods to get over to it. You could wall run to it, which would implement your hooks/spikes which you drag along the wall like The Prince Of Persia did with his daggers in the curtains, you could simply fire your grappling hook up to the ceiling and swing across, you could fire your grappling hook at the wall behind the ledge and pull yourself over there, or you could use the context-based movement system and rely on the spikes/hooks/grappling hook merely for course correction on the fly. The purpose of this is to maintain that sense of momentum, that you never really need to stop, you just need to have one or two seconds to survey the upcoming obstacle and then navigate it on the fly.

I didn't explain the context-based movement system so here's what I mean by it. Each platform, wall, pipe, ceiling or other surface has its own contextual movement associated with it, on easy mode this would be done for you automatically with one simple button press, similar to Devil May Cry's "Easy Automatic" mode, which allows you to pull off combos without much thought while still maintaining control on what weapons to use and when making it more about timing than finesse.

What would happen in the example I gave earlier is that the ledge you're standing on is a horizontal ledge with a drop, when you read the edge you will press the particular button you want to use to navigate it depending on the context of what you want to achieve. If you want to only make a short jump, vault over the ledge and slide down from the same ledge onto one below then you'd press your hook/spike button and use the sticks to maintain movement and momentum.

You're now on a vertical surface and you want to hop across to a horizontal one but you see a pipe jutting out of the wall nearby so you hit your grappling hook which will trigger you kicking off of the wall, grappling the pipe and swinging to the other ledge.

Let's say you can see your next ledge around the corner because it's reflected in a window on the other side. This is where things start to get more fun and advanced. You would have to use your spikes/hooks to wall slide and then, just as you get near the edge you hit your grappling hook button so you can swing around the corner, you'll then hit the spike/hook button again and you'll lodge your spikes/hooks into the wall and continue wall sliding to the ledge.

What you're essentially doing is not really platforming, it's more of a cross between rhythm gaming and stringing together combos on a non-linear path. This would make movement less something to think about and fuss over and more enjoyable because you can feel confident that the system will do most of the work while all you've got to do is worry about the timing and picking which direction you want to go next. You'll still have control, but not in the traditional sense, it would be similar to how you think you've got control over Bayonetta when you're pulling off moves and combos, but there really is only a set list of things you can really do, so your level of control is limited by that. This is really no different; there's a set amount of tools handed to you, it's how you use them that's important.

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