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PerfectChaos

Is the lives system pointless?

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Seriously, why the hell do we even have lives in Sonic games these days?

The classics had lives and even in the earlier 3D games lives were a widely accepted staple of platformers, and without them a game can feel... stupid.

But lately I've been thinking about how utterly pointless lives are in the newest games.

-Firstly, the games are too easy, and losing lives is rare and only occurs if you slip up and fall into a bottomless pit (not that offensive, but you'll NEVER come close to a game-over)

-Secondly, they're bloody easy to get. The Boost gameplay means levels tend to have loads of rings, and if you get a life for 100 rings (we still do, don't we? Correct me if I'm wrong) you can get a bunch of lives every time you have a quick session of Sonic.

-Thirdly, a game over is barely a punishment. You'll have to do that level again, but is that really a problem? A couple of minutes and you'll be back at the bit you died on. (Eggmanland HD is one possible exception - getting game-over there would be horrible)

-Fourthly and most stupidly, there's a TIME ATTACK. That makes lives completely and utterly redundant, simply a joke.

If Sonic Team doesn't make games harder and/or remove the Boost, maybe the lives system needs revising? For example, not giving lives for 100 rings. And making enemies tougher, more of them being able to hurt you even if you're boosting. And never stray from 'one hit = lose ALL rings', and S-ranks should be virtually impossible unless you don't get hit anyway, so what's the need for letting us keep some rings?

And how about not having checkpoints in Time Attack? I mean, who DOESN'T restart upon a death anyway?

That'd keep it separate from regular playthroughs as one death on Time Attack would force you back to the beginning.

Maybe I'm just being a little fussy? Anyway, thoughts?

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But lately I've been thinking about how utterly pointless lives are in the newest games.

-Firstly, the games are too easy, and losing lives is rare and only occurs if you slip up and fall into a bottomless pit (not that offensive, but you'll NEVER come close to a game-over)

Maybe cause not everybody are good at playing Sonic games like you are? I couldn't sworn I had a few game overs a few times and my first playthrough of Sonic 4 I got so frustrated cause I kept dying over and over cause of stupid level design choices so don't speak for everybody.

Edited by sonfan1984

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Any lives system is just part of normal platformer gameplay. Granted, you could play games that you could have infinite lives, but that would not serve as any sort of punishment for screwing up. You could even say because you have lives, you don't want to start all the way over from the beginning of a stage due to a checkpoint, if you even care to use them (we all gotta get that A rank). You could use a health bar, like in the Legend of Zelda. What survival system seems better to you?

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I don't see how getting two short and easy games means the lives system should be scrapped. That's probably one of the dumbest ideas I've heard. Especially for a platformer.

Take a look at Sonic Unleashed and Sonic 4. Those were rather difficult and I got tons of game overs on Unleashed. The director of the Sonic series said he realizes Colors and Generations were too short/easy. I'm sure he'll be improving in that department.

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Maybe cause not everybody are good at playing Sonic games like you are? I couldn't sworn I had a few game overs a few times so don't speak for everybody.

Well, I've had the very occasional game-over, but it's very rare and usually when I'm messing around (eg. trying to break the levels with the wisps in Colours) or in a boss (which could easily do without lives anyway because dying and having to start it over is the exact same punishment as a game over)Oh, and I think Colours is the only time in newer games that I got genuine game-overs. One of which due to that STUPID robot-fish thing. You know what I mean.*shakes fist*

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I realise that they're practically pointless now and getting Game Over is barely an inconvenience these days. That said, I think now they're kept around for traditional purposes, and I kinda like that, I think it'd be weird playing a Sonic game or any platformer for that matter without having lives, they may not mean much but I would miss them.

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Eggmanland. Dark Gaia.

Exactly! As soon as I got to Eggmanland, I lost lives faster than losing midgets in a 12 block street parade. For the newer games though, they tend to be a little too easy. I didn't lose a single life in Colors, mostly because I relied on the boost and double jump.

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I don't see how getting two short and easy games means the lives system should be scrapped. That's probably one of the dumbest ideas I've heard. Especially for a platformer.

Take a look at Sonic Unleashed and Sonic 4. Those were rather difficult and I got tons of game overs on Unleashed. The director of the Sonic series said he realizes Colors and Generations were too short/easy. I'm sure he'll be improving in that department.

The problem with the life and continue system is not the difficulty of the games, rather that it has no meaningful impact on games with save states. You aren't set back in any significant way by losing all your lives in a game with saving; at worst, you just start the stage over and perhaps have to get to it again after some hub and menu navigation. They work best for short arcade experiences where longevity is derived from trying to master a couple of hours' worth of difficult obstacles with a fairly fragile character, a game where starting the entire adventure over is a highly-effective but reasonable punishment for losing all of your lives and continues. Sonic games have stopped being these types of experiences for the longest; after all, even Sonic 3 had save states.

I didn't lose a single life in Colors, mostly because I relied on the boost and double jump.

I lost several lives in Colors. Fuck the trampoline levels, and that random pit in Aquarium Park. ><

Edited by Nepenthe

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The problem with the life and continue system is not the difficulty of the games, rather that it has no meaningful impact on games with save states. You aren't set back in any significant way by losing all your lives in a game with saving; at worst, you just start the stage over and perhaps have to get to it again after some hub and menu navigation. They work best for short arcade experiences where longevity is derived from trying to master a couple of hours' worth of difficult obstacles with a fairly fragile character, a game where starting the entire adventure over is a highly-effective but reasonable punishment for losing all of your lives and continues. Sonic games have stopped being these types of experiences for the longest; after all, even Sonic 3 had save states.

I lost several lives in Colors. Fuck the trampoline levels, and that random pit in Aquarium Park. ><

Screw that snail robot in Aquarium Park.

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The pointlessness of the life system came to it's inevitable conclusion in Sonic Generations where you could just buy them in the skill shop.

That's almost any platform game nowadays, they practically hand you lives despite there being no real reason.

The lives system is just an old artifact from the nineties that both this series and various others feel they need to keep around for some reason.

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The pointlessness of the life system came to it's inevitable conclusion in Sonic Generations where you could just buy them in the skill shop.

Uuuuuugh

Do I have to go all the way to the skill shop?

I'm too lazyyyyyyyyyy

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As it is, yeah. The typical lives system was made for a very different context than what we have now. In arcade games, lives were a way to limit how long/much a player could play on one credit, and running out meant the player had to pay to keep playing. Obviously we're not feeding quarters into our consoles*; that purpose is long gone. In the early days of consoles, when games were typically fairly short and save systems were a rarity, lives were a way to extend playtime; all progress was temporary, existing only until you shut off the console or lost all your lives, so you had to practice until you could beat the game in one sitting and without losing too many lives if you were to see the end. Now that games are typically much longer and saving essentially universal, that reasoning no longer works; the worst that happens is that you get kicked back to the menu and lose your progress in a level, which is at best a few minutes of play (Eggmanland aside). And frankly I don't think it's a system that should be emulated regardless, since it only extends playtime by being unfair to the player, forcing them to replay sections they've already completed, rather than providing any kind of positive replay value.

And the system tends to break down in a lot of places. For one thing, once you've beaten a level, lives essentially become irrelevant in it aside from annoyance. If you're going for rankings, typically that requires a restart of the level anyway, so there's no real difference between having 99 lives and having only 1, aside from having to trudge through more menus in the latter case. Grinding lives is also an issue; instead of being a strictly linear progression, the player can easily and without penalty return to earlier levels, where extra lives are common and risk is low (both because it's an early-game level and because the player's already familiar with it). When your life counter's just shy of triple digits, any real challenge that the lives system adds is pretty much gone (even Eggmanland; if you can make it there, it's not likely it'll take you 99+ lives to make it through).

There's a few different ways this could be fixed; getting rid of lives entirely is the most obvious option, and a perfectly serviceable one. It's more fair to the people who keep butting heads with the current dated system, and for anyone who's good enough that lives are practically irrelevant already, it eliminates a few annoying edge cases. If we were to have lives, though, I kind of liked the system Unleashed Wii/PS2 had; as I remember it, rather than having a running total throughout the game, you had some set maximum that it was reset to between levels. This gave you a consistent number of tries per level, eliminated grinding, eliminated building up 90-some lives you'll probably never use. It also had 1-ups that would increase your maximum number of lives in the Gaia Gate side rooms, which you could seek out if you felt you needed more tries to get through a level. It would be easy to add in-level 1-ups to this, if necessary; if you think of it like a health system, the 1-ups in the Gaia Gate rooms were like maximum health-ups, while in-level 1-ups would be like regular health pickups. And personally I'd give the player infinite lives at some point (maybe after finishing the story) so they're free of the system once they've "proven" themself, and they can play around in the levels without worrying about lives.

At any rate the typical system is wildly outdated and desperately in need of a change.

*in saying this I had a horrible mental image regarding micropayments and arcade-styled games...

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I remember playing the first Spyro games. After the end of the first playthrough, when you started going through levels to clean them up and collect things, you'd smack into the 99 limit before you even left the second hub world. Later games in the series didn't hand them out quite as readily as the first one, but I still honestly don't know what would even happen if you ran out in one of them; and even the first one didn't give them away like the post-STH '06 Sonic games did.

I think it's rather telling that the Ratchet and Clank games didn't even bother with them like the Spyro games did; and since most modern platformers are in a way objective-based, what is the point, really?

Edited by Gilda

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I'm not sure when it was that the term "Game Over" ceased to mean that you couldn't progress any further and would have to start over from the very beginning. But that was pretty much the point when lives stopped having a purpose. It just sets a number to whether or not you'll be penalised by having to return to a checkpoint or having to go back to the level select area.

Ironically, the very first game I played where I found lives to be pointless was Wolfenstein 3D way back before a good chunk of this forum's patronage were even born. Dying in that game meant having to start over in the same level with your pea shooter pistol, and once you got past the early levels that basically meant you were so screwed there was no reason not to reload your last save and try harder not to die at all.

I got that same Wolfenstein 3D feeling from the Sonic games from Adventure 2 games onward. "Well, I died, so my score is flushed and I'll get a terrible rank at the end of this level. May as well just start over." The storybook games had the right idea by tossing out the lives system completely and letting the rank penalties serve as enough motivation not to screw up.

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So, going by the idea that Lives are pointless...would this mean every time you die in game, you go down a rank?

Hypothetical thing here for boss fights. I'll use the Egg Beetle as an example.

Say for example you manage to get the boss down to half health, but Eggman successfully hits you while you have no rings for some reason.

Naturally, after the loss, you come back in, BUT the boss still has half health, so you can finish him off. HOWEVER, because you died, your rank goes down by one, and this applies for each death.

If you were going to get an A rank before you died, you now get a B rank at best.

I'm currently trying to come up with something for normal stages.

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I think that's a viable formula for some games, but I'm not sure it's that great an idea for Sonic games. As far as rankings I'd rather it be based primarily in time and score (score moreso for levels, but if they can work that into bosses, sure), and steal Generations' "Perfect Clear" requirement.

Actually, I think Unleashed Wii did something like this for the werehog; in the rare cases where you died from damage rather than falling, you'd revive on the spot minus one life. Though it's been a while and I may be wrong. Can't be assed to check.

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I think lives should be reserved for a Colours-style "challenge-mode" where the objective is to get through the game in one go, as you would on the early mega-drive games or on arcades. There is still an appeal to some in having such a mode and lives would be best suited in that kind of mode.

Otherwise, dying shouldn't affect anything other than the rank you acheive at the end of the stage.

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The problem with a neverending string of extra lives is essentially the same problem as a game with infinite lives - it promotes almost no skill growth. This was especially true of Secret Rings, where instead of adapting to the occasional bullshit-hard section you were instead encouraged to repeat it over and over again until something different happened. I honestly don't understand what doing away with lives entirely fixes, and I just can't see any justification for it beyond "well they give us lives so often they're basically redundant"... in which case you could, umm, give less lives? Make them harder to get?

Hell, you want lives to have value again? Bring back an actual game over rather than forcing the player to restart the level they were just on. Sonic games even these days aren't really so long that you'd see that much complaint to having to restart the game anew.

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