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Tarnish

A more complex 2D Sonic game with steeper learning curve?

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I think it’s safe to say Sonic games are known to be very simple games when it comes to their controls and gameplay mechanics. Even those who never played one can figure out how the game works in a matter of minutes. This is obviously a good thing, as pretty much anyone can play a Sonic game, there’s really no difficulty barrier of entry.

However, like everything, this also has its downside as well. There’s only so much one can do with a few button control scheme and after a while it’s hard to include anything new this way.

With the impending release of the more and more disappointing looking Sonic Forces, I figured it was timely to ask the question from other fans of the Sonic franchise: What is your opinion of a Sonic game that has a more complex control scheme that (naturally) has a steeper learning curve, but allows for a more varied and engaging gameplay with more moves and abilities at the players’ hand?

I’m asking this not just because of Sonic Forces’ upcoming release, but also because I have been 'designing' such thing in my head for a long time now, and figured I could share it and find out if people would be interested in such thing at all or is it a doomed concept/approach from the start.

If people are interested, I can show what exactly I had in mind. Just DON’T expect anything flashy like detailed pictures, videos or a gameplay demo, I’m not a developer or artist. The only thing I can show is my notes, and maybe some simple flash animations as a proof of concept to how I imagine my ideas. Also, these ideas of mine are in regards of 2D gameplay.

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If you haven't played Freedom Planet yet, its exactly what your describing here. Its basically Sonic with an attack button (among other things) and a steeper learning curve. I'd even go as far as to say I like it better than Sonic.

I would be genuinely curious to know what you think of that game since it falls under your discription very well.

As opposed to what I thought before that game came out (2014) its something I wanted to see in sonic for a long time, as I like sonic for his speed but wanted a game that was more demanding in difficulty, ala IWBTG fangames. (The hack Sonic Boom is another great example of this, giving sonic a dive and jumping kick alongside more difficult but fair bosses.)

To put it another way, Sonic's strength is speed, IWBTG is difficulty, and FP is a bit of both with the added complexity of games like Yoshi's Island and N game. That's admitably a VERY simplistic way to explain it, but alas that's how I see it in a nutshell.

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I think if you start adding more moves and more complex situations then you end up with a different formula entirely, like Sonic Rush. I like those games but I wouldn't consider them to be an evolution or continuation of the classic games, they're just straight-up different.

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1 hour ago, Alienrun said:

I would be genuinely curious to know what you think of that game since it falls under your discription very well.

I only played a demo of it years ago, so I can't really comment on it, but that demo was neat. It's on my list of 'games to play'.

1 hour ago, Diogenes said:

It depends on what you've got in mind. I think there's room to expand on the series' 2D gameplay, but I also think there can be strength in simplicity and that adding too many abilities/mechanics can bog things down. To say more than that I'd need to see what you've come up with.

I think both simplistic and more complex gamplay designs have their strenghts and weaknesses, so it's also a question of personal preference. But I agree, making something too complex can definitely be overwhelming and/or off-putting, at least at first.

With that said, I think it's safe to say my 'design' (for a lack of a better word to call it) definitely falls into what most people would call 'a bit overcomplicated', due to the sheer number of abilities I packed into it. It would probably feel less so if it was introduced step by step (i.e. across the span of multiple games), but to go from 'classic 2D Sonic' gameplay to mine, it most definitely feels overwhelming.

1 hour ago, Sean said:

I think if you start adding more moves and more complex situations then you end up with a different formula entirely, like Sonic Rush. I like those games but I wouldn't consider them to be an evolution or continuation of the classic games, they're just straight-up different.

Maybe it would end up feeling very different from the classic 2D Sonic formula, I can't tell without actually having a demo to experience it. All I can say is, I took the classic, momentum based classic Sonic gameplay as the 'base' and built everything on top of that. Funny thing that you mention 'continuation of the classic games', because that was my goal with this, as Sonic Team/SEGA never really did that. We'll see if I succeeded or failed miserably.

I'm still working on my notes, trying to organize them so they're not a complete mess and easier to see through.

But just a few examples until then of what my ideas consist of:
- Ability to cancel a spin dash, or change the direction while holding a spin dash (from left to right and vice versa).
- Ability to uncurl from ball form when rolling, in order to keep running without the need of jumping.
- Homing attack: I know some people would say homing attack has no place in 2D, but I think there are uses for it, while the classic 'bouncing from enemy to enemy' also has its place, so I don't think the 2 necessary has to exclude eachother. For example: use homing attack to knock over bigger enemies, or keep knocking them backward to make them fall off a cliff/ledge.
- The elemental shields affects the moves of the characters, besides giving them protection of the various elements. For example: the fire shield extends Sonic's homing attack range and increases the damage he deals, the electric shield can shock enemies for a few seconds, the water shield increases the height of Sonic's bounce attack.
- The elemental shields can be leveled up to a maxium of level 3. Leveling them increases their attributes and has extra abilities at higher levels. For example: the electric shield releases a shockwave when attacking an enemy, which stuns not only the attacked enemy but other enemies within a certain range.
- New 'elemental' shields: acid, ice and wind.

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To me I like to think limitations is what makes us more creative. And I think that thanks to that a game will probably be better designed around a simple control scheme than a more complex one.

While a game should evolve with time the basics should remain the primary focus of it. I think first the creator should have a thought process like "What new thing can I do with this move?" than "What new obstacle can I create that will require a new move?"

Basically kind of what they did with Mania, they created new ways to interact with the stage using the same moves as the original games making the game feel fresh, the only new move they added takes advantage of the already established moves in a way that only improves flow and doesn't add extra difficulty to the player.

I mean look at modern gameplay it has a more complex move set but not only is it less accessible to play it makes it have a simpler level design. What I mean is because the move set makes it more complex to play they create levels focusing on a action at a time to not overwhelm less skilled players, creating a less focused and more boring level.

So in the end you have to be careful when you want to add new moves to an already established gameplay. Not only For the sake a more focused design but because of the audience you want to appeal. 

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1 hour ago, Tarnish said:

But just a few examples until then of what my ideas consist of:
- Ability to cancel a spin dash, or change the direction while holding a spin dash (from left to right and vice versa).
- Ability to uncurl from ball form when rolling, in order to keep running without the need of jumping.

These seem reasonable enough. They're the sort of abilities that aren't strictly necessary, but they put more control in the player's hands.

1 hour ago, Tarnish said:

- Homing attack: I know some people would say homing attack has no place in 2D, but I think there are uses for it, while the classic 'bouncing from enemy to enemy' also has its place, so I don't think the 2 necessary has to exclude eachother. For example: use homing attack to knock over bigger enemies, or keep knocking them backward to make them fall off a cliff/ledge.

But why a homing attack? Neither example use really justifies the homing part of it. I could potentially buy into something like Hyper Sonic's dash attack (minus the screen clear effect) if you wanted Sonic to have some kind of extra attack, but I think homing is awful hard to justify in 2D over just requiring players to aim their attacks properly.

1 hour ago, Tarnish said:

- The elemental shields affects the moves of the characters, besides giving them protection of the various elements. For example: the fire shield extends Sonic's homing attack range and increases the damage he deals, the electric shield can shock enemies for a few seconds, the water shield increases the height of Sonic's bounce attack.
- The elemental shields can be leveled up to a maxium of level 3. Leveling them increases their attributes and has extra abilities at higher levels. For example: the electric shield releases a shockwave when attacking an enemy, which stuns not only the attacked enemy but other enemies within a certain range.

These ideas, I'm not too fond of. Firstly because I think that's an awful lot of mechanical weight to put on relatively rare items that are very easily lost. Secondly, most of this seems to focus on combat, and that's really not what Sonic's good at. Sonic's a platformer character, his greatest strengths are in movement. Adding in a lot of different attacks and combat abilities is likely to lead in one of two directions; either all those moves end up feeling unnecessary because people just skip past enemies, or the game gets bogged down in combat that doesn't really fit with the rest of the gameplay.

1 hour ago, Tarnish said:

- New 'elemental' shields: acid, ice and wind.

I'd need to know the specifics to really judge, but I'm pretty skeptical about adding more shields, because the existing three cover movement pretty well, and I feel that's the main purpose of the shields beyond their obvious defensive value.

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Holy crap someone actually used a different font.

I really don't see the value of adding things like an attack button when Sonic and co. curling into a ball has always been effective enough, aside from Amy where it makes since considering she actually uses a weapon. For the 2-D games attack buttons have always been ignored since they usually involve stopping all movement to perform an attack (which is why when I played Freedom Planet I would just ignore enemies if I could). Though I wouldn't be against adding abilities like an air dash like what Sonic had in Advance 1 and 2, or just any new means of movement since the means you traverse a level has always been what defines Sonic from other platformers.

I think it'd be neat if say Knuckles had his ability to dig while climbing and could use it in areas not made of a hard surface to find new routes, and Tails could transition into flying from an air dash in exchange for half the flying time and still retain his momentum. Basically abilities that improve upon existing ones like the drop dash did, instead adding completely new mechanics like having to fight enemies.

And like @redhellcmentioned, creating new ways to interact with the stage is a good way to add complexity without completely having to alter the characters themselves. I know many would say these things are just gimmicks, but these are historically the means used to add variance to each level and make them distinct. As long as it doesn't completely slow the player down like the corkscrews in Metropolis Zone they're usually welcome. That's how I'd go about adding more to the Sonic formula, but this is just preference, plus I think coming to grips with using the game's pinball physics to go fast is good enough for a learning curve.

21 minutes ago, Tarnish said:

Oh dear, not exactly off to a good start. Judging by that, I have a feeling this one image is gonna be enough to scare away everybody.

GameIdeas-CS55.jpg

 

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You shouldn't feel obliged to use every button on a gamepad just because they're there, especially when it means you don't physically have enough thumbs to reach every button at any given time. Look at it this way - using the Dpad means having to take your left thumb off the control stick, so having to reach for it at any given time precludes your ability to move, which to be frank is pretty fucking important in a game based almost exclusively around movement. Same is true of the face buttons and the right stick, which in this case prevents you from performing "special moves" while aiming, which creates its own level of awkward jank that tends not to work very well. Ideally, the bulk of all the functions you ever need to use should be around the same general areas (in Sonic games that's generally Left Stick + face buttons + triggers and bumpers), and ideally you shouldn't have to use anything else at all, but if you absolutely must, it should be functions that you're going to use very sparingly throughout the course of any given game (such as a manual transformation button, for example). Hell, even then there's still plenty of room to streamline, particularly because trying to jump with an analogue trigger is absolute murder - I've played games that actually do this, and long story short, you don't want to do this.

Anything else you need should be compacted and streamlined however possible so you need less actual input for a single action. Take homing attacks for example. You shouldn't need a separate mechanic for choosing targets - just tilt the movement stick, and Sonic targets the closet thing to that angle, bam, instant targetting system, no need to tediously cycle through targets or use a second stick to do it when you're never going to need to move and aim separately - especially because it's a homing attack which is by definition a movement technique. Rather than stuffing in as many buttons and mechanics as you can physically get away with on a single controller, focus on a smaller amount of moves and mechanics that have versatile, multiple applications.

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1 hour ago, Tarnish said:

Oh dear, not exactly off to a good start. Judging by that, I have a feeling this one image is gonna be enough to scare away everybody.

GameIdeas-CS55.jpg

Yeah that kinda is a HCI(Human Computer Interaction) nightmare XD

Like @Blacklightning said you should streamline what you can. For example start with something easy by asking yourself why would you need two buttons for choosing shields if new shields were added they should complement and blend with the old ones, so why divide them? You should keep asking yourself these kind of questions until you reach a point you can no longer remove buttons.

Personal opinion if Lost World taught anything is that I hate item management in a Sonic Game, finding itens like shields in the levels themselves is more gratifying than choosing from a selection of them. Also the player gets an idea of what kind of challenge they will face depending on the shield they find in said level. So I would remove that feature all together.

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My opinion on Sonic games with a steeper learning curve? I'm up for anything so long as I can still have fun.

However, that's not really been something that's happened whenever it comes to Sonic. I can't play the Classic Sonic games because despite understanding what you're supposed to do, successfully managing to do it is hardly on the table because of how the level design, how Sonic moves, and how the 2D perspective keeps fucking me up. I don't like playing them as a result of it. It's not fun so no matter how hard I've tried to force myself to love it I couldn't.

Seriously, I could barely scrounge any fun out of him in Generations before I could equip the homing attack. To another person, this supposedly ruins some aspect of it for some reason. However, because of it, I was suddenly having more fun playing as him so what do I know?

I'd prefer the attention just be on making the level design interesting and dynamic if anything were to change. That goes for both the 2D and 3D perspective titles. How Sonic controls, I do feel, should remain relatively simple.

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I'm all for a 2D Sonic game with newer mechanics as long as it still feels classic. I know it's difficult, but I'll try to explain my point.

I love Super Mario Worls, Yoshi's Island and New Super Mario Bros Wii (among other Mario games, of course). Now, in NSMBW (New Super Mario Bros Wii) you can make Yoshi's flutter jump, the ground pound, wall-jumping and some other nice extra movements. There's a lot of movements and yet it doesn't feel overly complicated at all. You get used to it and everything is used at some point.

Now, when I play Super Mario World, I find myself trying to make a wall-jump, or a flutter jump with Yoshi, and I can't, and I wish I could.

So to me, that's a perfect example of how a game that was simple (maybe less simple than Sonic), that only had a button to run and a button to jump, has added a lot of cool movements that are really useful. I think Sonic could add a ground pound move (although yes, that's the bubble shield), or a wall-jump, and still feel classic. Mario has added new moves and still feels classic (I know many people disagree with NSMBW being true classic but I don't really understand them).

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18 hours ago, redhellc said:

So in the end you have to be careful when you want to add new moves to an already established gameplay. Not only For the sake a more focused design but because of the audience you want to appeal. 

To be honest, the only audience I had in mind when brainstorming, was myself. Although I tried to make the controls and everything as simple and logical as possible, this is all ideas that I would want and enjoy (or at least I would like to try) in a Sonic game. That's why I was curious if there's anybody else who is interested or not.

18 hours ago, Diogenes said:

But why a homing attack? Neither example use really justifies the homing part of it. I could potentially buy into something like Hyper Sonic's dash attack (minus the screen clear effect) if you wanted Sonic to have some kind of extra attack, but I think homing is awful hard to justify in 2D over just requiring players to aim their attacks properly.

Because it makes it easier for the player. Wouldn't it be frustrating to want to knock an enemy down a cliff, just to dash over it, into a pit if your aim is a little off? With Hyper Sonic, you were invincible, even if your aim was off, so it was very unlike you got hurt as a result, but with normal Sonic, that's not the case. And as I said, it wouldn't replace the classic bouncing on enemies, as homing attacking would have disadvantages as well in certain situations. Also, I included the ability to aim exactly in the direction you want using the right analog stick, but I have a feeling you're gonna now tell me how using that stick for anything in a 2D Sonic game is a terrible and convoluted idea.

14 hours ago, Maxtiis said:

I really don't see the value of adding things like an attack button when Sonic and co. curling into a ball has always been effective enough, aside from Amy where it makes since considering she actually uses a weapon. For the 2-D games attack buttons have always been ignored since they usually involve stopping all movement to perform an attack (which is why when I played Freedom Planet I would just ignore enemies if I could). Though I wouldn't be against adding abilities like an air dash like what Sonic had in Advance 1 and 2, or just any new means of movement since the means you traverse a level has always been what defines Sonic from other platformers.

I think it'd be neat if say Knuckles had his ability to dig while climbing and could use it in areas not made of a hard surface to find new routes, and Tails could transition into flying from an air dash in exchange for half the flying time and still retain his momentum. Basically abilities that improve upon existing ones like the drop dash did, instead adding completely new mechanics like having to fight enemies.

And like @redhellcmentioned, creating new ways to interact with the stage is a good way to add complexity without completely having to alter the characters themselves. I know many would say these things are just gimmicks, but these are historically the means used to add variance to each level and make them distinct. As long as it doesn't completely slow the player down like the corkscrews in Metropolis Zone they're usually welcome. That's how I'd go about adding more to the Sonic formula, but this is just preference, plus I think coming to grips with using the game's pinball physics to go fast is good enough for a learning curve.

That 'attack button' is actually just to perform a bounce attack (like in Sonic Adventure 2) when in midair, so it's not like I want a Sonic Battle or Unleashed werehog style fighting/battle system.

Also, air dash, dig into wall while climbing and going into flight mode from an air dash (at the cost of using up extra stamina) are all thing I have on my list. Along with hopping over enemies in case the player doesn't want to deal with them and wish to keep moving forward fast and leaping upward from enemies to reach higher areas/paths.

13 hours ago, Blacklightning said:

You shouldn't feel obliged to use every button on a gamepad just because they're there, especially when it means you don't physically have enough thumbs to reach every button at any given time. Look at it this way - using the Dpad means having to take your left thumb off the control stick, so having to reach for it at any given time precludes your ability to move, which to be frank is pretty fucking important in a game based almost exclusively around movement. Same is true of the face buttons and the right stick, which in this case prevents you from performing "special moves" while aiming, which creates its own level of awkward jank that tends not to work very well. Ideally, the bulk of all the functions you ever need to use should be around the same general areas (in Sonic games that's generally Left Stick + face buttons + triggers and bumpers), and ideally you shouldn't have to use anything else at all, but if you absolutely must, it should be functions that you're going to use very sparingly throughout the course of any given game (such as a manual transformation button, for example). Hell, even then there's still plenty of room to streamline, particularly because trying to jump with an analogue trigger is absolute murder - I've played games that actually do this, and long story short, you don't want to do this.

Anything else you need should be compacted and streamlined however possible so you need less actual input for a single action. Take homing attacks for example. You shouldn't need a separate mechanic for choosing targets - just tilt the movement stick, and Sonic targets the closet thing to that angle, bam, instant targetting system, no need to tediously cycle through targets or use a second stick to do it when you're never going to need to move and aim separately - especially because it's a homing attack which is by definition a movement technique. Rather than stuffing in as many buttons and mechanics as you can physically get away with on a single controller, focus on a smaller amount of moves and mechanics that have versatile, multiple applications.

I'm not using every button because I feel obliged to do so, I'm doing so because I have so many ideas I wanted to incorporate.

And the reason I put the jump on the analog trigger is actually because of convinience. With your right thumb, you're jumping between 4 buttons and an analog stick. With your index finger, you only have 2 buttons to worry about, and since I use the bumpers to cycle between the shields, an ability that is probably not too often used by the player, it is almost guranteed he has a finger on the jump button at all times.

"..When you're never going to need to move and aim separately.." Actually, if I were to put the aiming to the same stick as the one for moving the character, that would mean that either I can't move the character in midair (something that has so far always been an importand ability in Sonic games to have precise control over the character), or while aiming I would be moving the character forward, which might not sound like a problem, but there could be situations where that could cause a problem, like moving the character towards an enemy projectile on into the range of an enemy's attack. By having it on separate stick, the player would have control over both movement and aiming separately, doing only what he/she wants to do. Would it take time to get used to? Definitely, but it was decided this way only to make sure 2 different actions aren't tied to the same input.

13 hours ago, redhellc said:

Like @Blacklightning said you should streamline what you can. For example start with something easy by asking yourself why would you need two buttons for choosing shields if new shields were added they should complement and blend with the old ones, so why divide them? You should keep asking yourself these kind of questions until you reach a point you can no longer remove buttons.

Personal opinion if Lost World taught anything is that I hate item management in a Sonic Game, finding itens like shields in the levels themselves is more gratifying than choosing from a selection of them. Also the player gets an idea of what kind of challenge they will face depending on the shield they find in said level. So I would remove that feature all together.

Actually, I have been asking these questions for a very long time, 7 years to be precise, since I started doing this in 2010, after Sonic Colors was released.

Why divide the shields? For arranging purposes. Want to use one of the old shields and avoid switching to one of the new ones by mistake? Then use the left bumper button. In a worst case scenario you can get to the shield you desire with 3 button presses. Want to use one of the new shields and avoid switching to one of the old ones by mistake? Then use the right bumper button. Again, in a worst case scenario you can get to the shield you desire with 3 button presses.

And regarding the 'item management', the ability to store and switch between shields would be a bonus unlocked by a character upgrade item (Sonic Adventure 1-2 style), it wouldn't be something you can do from the start, it would be a reward. The ability to have and switch between the different type of shields could be used in the stage design/layout as well, for example paths that require 2 (or maybe even more) elemental shields to get through. Having only one of them wouldn't be enough. Knowing this, if the player is good enough, his/her efforts to find, keep and use the elemental shields could be rewarded with new areas/paths.

4 hours ago, molul said:

I'm all for a 2D Sonic game with newer mechanics as long as it still feels classic. I know it's difficult, but I'll try to explain my point.

I love Super Mario Worls, Yoshi's Island and New Super Mario Bros Wii (among other Mario games, of course). Now, in NSMBW (New Super Mario Bros Wii) you can make Yoshi's flutter jump, the ground pound, wall-jumping and some other nice extra movements. There's a lot of movements and yet it doesn't feel overly complicated at all. You get used to it and everything is used at some point.

Now, when I play Super Mario World, I find myself trying to make a wall-jump, or a flutter jump with Yoshi, and I can't, and I wish I could.

So to me, that's a perfect example of how a game that was simple (maybe less simple than Sonic), that only had a button to run and a button to jump, has added a lot of cool movements that are really useful. I think Sonic could add a ground pound move (although yes, that's the bubble shield), or a wall-jump, and still feel classic. Mario has added new moves and still feels classic (I know many people disagree with NSMBW being true classic but I don't really understand them).

Actually, a ground pound move is also on my list, as well as a wall jump of sorts, tho not Lost World style wall jumping. =P

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'Low skill floor, high skill ceiling' to quote a Youtuber is the kind of game design that is optimal for the Sonic series and while the classic formula gets the first part right I feel more can and needs to be done in the other direction for the sake of replayability, adding an extra degree of challenge for veterans and most importantly to stop the series from stagnating. Speed does not define Sonic but it is a huge part of the series' identity yet I feel this fundamental, even in the Classic games, is only partially integrated with the overall gameplay and could be implemented more holistically especially outside the dedicated 'speed sections' of the level. One classic game that actively strives to use speed as a mechanic as opposed to just a means to an end is Sonic CD with its time travel gimmick, the execution was poor but I feel the concept is worth revisiting also another idea that's heavily inspired by Mario 3 is to make certain abilities like for example a wall jump for Sonic conditional to reaching max speed first. Another feature that's unobtrusive and which I'd like to see brought to a potential Mania sequel is a trick system (introduce grind rails too) and a ranking system similar to SA2 where time, rings, enemies killed and trick bonus determine your grade. So that's:

Time Travel ala Sonic CD but handled better

Abilitie(s) like wall jump that are only executable upon hitting max speed (kinda like the Metroid Shinespark and flying in SMB3)

Trick and Ranking system (includes the Cool Bonus from Mania) 

also one more: killing an enemy gives you a short speed boost like in the original DKC games, feel like this would add an extra level of strategy to speed running with players looking to create chains. 

 

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9 hours ago, Tarnish said:

And the reason I put the jump on the analog trigger is actually because of convinience. With your right thumb, you're jumping between 4 buttons and an analog stick. With your index finger, you only have 2 buttons to worry about, and since I use the bumpers to cycle between the shields, an ability that is probably not too often used by the player, it is almost guranteed he has a finger on the jump button at all times.

That's not the point. Yes, a trigger appears to grant some semblance of convenience, but it's important to remember that analogue triggers are technically multiple inputs.

The reason they're called analogue inputs is because they're pressure sensitive - they return a different input to the game depending on how far down the trigger is depressed. This creates problems in that it's difficult to read how reliable certain actions are when bound to them, which in turn compounds problems with reaction times and the responsiveness of your controls. If you program the jump to respond only when the trigger is fully depressed, it means your jump is overall slower to respond because of the time it takes - however small it might seem - to push it down that far. Finger movements that extreme in rapid succession can also lead to Repetitive Stress Injury, and I dunno about you, but I imagine you don't want a game that is literally painful to play. On the other hand, if you program the trigger to respond to any pressure, the jump is too responsive, and you inevitably keep making jumps at times you never intended to. Neither of these are theoretical scenarios - I've played Bullet Witch, which bound their jump button to left trigger for similar reasons to yours, and spoiler alert, it's not a very good game.

Buttons, on the other hand, are binary. They're either on, or they're off, no middle ground involved. The only scenarios in which they can be unresponsive is either programming oversights or controller failure, both of which we rightfully assume aren't factors in an ideal setting. Considering the primary function of a platformer is to jump, and you'll often need to jump on a moment's notice to optimize routes and jump lengths, there's absolutely no reason they shouldn't be bound to face buttons - especially considering this is a 2D game we're talking about.

Quote

"..When you're never going to need to move and aim separately.." Actually, if I were to put the aiming to the same stick as the one for moving the character, that would mean that either I can't move the character in midair (something that has so far always been an importand ability in Sonic games to have precise control over the character), or while aiming I would be moving the character forward, which might not sound like a problem, but there could be situations where that could cause a problem, like moving the character towards an enemy projectile on into the range of an enemy's attack. By having it on separate stick, the player would have control over both movement and aiming separately, doing only what he/she wants to do. Would it take time to get used to? Definitely, but it was decided this way only to make sure 2 different actions aren't tied to the same input.

If you're aiming a Homing Attack towards a specific target, you're already acting under the assumption that the player wants to move towards that target - because that's exactly what it does, it closes distance with your target and melee attacks it. Therefore it makes no sense to split them into separate mechanics, because the HA is a movement skill in of itself and not a projectile, and it would already require you to commit to that movement regardless of whatever you were doing prior. I honestly don't know how much simpler I can make this.

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16 hours ago, Blacklightning said:

That's not the point. Yes, a trigger appears to grant some semblance of convenience, but it's important to remember that analogue triggers are technically multiple inputs.

The reason they're called analogue inputs is because they're pressure sensitive - they return a different input to the game depending on how far down the trigger is depressed. This creates problems in that it's difficult to read how reliable certain actions are when bound to them, which in turn compounds problems with reaction times and the responsiveness of your controls. If you program the jump to respond only when the trigger is fully depressed, it means your jump is overall slower to respond because of the time it takes - however small it might seem - to push it down that far. Finger movements that extreme in rapid succession can also lead to Repetitive Stress Injury, and I dunno about you, but I imagine you don't want a game that is literally painful to play. On the other hand, if you program the trigger to respond to any pressure, the jump is too responsive, and you inevitably keep making jumps at times you never intended to. Neither of these are theoretical scenarios - I've played Bullet Witch, which bound their jump button to left trigger for similar reasons to yours, and spoiler alert, it's not a very good game.

Buttons, on the other hand, are binary. They're either on, or they're off, no middle ground involved. The only scenarios in which they can be unresponsive is either programming oversights or controller failure, both of which we rightfully assume aren't factors in an ideal setting. Considering the primary function of a platformer is to jump, and you'll often need to jump on a moment's notice to optimize routes and jump lengths, there's absolutely no reason they shouldn't be bound to face buttons - especially considering this is a 2D game we're talking about.

If you're aiming a Homing Attack towards a specific target, you're already acting under the assumption that the player wants to move towards that target - because that's exactly what it does, it closes distance with your target and melee attacks it. Therefore it makes no sense to split them into separate mechanics, because the HA is a movement skill in of itself and not a projectile, and it would already require you to commit to that movement regardless of whatever you were doing prior. I honestly don't know how much simpler I can make this.

I never heard of Bullet Witch, so I looked it up. From what I read and based on the gameplay video I watched, it's just a terrible game all around in every aspect. I thought it was a platformer, since you made it sound like it was a terrible game mostly BECAUSE of the fact that the jump (or dodge to be precise) was on the left trigger. But turns out it's a terrible third person shooter where jumping dosen't even play an important role (it might in later stages, but I only watched video of the first stage) with a terrible overall control, starting from aiming all the way to the spell selection.

Also, I just played through Sonic 1 with a Dreamcast controller where the jumping was set to the right analog trigger (SEGA Smash Pack Volume 1 FTW). Although I don't have an Xbox 360 (or Xbox One or PS3 or PS4) controller (because I'm a cheapskate), I think the Dreamcast controller trigger has quite a bit bigger/longer travel distance compared to last and current gen controllers. Yet, I didn't feel it affect my playthrough negatively at all. I didn't feel there was a a delay to my jumps, I never jumped by accident, I had no problem making short or high jumps. And my finger or hand didn't start hurting either. Did I get hurt or die? Yes, but I never felt it was because of unresponsive jumping, it was always due to my poor judgement or poor timing (haven't played Sonic 1 in a LONG time).

By using that same logic regarding the analog trigger, using an analog stick for platforming games is the absolute worst, since it introduces delay to your movement. I mean the time it takes to push it all the way in the direction you want to go..yet, Mario 64, Sonic Adventure 1 or 2 and all the other games since then seemed to have turned out fine using an analog stick..

And regarding the homing attack aiming: yes I want to make the character move forward, but NOT WHILE I AM STILL AIMING, no matter how little time it may take. If many people can play fast paced first or third person shooters with dual analog sticks (something I still never tried and still find fascinating it's even possible), then perhaps most people can manage lining up a line with an enemy in a 2D game.

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@Tarnish 

I understand what you are saying, you want to pick the 2D classic formula add more movement options kind like when you start a game of metroidvania style with limited options but by the end you can a multitude of options to face a situation. The thing is, like some people are saying, is that some options you are giving the player might be a bit redundant. For example if you have the ability of using the shields at all time, why have a bounce attack when you have a bubble shield?  

Also why not forget the homing attack and do something like Ori and the Blind Forest, that way you can do something like this: Have the normal sonic movement A to jump, Down and A for spindash, transform on Y or X.  Then you can double jump by pressing twice A, but if you press the right trigger you can freeze mid air and aim your jump, release it to blast you where you are aiming. If you Aim at an enemy it will react something like a homing attack, if you aim a ring line he will do a light speed dash, if you aim at nothing in the air do an air dash, if you aim at a wall cling to a wall for a wall jump, if you aim at the floor do a bounce. You should even be to even add the possibility of in the ground if press right trigger and release it before a line of ring and do a light speed dash. And if you want to keep the grab you can put it in the left trigger, and shields the same on the bumpers(even if I think they become irrelevant with all these movement options).     

While not perfect it is an example of how you could accomplish a more complex move option but with a more simple control scheme.

Lastly I'm not trying to bash you idea, I think it's cool trying to create something new based on a style you like. Also I get that you are trying to create something you want to play, but I think trying to do that while also creating something that could be easily shared with other people would fulfill even more. But in the end it is your idea, we are just trying to help you improve it. 

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...okay. Before I start, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.

I'm not here to attack your pride or tell you your ideas are crap. I'm here in the interests of critique and learning for the both of us, because it's not often I get to explore in depth into the facets of Sonic design (and well, pretty much game design in general) that people take for granted, and I get the impression that you're pretty new to this and I'd like to see you flesh out.

But if I see one more blatant strawman like this:

15 hours ago, Tarnish said:

By using that same logic regarding the analog trigger, using an analog stick for platforming games is the absolute worst

I'm just not going to bother. It's a huge pet peeve of mine when I devote this kind of time to someone with passion or ideas, only for them to completely misrepresent what I say as if my input was never wanted or necessary, and seem content to believe their idea exists in a vaccuum. If you expect to be taken seriously, I don't think it's asking much that you show the same respect towards others in turn.

Okay, personal part's over. I hope you brought a drink for this, because this is probably going to be a very long post.

15 hours ago, Tarnish said:

I never heard of Bullet Witch, so I looked it up. From what I read and based on the gameplay video I watched, it's just a terrible game all around in every aspect.

You're not wrong about that - it does indeed have a lot of flaws, and the ones pertinent to this discussion are frankly cherry picking on my part. So in the interests of people wondering what exactly the hell I'm talking about, I'll elaborate.

As stated, Bullet Witch uses the left trigger as a jump button. In context, it's intended more as a dodging mechanic to free your right thumb up to aim at the same time. First problem - you can't actually fire or attack or do anything in mid flight, so the ability to aim while jumping is pointless. Essentially, it's a redundant control setup. You could move the jump button back to A, and almost nothing would change. This is a pretty similar situation to yours, too - you've used a trigger to free up your thump for the right stick, but you never need to move and aim independently because your movement is essentially the Homing Attack's aim already.

Second, and more pertinent to the discussion here - the game has snipers with bright red laser sights, and jumping is a practically mandatory part of avoiding them because most places you encounter them have little if not no cover. You can either spam jumps until they take a shot, which only sometimes works, or wait until the last second to jump out of their way when the laser sight glows brighter. The latter would be the more consistent option, if the trigger were actually suited for a split second reflex like this. But as mentioned, it takes longer to fully depress a trigger with tons of pressure sensitive states than it does to push a button with only an on/off output. You might scoff at the idea that a few milliseconds or 5 extra frames is enough to get you killed, but that attitude overestimates exactly how much can happen in the space of a second. Oh, and the snipers one shot kill you. That's important too.

This also sounds tamer than it really is because I've divorced it from any and all other context. It's very rare that you actually see just one sniper at a time, and they're usually flanked with other miscellenous mooks that continue to harrass you while multiple snipers are lining their shots up. So you have to deal with a gaggle of enemies rushing you while trying to guage the exact moment to dodge a bullet using a control scheme that innately disadvantages you, which brings me to this:

15 hours ago, Tarnish said:

Also, I just played through Sonic 1 with a Dreamcast controller where the jumping was set to the right analog trigger.

This is, to be pretty frank, a classic case of confirmation bias, and there are a number of potential reasons I can name why:

- Sonic 1 is a game that uses only one button. Of course that still works even in spite of muscle memory, because you have much less distractions to deal with. This is probably a good time to remind you that your hypothetical control scheme uses every button available to you, and the majority of them have multiple functions on top of that. Hell, this wasn't even a game that used the Spindash, which is where the limitations of the trigger really would have shined.

- Sonic 1 is a game that in all likelihood, you've already played in its entirety before. Any perception of input delay is likely offset by the fact that you already know the level design, and can jump much further in advance - and that's generously assuming that the missed jumps you mentioned are "poor judgement" alone.

- Sonic 1 has an extremely simple learning curve, contrary to the subject of this thread. That's not to say there isn't an upper echelon of play for the game at all, but well... for emphasis, let's check out the world record for Green Hill act 1.

Now there's a lot of small optimizations that are difficult to perceive on a glance (like that monitor clip right at the start), but I want you to pay attention to the loop around the 19 second mark. That's two very precise jumps in just over the span of half a second. I'm not convinced one can replicate that consistently with a trigger, and I'm almost certain the speedrunning community would have a few very choice words if a game designer forced them to.

Now, back to the elephant in the room:

15 hours ago, Tarnish said:

By using that same logic regarding the analog trigger, using an analog stick for platforming games is the absolute worst, since it introduces delay to your movement.

As already mentioned, this is a ridiculous strawman that acts on the assumption that inching a few pixels in one direction is somehow equivalent to jumping several times your height into the air. There are many ways to be punished for a misplaced jump, and very, very few ways to be punished for tiny unintentional missteps in any given direction (unless you're in Spring Yard Zone - seriously, fuck those block elevators). As such, it makes no sense for a control stick to move you only when fully tilted like you would for most trigger functions. This is doubly true in Sonic's case because of his overwhelming dependence on inertia, where an unintentional tap of the stick would either only barely be enough to turn you around, or very slightly reduce whatever rolling momentum you'd accrued up to that point. Hell, Mania wasn't even that long ago, so we already have a very recent case in point for this.

It's also worth noting that the scale of movement can in fact be programmed to respond to how far the stick is tilted in any one direction to minimize unintentional movements even further. It's important to note this, because that's the entire reason the analogue stick was originally invented.

15 hours ago, Tarnish said:

And regarding the homing attack aiming: yes I want to make the character move forward, but NOT WHILE I AM STILL AIMING, no matter how little time it may take.

The Homing Attack was designed specifically to take aiming out of the equation - that's why it's called a homing attack. It homes in. The only requirement from the player is that they be facing the same general direction as their target, so for starters, isn't having to manually designate a target pretty much reduntant? That's effectively a downgrade from the HA we already have.

Secondly, once again, the homing attack itself is a movement skill. A movement skill to target enemies. If there's an enemy you want to target, there's a pretty good chance you're already moving towards it - and if not, you're looking for an opportunity to move towards it anyway. The only theoretical benefit to your current setup is that it allows you to HA backwards, but you can already do that just by... turning around. As such, it only makes sense to bind a movement skill to the movement stick. Not only because they both share such similar purposes in gameplay, but also because the entire reason you've seen the right trigger as a necessary crutch in the first place is because you've forced the right stick into a crucial yet ultimately redundant role here and realized you can't use it and the A button at the same time.

Actually, speaking of that. I feel like part of the reason you're meeting me with such hostility is that I've told you certain things are particularly unwise, but I haven't actually offered any alternatives. So I'd like to do a little run through every section of the controller to see exactly what you're looking for. Here's an odd reference to start us off with:

68-181-069-04.jpg

Take a close look at the face buttons.

No, not the buttons themselves. The two grey outlines grouping them together.

See that? This outlines an interesting design philosophy that I'm going to unofficially coin "buddy groups" from now on. A good control scheme acts under the assumption that you can only reach a limited number of buttons with your thumb at any given time, so buttons directly adjacent to each other should be given functions that directly compliment one another, or at the very least not work to the detriment of one another. Sometimes there's a benefit to pressing two simultaneously (namely grabs in fighting games), but for the sake of the topic, we'll be focusing on the former definition. With me so far? Good. Let's bring back that Xbox controller.

885370239416%20-%202-zoom.jpg?1483428254

Now it probably sounds weird at first to be talking about individual buttons first, but let's talk about that A button. This is one of arguably two face buttons that you can hover your thumb over without it also covering any adjacent buttons. It's also the closest button to your thumb at any given time. With these two facts in mind, it stands to reason that you want it to be assigned to a function that you're going to use constantly, to the point that it's going to form the bulk of your gameplay. Nearly every platformer out there uses this as a jump button for these reasons. And because nearly every platformer uses this as a jump button, they pretty much form an agreed standard that all players benefit from because of the mutual muscle memory they share. There's no point in being fancy here - your jump button needs to be A, no ifs or buts about it.

Whether you want A to also be the Homing Attack is another debate entirely. I personally disagree with the notion that they should be the same button because normal jumping and Homing Attacking are different angles of motion that have the potential to clash with each other, in a similar (albiet less annoying) fashion to the bounce and light dash being on the same buttons in SA2 and 06. But I also respect keeping it there regardless because most platforming fans have come to expect a "double jump" function in the majority of platformers regardless, and Sonic fans in particular have already developed the muscle memory necessary to be relatively unaffected by it. It could go either way. Just for sake of example, I'm sticking with putting the HA on something else - I'll come back to that in a minute.

For now, let's refresh on buddy groups. We want adjacent buttons to either compliment one another, or not clash with each other, right? Every face button here has two potential buddy groups, and in A's case, it's X and B. You can't keep A and Y in reach of each other, because the human thumb is too fat to press both of them without mashing X and B in the process. So that begs the question - what kinds of functions can potentially benefit jumping? Obviously, one of them is attacking. You want to be able to jump and attack at the same time in any given platformer that has an attack function, and I don't imagine that's a controversial statement to make. My personal choice would be to put the Homing Attack onto X, because not only is that an option you want available to you any time you're specifically focused on platforming, jumping can potentially benefit the HA by extending your reach or moving you into a more favourable position first. Well I mean, your left stick already does that, but more options certainly doesn't hurt in this case - and I'm sure as you've already gathered, since both are movement based you can use them to compliment each other too, so it's win-win.

B is a little harder. This buddy group wants to benefit from jumping, but has no way to benefit directly from HAing. From here, it depends largely on the design direction you want your game to have - but seeing as the theme here is complexity, for now we'll settle on an alternate attack button. What kind of attack? It would obviously have to be something with a different purpose outright to the Homing Attack, otherwise you'd just use that instead. One possible idea is that you could use it for a more direct melee attack that doesn't affect your current momentum, like the Insta Shield of S3&K fame, and has other benefits to counteract the lack of inertia you'd normally gain otherwise, like say as a combo tool, or knocking enemies back into each other, or manually curling up at any time so you can just slice right through them and not give a single fuck what's in your way. Maybe even combine several options based on whether you tap or hold the B button. For now, let's just label this the "alternate" attack button for simplicty.

That brings us to Y. This is generally a wildcard button button - you use it sparingly enough that it doesn't interfere with any of the functions we've discussed until now, but it's important enough when you do that you can afford to move your thumb away from the jump button for a moment. A transformation button already fits this bill pretty well, so props for that, but some form of finite special move (from meters, cooldowns or just limited quantities in general) would work just as well. On a side note, I do wonder how Super Sonic could work as a mechanic if he's available more or less from the start in a limited capacity, kind of like the Devil Trigger in DMC or Burst Mode in Pokken.

 

Okay, so we've covered all the face buttons, and we already have more than enough functionality to base a pretty intense game around if we toy around with the way enemies and the environment react to you. It's then that you really have to ask yourself if you really need more than that, because adding more functions on top of that doesn't necessarily equal complexity - in fact, up to a point, it can equal a clusterfuck instead. Let's assume for sake of argument that you do. What's the rest of the controller best suited for, then?

Let's go back to the right stick first, because as much as you're probably tired of hearing it, I simply cannot stress this enough. The reasons modern controllers have two separate analogue sticks is to add an extra dimension to the amount of control you have over 3D games, whereas previous attempts with just one stick or god forbid, a D-pad, were varying categories of jank. You can see this in games like the original Tomb Raiders and Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, which are typically described as "tank controls" both for your inability to move sideways, and how sluggish it feels compared to modern efforts as a result. But I digress. This isn't a 3D game we're talking about, and there are very few 2D games that actually need or benefit from that level of control. Unless you're some varation of Contra or Geometry Wars, you probably won't find a single good use for this. At best you could probably use it to shift your limited 2D view outwards in a certain direction, but well, that precludes your ability to, well... jump. Or attack. Or do anything , really.

On a similar but somewhat lesser note, the clickable parts of the control sticks can be pretty unreliable in a pinch too. This is something you only want to use casually, when you're under any immediate pressure, and you want to specifically avoid using it in relation to motion because it's awkward to press down whenever the stick is tilted in a given direction. And above all else, you don't want to need to hold it down under any circumstances, because that accentuates the problem further. Some games like to use this to reveal a secondary screen, like a map, but a map in a 2D Sonic game would be kind of cheating, wouldn't it? Maybe you could use it for quick inventory management instead, because your idea if nothing else seems to emphasise the ability to manually swap out shields. Again, preferably avoid the right stick completely.

Before I get into the Dpad, I would like to first mention that the 360's dpad is just a genuinely shitty, awful, shitty, awful, absolutely shitty awful control instrument and quite possibly the single worst Dpad in recent memory simply because it's not even a dpad so much as a really wide stick with 4 directions moulded into it, eliminating the Dpad's entire purpose of a Dpad giving strict, rigid directions on a moment's notice. Not really relevant to the current discussion, I just wanted to put that out there. Anyway, you generally don't want to use both the Dpad and the left stick simultaneously for reason I imagine are pretty obvious. Most 2D games let them both be used interchanagably as movement controls based on the player's preferences - personally I think the stick wins out for me because of the emphasis you've placed on manually aiming Homing Attacks, where the nuances in angle will almost certainly help more than the 45 degree angles you'd get from Dpad aiming.

Bumpers and triggers share one thing, and that thing is it's really uncomfortable to spam them. The difference between them is that the bumpers are binary and the triggers are analogue, so their uses differ a little. Since I can't find anything to complain about how you've used the bumpers (beyond that all shields should be compiled into a common pool, like already stated), let's talk about the triggers. It's unlikely you'll find a suitable way to work pressure sensitivity into a game like this (hell, very few games have - only examples that comes to mind off the top of my head are a few Metal Gear Solids and the sniper rifle from Perfect Dark Zero), so if they're to have a use at all in a game like this, it's best for things you have to hold them down for for a somewhat extended period of time, like an alternate mode of something if you will. I think I saw some lockon stuff in that control scheme of yours earlier - just saying it now, the triggers would be the perfect place to relocate them.

 

Okay, well I hope that's shed some light on things, because I'm tired and I'm running out of things to add. Incorporate what of it that you will. =V

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3 hours ago, Blacklightning said:

...okay. Before I start, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.

Yeah, I'm not gonna read the entire thing, at least not now, because I have other things to do today. I'll read the 2nd half regarding controllers some other time.

Regarding the analog trigger and analog stick argument, that was not a strawman argument, that was simply drawing a comparison between 2 inputs that work based on the same mechanic. In both cases, you need to move it all the way to get the full effect of the input. I think it's safe to say that pushing them both all the way takes about the same amount of time. You claimed the trigger can introduce delay that could affect the player negatively. I simply stated that applying the same logic to the other input that works the same way, we should get the same delay. For example, if you want to move the character to avoid an incoming projectile, that " few milliseconds or 5 extra frames is enough to get you killed " logic should also apply to the analog sticks. ESPECIALLY since moving is a much slower action than jumping.

You keep coming back to this "unintentional movement/jump" thing, under which I'm not sure you mean pressing the trigger by total accident, or misjudging the force of the press, resulting in too high or too low jumps. I don't think of myself as a hardcore gamer who played hundreds and hundreds of games of all types, but I still think I played enough and I never kept pressing the trigger by accident. If judging how far to press a trigger to get the desired effect is so difficult to get used to, I think all of those console racing games using the triggers for acceleration and breaking would be unplayable. Yet, so far I had not run into such claim or problem myself.

Regarding my Sonic 1 'test', you say me being familiar with Sonic 1 gave me an unfair advantage, yet I believe it's actually the opposite. Me being used to playing the game with a proper button input really should help highlight if there was a delay in jumping with the trigger, since my jump timings are coming from practice and memory from all the times I already did it using a button. Yet, I was jumping like I always had, I never had to force myself to jump a half second sooner. I never walked off a platform because my jumping was delayed. And like I said, I haven't played Sonic 1 in a LONG time, even if I did fire it up occasionally, I only played Green Hill to check out something. From Spring Yard all the way to the end, I haven't played for at least 5 years. So there were often times I didn't remember what exactly was ahead.

And while Sonic 1 is a 1 button game while my design wouldn't be, it was still perfect to test your assumption that using the trigger for jumping in a Sonic game would have negative effects on the jumping.

Next, you bring up speedrunners, which is kinda confusing me. Because you're saying I'm making things difficult with my control setup and I should be making it simpler to everybody, yet you're mentioning speedrunners, a (as far as I know) quite small niche group of people who pretty much eat challenge for breakfast, pushing human reaction times to the limit far beyond the average player. If anything, I think they should take my control setup as a challenge. And as a last thought regarding speedrunners, I don't think too many developers have them in mind when making a game. So I don't really see how I should be an exception.

Oh, and I tried that double loop jumping in GHZ Act 1 using the trigger. Did it multiple times in a row, so..yay?

Regarding the homing attack, I guess I should have mentioned that yes, by default it attacks the closest enemy if you just press the Jump button again in midair in my design as well. Aiming would be only used/needed for more strategic or tactical situations, for example: there are multiple enemies in range, but one of them more backward is a 'leader' type, and destroying that would confuse the other enemies, making it easier to defeat them. Or a simpler situation: lets say Sonic was launched upward from a spring and there are 2 stronger, multi-hit enemies in a vertial row in front of him. If the player doesn't want to deal with them, he can just aim the character between the 2 enemies and dash forward between them.

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I agree the bounce move without the bubble shield breaks the rules somehow.

Here's a thought: add the ability to keep an item and use it during the stage by pressing a button other than jump, like in Super Mario World.

 

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On 2017. 10. 21. at 2:20 PM, molul said:

I agree the bounce move without the bubble shield breaks the rules somehow.

Here's a thought: add the ability to keep an item and use it during the stage by pressing a button other than jump, like in Super Mario World.

 

The bounce attack is also a move that would require a character upgrade. And even after that, it wouldn't bounce the character as high as it would with the bubble shield, plus perfoming it again without the bubble shield could only be possible once the character reaches the peak height of the bounce. With the bubble shield, the character could bounce crazy like in Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

By 'item', you mean a shield? Or even an invincibility?

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