Platformer Question

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by VinceA, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. chillypacman

    chillypacman Guest

    I do think other countries have had to have gotten used to it. It started with mario being left to right, which translated well over to an American audience. Usually Japan or America is the top priority and the rest of the world is just an afterthought in terms of design so yeah...
     
  2. luggage

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    It didn't start with Mario. Pitfall was left to right progress, Pac Land did the left to right scrolling before Mario turned up - there's bound to be plenty more.
     
  3. Grey Alien

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    As well as Alex's reason, Space Invaders was firing up, then there was galaxians etc and when scrolling was eventually added the ship was firmly ensconced at the bottom.
     
  4. vjvj

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    I don't buy into the reading explanation, either. That's a pretty ethnocentric viewpoint IMHO. I wouldn't be surprised if left-to-right was a random decision in its origin.

    As for today, I agree with MarcusM that now (and probably from post-Mario on) it's been a matter of convention. I know Mario wasn't technically the first platformer, but it was essentially the definitive platformer that defined the genre. I think we can all agree that Mario had a greater industry impact than Pitfall did, and Mario was made in Japan where left-to-right reading is not exactly common. And Pitfall influencing Super Mario Bros. seems like a stretch to me; you'd think SMB would borrow from previous Mario games before Pitfall.

    Vertical shooters scrolling up is a lot easier, though. As already stated, we tend to associate "up" with "forward", and this is pretty much culturally agnostic. In addition to the aforementioned map example, practically any time you see a sign on a road or mall or airport that indicates something is "ahead", any accompanying arrow will always be pointing up.

    A shooter scrolling down is a lot harder to imagine than a platformer scrolling left.
     
  5. luggage

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    My point wasn't that Mario was influenced by Pitfall as such (I have no idea what or wasn't an influence on Mario), just that platformers did not start with Super Mario Brothers. It was already an established genre by then and progressing from left to right was already pretty common.

    A little bit of digging has come up with these games that were all out earlier than Mario; Hunchback, Smurfs, Dragon Buster, River Rescue, Scramble, Moon Patrol. Not all platform games but they all had game play going from left to right, games going from right to left were few and far between (Jungle Hunt on the 2600 was one).

    The Commodore 64 and Spectrum had been out for three years before Mario turned up. The BBC Micro had been out 4 years or so and that certainly had a fair few games whose progress was from left to right. To give you some idea where the arcades were at the time Mario was released, Ghosts n Goblins came out a couple of weeks later.

    To credit Mario with this would be doing a great disservice to the decade of games that came before it. It may have shoved platform games on a bit but it didn't standardise going from left to right in video games.
     
  6. chillypacman

    chillypacman Guest

    So perhaps while Mario did not invent the platformer revolution it borrowed the conept of running on a scrolling background.

    Perhaps Miyamoto played some american platformers before making Mario and adopted the left->right as such.

    Also I'd like to add the reason top down games tend to go up is because of the way we 'see' them again, like maps we automatically assume up is straight forward while horizontal scrollers appear more as text.
     
  7. vjvj

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    I made a point in my previous post to separate origin from contemporary design, but I guess it wasn't worded very well.

    To clarify: In terms of the ORIGIN of left-to-right, I really don't know where that came from and wouldn't be surprised if it were random. I don't think the reading argument holds up, but I could be wrong about that.

    As far as games go NOW, I think you do in some way have to look to Mario here. Pretty much every platformer from Mario on has borrowed heavily from it.

    Remember, my point here is that I believe left-to-right has been mostly a matter of convention the past couple decades. So when I credit Mario, I'm not crediting it with "being the first". I'm crediting it with "being the one everyone copies/is influenced by", which is intended to support my argument that it's been convention all these years.

    Mario wasn't the first, but it established the majority of conventions in platform design.
     
  8. luggage

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    We're only talking about moving from left to right rather than what influenced whole platform game design.

    I do agree though, with it being mostly convention but my point is the convention was already in place by the time Mario appeared. To give Mario credit for that convention would be like giving him credit for jumping in games, or using audio in games. Or it's like giving Halo credit for FPS'ers because people are influenced more by Halo now than the original ID games. Where do you draw the line between what parts of SMB specifically influenced later platform games and what parts were just fundamental elements.
     
  9. vjvj

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    It might just be us interpreting the question differently. The original question was "why are most platform games left to right?", which could be interpreted as a question of origin or a question of modern design practices. I'm obviously falling in the latter camp here, but it could be that I'm in the minority in this thread :)

    I see your point about the convention being established before SMB, although I'm still sitting on the fence on that one. It's obviously true that left-to-right was the majority case pre-SMB, but I still can't help but think that if SMB had just decided to go right-to-left, the conventions of today might be different. All speculative and no correct answer there of course, but still interesting to think about.

    Interestingly, Our Next Project is a horizontal scrolling affair as well... All this time, I've been imagining it as scrolling right-to-left, and the matter of left-to-right convention never occurred to me once. Now I feel some sort of obligation to stick to right-to-left, out of some pointless rebellion. LOL.
     
  10. mrfun

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    Side note, I think pitfall actually let you go either way.
     
  11. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    I don't think that word means what you think it means

    Guessing that Americans and Japanese make left-to-right games because that's the way they read is not ethnocentric. Ethnocentric would be assuming that left-to-right is natural for everyone because it is natural to us.

    Of course, culture isn't the only factor. Various psych experiments show that people sometimes have a bias towards one direction or another (for instance if asked to draw a person in profile, or whether they perceive an animated silhouette as rotating clockwise or counterclockwise) for reasons correlated to handedness or dominant side of the brain (which are also correlated). So that could be why you see a minority of early games going from right to left before the left-to-right convention was established.
     
  12. electronicStar

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    I don't think there are any physiological reasons for this convention. I base my argument, simply on my practice with jungle hunt. I played it to the end and I didn't notice any difference or uneasiness, I didn't even notice any difference from my experience with left to right games. My brain adapted seamlessly to the change of direction.
    Apart from pitfall, the first game to establish this convention was probably the smurf game for the Coleco, first linear (no going back) multi screen progression game. And this game, even if it's a bit forgotten today, had a big impact on the "industry" when it was released with very impressive graphics for the time(but it was before the videogame crash). There was also the Cabbage patch kids game for coleco and MSX. These games were popular and well known in japan even before mario.

    But mario himself is maybe not totally innocent, because in donkey kong he starts on the left of the screen.
     
  13. vjvj

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    He didn't fall?! Inconceivable!

    Taking things slightly out of context here. My comment was directed towards the second post in this thread, which was worded in a pretty ethnocentric way ("we do this because we blah blah blah"). That may not be how he intended it to sound, but that's how I interpreted it.

    And Jungle Hunt was friggin' awesome. I need to dig that up and play it again.
     
  14. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    Okay, sorry for the misunderstanding... it's just that you posted without quoting the post you were responding to, and the "reading direction" discussion had already moved along a great deal from there, so I thought you were responding to some of the more recent posts.
     
  15. Rainer Deyke

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    Except that Japanese books are written in vertical columns right-to-left.
     
  16. vjvj

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    No problem at all, I do tend to get lazy with the quotes, especially when I have to add a second quote ;) Just wanted to clear things up.
     
  17. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    That's the old-fashioned way. The modern, everyday-use way of writing is left-to-right, top-to-bottom... I thought that had been mentioned earlier in this thread, but I can't find the post.

    I think the most compelling argument in the thread so far is that it has to do with writing direction, rather than reading direction. If the average Japanese level designer tends to write from left-to-right, as I believe they do, it would be natural for them to sketch their levels from left to right as well.
     
    #37 AlexWeldon, Mar 27, 2008
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2008
  18. luggage

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    How about it just being how the math works? "x+=1" would tend to move your character to the right on most displays. "x-=1" doesn't feel like you're making progress.

    Further to that - if your game level started out at 300 units wide it would mean the player start would be at 300 and the level end at 0. Now if you want to build more on to the end of that you'd have to shift the entire level along a bit.
     
  19. Bad Sector

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    Are you sure? A couple of japanese manga i have read from right to left so i always assumed they go from right to left (unless they use this only for manga/comics).
     
  20. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    It's what I always thought, and it seems to be supported by the Wikipedia entry on Japanese writing:

    I'm aware that Wikipedia is not the most reliable source of information, but this is such a basic fact that I imagine it would have been corrected if it weren't accurate.
     

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