I'm anticipating running through Mirror's Edge on my PS3 soon, and writing some kind of article focusing on the art and design of motion. Until then...
This is the comment I left for Brad Borne on his blog.
I’m very impressed with the beta.
When I was playing it, I was reminded of another 2D platformer that I had played recently. After following a link to your blog, I realized that you also created The Fancy Pants Adventure World 2. Small world.
I tried reading all the comments posted here so far so I wouldn’t post anything redundant.
Overall, the controls and the core mechanics are very tight. The color/art direction for the level design isn’t as clear as I would like. I found that I would run into objects I thought I would pass through and pass through buildings I thought I could jump off of. I thought you might have used dark colors to demark the interactable objects against the non interactive scenery, but there are inconsistencies that work against that theory. For example, there’s a dark gray bar at the beginning of the level that can’t be grabbed onto, yet there’s a similar colored bar a little ways into the level that you can grab. Visually, there’s no difference between these types of objects. Consistency is key. Form fits function is a must.
Sometimes I think that the background needs to be slightly blurred and washed out to help distinguish the foreground and background. Doing this might also bring this game more stylistically closer to the console counterpart.
There are parts in the level where the foreground art is cluttered with non interactable elements. For example, the power lines toward the end of the level. Faith can run on the dark power lines, yet the lighter lines look like they can also be jumped on or grabbed. I believe The Fancy Pants game also had moments like this as well. This is nothing too major, but something I thought I should bring up.
The camera work is nice. I felt like I could see enough of the obstacles ahead of time to make accurate and informed platforming decisions. Such is a benefit of 2D design.
I played the Mirror’s Edge demo on my PS3. I find it interesting how much the differences between ME and ME2d affect the gameplay as a whole. One difference is the obvious perspective change. The 2D design of ME2d presents information more clearly without having to obscure most of the world through a locked first person perspective in 3D space.
The red points are functionally similar to coins or rings from classic platfomers. These points go a long way by encouraging the player to platform and explore in ways they might not have without an incentive.
There are three things that aren’t in ME2d that I feel would go a long way in the overall design. If you compare the design of ME2d to Super Mario Brothers, both games have good core mechanics, points/coins, and the level design. But what makes Mario so great is that the design takes things 3 steps further by incorporating level transformation, well designed enemies (with contrary motion and interplay), and power ups.
One cool part about Mario’s JUMP (I type game mechanics in all caps) is that you can use it to land on brick platforms. But, like a double edge sword, you can also use the JUMP to destroy brick platforms one brick at a time. In this way, players can effectively make or break their own platforming challenges by doing what Mario is all about; JUMPing. In ME2d, the stage is the same no matter what the player does. Every time one plays it and no matter how they play, each platforming challenge is hard designed into the game. Despite the branched paths, such a design keeps things fairly static where players must overcome most obstacles in the only way you designed for them to. The added bit of transformation doesn’t have be anything mind blowing. But adding such a layer would go a long way in adding dynamic variation dependent on the player’s use of the core mechanics.
I think enemies are a great way to add contrary motion to ME2d’s core design. Though I don’t have a lot of experience with the console version, I’m afraid that the enemy design isn’t well integrated into the core gameplay mainly due to the limitations of the first person perspective and how entrenched the game is to FPS conventions. But that’s a topic for another day.
Basically, gravity provides a constant motion downward, and Faith is an independent motion that moves to the right (to simplify). This is what makes platforming so fun. Every jump you make is a fight against gravity. What goes up must come down, and understanding this cause and effect relationship is how players can plan their moves successfully.
In Super Mario Brothers, gravity is down, Mario moves right, and enemies move to the left (in general). These three types of contrary motion are all tightly connected to each other. Mario defies gravity by jumping and eliminates enemies by jumping on them. Enemies can hurt Mario and some can jump/fly defying gravity. Finally, gravity has the power to pull Mario and enemies down pits. So, if ME console or ME2d could add enemies that are contrary and independent to gravity and Faith, there would be a deeper, more varied way to create challenges that would also be quite dynamic.
I won’t even get into interplay with enemy design. If you’re curious, you can read about it here at my blog.
If you’re going to do enemies like in the console version, it would be neat if you could disarm their weapons and use the mouse to aim and fire. Just an idea.
Keep up the good work. I look forward to playing the final version and anything else you make.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me.