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Suggestions for something filling the role of lives in a platformer?


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#1 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1817

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 12:53 PM

Working on a platformer, and I was about to implement lives... but then I realized, maybe adding lives there is probably going to be pointless, thanks to the save system (if you run out of lives at worst you'd just restart the level instead of returning to the last checkpoint - more likely than it'd seem since lives are not saved so you always would start with 3 lives).

Right now I didn't implement them so there are infinite "lives" (essentially until you give up). If you lose a life (either by getting hit three times, getting crushed or falling into a bottomless pit), you return to the last checkpoint (or to the start of the level if you didn't touch any). This is an old-school platformer (4th-gen styled) so mechanics are pretty much borrowed from that era.

So my question here is: are there any better ideas than using lives? (or a better way to implement them) Please, only ideas that can be easy to implement, if it's something that could take a lot of effort I will most likely not even consider it. I'm a lazy programmer after all =P

(sorry for bold font, wanted to make the question stand out clearly just in case)
Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

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#2 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 20377

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 01:47 PM

VVVVVV makes dying frequent. To help avoid aggravation, the developer made checkpoints everywhere, respawning almost instant, and had no limit on lives.
No having to watch the same dying animation over and over and over. IIRC, it just flashed the character (with the character's face turning frowny-faced) and then you respawned half a second later.

It was a very fun game because of that, and I'd tend to follow that method, unless you're going for a different feeling.

I mean, aren't the point of limited lives to get you to feed more coins into the machine anyway? Always returning to the last checkpoint with no limit on lives doesn't harm anything; and frequent checkpoints help avoid repeatedly covering the same area repeatedly because you "almost" reached the next checkpoint, but now you have to go through the entire 20 rooms between them again.
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#3 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1817

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 01:55 PM

Dying is not expected to be frequent here though, if you die often in a given place it means you need to improve your skills until you get through it. Early levels are going to be pretty easy, although I can imagine the last levels to be as punishing as this bastard (although I'll avoid that nearly impossible jump at the end - actually that level from the video ended up getting updated to make those jumps easier).

Also if you have 20 rooms between checkpoints there's an issue, that's about as long as a (short) level...

Edited by Sik_the_hedgehog, 13 June 2012 - 01:56 PM.

Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

#4 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 20377

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 04:58 PM

Well, VVVVVV has a "we expect you to die every three seconds" mentality, but it makes dying aggravating since you spawn usually within the same screen you just died in.
It really depends on what your game expects to gain from lives - why have them at all? Except for a 'hardcore' purpose, the only point I see is feeding coins into a machine. If you have your checkpoints decently close together, there really is no need for lives, unless there is some other game-related reason why there they should be included in the game. Or am I mistaking "lives" for "health" here? In the video you linked, by 'lives' do you mean the three hearts, or do you mean respawns when you run out of hearts? I'm assuming you mean the latter.
It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.
All glory be to the Man at the right hand... On David's throne the King will reign, and the Government will rest upon His shoulders. All the earth will see the salvation of God.
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#5 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1817

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 09:41 PM

It really depends on what your game expects to gain from lives - why have them at all?

Honestly? Mainly a legacy carried from practically almost all platformers from that era. The main thing being, those platformers weren't able to save progress either, so game over had some meaning after all.

One that comes to mind from that time that didn't use lives was Chaotix, which removed lives because of its save system... but it's in a completely different situation since it had no checkpoints either (you always started at the beginning of a level) and it also selected a level "randomly" (OK, not randomly, but unless you had a specific item or you used frame stepping in an emulator the best you could do is hope it landed on the level you wanted to try next).

Except for a 'hardcore' purpose, the only point I see is feeding coins into a machine. If you have your checkpoints decently close together, there really is no need for lives, unless there is some other game-related reason why there they should be included in the game.

Maybe the fact that in the current design checkpoints aren't saved, only the last level, though I suppose you would argue the checkpoint should be saved (probably just the X,Y coordinates would do), though then there's another question: what should the game do if the player decides to resume gameplay on a previous level and not the last one that was played? Savegames double as a level select for the played levels too.

Or am I mistaking "lives" for "health" here? In the video you linked, by 'lives' do you mean the three hearts, or do you mean respawns when you run out of hearts? I'm assuming you mean the latter.

The latter, your assumption is right.

Edited by Sik_the_hedgehog, 13 June 2012 - 09:48 PM.

Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

#6 JBarrios   Members   -  Reputation: 142

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 09:08 AM

My opinion is the tradition lives system is obsolete. It was unbelievably frustrating when you were on the final world and you lost your last life and were forced to start the whole game over.

I've prefer games where you get unlimited chances, but the level restarts. I played a game where you have unlimited chances AND lives. The lives were very rare. When the player dies they have a choice to use a life or restart the level. When they use a life they appear right where they die with a temporary power-up. I thought this worked very well.

p.s. The game charged money to buy lives as well. A bit of a money grab, but I bet if you had a great game you could pull that off.

#7 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1817

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 10:10 AM

My opinion is the tradition lives system is obsolete. It was unbelievably frustrating when you were on the final world and you lost your last life and were forced to start the whole game over.

I think that's pretty much false for every platformer with a save system. The problem is where you're allowed to save, e.g. some let you save every level (or even every checkpoint), some let you save only at some key point areas (e.g. Super Mario World only let you save after beating an important section like a castle or a switch palace).

This is probably my issue, saving every level seems spaced enough, but levels are long enough that being forced to restart them every time you lose a life could be annoying so checkpoints should go in place, but then it doesn't make sense unless I impose a limit to the checkpoints (which would mean adding lives) or changing the save system so it saved every checkpoint instead (which could be seen as being too often, though then again many people also demand the ability to quicksave anywhere with no exception).

Also, since the player can select which level to go to when starting a game in a saveslot, there's the issue of what to do with the checkpoint if it's meant to be saved - of course it could be dropped if the player chooses a different level, but should the game assume the player just wants to go to the checkpoint if he chooses the same level (and force the player go select "restart" to restart the level from the beginning in the pause menu if that wasn't what he wanted to do) or should the game explicitly prompt about it instead?

p.s. The game charged money to buy lives as well. A bit of a money grab, but I bet if you had a great game you could pull that off.

Oh yeah, I know what's this game, the author even posted in Gamasutra about this. He had also posted some graphs indicating when players gave up. Apparently most people got stuck in a specific area of the second level at some point...
Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

#8 AlexiK   Members   -  Reputation: 300

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:23 PM

How about time? Make the player have a time to complete the things he/she is supposed to do, thus having lose time in both doing the action and 'dying'. Making it so the time is plentiful if you don't make mistakes, should also allow for another way to tweak the challenge. (Have less time in some situations).
If time runs out, the level would fail.

This is probably the most flexible of these I'm writing about. X time before a sandstorm arrives in a desert. X time before you freeze to death at a glacier etc.


Or you could think of mentality of the character. Failing could make him a little bit more mad. Success make him a tad more sane. This, like time, could work on a game-wide scale. Probably works best if the game is about the character him/herself.

Or something you're about to rescue. Probably best, if you're not shy about giving gruesome ideas to the player. I was about to point out that this wouldn't be such an awesome idea in a 'happyhappy' game, but I realized it could actually give a nice contrast that something is dying as you go. (Then again, I'm curious about emotional confusion in games :D )

Or the love of a beloved. This one's been used a bit on other games I think. Similar mechanic to sanity.

I'd have to know more about the setting the game is in to be able to give accurate descriptions on how these could work. And for some more accurate ideas.

#9 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1817

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 05:29 AM

How about time? Make the player have a time to complete the things he/she is supposed to do, thus having lose time in both doing the action and 'dying'. Making it so the time is plentiful if you don't make mistakes, should also allow for another way to tweak the challenge. (Have less time in some situations).
If time runs out, the level would fail.

This is probably the most flexible of these I'm writing about. X time before a sandstorm arrives in a desert. X time before you freeze to death at a glacier etc.

Oi, I hate time limits for stuff that could be done without it >_< And even then, it still doesn't solve the problem at hand, i.e. what happens when the player already failed, not how you can fail (which is pretty clear: get hit too much, fall into a pit or get crushed).

Or you could think of mentality of the character. Failing could make him a little bit more mad. Success make him a tad more sane. This, like time, could work on a game-wide scale. Probably works best if the game is about the character him/herself.

Her.

There really isn't much being shown in terms of storyline except for the occasional cutscene between some of the levels (mainly area transitions), so I doubt that's an option anyway. Besides I don't want to cause interface screw or something like that, and I'd need to add new graphics, etc. Though you're tempting me to make the character look angry when idle if you fail too much at some point XD (e.g. fail three times in a row without getting to the next checkpoint and her idle position will look like she's upset - game follows as usual however)

So, what I'm thinking right now that could be done is just store the level and the last checkpoint. If you want to go back to the beginning of the level just choose "restart" from the pause menu. If you go to a different level the checkpoint is reset. Any comments on this?

PS: c'mon, I had to copy this to gedit and then paste it back because the post editor kept screwing up miserably (to the point that it eventually would add newlines always at the beginning of the post when I pressed Enter o_O).
Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

#10 AlexiK   Members   -  Reputation: 300

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 08:05 AM

So my question here is: are there any better ideas than using lives? (or a better way to implement them)


I do believe you're asking about an alternative to lives. Not what happens after all lives are gone.
And if you do ask what happens after all lives are lost, I answered on the bit in parentheses. Although I must admit, I have nothing on whether they're better than lives. Posted Image


Anyways, for the time I want to add that the time isn't an limit per se. In a normal scenario you'd have plenty, but every time you fail, you'd be losing x amount of time in addition to the time spent not-dead. Say, 3 seconds every time you're hit and 10 seconds everytime you fall down or are crushed.

It would give you an alternative to lives and it has more options within it. Such as having less time will make even the same levels harder. Having an global time (across all levels) could add for some incentive to go back levels and replay them to gain more time on the last hard ones.
And works as a difficulty level adjustment aswell. (if you have them) Hard having less global time than normal etc.
I think it could add excitement to a platformer.


Ps. I feel ya, I always write my messages on notepad. (Monospaced text, easier to edit)Posted Image

#11 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1817

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 08:23 AM

I do believe you're asking about an alternative to lives. Not what happens after all lives are gone.
And if you do ask what happens after all lives are lost, I answered on the bit in parentheses. Although I must admit, I have nothing on whether they're better than lives. Posted Image

I'm asking what to do when you lose a life (like, you got killed, go back to checkpoint or whatever). The problem with having a limited amount of lives is that it only makes sense if you have a game over state, but if you can save your progress then game over is essentially rendered useless (so you may as well not have it), thereby making the idea of limited lives useless as well.

Anyways, for the time I want to add that the time isn't an limit per se. In a normal scenario you'd have plenty, but every time you fail, you'd be losing x amount of time in addition to the time spent not-dead. Say, 3 seconds every time you're hit and 10 seconds everytime you fall down or are crushed.

It would give you an alternative to lives and it has more options within it. Such as having less time will make even the same levels harder. Having an global time (across all levels) could add for some incentive to go back levels and replay them to gain more time on the last hard ones.
And works as a difficulty level adjustment aswell. (if you have them) Hard having less global time than normal etc.
I think it could add excitement to a platformer.

I'm still not happy with the idea of being forced to play within the ruling of a clock =P Also I have no idea how I'd make it clear that the time left for a given level is the sum of the best time for the previous levels, and if I have to explicitly explain it, then that means it isn't intuitive enough and thereby a fatal design flaw in my opinion.

Also I need to find an explanation for the global time limit, which most likely would end up affecting the storyline as well - while I'd rather have gameplay and storyline completely separate from each other.
Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

#12 Cornstalks   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6991

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 09:31 AM

Limited lives was something I loved in Sonic 2 (for the Sega Genesis).

Anyway, maybe others have mentioned this, as I've only skimmed this thread and haven't read in detail, but one thing you could do is a combination of lives + saves + checkpoints. You can allow the player to save (at any time?), and throughout each level give them checkpoints. If they die, the go back to the last checkpoint. Give them X lives per level (maybe say 1 life per level* (or have an "easy mode" where you start with 2+ lives)), and have some 1 ups throughout the game so they can accumulate more lives. If they run out of lives, they start the level over (not the whole game).

*I say this because if you give them 3 lives, and they die once, so at the start of the next level they have 2 lives, they don't just restart the level to get back up to 3 lives. Starting with one life should help prevent that "workaround" (of course, lives can accumulate, so they could start with 2 or more lives if they find a 1 up and don't die). This can also be mitigated by setting their life count to max(currentLives, 3) when the user starts a new level. But if dying isn't frequent in your game, too many lives defeats the purpose of lives.

An alternative to this (or this can be done in combination with this) is a score penalty for dying. If they run out of lives, you can set the score back to zero (this is only good if running out of lives isn't frequent in the game). Or you can have each death be worth -X number of points, and deduct those points from the score.

It all depends on they style of game though (not just the genre), because certain scoring/life systems are more "fun" in certain styles of games.
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#13 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1567

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 12:19 PM

Why not have lives to respawn at the same location (just short of the spot they died), the player could gather secret map items in each level to return to challenging checkpoint locations and end of lives returns the player to the start of the level. Map items could be used from the menu to jump to the checkpoint locations, this makes game testing easier as well.




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