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Pepsidog

How to make a hard platformer

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I am creating an action platformer, but it’s extremely easy.  Mario easy.  I want to increase the difficulty, but I’m not sure how.  Fake difficulty doesn’t count (few checkpoints, lives, bad physics).

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That's a design question rather than a programming question, so moving to a more appropriate location.

Mario levels can be extremely difficult.  Go look at youtube videos on what to make (and what not to make) in Mario Maker for plenty of examples.

There are many things that establish "difficulty" in platformer games. 

There are levels where you must memorize a invisible objects, jump to a place that is off screen, or react with extreme precision.  Very few people like those types of difficulty.  A hard level of "search the entire level for a randomly-placed invisible block that holds the key" may be difficult, but probably isn't fun.

Some people enjoy a challenge where you approach and there are many moving parts to navigate.  Not "memorize this complex path" or "perfect twitch-reflexes required" kind of difficulty, but a series of actions that requires some degree of skill.  As a Mario example, two or three hammer bros working together are a good example of this.  Players can do it, but it requires a degree of skill.

Some people enjoy puzzle challenges.  Think less like Mario, more like Legend of Zelda. Don't do it with off-screen trickery, provide all the pieces in a visible form, and if possible provide multiple solutions.

Some people enjoy stealth challenges.  Other people hate them, so if they aren't central to the design they make a good alternate solution to puzzles.

Personally I prefer when there are a small number of steps involved, and it requires a mix of skill and thinking to overcome. Provide gameplay that is narrow but deep.  That is, provide a small number of elements that players must learn, and find interesting ways to combine them.  Some people don't like that, preferring a tremendous number of options, but it has wide acceptance.

As a Zelda example, provide a small number of tools and then explore many different ways to use them.  Start simple, slowly introduce combinations of tool use, then work up to patterns that require more skill but don't alienate the player's experiences.

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The most common form of challenge in platforming is low margin for error (hence the popularity of the phrase "precision platforming").  If the controls reliably allow for precision, the more skill-ceiling-focused players will appreciate it.

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In summary, precision, and no invisible objects.  I also learned earlier that letting the player get right back into the action instead of having a long checkpoint span is good.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/24/2019 at 11:33 PM, Pepsidog said:

In summary, precision, and no invisible objects.  I also learned earlier that letting the player get right back into the action instead of having a long checkpoint span is good.

Precision is one form of difficulty. Needing to perfectly time a platform to the last pixel before you jump in order to make it to the next platform: that's precision. However, besides precision there's other forms of difficulty in platformers. Having to quickly react and dodge enemies/projectiles as they come at you during the platformer stage definitely increases difficulty. Needing to recognize patterns in traps and hazards within the stage is another kind. You should try to mix it up. Typically if you make something mundane like jumping from one platform to another require insane precision, a larger group of your players will get frustrated quickly. So I'd encourage different kinds of difficulty, unless your goal is strictly to appeal to the target audience that enjoys perfect jump timing.

Edited by Jordan Hoffman

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10 hours ago, Pepsidog said:

So try whatever seems like a good idea in other words.

Sure why not. Or you can just shorten it to "just try whatever"

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