Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Platformer Primer

Little Big Planet will turn everyone into a platform game designer - however, it might not make them a good game designer.

So here is a primer on platform games I've put together for anyone who wants to make their game a little better or, more importantly, a little fairer. Enjoy!


Unknown said...

Amazing article! I hope people appreciate these gems!

Scott Rogers said...

I'm glad you liked it. Please tell your friends and send 'em to the design lair!

Jeremy D said...

This is so good. Thank you for writing all this up.

I'm not a developer (I'm an illustrator), but even reading this is just so insightful to the games I play.

... plus I just got LittleBigPlanet! :)

Unknown said...

Excellent stuff, and very lovely drawings :-))

Being a level designer myself I'd love, love, looove to see a similar primer on building levels - wish I could've been at GDC to hear your Disneyland talk.

Thanks again :-)

Thomas, Denmark

Scott Rogers said...


Let me know how your LBP levels are coming!

Glad you enjoyed the platform primer! As you might now know, the Disneyland slides are now posted. Take a look!

Unknown said...

Very cool article. It would have been nice to see this before I released my Dirk Dashing platformer in 2005, but it is nice to see that I did a bunch of things right. I'm working on a sequel right now, so I'll have to revisit some of the other things you discussed - like adding some more definitive and fun moves, a shadow, and the ability to grab onto ledges. Thanks for writing this up!

Unknown said...

Sorry for necroing this comment section, but I always seem to forget to post my question to this one...

I was wondering if you could expand on some of the thoughts behind character screen metrics. Namely:

- How tall the character is in relation to the screen height (e.g., the average for SNES-era games seems to be about 1/5th to 1/6th of the screen height)

- Where the character is placed (center of screen? Bottom half and back third? Etc...)

What are some general rules of thumb to use when finalizing these metrics? And are there any gotchas to look out for? Right now we are just basing it on the enemy count and attack vectors for the typical encounter, but I'm worried we might be overlooking something.


AriesT said...

Funny thing is:
Walking CAN be gameplay. If it is made interesting. Like Jon Blow's (Braid) new game The Witness could provide, when looking at the official images (Jan 2012).

Unknown said...

One of the funniest and best reads I've ever had - and the first one that was hand drawn! Thanks for this post and please don't stop such posts! :)

Unknown said...

Hey Scott

You just blew my mind wide open! I am attempting my fist big venture, a platformer driven by children characters. Two questions:

Should there be a relation to the environment (cave, forest, sky) and to the platforms themselves? I.E. If in a cave, the platforms are rocky: in the sky, clouds.

Any thought on making your highly reccomended book Level Up into an ebook?

Thank you again for sending me back to the drawing board

Unknown said...

So good. Thanks a heap for this

Scott Rogers said...


I'm glad you enjoyed it! I hope you find it useful in your own game designs!

J Windar,

When creating levels, a "common language" always helps the player. For example, in a cave, all the platforms you can stand on can be colored purple while the rocks of the walls can be colored brown. The player will get use to looking for the purple color as a way to navigate around the level. Naughty Dog does a similar thing in the Uncharted games with the color yellow.

Level Up! is available as an e-book! You can buy it for Kindle on Amazon and in PDF form on many sites.


I'm so glad you enjoyed the artwork. If you liked this, then might I recommend my books "Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design" and "Swipe This! The Guide to Touchscreen Game Design" which both feature more of my goofy artwork.


The walking in The Witness, is not the main gameplay. The puzzle solving is. The walking is just a means to an end - a way for the player to get from one place to another.


Metrics always should be based around the character's dimensions. It doesn't matter if the character is small like in Super Meat Boy or big like in Mortal Kombat. What matters is that the player can see what they need to see to be successful at all times, has enough time to react to things around them and never feels like they are fighting the camera or the level design for that information.

Where the character is placed depends on gameplay. An endless runner like Canabalt the player needs time to react, so you will find the player living more to the left of the screen. In Street Fighter, the placement denotes which player is which, in a 3rd person shooter, the player needs to be central to the action as to see enough of the world around them. Start with what type of gameplay does the player do first and then build everything else around the character.

Thanks to everyone for reading this blog!