Why does Super Mario jump? It seems a truism question, those that respond to themselves. Jumps because, if he does not, he dies.
OK, very good; refine the question. Why is Super Mario forced to jump by Miyamoto’s invisible hand ? Why do not you just run, fight or swim? He also does all those things, but jumping, of course, is his reason for being . Of the mustachioed plumber and of a whole videojueguil genre : the platforms.
Everything that goes through a designer’s head when he makes a character jump
To answer that question, why the jump is the heart beating, jumping (beat) in jump (heartbeat), we have invited someone who knows a lot about jumping; up, down, diagonally … Lucas González is the co-creator of ‘Flat Heroes’ , a small masterpiece of the Spanish video game that is giving so much joy in 2018 and that can be played on Switch and PC.
Together with Roger Valldeperas , his partner in Parallel Circles , they have created a fascinating video game in which the action heroes of the 80s – the Bruce, the Chuache, the Sly and the Cía – are transformed into colored squares. And they spend canutas jumping in any direction that the player wishes to avoid lasers, arrows and cannon shots represented as mathematical abstractions. Crazy. Crazy.
Lucas – also a professor at the School of Art and Technology (ESAT) in Valencia and former videogame designer at LEGO – has kindly agreed to the challenge set by Xataka: to tell the whole story of the platforms through his leap .
Sonic, Super Mario, Rayman, and also his contribution, ‘Flat Heroes’ parade in this panoramic to one of the genres par excellence of the tenth art.
Although we invite you to watch the video that we left above, we share some of the keys of the jump in the videojuegos of platforms.
The jump in day to day
As the Anglo-Saxons say, it’s the elephant in the room. Something so obvious that we only see it if someone tells us that it is there. Lucas remembers that in our day to day, off the screen, we never jump . But nevertheless one of the central genres of the video game revolves around the jump.
There it becomes clear, already of first, the jump like foreign element, and therefore delivered, to cause the diversion that looks for a game. We jump in the Mario, in the Sonic and even in the ‘Fortnite’ because jumping, as any child knows, is fun, exciting and a scary tad. But that’s what extra lives are for and continue .
Everything under control
The great paradigm shift, as Lucas points out, comes from the classic platforms par excellence: ‘Super Mario Bros’ from 1985 . The fundamental difference between this Mario and the one who dodged barrels in ‘Donkey Kong’ is evident at first sight . The rickety jump of the Italian plumber has been replaced by a huge boost to save all kinds of chasms.
What is more invisible is how Shigeru Miyamoto decided to execute this jump. “The logical”, as Lucas explains. “It would be that keeping the button pressed will accumulate the strength of the jump we want to make and when we release it, it will jump”. However, in Mario this is instantaneous. Why?
The answer given by Lucas is that Miyamoto was a genius, because he understood that the player wants to be in control of the jump at all times. So since we press the button, Mario takes off to the heights and rises as much as we keep pressed. We can even regret and change the direction in the air, applying an impossible force in any real jump, laughing at Newton with a jaw swing.
These counterintuitive decisions , which are felt to be intuitive, are the crux of the question of the design of videogames.
The 1001 faces of jumping
In ‘N ++’ one jumps with inertia, almost like a leaf dragged by the wind. Sonic jumps out of control, after an impossible speed that allows you to travel through time . Mario jumps with control, no matter what the classic, solo in 2D, taking advantage of Cappy, the cap of the ‘Super Mario Odyssey’, as an improvised platform. ‘Super Meat Boy’ jumps against a wall and slides on its own blood to acquire inertia. And the squares of ‘Flat Heroes’, the game of Lucas, are prodigious jugglers. They do it in any direction and they also do it twice.
The jump, the main verb that we analyze in this video and article, has 1001 faces. And each one of those faces is an opportunity. Because everything else, the level design, the traps, the enemies, the trophy list, the advanced tactics, the Easter eggs, are nourished by the specific characteristics of each of these jumps.
Because something as tiny as taking off the feet of the ground has an immense complexity associated with the naked eye. And in that complexity is that elusive art that we call videogame design. At Xataka we want to explore it, word by word, verb by verb, mechanics by mechanics, by the hand of the best Spanish designers .
Today was Lucas and the jump. Who knows what will be tomorrow.