2006 Revised Introduction
[Note: This unprecedentedly detailed survey of the platform game genre was originally created in 2003 by journalist and game designer Daniel Boutros, but this special 2006 version includes much additional information and is publicly released for the first time.]
After writing this piece, I got an equal amount of heat and praise for it. Thanks to some much-needed critical feedback, I was made aware that there were far too many terms that really didn’t need to be there, so they’re gone, so now some of the data won’t be such a headache to read.
I also realised that there was a need to develop a detailed taxonomy to describe common game elements and at present I’m working toward a project that will address that, though cannot announce it in detail just yet. Some of these processes and measuring standards have also been significantly refined and will be revealed in the next paper.
As for the platform game market, since the writing of this piece we’ve seen the market go more toward a ‘hybrid’ genre, with richness of interactivity in the environment traded off for more crudely (but competently) implemented multiple genres and sub-games. Conversely we’ve also seen a resurgence of late 80s / early 90s era 2D platform gameplay in the handheld Nintendo DS and Sony PSP consoles.
Current darlings of the scene include the simplistic and charming Loco Roco, which has considerable depth in a simplistic control scheme where you tilt the environment to move the lead character. It also contains concepts where you squish the character and split it up to move through areas of a certain shape and size.
New Super Mario Bros is regarded as a hybrid mix of all the best features of Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3, married with completely new concepts and a fully comprehensive two-player mode. The game has achieved excellent reviews and for good measure, I’ve added it to the analysis below, just for comparison’s sake. Though sadly lack a copy and the time to play through Loco Roco at present.
As for overall game design trends in the last few years, games have taken on a philosophy to become more rewarding. Burnout is the perfect example of this, with players being able to unlock hundreds of bonuses, be they titles, pictures, extra vehicles or special areas. It’s rare to find any sports or general action games nowadays that don’t contain a reward at least once per level or every five to ten minutes. Some games now have more unlockables than actual levels.
To end, you may find that some of the conclusion data has not aged well, though regardless, it’s hard not to find something useful in it at the end of the doc. Hope you get something out of this,