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This term represents what varieties of gameplay skill are required to achieve goals in the level – mandatory or otherwise.
Mandatory = actions that are required to complete the level.
Optional = actions that are not required to achieve progress in the game.
These actions could be anything from getting to a HTR area to grab some finance, or simply exploring the environment around you - climbing a tree for the sake of it, or kicking some fruit around for fun.
Results show that Sonic 2 and Super Mario Brothers 3 contain the most gameplay. They both contain approximately 27 types of challenge within their first 5-10 minutes of play – and in their particular instances, that’s the very first stage.
[2006 Addition: I went through these again and realised that SMB had 34 types of gameplay and NSMB had 39.
Also the greater majority of these tasks are rewarded upon completion.
Results also show that in the first few minutes of play in a game, the most popular task types are:
Least occurring were predictably the title unique actions. Sonic 2 and Sonic Adventure have a large number of momentum and inertia based navigational puzzles, which no other game uses.
SMB3 has a range of actions specific to it’s enemy types and power-ups – like flying with the racoon suit, using the fallen shell enemies as projectiles to attack other enemies, or for breaking the bricks in the level.
2006 Addition: Same goes for NSMB with it’s Giant Mario power-up and traditional Mario staples.
Another observation is that current generation platformers have a smaller variety of actions within their first moments, with Mario Sunshine presenting the most at 20 and Jak the least at 10.
The first 5-10 minutes in Mario Sunshine and Jak and Daxter are essentially tutorial levels and a majority of Mario’s initially permitted actions are unrewarding – like climbing up trees to find nothing, breaking boxes to find nothing and navigating structures to find – you guessed – nothing.
Sonic Adventure has the most exciting first moments of the next-gens - being that it contains 17 types of action and the majority of these are rewarding, as opposed to being ungifted actions.