Analog Variables versus Discrete Ones

You’ve stated before that fuzzy, rather than discrete, variables in games usually make for a deeper experience, because of the range of possible outcomes. But what about when something is made discrete, so that the player has more fine control over it, and greater challenges be presented? For example, in Aban Hawkins and the 1000 (or 1001) Spikes, rather than the usual “control your jump height by holding the button”, they have a button for short, and another for long jump, which allows challenges that would be unreasonable without the precise jump control.

Something I picked up from Monaco’s developer speaking at a conference is that when you have really simple discrete states that they’re easily distinguishable, and easily selected between. That can be helpful for making things clear, having nice and obvious signals of what everything is instead of having it be fuzzy. Depends on what you’re shooting for or if people can even reasonably work with it.

When something is more discrete, it’s not that the player has more fine control over it, they have less fine control over it. It’s that they can more consistently hit the values they need to. That and it becomes less about hitting the range necessary (timing skill test), and more about choosing the right one from the options presented (decisionmaking skill test).

I don’t think I can present an overarching rule of thumb here though, it probably depends based on context.
The other thing is when you separate options discretely you can make tradeoffs that can’t be naturally communicated over a wider value range. Like jumping high versus jumping far (see mario 64), it’s tricky to program an analog system that trades off between the two, but simple with a digital one.

I haven’t played 1001 spikes. I don’t think that the challenges would necessarily be unreasonable with variable jump height. I believe it’s more that they wanted to constrain your options so you need to work around situations where it would be helpful to have a different jump height than the ones you’re fixed with. As well as place a premium on picking the correct jump height for the situation over being able to jump any height between the min and max. This is a valid approach as long as there’s a reason for it and the levels test it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s