Making Great Mobility Systems

What makes a great mobility system in videogames?

Different mobility systems accomplish different things. Mirror’s edge has a great mobility system relative to the level design of the game, much like Mario 64 does for those levels, Tribes needs a large hilly landscape to really work out, where Quake/Half Life/unreal tournament has one that works for nearly anything.

Everything well designed in games is a microcosm of the trends that create depth. It’s about how many elements of the system remain relevant and non-redundant.

Also interesting to note is the way that movement mechanics can have synergy with other mechanics, like in the case of FPS games, shooting. Mirror’s Edge, Quake, and Half Life all have very poor synergy with shooting, because they all require you to aim your mouse precisely to move fast, either because mouse movement itself controls your speed, or because you need to look at environmental objects, like walls, or the cursor’s position is affected by the movements. If you want to move fast in these games, you need to make a choice between moving fast or shooting accurately, though you can switch very quickly and in half life/quake’s case, you can make occasional shots without losing speed. Unreal Tournament and Tribes by contrast have very strong synergy between advanced movement and shooting. Unreal Tournament allows you to dodge in 4 directions regardless of your mouse orientation, so you can usually dodge around in the middle of a fight without requiring you to stop aiming. In Tribes, you carry your momentum forwards, leaving you totally free to aim while moving fast. Gunz is another good example of this, with movement controls similar to UT, allowing players to focus their fire on their opponents most of the time, especially true given the weapon of choice is shotgun, which gives you a bit of time between shots to look away for advanced movement purposes. Imagine Quake bunnyhops with UT dodges. Fast elegant cross-map movement with viable dodging during firefights. Someone should make that combination, I’m amazed Toxikk didn’t see the opportunity.

Smash Bros Melee, and especially Project M, have an awesome system of interlocking relationships between their movement techniques. Everything has different levels of commitment, range, speed, utility, leaving a ton of tradeoffs. Project M has a few techniques like reverse aerial rush and B-reverse that fill in some gaps Melee left behind. Though crawling is just plain fucked up, especially on Sheik who has an even lower crouch than in Melee.

I’m hoping to make a video on Mirror’s Edge’s movement system in depth in the near future, that should illustrate a bit of what I’m talking about.

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