Saturday, October 1, 2011

Super Meat Boy 64 Dark Worlds 1-2 and 1-3: Difficulty is Difficult to Implement

It is not that there is an inherent challenge in making a game either easy or hard, rather, I would say that the problem is in making the game, whether easy or hard, entertaining. With this mindset, I would say that in my personal experience making an easy design entertaining is far less formidable a task than balancing out a design that uses high-level play fairly to present a hardened player a more challenging situation. Personally, it has always been more fun to design the easy, introductory levels for a game rather than the clever, more challenging ones player's expect to find later on. This is evident in the recent trend in on-the-rails, roller coaster ride spectaculars popularized by the recent single player campaigns of the Call of Duty series. While certainly there is a balanced and fair challenge to be had in the shoot outs, the most exciting moments for the players are always designed to be the scripted scenes where they hope into a helicopter, become almost completely invincible, and then mow down tons of enemies. Perhaps fun on the first playthrough, this experience has little to none replay value. And while it was probably difficult to design visually, the actually gameplay presented is extremely simple and basic.

Super Meat Boy handles difficulty extremely well; while frustration might sink in, the player is always aware that the game's mechanics for platforming are very fair. The level design, as the game progresses, reaches levels of near impossibility. Yet, with enough will and faith, a player who exhibits a high level of play can conquer it. Rykuta and I tried to implement this experience into 3D platforming with our project. Honestly, from all the games I have played, it is one of the few times someone has ever really thought about making a super difficult, twitchy, 3D platformer (though Marble Blast Gold and its sequel Marble Blast Ultra are the two examples of such that I can think of off the top of my head).

And thus, the first time for us to truly display this Super Meat Boy mentality in our project was with the sinister Dark World's 1-2 and 1-3.

Dark World 1-2 is presents large walls standing in the way of previously easy jumps. The players need to master air control to pass through this section.

Spikes make some the more open running space from 1-2 hellish in the Dark World.

The cramped lower tunnels of 1-3 are now filled to the brim with deadly obstacles.

Honestly, Dark World 1-3 was probably one of the hardest levels that Rykuta refurbished. Some of the jumps the player must makes are simply maddening.