Originality all the Way

This week’s Under Your Radar has been delayed to next week due to simply not being in the mood for it. I was also working on a YouTube video, but I appear to have caught a cold, so ‘ll have to wait on that.

Instead, I want to think aloud about something about Turtles all the Way that’s been bothering me. I believe I’ve said in the past that the only somewhat unique thing about it is the Sync mechanic. I was wondering whether or not that’s actually the case, as it makes sense to think about such a possibility when the coding’s gotten as far as it has. I mean, the story and characters are most certainly original (though perhaps not in a good way), but what of the gameplay?

I mean, there are other things that I do with the game that are non-standard, but whether or not they’re somewhat unique depends on what genre the game falls into at the end of development. I mean, the Sync mechanic is similar in concept (though executed differently) to Mystical Chain‘s Coupling mechanic, and Mystical Chain appears to be a 2D platform brawler (or I assume that’s the name for the combination of platformers and beat ’em ups… certainly rolls off the tongue better than other options). That said, Mystical Chain has one fixed screen per level and only has platforming in the sense that you need to jump to certain platforms to hit certain enemies.

Honestly, depending on how I design the levels for Turtles all the Way, it may end up being a 3D platform brawler. At that point, I would say that both the 3D and being able to move more freely and more emphasis placed on the platforming elements, that’s not exactly unique either. Most beat ’em ups involve moving from screen to screen and The Bleed Pixels is a 2D platform brawler that heavily emphasizes both while implementing its own mechanic as well – the ability to create checkpoints as you go.

Why am I looking at games that mix platforming and combat? Well, I did design a whole bunch more attacks than one would typically use in a normal platformer. Remember, each character has melee, ranged and special attacks, as well as each pair having a team attack. Compare this to Mario games, where all you have is jumping outside of power-ups, and Sonic‘s homing attack and spin dash being his only offensive moves outside of jumping. Plus, while most platformers have pick-ups and the like, Turtles all the Way won’t have any whatsoever. But not having pick-ups comes fairly standard for platform brawlers. That’s likely the best place to classify it, if possible, really.

But, seriously, it depends on how I focus the level design. I don’t have very much experience with beat ’em ups (though Code of Princess and Bayonetta (which I picked up for my 360 when I pre-ordered a Deluxe Wii U) will help correct that, and I already have Mystical Chain and Grief Syndrome to sharpen my platform brawling skills), so I may not be able to do it very well. The levitation/flight abilities that come standard on just about every character in the game would also throw a wrench into both the standard platformer and standard beat ’em up formulae, forget both together. Which is another thing that makes it somewhat unique, actually – I can’t think of any action games off the top of my head that allow flight aside from Tails in several Sonic games (gliding doesn’t count), mainly because of how easy it is to make such a mechanic broken.

Speaking of Code of Princess, it has RPG elements in the form of picking stats to increase when you gain a level. I was working on such a mechanic before I’d even heard of the game, funnily enough, though it used the same currency you use to pay NinPiZoRo to revive you, meaning you essentially have to pay for stat increases with your lives.

So Turtles all the Way will likely end up being a 3D platform brawler of some description, with its main differences from most other games of that sort being the use of in-game currency, Sync mechanic, and flight. Does that make it original, or am I merely using gimmicks to feel better about myself? I consider gimmicks to be unoriginal, personally, since it’s basically just saying X with some superficial twist.

The in-game currency balancing certainly doesn’t feel like a gimmick to me – you have to think carefully about to what extent you want to boost your stats, poor thinking will screw you over later from either stats being too low or not having enough lives. The other two, however, aren’t as clear-cut.

If I can design the levels so as to make you too busy to pay any mind to the clock, the Sync mechanic suddenly becomes something quite tense, since screwing up badly makes your multiplier go down by up to 0.33, meaning your stats go down by a third. Sure, you can instantly bring yourself back to decent levels if your next switch is within less than half of a second of a perfect switch time, but chances are you wouldn’t have a good idea of exactly when that is if you were too busy to switch before you started receiving massive penalties. Not to mention that suddenly moving somewhere else to take control of a different character with a different set of attacks can be somewhat disorienting. As such, with fast-paced level design, it can be good for keeping people on their toes. Said levels would also need to be careful to not give you room to stop and wait to switch at the perfect moment, so I’m legitimately considering  respawning enemies (I wasn’t going to do it before).

Flight as a gimmick VS flight as a mechanic is dependent on level design as well, since the question becomes if it’s actually useful for something or just feels as if it’s tacked on for the sake of being there. I suppose it also has combat applications in lifting you away from swarms of grounded enemies so you can get a clear shot off without being hit from all angles, though.

Basically, whether or not the things in the game are original depends on the quality of the level designs, and how well they’re tailored to the game’s mechanics. That being the case, it seems that I’ll still have a lot of work to do after I finish the game’s code, seeing as I’ll need to basically work of the game’s design formula. The thing about unusual mechanics is that there’s nowhere to learn from.