Five all the Way

Magnet (Josh)I’m still hard at work on Turtles all the Way, with the amount of non-graphical/musical things left to do slowly whittling away. The musician who returned from his hiatus continues to send me music, most of which is rather nice.

And now I’m back to thinking about mechanics while I put the remaining pieces of the game together. Honestly, a thought went through my head when I was working on refining the Sync system… Isn’t it a bit too stiff?

A reminder on how the system works: it represents how synchronized the two player characters are. Switching at a predictable time and defeating enemies increases the amount of Sync you have, and switching at a weird time or just dying causes a hit to it. It’s considerably easier to decrease it than to increase it.

That sounds all well and good, but just what is meant by a “predictable time”? At present, it’s a fixed range decided by taking a number and running some simple calculations from it. And, since the number is currently arbitrary and decided during the creation of the game, it gives more or less accurate control over the flow of a player’s gameplay.

But is that a good thing? If we look to why people play games to begin with, you generally find that people game for either entertainment or escapist reasons. Well, not every game is like that, but the genre of game I am making is generally that sort of thing. Neither of those really mesh too well with a tightly controlled experience. In fact, it’s a bit hypocritical to try to control the movements of the players when in a rather free-form genre that lets you tackle things, to some extent, however you wish to.

I suppose where my brain was going with that line of thought was that the hidden number that is seen by the game’s formulae as the “perfect” time to switch should be based off of each individual player’s gameplay patterns. But to what extent? Should it just be the average? The median? Should it just be the centerpoint of the range that’s done this way, or the size of the range as well? How far back should the data used to calculate this stuff be from? If the data’s just plain every switch the player has performed, then isn’t that punishing them for their unfamiliarity with the system when they first started out? At the same time, wouldn’t that make it too hard to influence the number later? Should numbers that are ridiculous outliers be included in the calculations?

It’s easy enough to say that it should adjust to the player, but exactly how it adjusts is a fairly valid question. And then you have to ask if one should make this data transfer over to potential sequels.

A lot of thought can go into a single number that is used in a formula that the player interacts with to receive the results they see on the screen. Arbitrary numbers that lock the player into a specific playstyle are a huge no-no. Don’t take a number for granted.

PSA: The title of this post is a joke regarding the French word for “five” sounding similar to “Sync”, as well as this post being about calculations surrounding a single number.

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