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I'm making a side scrolling airplane game and when I begin going very fast I begin to experience some problems as a player:

  • Elements are not distinguishable, like power-ups from bullets, etc
  • I start to feel dizzy and uncomfortable
  • There isn't enough time to see what's coming

How can I sort this out? Do I use less details in all the grahpics?

Tiny Wings has the same horizontal movement speed as in my game but it doesn't suffer from these problems. Are there any other really fast side-scrollers I could take as a reference?

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I'd say any of the music games - Guitar Hero or Rock Band are decent examples. In the harder difficulties the dots have to come at you faster so they can have enough space between sequential ones to see them apart. The player has still has to look ahead and make quick determinations, and by the end their eyes are doing that weird world-melty thing. I'd say just try to make harmful things more distinguishable from helpful things. –  Orin MacGregor Oct 23 '12 at 13:38
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You should probably study the Sonic the Hedgehog video games. They've been very successful and are quite fast-paced. –  Ricket Oct 23 '12 at 14:01
    
I'm not sure, but I feel like there might be separate answers to all of those and so this might be better off as three distinct questions. –  Josh Petrie Oct 23 '12 at 16:16
    
What's your framerate? –  Laurent Couvidou Oct 23 '12 at 16:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Elements are not distinguishable, like power-ups from bullets, etc

Make them simple color based power ups. Words, letters or even icons may be too hard to distinguish at fast speeds. Make powerups one color and nothing else that color.

I start to feel dizzy and uncomfortable

Maybe you're getting too old to play those types of games :) This is likely a symptom of the other issues, solving those will probably help with this. Lerping movements with the camera and zoom will help with this. Jarring quick motions or quick changes in perspective can induce these feelings.

There isn't enough time to see what's coming

The faster the player goes, the farther out the zoom should be. Many games zoom out when using a boost/afterburners. Since you're going faster you need more time to react. The farther out you can see, the more time you have to plan for what's coming. Additionally, having indicators at the leading edge of the screen may be useful. For example if some kind of obstacle is coming that the player will need to use a special ability to avoid/destroy. Show an indicator at the leading edge of the screen to let them know it's coming before it comes into sight.

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Tiny Wings is a perfect example of a game that does both of those suggestions - the game zooms out a lot when going faster, and there is only one type of power up which is a very distinguishable colour, making it easy to spot against the background –  Justin Oct 23 '12 at 22:32

To make things more distinguishable, I would avoid using graphics with too many details. Instead, use graphics that primarily have a certain color, and possibly apply motion blur. This way, a power-up, for example, might be a blue streak, which should be pretty recognizable.

To avoid motion sickness, if you made the background kind of a fast-moving blur, I think that would avoid the problems of a fast-moving background being dizzying.

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I would also recommend having the background move slower than the foreground, creating a parallax depending on how far the background is supposed to be perceived. –  Orin MacGregor Oct 23 '12 at 14:30

Well, since you didn't tell about your framerate, I'll assume it's pretty low. That would explain at least some of your issues.

Make sure your game runs at the highest framerate possible, ideally 60 fps. When you game starts to get really fast, 30 fps is no longer comfortable for the human eye.

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Why the downvote? I know what I'm talking about here, you can try all sort of tricks, for a fast-paced platformer 60 fps is the rule. Now maybe the OP is aware of that, but he didn't mention it. –  Laurent Couvidou Oct 24 '12 at 12:22
    
I don't know who downvoted but I removed it with a +1. My first thought was: screen remanence(like on those old LCD:s) or low fps –  Valmond Oct 25 '12 at 11:51
    
Good comment. Will try although I think it is more due to graphic complexity. –  Ska Oct 29 '12 at 3:04

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