# How do I determine the slope of a curve?

I am making a 2D game where the character rides on the curve of a graph. I need to find out whether the player is going uphill or downhill and calculate speed accordingly.

The problem is that I am not sure how to determine the slope of the curve on the point that the character is at.

Here is an example of what some of the curves look like: • Can you how us how you generate / load your curves? – DMGregory May 13 '18 at 20:55
• @DMGregory I get curves from a file contain x y coordinate pairs in a JSON array. I then generate curves by iterating through the array and drawing a bezier curve through every 3 points. – DataPools May 14 '18 at 4:02

Since you use a quadratic Bezier curve to interpolate between threee consecutive points, you can simply use the derivative of the Bezier curve to find the tangent to the curve at a point.

The derivative of the quadratic Bezier curve interpolating between the points p0, p1 and p2 is

B'(t) = 2(1 - t)(p1 - p0) + 2t(p2 - p1)


Simply plug in the value of t for the point at which the slope is to be calculated to get a vector tangent in direction of the tangent. The slope of the curve at that point is tangent.y / tangent.x.

• What do I plug in for t? Is it the x coordinate on the curve that I want to calculate slope at? – DataPools May 14 '18 at 23:26
• You would put in the same value for t as the one you would put in the original Bezier equation to find the position of the point the ball is currently on. – EvilTak May 15 '18 at 9:25

Differentiate it

If your curve is based on a static formula, then just plug that into Wolfram|Alpha, find the one labelled as "Derivative" and that should give you a formula, which determines the slope of the curve at x. Plug the x position of the player in the curve's coordinate system and you get the slope. A value of 5 for instance means it goes up 5 units if you go 1 unit on the x axis.

If you can't do that, because it's procedural, then fake it. Pick a very small value (>0.001 will do it) and get the height of the curve at the player's position, then add this small value to the x coordinate and get the height there too. Subtract the former from the latter and divide by the small value. This is a good estimate (derivation is basically this but with a distance of 0). This won't really work if you predefine the heights, since that wouldn't leave you with enough precision.