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I'm getting my feet wet trying to design and implement a 2D action platforming game. Combat will be a big focus, so I want to have tight ground and air control so players can be precise and express mastery. For now, I don't think I want high acceleration and deceleration times, as I think they detract from a 'tight' feeling control scheme, but feel free to correct me if there's data or examples saying otherwise.

I'm taking a lot of combat inspiration from, and want it to feel like, a fighting game. From a surface level analysis, in many fighting games, most notably smash brothers, there are usually two (or more) speeds of horizontal movement - a walk and a run, a run and a sprint, and so on. Naively, I thought 'well fighting games have it so if I want this to feel like a fighting game I need to have it as well' but thinking about it some more, I'm not sure if its worth implementing. Primarily because I don't understand the implications of having a sprint mechanic or not.

One thing I'm rapidly discovering is that any design question can boil down to 'it depends,' especially on the game itself and what I want to accomplish. If you need more context, my initial idea is to more closely marry the feelings you get when you pull off a new combo or link or discover new ways to use a system mechanic in a fighting game with that feeling of discovery from cracking open a game world in a Metroidvania. So a 2D metroidvania with action/fighting game level combat. My initial thought is sprinting would open up opportunity for dash attacks, maybe some cancels, and make moving around the world easier. It also means more implementation work, because I'm mostly out of buttons, so I'd have to do some sort of double tap or smash-attack-like analog input to work it in.

My main example of two run speeds in a non-fighting game is in some Kirby games, where you can start a dash by double tapping a direction. In the context of Kirby, what does having the dash do for the game as a whole? Would it be better to have a faster base walk speed and no dash? What opportunities would open up if I had a sprint, and what would become closed off from me?

Perhaps a better example, though not in 2D, is Raiden's Ninja Run from Metal Gear Solid Rising Revengeance. It helped him get from encounter to encounter faster, and served as a way to close gaps while under fire.

Initial reaction says that my players will just use sprint to run from encounter to encounter and will miss stuff I put in they might not if they're taking their time. I'd have to put in stuff that encourages the player to slow down, and be intelligent about it so as to not feel like I'm mangling whatever pacing the player is at. I think 'go as fast as I'm allowed to' is the default mode for most players, and that having a variable run speed doesn't actually add much of a choice. I think going fast, especially going fast-er by comparison, is fun, but is it a worthwhile tradeoff? I could offset this with a stamina system just for sprinting or some other artificial limiter, but I think that opens up a whole new set of implications I even further don't fully grasp.

TL;DR

What are the benefits and downsides of having a sprint?

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When there is no downside to not sprinting, then there is no reason for the player to ever take the finger off of the sprint button. You just made the regular speed mode obsolete.

Adding a stamina bar just to limit the sprint duration just adds a limitation for limitation sake. It doesn't make the game any more interesting to play, just more annoying. The player doesn't want to walk. They want to constantly sprint. But because of that damn stamina bar, they are constantly forced in and out of walk mode for no good reason.

If you want to make the two speed modes interesting, then you need to make sure that the player has a reason why they would want to switch between the two modes. You need to add upsides and downsides to both. The upside of sprint mode is obvious: faster traversal. So how could we make the walk mode more interesting?

If you plan to have a very complex combat moveset, then you could have some attacks which work in sprint mode and some which work in walk mode. The walk mode attacks should be very different, but generally a bit more effective to compensate for the loss in traversal speed. You might also want to add a little delay between releasing the sprint button and being able to perform walk moves. Otherwise a skilled player will release the sprint-button for a single frame, perform the attack, and press it again.

You could also look into ways to use the two speed modes for platforming sections. How about sprint mode allowing the player to jump further, but walk mode allowing them to jump higher and/or with more air-control?

I am looking forward to playing your game.

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