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I'm working on a 2.5D platformer prototype that aims for an open feel while maintaining familiar core mechanics.

Now, there's some obvious challenges with creating a non constricted feel in a spatially constricted environment. What I'm interested in, is examples of how game designers deal with the "here's a level, beat the bad guys/puzzles to get to the next level" design that seems so natural to most platformers (eg. Mario/Braid/Pid/Meat Boy to name a few).

Some ideas for achieving openness I've come across include:

  • One obvious successful example is Terraria, which achieves openness simply through complexity and flexibility of the game-system
  • Another example that comes to mind is Cave Story. Game is non-linear, offers multiple choices and side-stories
  • Mario, Rayman and some other 'classics' with a top-down level selection. I actually really dislike this as it never did anything for me emotionally and just seems like a bit of a lazy way to do things.

Note: I've not actually had much experience with most of the 'classical' console platformers, apart from the obvious Marios/Zeldas/Metroids, since I've grown up on adventure games. By that I mean, it's entirely possible that I simply missed some games that solve the problem really well and are by some considered obvious 'classics'.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Check out Metroid Zero Mission, if you can. The game has a linear "default" path, but also was designed to include paths for much more advanced players (including dramatically changing the boss order), so-called, "Sequence Breaking". \$\endgroup\$ Nov 6, 2012 at 1:47

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You mentioned Metroid in your last paragraph, but I would point to that game as the best example of an open-feeling 2D side scroller. Castlevania II also did this well (the others were more linear).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why is this an answer and not a comment? You didn't explain how this game achieved its "open-feeling", nor did you give any references to people/blogs that explain it. Would I have to play the whole game to understand your answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – kurtzbot
    Nov 6, 2012 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question asks "give me examples". You can argue that the initial question is kinda poor, but this is certainly an answer to that question. I did in fact make this a comment at first, but switched it to an answer when I reflected on what the question asks. I also set my answer to "community wiki" because of what you said, it's just listing examples without any explanation. Is there a way to set the entire thread to community wiki? \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Nov 6, 2012 at 14:04
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One of the best platformers I've ever played, Shadow Complex. They built a giant 2.5D environment, and put in events that advance a plot. But the player is utterly free to explore. A player receives "experience" perks from playing the game enough, such as unlimited special weapons and tools. And those allow a player even more freedom on subsequent playthroughs.

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