Tag Archives: Nintendo

Game Ideas: New Super Mario Bros 2 Co-Op

Let me prefix this entry by saying that I’m loving New Super Mario Bros 2 right now. No, it doesn’t necessarily do anything drastic with the classic Mario formula but, since the series is basically a trip down memory lane, I don’t see it as a bad thing. The coin rush mode and the emphasis on collecting coins taps right into my obsessive collector mentality, so I’m certainly enjoying that aspect. The one flaw that keeps nagging at me is the co-op mode. It just feels like it could have been something more than it is. Right now it’s just 2 players running through the same levels as the main game, nothing extra to achieve, with the second player being severely hampered by the single-screen approach of the game. You wouldn’t need to make drastic changes to the gameplay mechanics to make the co-op more compelling; you could just introduce a couple of items to enhance what’s already there.

Collecting coins is the only “cooperative” thing about the mode currently.

Silver Co-Op Coins

Anyone who’s played a Mario game recently has collected the Star Coins in the game. There’s three per level and collecting a certain amount can unlock new paths or item houses. Silver co-op coins could be used as something for players to strive for when they’re playing through in the co-op mode (obviously ;p). These would be coins that are impossible to obtain without the assistance of a second player. Whether it’s a warp pipe that can only be accessed by two players at once, P-switches that need to be pressed by one player so the other can pass a barrier, or areas that can only be scaled by carefully timing jumps off each other, there are a multitude of ways to implement these into the game.

Now, they wouldn’t effect what the player can achieve in the single player campaign. Everything that you would normally do should still be there. The co-op coins would only effect things in that particular mode. They could unlock special co-op only levels and item houses, the same way the Star Coins act in the regular mode.

Co-Op Items

This one might be a little more drastic but we could introduce an item block that could only be smashed by two players at once. Inside this special item block would be some sort of new co-op power up that would fuse the two players together for a short period of time (or longer depending on what it is). The two players would then need to work together to bypass some sort of obstacle that has been designed for that particular power up. Things like a new flying power up that lets you fly higher than normal, a new jumping power up that increases jump height with proper co-op button timing, or maybe a giant turtle shell power up that lets you plow through “indestructible” walls/enemies, could work for this one. Any of these new items could work in conjunction with the Silver co-op coins to increase the replayability of the current co-op mode.

“With our powers combined!…” Seriously, double team/co-op items could be really cool.

There are a lot of ways to improve the current co-op mode (get rid of the single-screen approach for one). The things I listed here are just a couple of quick ideas I had while playing today that I thought stayed true to the older style of Mario Bros gameplay. If anyone has something different or a way to build/improve on what I’ve written, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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Game Ideas: Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale

I keep seeing hands-on previews for Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale where they talk about how fun the game is but then lament the fact that they don’t understand the health system. Personally, it seems simple enough. Your character has a meter. It has three levels. The more damage you inflict, the more power you build up in your meter. Once you’ve built up enough energy, you can unleash a level 1, 2, or 3 powered “Super” and gain a point for anyone you hit with that super. The part that seems to be tripping people up is the fact that you aren’t necessarily making the other players weaker as you hit them.

Build up your meter… then hit people. Doesn’t seem that hard.

Let’s compare this to Super Smash Bros, the game that PAS: Battle Royale will understandably be compared to for years to come. In that series, you have a percent meter. The more damage you take, the higher the percentage goes. Once the meter gets to a certain point, it becomes much easier to knock a character off-screen and score a point. Is this really that much easier to understand than the other? They seem like opposite approaches to the same problem to me. One is about increasing power in your character, while the other is about decreasing power in your opponent. They both offer viable strategies and unique gameplay.

Build up your opponent’s meter… then hit them. Same problem. Opposite approaches.

So anyway, I’m reading/watching these previews and I start thinking, is there a better approach that’s more understandable? Better might be the wrong word but I think you get the point. We can’t just stick a health bar in there because then it’s too much like every other fighter. That’s by no means a bad thing. It just seems like the people at SuperBot were going for something different and I want to try and stick with that philosophy.

The Aura System

So, this system would keep the core of PAS: Battle Royale the same. The three-tiered meter, knock outs only come from supers, and everything else, stays like they are. What this would do is add an aura around the player’s character that would change as they take damage. These are the four aura stages the players would encounter.

Green: This is the players starting aura. It indicates that they are healthy and at full strength.

Yellow: The player has taken minimal damage. It isn’t affecting their fighter but it will if they take anymore damage.

Orange: The player has taken extensive damage. Their character’s movement speed has decreased by 10 (random number chosen. This would obviously need to be playtested to determine the best amount) percent.

Red: The player has taken a maximum amount of damage. Their character is visibly exhausted and their movement speed has been reduced by 20 (same reason as above) percent.

The goal behind this system is to add another dimension to the game, without detracting from what SuperBot came up with. Having your aura depleted doesn’t allow other players to knock you out. They still need to hit you with a super to do that. This system just makes it harder to avoid those supers. Basically, it’s meant to give more meaning to all of the hitting besides building up your super meter (which seems to be the big complaint). Players will want to keep their aura green (or yellow) so that they remain quick and nimble, while at the same time, remaining in the thick of battle to build up their super meter.

It’s hard to say whether or not this would work for the game since I haven’t played it yet but I do believe it would address the concern some sites have expressed and possibly add to the experience. Either way, it’s just fun to think about. Personally, as long as the game is fun, I don’t see the problem.

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The Blue Shell Alternative

Aside from analyzing game mechanics and talking about ideas, one of my goals with this blog is to shine a spotlight on examples of great game design ideas. I was reading some game developer interviews over the weekend and I believe I found one such example. First, a little background.

Death from above

Anyone who’s played Mario Kart is probably familiar with the dreaded blue shell. If not, its an item given to a trailing racer that they can send off to attack the player currently in first place. Despite what some people will tell you, this item is not a guaranteed hit anymore and can be guarded if your timing is right. The problem is that not everybody has perfect timing and getting hit with a blue shell usually happens at the worst possible moment (like seconds from the finish line). I understand the purpose of the item is to keep races unpredictable and give less-skilled players a fighting chance but ultimately, if you are a skilled Mario Kart racer, it usually just feels like you’re being punished.

Easy Defense

Some recent kart racers have tried to remedy this type of problem by allowing their racers to have some form of defense; most notably Modnation Racers and it’s shield mechanic. This type of mechanic brings on a problem all of it’s own though. Any player who is good enough at building up power for their shield/boost meter (which isn’t that hard to do) can block just about anything that is thrown their way. Basically, it helps widen the gap between the player in first and the players behind them. Its almost on the opposite end of the blue shell spectrum because now the skilled players seem to have all of the advantage, making it harder for a casual player to feel competitive. So, what is the happy middle ground to fix this problem?

Please have Ristar, please have Ristar….

Well, it sounds like the team at Sumo Digital may have come up with a simple and intuitive sounding mechanic that falls somewhere in between. I was reading an article where one of the developers was answering fan questions about the new game and, like clockwork, someone asked about a blue shell type weapon being in the game. The developer answered with the following:

“As if we’d put in a Blue Shell. A little faith guys! What it does is drop things in front of first place, you can avoid them, but even doing that will slow you down. It doesn’t however hit you in an unstoppable way with (hardly any) means of defense.”

I read this and was almost immediately hit with a why-hasn’t-anyone-thought-of-this-before feeling (if they have, I apologize. I’ve never encountered it). Now, obviously I haven’t had a chance to try this for myself but, on paper, this sounds like a perfect way of bridging the gap between the two previous examples. Casual players will have a potentially game changing item at their disposal to help them get back into the action but not at the expense of a skilled player’s perfectly played race.

There are some questions that immediately come to mind about how well this method will actually work. How easy is it to avoid these items? If it’s too easy then there’s no point; too hard and we’re back where we started. How often will trailing players get the items? Just how much does it slow you down to avoid it? These are all balancing questions though. Things I fully expect the guys/gals at Sumo Digital to figure out before release. But amidst all of the silly “copycat” talk that is surrounding Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed, I wanted to single out just one of the simple, yet inventive, ways Sumo Digital is tackling the kart genre and one of its’ annoyances that has plagued it for well over a decade.

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