Watching SGDQ 2015 over the past week helped to prove two things to me. The first is that regardless of the game, watching someone who has devoted their time into mastering anything is mesmerizing regardless if the game was Tetris: Grandmaster, Mario: Lost Levels, or Super Noah’s Ark 3D. The second that should be apparent is that playing a game quickly is hard. To have small (1/60 – 5/60 per second) frame windows to inputs, mastering complex rhythm sensitive button combinations, and knowing how to react to during long sessions of concentration is something to admire. But some games can be made to be played faster, like the video below:
Rockman 4: Burst Chasers is a rom hack of Rockman 3 played at a high gameloop and that speed makes all the difference in terms of difficulty with the game. Think of strapping a blaster to Sonic and throwing him into the Megaman world.
The game was intended to be played at the pace and speed of Megaman, fast enough to get and understanding of the world and decent enough time to react to it. Throw Sonic into this world and it becomes a chaotic mess. The only thing that a player can do is to try and take it slow, like Megaman would, until you develop the reaction enough and are comfortable enough with RockSonic to run through the world at the speed that RockSonic was intended to run at, or memorize the game world to know when to do what action.
In fact, this is a much similar paradigm that Sonic 1-3 took with much of its game. If you memorized the levels or had god-like reaction time, you were rewarded with the high-route, the easy route with less obstacles in the way. If you had bad reaction time and less able to cope with the speed of Sonic games, then you were forced to play in the lower route, the slower route.
The one change they made to Rockman to have this paradigm shift was to give the Rockman Sonic-like speed and the game becomes incredibly hard. But what about the opposite? You have a game that has a set pace and slow it down? You have the reaction time to notice, plan and react within the slowed cycles of the game but you’re forced to wait longer for this to happen before you can move onto a new set of obstacles.
There was a post a while back about Super Meat Boy and its level of difficulty. The big reason that rage-quitting was mitigated for much of the harder moments of the game was two-fold, 1) knowing why you did something wrong (meaning that you can easily learn what to do to complete a level) and 2) having a fast retry loop so failure becomes less of a punishment and more of a learning experience. Maybe that was me that talked about it, I can’t honestly remember anymore.
So back to RockSlow. You slow the game down a bit, you plan for things and execute around these things a certain pace but you’re forced to wait a little bit to make sure things work before moving onto the next obstacle. Would you feel challenged? Probably not. Would you get feel stimulated? Gradually no. Would you get bored? If I kept playing, yes. If you wanted to keep playing, would you want to? It would feel like inching through a line in a convention to be honest. You wait a long time to be able to do a thing for a substantial short amount of time only to get back into a new line and repeat the cycle.
Adding speed to a game can make it challenging if the gameplay is still possible, but reducing that speed to something slower than what feels well-paced isn’t the opposite. The opposite of speed isn’t ease, but frustration.
Blaugust Day 3