I dare say the first gaming experience most people had back in the day was a platformer. It’s hard to imagine, but back in the day, platformers were like greybrownchesthigh spunkgargleweewee games are today – the default for every game. Some were great, most were not. Those that were great went on to do great things, like Mario and Sonic, and we never really questioned why the act of jumping on things was so entertaining.
The thing is, it’s actually really hard to make a fun game about just jumping. The jump has to feel just right, the level has to be interesting, and to be honest, if the only verb in the game is “jump”, it’s really hard to make an interesting game. Level design is critical in that case, and good level design is mostly invisible – although its right there in your face, you never notice how the first screen of the original Super Mario Bros is a tutorial until someone points it out. Same thing for all the other levels – they feel different, each level has a story it wants to tell, and most of the time you don’t notice that you’re enjoying the story, you just think that the game is “fun”.
I’ve got a brief prototype of my next game up now, running and jumping included, and it’s just… boring. You can’t put platforms willy nilly and expect the game to be interesting – it just doesn’t work that way. And it’s easy to read articles dissecting the Mario levels and appreciate the genius that went into them, but it’s something else to have to be able to make such levels yourself.
Consider the random platforms in doodle jump. Without any sense or order, it becomes a drudgery of finding the next platform, and landing on it. Certainly not interesting in any sense of the word. Sure, people do play doodle jump, but I highly doubt that people find it interesting – probably more as a time waster akin to flappy birds (another random level design game).
Well, working on working on. Hopefully in continuing to design these levels, I’ll get the hang of it!