Tuesday, July 10

Evolution of Platforming

Platforming has come a long way, from Mario and Sonic to Prince of Persia. As the generations pass, new innovations are made in the platforming genre thanks to new technological opportunities and the precense of past titles to learn from. Two platforming titles in particular seem to represent this very well: Sly Cooper and Assassin's Creed.
Go Sly Go!

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was released for PS2 in September of 2002. Developed by Sucker Punch Studios (also behind the newly announced inFamous), the game had the coolest title ever (and still does), and was met with much critical and commercial success. Assassin's Creed is being developed by Ubisoft Montreal, and is due out at the end of the year for 360, PS3, and PC. Ubisioft Montreal created Prince of Persia (the newer trilogy) as well, which was itself another evolution in platforming.
See the purple trail? Thats your signal to press triangle. It rocked.

Sly Cooper was really an amazing game, and personally both my favorite PS2 title and platforming title. You play as an athropomophic racoon that must sneak through various levels gathering collectables and avoiding guards. The game added a platforming element that had never been present in other titles of the genre before, and that was contextual platforming. Sly could jump and run, but he could also climb up pipes, sidle along thin ledges, and swing down ropes. All of these latter abilities were achieved contextually. When players saw a trail of purple glowing stars, all they had to do was press the triangle button and Sly would "snap" to the object. I tell you what, navigating the levels of Sly was downright fun. Jumping into the open air and pressing triangle to snap to a rooftop felt good.
Platforming ability is not determined by bump mapped textures, but rather in the physical models themselves.

And yet, platforming has evolved. Assassin's Creed couldn't have a more different approach from Sly Cooper. Instead of forcing players to follow and snap to the environment, Creed trys to make things more fluid. Altair, the main chracter (voiced by Holland from Eureka Seven, by the way), uses whats called free running, or parkour to traverse the open world cities. He can climb, grab, shimmy, and jump on, over, and across anything. Ubisoft has created a very dynamic system. If a model, such as a building, in the game world has a ledge that sticks out 3/4ths of an inch, than Altair can grab hold of it. No exceptions. This means that players can run around the world of Assassin's Creed fluidly and in any way they please. Additionally, Altair's animations shift to match the player's movements and decisions. So Altair really looks like he's jumping through the city.

These two styles of platforming couldn't be more different. Is one superior? Not necessarily. Obviously Assassin's Creed features a much more dynamic platforming system than Sly Cooper, but theres something to be said for the solid feel and strategic navigation of Sly Cooper's world. What do you think?

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