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Anticipation in Games

Anticipation in games? Balancing a sense of weight with player control? Shadow of the Colossus seems to prove it can be done.

 

Instant response ≠ good control

There are many things that set apart Shadow of the Colossus, but there is one that's rarely mentioned: This game has anticipation, one of the key principles of animation so often deliberately ignored in games.

It is interesting that Ueda chooses not to sacrifice a sense of weight and realism for the sake of responsiveness - his team specifically makes a point of this in a 2006 GDC lecture. When you press “jump”, your avatar anticipates, crouching down, then leaping into the air. When you attack, he lifts his sword before he brings it down upon his enemies…

Most game designers will tell you all control must be instantaneous, a press of a button sending your avatar flying into the air as if pulled by invisible hands, anticipation non-existent… often this is fine, but I would argue *sometimes* this immediacy can be provided just as strongly by anticipation before action.

Seeing the character prepare the movement is enough response for the player to know his command has been obeyed. It changes timing, yes, but if we can get our heads around this in reality, we can in games.

Mario doesn’t need to obey the laws of physics, but when you have a game that purports to be ‘realistic’, movement should be believable, lest it shatter the illusion.

Again I find it interesting that Colossus dares go against this conventional wisdom, yet never feels unresponsive…

 (this is a recent post from my personal blog... going forward, I will be posting some of my games-related writings in parallel here)

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