Remaking Rayman: Camera, character, controls

In the October issue postmortem of Game Developer magazine, designer Chris McEntee writes about what went right and wrong when Ubisoft revived the Rayman franchise with Rayman Origins.
Ubisoft's 2011 hit Rayman Origins was a textbook case for how to reboot a classic franchise. In the October 2012 issue of Game Developer magazine, designer Chris McEntee explains how focusing on the three "Cs" -- Camera, Character, and Controls -- were key to Rayman Origins's 2D platforming success. Here are some choice extracts from McEntee's article in the next issue:

On the three "Cs"

At Ubisoft, the 3 "Cs" of a game (Camera, Character, and Controls) are the most important thing to define and maintain because they are what defines the player's experience throughout the entire game. When the control of the main character feels wrong, when the camera just doesn't cut it, or when the character animations don't provide good feedback to player inputs and in-game actions, the overall experience of the game world feels awful, even if the level design is outstanding. This is especially true for platforming games, as they are entirely based around the player's handling and control of the player character to deftly maneuver through troublesome terrain. The better the character feels for the player, the quicker they will feel attuned to their avatar. With Rayman, we combined hand-drawn animation with fluid movement metrics to create our unique style of control. The UBIart framework was not developed specifically to create a Rayman game, and it wasn’t until the basics of the engine were up and running that Ubisoft decided to create a Rayman reboot. From there, the artists defined an animation style for him, and when they felt that his movements looked fluid and fun, the programmers ventured to craft the in-game movement metrics to match the fluidity and timing of the animation. The player mechanics were designed and implemented iteratively, and the animations were changed and tweaked and thrown away until the 3 Cs felt perfect. Only once the main character was finished and comfortably fun to control did we begin working on level and gameplay element design. This worked out well: Rather than making levels and designing the character mechanics concurrently and having both influence each other (which would potentially water down the 3 Cs to compensate for the level design metrics), the team knew the character felt great and just needed to build levels that he could traverse with the use of his skill set and metrics. While the team did end up making changes to the 3 Cs later in the development process to fine-tune them, the Rayman that was functional before production on the game began resembles the final Rayman by more than 90 percent.

On boss fights

Out of all the content that Rayman Origins boasts, the boss fights in the game are far from the best part of the experience. Apart from the odd chase sequence or Moskito shooter boss fight, the rest are quite lackluster and require little skill to defeat; the player simply has to meticulously memorize an otherwise unpredictable pattern, and then hope that there isn't another phase afterwards. The other issue with the boss fights is that there is a lack of clarity not only in the patterns, but in the creatures themselves. For example, each boss has its own weak spot that appears from time to time. This weak spot is always placed on top of the creature, whose entire body is otherwise deadly upon contact. What this means is that even if the boss is in a temporarily stunned state, if the player misses the weak spot and touches the boss, they are hit and possibly killed. This is very unclear for a player, and something that should and could have been addressed back when the bosses were being created. A boss should also be there to challenge a player's understanding of the gameplay mechanics they have been taught during the previous world. Let’s take the punch power Rayman learns in the Jungle world of Rayman Origins. The first boss of the game, Poor Little Daisy, should have been designed to challenge the player to master the punch ability in a high-tension situation. That way, players can walk away feeling like they have mastered the punch ability, and no matter what is thrown at them in future levels, it will not be their lack of ability to use the punch that will slow them down. Instead, Poor Little Daisy simply required the player to employ the wall-run ability learned in the sixth world of the game to avoid Daisy's patterns until she hurt herself and revealed a weak spot, which could also be jumped on, rendering the punch entirely optional. The bosses were developed by a more isolated space of the dev team, where some consistency issues were able to go by the wayside. Unfortunately, this left the player with sub-par boss fights, which, through a few simple design choices, could have ended up far more understandable, relevant, and ultimately a lot more fun.

More in the October issue

The October 2012 issue of Game Developer magazine is now available via subscription and digital purchase. This issue also features a detailed look at the process of closing a development studio, trends from the SIGGRAPH 2012 show floor, and more. You can sign up for a digital or physical subscription combo for the magazine now, or download the Game Developer iOS app to buy individual issues. (Individual digital issues are also available via our store.)

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