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Character position too far right in games

Character position too far right in games
by on (#149717)
Why do so many scrolling games put the player character into the right half of the screen when he walks right?

Image Image Image

Is there any reason for it?

I mean, the really good games always put the character in the middle.
And I would also understand if the place behind you is smaller than the place in front of you (yet, for some reason, this specific variation never seems to be done.)

But this one here is just stupid. It makes the game worse. And unlike good physics, it's not even an issue of being a good programmer vs. a bad/average programmer. The correct character position on the screen is just one simple variable.

So, is there any advantage in doing games like this (except for two player simulatenous games)? Any?
Otherwise, I don't understand why even a single programmer should do the scrolling like this, yet alone the bunch of programmers that actually did it in the countless games out there.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149718)
See also a previous topic from 2011: Best practices for camera handling in platformers

DRW wrote:
And I would also understand if the place behind you is smaller than the place in front of you (yet, for some reason, this specific variation never seems to be done.)

More space in front has been done in several games: Defender (arcade), Stargate (arcade), Starg├ąte (Super NES), Yoshi's Island (Super NES), Sonic the Hedgehog series (Game Gear), and more. Bregalad doesn't seem to like this behavior, however.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149720)
In this specific case, it helps if you're moving forwards but constantly taking a few steps back, otherwise it'll be constantly scrolling which some people think is annoying.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149722)
They do this to briefly calm the motion of the background when the character changes directions. The goal is to make it easier for the brain to process stuff when you're doing back and forth motion by eliminating the scrolling. This might be helpful in close-combat situations, for example. It's easier to see things moving around you when the background isn't also moving.

A lot of games have some sort of calming window for this purpose. Many of them are quite a bit more complicated than that, though, usually also trying to slide the camera in front of the player smoothly so they can look ahead when running.

Whether or not this is a good goal to have, I can't say, because I think it's situational. It may have been a bad choice in many games, but there are valid reasons to do it too. Possibly these games just do it this way because they did not like the feel of a locked-to-centre camera, and this was the simplest thing to implement that wasn't that.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149725)
tepples wrote:
See also a previous topic from 2011: Best practices for camera handling in platformers

That other thread seems to be a bit more sophisticated with topics like "How many pixels should you be able to adjust without the camera moving?"
My issue is a bit simpler since it's just about the placement itself.

I didn't find the specific "character has more room behind him than in front of him" phenomenon mentioned there.

So, I'm still looking for a reason why programmers ever used "SMB scrolling with the x coordinate = SMB x + 32 pixels".


Sik wrote:
In this specific case, it helps if you're moving forwards but constantly taking a few steps back, otherwise it'll be constantly scrolling which some people think is annoying.
rainwarrior wrote:
They do this to briefly calm the motion of the background when the character changes directions.

In this case, wouldn't it be better to put the "no movement" zone more to the left? I mean, you move forward most of the time, so it should be first priority to see what's ahead of you.
And "Digger T. Rock" might be an exception, but most games are left-to-right games where backtracking is rarely done anyway, so the no movement zone doesn't need to be equal on both sides.

The most stupid thing: "Layla" and "Conquest of the Crystal Palace", pictured above, don't even have backtracking.


Another thing:

Why would anybody think at all that the fixed-to-center camera is bad? Literally all of the top games on the NES have it: "Super Mario Bros.", "Mega Man", "Castevania", "Contra" (in 1 player mode), "Ninja Gaiden".
Is there any famous A title that doesn't have it (apart of course from games that don't implement classical scrolling at all, like "The Legend of Zelda").

I mean, "Ninja Gaiden" is a quick game with not a low difficulty, but I've never heard anybody complain that the camera is bad.

So, who are the people that find constant camera movement irritating?

Sure, there will be some smart alecks who, when you ask them, will say: "Erm, yes, erm, I don't like that kind of camera." But how many of them really did say: "Man, the camera in "Super Mario Bros. 3" is not good" when they played the game?

Not liking the jump physics in "Castlevania" or Mega Man's sliding walking style: I believe that this was an issue even back in the day. So, when people complain about it today, this is a genuine complaint that they came up with individually during playing the games.

But I bet most people who complain about a fixed camera adopted this view literally the second they read about the topic. But they never had a problem with it when they played such a game.

I bet it will be hard to find any person who can truthfully say that he considered the fixed camera bad before being confronted with it on a forum or a website.
Everybody who bitches about it now probably never said to himself: "Couldn't they have implemented a more dynamic camera in SMB3?" before he got that idea on an internet forum.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149726)
Although not an NES game, I think the platformer with the best camera is DKC (all 3 of the games, ). Just about everything in that game feels right to me.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149727)
DRW wrote:
The most stupid thing: "Layla" and "Conquest of the Crystal Palace", pictured above, don't even have backtracking.

Layla has a lot of stopping though (enemies will force you to take steps back quite often, and high jumps require you to gather momentum to work).
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149728)
DRW wrote:
So, I'm still looking for a reason why programmers ever used "SMB scrolling with the x coordinate = SMB x + 32 pixels".

What does that mean?
SMB is a weird thing to compare to, since it doesn't allow any scrolling to the left. It's also not quite the simple case of locking to the camera once a certain position is reached, e.g. you can kind of scroll it further by running yourself up against a pipe a few times, and there's a strange smoothing effect when you resume sustained motion.

DRW wrote:
In this case, wouldn't it be better to put the "no movement" zone more to the left? I mean, you move forward most of the time, so it should be first priority to see what's ahead of you.

Some games do have an asymmetrical camera that favour motion to the right. Rastan (arcade) is an example of this. You should be careful to design the left-moving parts of levels with this in mind, of course.

DRW wrote:
Why would anybody think at all that the fixed-to-center camera is bad? Literally all of the top games on the NES have it: "Super Mario Bros.", "Mega Man", "Castevania", "Contra" (in 1 player mode), "Ninja Gaiden".

I think you mean Super Mario Bros. 2? Super Mario Bros. clearly stops the camera when you turn around.
Is Metroid a top game? Is Super Mario Bros. 3 a top game? (These both commits the "sin" you started this thread with.)

I think you should consider it based on what the specific game is doing, rather than make your design decisions based on how many cool games were doing it.

DRW wrote:
I mean, "Ninja Gaiden" is a quick game with not a low difficulty, but I've never heard anybody complain that the camera is bad.

Given the way enemy spawns are dictated by the camera in that game, I think more complex camera motion would have been a detriment.

DRW wrote:
So, who are the people that find constant camera movement irritating?

Sure, there will be some smart alecks who, when you ask them, will say: "Erm, yes, erm, I don't like that kind of camera." But how many of them really did say: "Man, the camera in "Super Mario Bros. 3" is not good" when they played the game?

This is a bit of a strawman. People don't usually complain either way. Players don't normally consider the other options available to the game designer and compare them in their head as they play them. That was the designer's job. Just because the user isn't going to call out a specific decision doesn't mean it's an unimportant decision.

DRW wrote:
I bet it will be hard to find any person who can truthfully say that he considered the fixed camera bad before being confronted with it on a forum or a website.
Everybody who bitches about it now probably never said to himself: "Couldn't they have implemented a more dynamic camera in SMB3?" before he got that idea on an internet forum.

Do you consider SMB3 camera's good or bad? Have you actually played it? Its camera is not locked, it has a calming window just like the other games you were complaining about. The only difference is the window is more narrow.


On a different note, there's one game where I think this kind of dragging window was a perfect design decision: Fez. In Fez, the levels are made of vertical columns that you are kind of rotating around. By having the camera drag behind you as you move to the right, it centres your view on the column, rather than showing you what's ahead (because there's nothing ahead).


In my own game, I've implemented a lock-to-centre camera, but I tried several different strategies before I picked that one. The primary reason for this is because of the rectangular room structure. I want the player to know exactly when they've reached the edge of a room, and the way scrolling stops is a perfect signal for this. A calming zone confuses this signal by stopping the camera at arbitrary places in the middle of the room.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149731)
Sik wrote:
Layla has a lot of stopping though (enemies will force you to take steps back quite often, and high jumps require you to gather momentum to work).

So, in how far would a centered camera work worse in these cases? Even with a centered camera, you can walk back. And high jumps would even work better with a centered camera because you see what's in front of you.

rainwarrior wrote:
SMB is a weird thing to compare to, since it doesn't allow any scrolling to the left.

So don't the two games above and still, the character's scrolling position is not in the middle.

rainwarrior wrote:
It's also not quite the simple case of locking to the camera once a certain position is reached, e.g. you can kind of scroll it further by running yourself up against a pipe a few times, and there's a strange smoothing effect when you resume sustained motion.

O.k., yeah, there are some small weirndesses, but all in all, SMB has a fixed camera. (I don't think the scrolling with the pipe was a conscious design choice.)

rainwarrior wrote:
I think you mean Super Mario Bros. 2? Super Mario Bros. clearly stops the camera when you turn around.

I actually mean all SMB games. Apart from the "no backtracking" rule of SMB1, Mario is basically always in the middle. The camera doesn't lock when he's in position 127 + 32 or something like that.

rainwarrior wrote:
(These both commits the "sin" you started this thread with.)

Interesting. I never noticed that.

However, in the case of SMB3, it's merely four pixels. that he's too much to the right. Put him four pixels to the left and he would be in the middle of the visible screen (not counting the eight empty pixels at the right of the screen).

With "Metroid", it's less than 16 pixels.

So, yes, they do have it.
SMB3 is not worth talking about with its four pixels. Mario is still basically in the center.
And "Metroid" has a light case of the issue. But o.k., it's now the first A title that I've seen that actually has it.

In "Digger T. Rock" on the other hand: If I put him in the middle of a block, we have 9.5 blocks behind him (plus the 0.5 that's always a solid black) and five blocks in front of him. That's a 2:1 ratio.

rainwarrior wrote:
I think you should consider it based on what the specific game is doing, rather than make your design decisions based on how many cool games were doing it.

"Conquest of the Crystal Palace" and "Layla" are both jump 'n' runs without even backtracking. Do you know a reason why they put the character so far to the right?

rainwarrior wrote:
Do you consider SMB3 camera's good or bad? Have you actually played it? Its camera is not locked, it has a calming window just like the other games you were complaining about. The only difference is the window is more narrow, and I suppose the blanking of the 8 pixels on the left side of the screen offsets the window to the left slightly.

That's exactly the reason why I consider SMB3's camera still good. Sure, I complained about characters that aren't in the middle. But we aren't robots that work on pure binary logic, so it should be clear from the context that a character who is merely off for four pixels doesn't bother me. SMB3 is the mildest and therefore most acceptible form of this issue. Mario's position in this game is closer to the centered position than it is to the position of Digger T. Rock.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149732)
DRW wrote:
Sik wrote:
Layla has a lot of stopping though (enemies will force you to take steps back quite often, and high jumps require you to gather momentum to work).

So, in how far would a centered camera work worse in these cases? Even with a centered camera, you can walk back. And high jumps would even work better with a centered camera because you see what's in front of you.

You're fighting enemies non-stop which is constantly slowing you down (and often making you step backwards to dodge their attacks) so you're likely to have to run backwards in order to regain the momentum required for the jump.

In fact that's another very good reason for the late scrolling, because since it can't backtrace, this is needed to ensure there's enough room left to backtrace for those jumps. (honestly I'd rather do the jumps in a different way, but oh well)
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149733)
Ah, I must apologize. You didn't name the three games in your OP, and I don't know them. I presumed they were bidirectional. After trying them briefly:

Conquest of the Crystal Palace, Layla:
Probably just a bad choice, I doubt there's a good reason for it. If enemies in these games came at you from behind a lot, maybe that could be a reason, but this doesn't seem to be the case.

Digger:
This is the simple calming window I mentioned earlier. It's a game that you do move back and forth a lot, but I think I'd agree with you that this is a little too wide.


The SMB camera is a little bit different. It is more complex than the simple case; the thing with pipes may not be directly intentional, but there is a subtle acceleration control on the camera that is certainly deliberate and goes beyond the simplest idea of just letting the player drag the camera when they reach a certain point on the screen. It can actually be exploited to put the player too far to the right too.

SMB2 is a locked camera.

SMB3 is a simple calming window, it's just relatively narrow. (Image attached. The window is actually 16 pixels, I think, but a lot narrower than Digger, obviously.)
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149734)
Sik wrote:
In fact that's another very good reason for the late scrolling, because since it can't backtrace, this is needed to ensure there's enough room left to backtrace for those jumps. (honestly I'd rather do the jumps in a different way, but oh well)

That's a pretty good point. I could easily imagine the developers finding themselves stuck in some level, and deciding to shift the camera to alleviate the issue (easy to implement "solution" vs redesigning other things, maybe).
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149737)
Newer games have started to set "camera policy zones" where the thresholds and things change depend on how far the camera has already moved.

Related article on Gamasutra: Scroll Back: The Theory and Practice of Cameras in Side-Scrollers
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149746)
DRW wrote:
So, who are the people that find constant camera movement irritating?

The constant camera movement is actually a much bigger problem in games that also scroll vertically. In the first level of SMB3, you can notice that the designers thought about this because the game doesn't let you scroll upwards until you have built up the P-meter (which means you're either doing a long jump, or starting to fly as Raccoon Mario).

As for the off-center horizontal camera, obviously it could also be done to make the game more difficult. Super Turrican (on NES) is a very extreme case of an off-center camera, too extreme to be coincidental. Probably it was done to give you less time to react to enemies. (I'm not saying this was the reason in the games mentioned in the original post.)
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149773)
How do we classify the camera in the Street Fighter series (2 onward), and other similar fighting games? It isn't as simple as locking to the midpoint of the players, and looks to implement a similar dragging window, but with two players in mind.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149775)
Any sort of position threshold that needs to be crossed for the camera to move is a camera window. Fighting games also happen to have a sliding camera lock to ensure players don't go off-screen.

Unless it's Dragon Ball Z.

thefox wrote:
As for the off-center horizontal camera, obviously it could also be done to make the game more difficult. Super Turrican (on NES) is a very extreme case of an off-center camera, too extreme to be coincidental. Probably it was done to give you less time to react to enemies. (I'm not saying this was the reason in the games mentioned in the original post.)

Compared against C64 Turrican, it doesn't seem to be much different (if at all), so better ask why it's done in the C64 version in the first place.
Re: Character position too far right in games
by on (#149785)
rainwarrior wrote:
The SMB camera is a little bit different. It is more complex than the simple case; the thing with pipes may not be directly intentional, but there is a subtle acceleration control on the camera that is certainly deliberate and goes beyond the simplest idea of just letting the player drag the camera when they reach a certain point on the screen. It can actually be exploited to put the player too far to the right too.

Yup. Exploited. But you aren't forced to run in the right half of the game. Which is a good thing in my opinion.
And being too much on the left side (like with the pipes) wouldn't a problem to me anyway. I only find it unbearable when you can't see what's ahead of you. Having narrow room in the back is no problem, especially when enemies don't come from behind.

rainwarrior wrote:
SMB3 is a simple calming window, it's just relatively narrow. (Image attached. The window is actually 16 pixels, I think, but a lot narrower than Digger, obviously.)

Yeah, they figured out an acceptable way to do this. Unlike all those B- and C-grade games.
The worst offender is "Wai Wai World" because they didn't adjust for a one player game. Which is strange since Konami didn't fuck it up with "Contra".

rainwarrior wrote:
Sik wrote:
In fact that's another very good reason for the late scrolling, because since it can't backtrace, this is needed to ensure there's enough room left to backtrace for those jumps. (honestly I'd rather do the jumps in a different way, but oh well)

That's a pretty good point. I could easily imagine the developers finding themselves stuck in some level, and deciding to shift the camera to alleviate the issue (easy to implement "solution" vs redesigning other things, maybe).

Yeah, it might be a reason, but it's still unbearable to me. When I look at a game and ask myself if I should buy it, this kind of camera position is an instant deal breaker. I just hate it.

mikejmoffitt wrote:
How do we classify the camera in the Street Fighter series (2 onward), and other similar fighting games? It isn't as simple as locking to the midpoint of the players, and looks to implement a similar dragging window, but with two players in mind.

That's pretty interesting. Yeah, the camera is quite sophisticated. Is the exact algorithm for it actually known?