Saturday, June 2, 2012

Game Flow - Super Mario Bros.

Stage 1-1, Start

Goal - Mario starts sitting alone in a field. The goal is unclear at this point in the game.
Conflict - A timer is ticking down, and soon enough a goomba will show up.
End State - timer reaching zero, mario getting touched while small, falling, reaching the goal or warp pipe

Reaction - Since this is a player's reaction, it includes reactions to the goals, the conflict and the potential end states. Possible reactions to the goal include experimentation of movement with the controller. The conflict is presented with a countdown timer. Most people would assume that the game ends at the end of the countdown. Even without input and enemy eventually appears and kills the player if they do not react to it. There are too many states to list every possible experiment in this blog, so lets move on.
Analysis - Again, this is the player's analysis of the goals, conflict and end states. It is important to note that reaction and analysis float continuously back and forth and through the decision, unlike a novel which tends to be more linear. Analysis occurs after they react to a to what happens after each decision they make. Such as, "Oh the timer is counting down, well let me try to do something in this game,"
Decision - Decisions are just that. These are things that the player tries to do. Overall decisions are a result of reaction and analysis.

All this is happening within the first seconds of the game. As you can see, the player side is clearly defined, and the game/designer side is clearly separated. I believe that this balance is an example of why Super Mario Bros. is such a fun game. It allows the player to control themselves, instead of letting the game control them.

On a higher level, there is very little control of the overall goals and conflict of the game. The player has the decision of which level is next mostly taken away from them, except in the cases of the secret warp pipes. In these cases, the player experiences a similar state of automation as they do on the micro level. There are designer stated limitations that the player works within to make a decision on how to proceed with the game.

Goal - Get Mario to the end of the last stage. This will include passing by or defeating Bowser.
Conflict - Several stages and bosses until the end of the game. Limited number of lives to succeed before a complete reset occurs.
End State - Losing all lives, reaching the end of the game.
Reaction - Mario automatically proceeds to the next level when the goal is reached. The player has no control over what Mario does once an end state is reached on the micro level.

Analysis - By playing the game, the gamer can identify warp pipes and short cuts and life loops that allow them to manage their gameplay a bit.
Decision - The gamer chooses whether to go through a warp pipe or simply go after level goals.

The overall control of the Mario games is not up to the player in the macro level. They lose a bit of automation. If you look at future Mario games, they like to give the player the ability to control their macro level game play (starting with Super Mario Bros. 3 which introduced and overworld, and improved upon in Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine, where he goes through portals from a central hub).