A big part of the inspiration for The Seeker to have a focus on freedom of movement was Mirror’s Edge. It captured the sense of “actual” first-person in a way I hadn’t seen before and the feeling of leaping over huge gaps, looking down and seeing your body and the distant street level, and having a moment of sheer panic was one of my favorite parts of the game.
But I found I wanted a little more control over movement in Mirror’s Edge – as strange as that may sound to anyone who’s played it – especially in situations where the player has to navigate several gaps and vertical paths in succession. As much as I wanted to problem-solve my way through these scenarios, my first plan (bashing the jump button and moving toward my destination) usually worked. And this makes sense: save for a few tricky escape-room-style scenarios, Mirror’s Edge is not a puzzle game. I started pondering methods to add to the player’s control of movement to incorporate situations where, for example, they might need a certain “jump strength” to make it over a gap – or be moving at a certain speed while jumping – or a combination of both variables.
Early attempts involved a bar indicating “jump charge.” Hold the jump button, watch the bar fill, release to jump with that much “charge” added to a base jump strength variable. It doesn’t make much sense for charging a jump to take very long, though, so I found myself just charging the jump for longer than I needed and only jumping with 100% charge. My eyes were also never on the actual bar; they were on wherever I wanted to go, of course! At this point the feature was useless, but I left it that way for quite a while – until a level included a gap that required a certain jump charge, and what was intended to be easy became a point of frustration for me as a player. In this instance, jumping with too much charge would cause me to hit the ceiling and lose forward momentum, and jumping with not enough charge wouldn’t provide enough momentum to clear the gap.
Even after dividing the jump bar into thirds to help make charge amount more obvious and placing it near the center of the screen, I was still struggling to hit the percentages of jump charge that I wanted. This was around the time I began working on sound design and replacing prototype sounds with ones I liked. Using short ticking sounds that play when a “cell” on the jump bar is filled and rise in pitch with overall jump charge virtually solved the problem. The goal is to train the player to get used to the connection between the blips of sound and jump charge before they need to use less than a fully-charged jump, so when the time comes they (hopefully) know what to do.