I chose jumping for this article as I think it’s one of the most basic functions
that has been in videogames since the beginning that is still being used today. Games as old as Donkey Kong and as new as GTA all feature jumping. It has gone from the main gameplay focus in games to one of many options that your character can perform.
Games have changed from 2d to 3d and jumping has remained a constant. Even as games shifted view from 3rd person to 1st person, jumping has hung around no matter what the current trend in videogames. Something so innate to videogames and yet read any videogame magazine and I’m sure you’ll find a review of a game where people are complaining about the jumping. A basic functionality of videogames and developers are still getting it wrong.
I don’t claim to have the perfect answer but when studying jumps in as many games as I could find, I noticed one common thing. How long the character was in the air regardless of 2d or 3d, this determines if a jump feels good or not. How long the player is out of control as their character floats around is very important. Oddly enough good jumps were around the same time and bad jumps were around the same time length.
I fully admit that my tests are not the most accurate in the world but it’s a starting point for a conversation. A conversation that hopefully developers can have with one another as they have their character jump and try to nail that elusive feeling of ‘good’.
My Testing Methods
I took a stopwatch and pressed start as soon as I pressed the jump button. I then pressed stop right when the characters feet touched the ground again. I did not account for any settling that the character may do in the animation. Most games allow for the player to navigate out of this settling animation so I discounted it completely. Also since I have only 2 hands I only tested the character jumping straight up while standing still. Some games have different animations for jumping straight up or jumping toward an object and I did not test those. Since it is a very imprecise way of measuring I repeated the same jump around 8 or 10 times and what you see is my average of those attempts.
Note that a lot of games which I consider to have great jumps have controllable jumps depending on how long you hold the jump button down, such as Super Mario Bros. When testing those I tried to take an average of how long the average jump is performed. Yeah, not the most precise thing in the world but like I said I want this to be the beginning of the conversation, not the end.
My Testing Results
Time is measured in seconds.
First lets take a look at some NES games
Super Mario Bros 1 – 0.75 seconds
Super Mario Bros 2 – 0.65 (I only tested Mario)
Super Mario Bros 3 – 0.75 seconds
Castlevania 1 – 0.72 seconds
Castlevania 2 – 0.68 (looks like they removed the slight hesitation at the apex of the jump)
Castlevania 3 – 0.72 seconds
Contra – 1.03 seconds
Ghosts and Goblins – 0.7 seconds
Ninja Gaiden – 0.9 seconds
Rush N’ Attack – 0.9
Now with just a quick look at these results I think you can see a pattern emerging. Good jumps fall within the 0.7 category, anything longer and you start having a jump that no longer feels good.
Now for some Playstation 2 games
Devil May Cry 3 – 0.75
God of War – 0.69
GTA3 – 1.10
Jak & Daxter 1 – 0.72
Psi Ops – 1.10
Ratchet & Clank 2 – 0.75
Shadow Of The Colossus – 1.10
Shinobi – 0.85
Sly Cooper 1 – 0.8
I won’t lie, I was kinda shocked to see that going from 2d to 3d a good feeling jump remains the same as far as time in the air is concerned. Personally I think that a good feeling jump outweighs any real world animation or scenario that your game is trying to present. Who cares if it feels or looks “arcadey” – players expect and need immediate response when it comes to jumping.
My numbers aren’t the most accurate thing in the world but I think it’s safe to say that somewhere between 0.70 and 0.80 is what most people consider a good feeling jump. Anything longer than this and the player starts to really notice how out of control they are during a jump. Anything less and either the jump serves no purpose or feels even worse than being out of control.