Cost of Failure


One of the most interesting pieces of game design to me is the cost of failure. That is, when you fail at something in a game, what is the negative impact. For instance, in the original Super Mario Brothers, when you die, you go back to the beginning of the current level, and you lose 1 life. If you run out of lives you start the game over. That was pretty common in the 80's and 90's, but in today's world, that's pretty high.

I've purchased 2 different 2D platforming games for my switch. One is Sonic Mania and one is Rayman Legends. I picked up Sonic because people have said that it's one of the best Sonic games there is, and I used to play them back in Junior High, so I figured I would like it. Rayman is newer, so I don't have nostalgia for it, but again, people have been saying it's a great game.

I would say that the actual gameplay in Rayman is more difficult than Sonic, but because it's cost of failure is lower, it's much more enjoyable to play. There's no limit to the number of times you can die, where Sonic you only get 3 lives. Also in Rayman you tend to not have to go back very far when you die. This leads me to be much less frustrated when playing even though I'm dying a lot more.

There are other simple things than can affect the cost of failure. Having to rewatch some sort of cut-scene or video before playing again can really increase the cost of failure. Spending time on a loading screen waiting to play again is a pretty expensive cost of failure.

There are times when Rayman really plays with the cost. There are some levels where you do have to go all the way back to the beginning of the level if you die. You can tell, that it was very intentional in that design though. Very well thought out.

Sonic is trying to be a 90's game, so it is keeping the cost that the other games from the 90's had. It makes sense, and I wouldn't tell them to change it. It's just an interesting comparison.

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