A Lament for the Jump Button

FieryTrainwreck

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Shaun Kennedy said:
Context-sensitive actions in games seem to be the new king, and while I don't really fault game developers for it, as it is the inevitable step in streamlining the game, I feel it strips away aspects of challenge.
I don't think contextualized action gameplay necessarily strips away challenge (although it certainly can do so). Rather, I think it strips away my sense of agency and control. Most everyone detests QTEs for this reason, but I think we give a lot of modern action games a pass despite doing similarly disruptive things. I often feel like I'm not so much playing these games as I am initiating a series of disjointed micro-cinematics. The first time you press X and your character executes an intricate, well-animated maneuver, it's all "WHOA". The tenth time? You're twiddling your thumbs waiting to regain actual control of the game. I'm finding that I now prefer games with simpler actions because they correspond with fewer and shorter instances of "control loss".
 

ProtoChimp

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I feel the same. I always thought it was strange how I could never jump in Dragon Age or Fable, Fable had specific moments where you could vault over fences and down ledges but that was it. Dragon age Inquisition added a jump button and I had no idea just how much of a difference it would make. I can attempt to actually climb up that steep hill rather than it just be a prettier version of a brick wall telling me I can't go that way.

Even when I break the game and jump out of bounds, it still feels more real than the trail set out for me type of games.
 

Zhukov

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I kind of prefer having no jump button, or replacing it with a climb/vault button, in games that are going for the realistic look.

Seeing people bunny-hop around in my super-serious games does not improve them.
 

Evil Moo

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Feb 26, 2011
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As a rule, anything that gives me more control over the movement of my character in a game is a good thing in my eyes. Even if there is no reason to jump in a game ever, I would probably opt to keep the option that allows the player more expressiveness through their play over only ever having the bare minimum control needed to make the game functional.
 

Teoes

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Zhukov said:
Seeing people bunny-hop around in my super-serious games does not improve them.
I picture you playing yer vidya games, hammering the B button or space bar or whatever it is and loudly cursing. "Why is this fucking wanker jumping around all over the place like a fucking wanker?!"
 

kris40k

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I can understand the removal of the jump button in some games, but I disapprove of it. When a game designer gives the player the ability to jump, it causes them to have to design the game with that ability in mind. Not just in th e manner that they expect gamers to use it, but in the multitude of possible ways that they could. Otherwise the player gets stuck on geometry, falls through walls and floors and otherwise gets themselves into places that they shouldn't be. If the ability to jump is not core to the gameplay, then it is simpler to avoid those embarrassing situations by removing it.

Now, I personally believe that being able to simply jump whenever I want to (not context sensitive) is one of the most immersive bits of gameplay. There are much more small details that help, such as when I started up Morrowind, blasted a table with a fireball and forks, plates, and all sorts of debris scattered to the wind. That effect was not instrumental to the game, but its player agency to do junk like that makes me feel like I am actually in control of something in the game. Being stopped by an shin-high wall because my character can not jump is gamebreaking to immersion for me because it is such a "simple thing"[footnote]Not implying that there is not a lot of technical complexity that can be caused with free jumping.[/footnote].

I picture you playing yer vidya games, hammering the B button or space bar or whatever it is and loudly cursing. "Why is this fucking wanker jumping around all over the place like a fucking wanker?!"
"Who keeps putting buckets on everyone's head in my damn Skyrim game?!"
 

aozgolo

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Zhukov said:
I kind of prefer having no jump button, or replacing it with a climb/vault button, in games that are going for the realistic look.

Seeing people bunny-hop around in my super-serious games does not improve them.
Well jumping animations always could be improved. I never once felt in Shadow of the Colossus that Wander was making ludicrous movements, it felt natural.

kris40k said:
I can understand the removal of the jump button in some games, but I disapprove of it. When a game designer gives the player the ability to jump, it causes them to have to design the game with that ability in mind. Not just in th e manner that they expect gamers to use it, but in the multitude of possible ways that they could. Otherwise the player gets stuck on geometry, falls through walls and floors and otherwise gets themselves into places that they shouldn't be. If the ability to jump is not core to the gameplay, then it is simpler to avoid those embarrassing situations by removing it.
This is very much the point I feel, you have more control in how you can move through the world so it becomes an issue of "how can the player now break the progression?" Games with larger budgets like Sandbox games can do this. Skyrim actually rewards clever players who jump their way to the top of things. Grand Theft Auto has hidden easter eggs all over you can reach, and so on. For smaller games where the world is more linear, and intended to present itself in a set manner, giving the player more ways to circumvent the given path probably means more work and testing for the developers.
 

Ravenbom

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I mostly miss the jump button because everyone knows: jumping makes you run faster while performing fetch quests.

I don't really miss the jump button myself. I am curious how high I could jump with sword, armor, shield, loot and items on my person though.
 

GabeZhul

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Zhukov said:
I kind of prefer having no jump button, or replacing it with a climb/vault button, in games that are going for the realistic look.

Seeing people bunny-hop around in my super-serious games does not improve them.
Agreed, with the added emphasis on the "realistic" part.
I see no problem with jumping in a cartoony platformer or an action-RPG involving superhuman protagonists, but any game with even a modicum of realism? No.

I mean, have you guys tried jumping lately? The human body is not built for it, especially not for the vertical kind. In real life you do not jump onto boxes or ledges, you climb.

As for the other side of the problem, as in "everything is about contextual button presses now", I say it's a good idea with oftentimes bad execution (see the Mass Effect sprint/action/take-cover/vault-over-cover button being the same), and I mostly blame multi-platform-development for that.

It's because controllers only have a limited number of buttons while games are getting more and more complex, so developers often have to compromise and make one button do multiple things. In case of your generic action game, you have a few commands that you cannot overlap (shooting, opening a menu, crouching, reloading, the hacking/magic/whatever-gimmick of the game, etc.)

Jumping on the other hand is a very contextual thing to do to begin with (unless you are one of the bunny-hoppers that ruin the immersion of every MMO ever), so mapping it to the "action" key, another contextual button, is very tempting.

Then someone realizes that "Wait, taking cover/melee attacks/hacking/etc. are also contextual!", so they add more and more functions to the "action" key in order to free up the other buttons to do specific and/or unique things. At the end of the day, whether that is a good or a bad thing depends on how much sense the developer and how much tolerance the player has, and whether or not the gimmicks of the game are good enough to justify giving them their own buttons on the first place.
 

runic knight

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Why is it the only game with platforming elements I can think of tat had both a free-range jump button and a dodge-roll button was kingdom hearts? I must be tired or something, that can't be right at all. Hell, even Dark souls doesn't have a jump button per say, more a hold run, then tap it and hope it launched your chaarcter where they need to go. There is something fun about being able to jump and get into places you not suppose to be. Though, I suppose, that is the point of the removal, yes? Why have character freedom and player ingenuity when you have to have cinematic scripted events?
 

scotth266

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Stripping out the jump button (as frustrating as it may be to the player) makes sense from a design standpoint, because you eliminate a lot of annoying problems and cut down on the number of things you have to perfect.

Much like any other movement-based animation, jumping takes a lot of work to perfect: and if you don't do it right in an action-adventure game it can feel really awful (for a good example, see Assassin's Creed: jumps in that game glitch out a LOT). As a result, it's often a lot simpler on developers to simply remove it from the game - especially since jumping serves no real purpose in a game unless you intend to have a lot of free-movement platforming sequences. It also keeps the player from hopping all around the map, which can sort of ruin the atmosphere you're trying to build or allow them to skip content by jumping over it. It also reduces the number of frustrating "that totally looked like a jump I could make!" moments.

I'm personally a fan of jump buttons, but there are reasons that people don't incorporate them.
 

happyninja42

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Shaun Kennedy said:
There's no jump button.

This can't be right? Games like Thief have tons of high flying leaps and death defying jumps. Yet there is NO jump button.
I'm assuming you mean the modern remake of Thief? If so, then yes, I too share your lament for the jump button, considering that the first Thief games had a jump button, and it made for some really fun dynamic play. New Thief, you can't jump at all, unless scripted to do so by the environment. Screw that game, it frustrated me more than a game has any right to, for how much it butchered my beloved series.
 

loa

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That's because precision 3d platforming is misery and thankfully devs now understand that.
 

remnant_phoenix

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Adam Jensen said:
Yeah, I always notice when games lack the ability to jump. When I saw that The Witcher 3 had a jump button I flipped out. It's amazing. But the last Tomb Raider had a jump button too as far as I remember. If not, then the movement is so fluid I didn't notice that you can't jump. Nah, fuck it. It had a jump button I'm sure of it.
I remember the last time I had an "OMG! I can jump!" moment. It was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Your avatar reminded me of it.

I still relish the moment that I stacked up metal barrels to jump-climb a fence that I wasn't supposed be able to get past without level 2 hacking or the strength upgrade for moving dumpsters. I couldn't remember the last time I felt that clever in a video game.
 

Bad Jim

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Ambient_Malice said:
You can blame Ocarina of Time for contexual/automated jumping design in third person games.
The fun part in Ocarina of Time was that there were some skulltulas that were just out of reach and you couldn't simply jump to get them. What you had to do was get your sword out and target something else so you could backflip into them. So much for simplifying the controls . . .

Okay yes I know you could just come back later with the boomerang/hookshot and get them, but it was clearly trolling to have skulltulas just above our heads with no jump button, especially since you wouldn't know about those items on your first playthrough.
 

Diablo2000

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I been having the exact opposite with Dragon Age Inquisiton, now there's a jump button and for some reason has being bugging the well out me... It's not help that at very first hours I didn't rebind it and it's bindded to space bar which was the pause time button for combat in DAO and DA2, so in the hour of desperation I ended pressing the jump button instead of pause time button and my character would hop all over like a bunny on drugs before my brain registred that I was pressing the wrong button.
 

ArcadianDrew

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I think the lack of a jump button in modern action adventure games is probably to do with the fact everything is mo-capped in these games now. Back in the day, animations were not as realistic but that meant that the characters could do things like jump vertically or make very sudden, sharp turns, which - when you use mo-cap, would look unnatural. I think the most obvious for me is in Arkham Asylum, Batman feels like a tanker to turn, but if he could turn sharply (like say Dante in the original Devil May Cry) then it would end up looking really weird with all the mo-cap they do now. I think the same is probably true with jumping, just straight up jumping would look unnatural so they need contextual animations to make it look smooth and more real.

Well, that's my 2 cents anyway.
 

moosemaimer

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Happyninja42 said:
I'm assuming you mean the modern remake of Thief? If so, then yes, I too share your lament for the jump button, considering that the first Thief games had a jump button, and it made for some really fun dynamic play. New Thief, you can't jump at all, unless scripted to do so by the environment. Screw that game, it frustrated me more than a game has any right to, for how much it butchered my beloved series.
Holy hell that game annoyed me, especially because they made "climb up onto object" the same damn button as "dash forwards." You're trying to sneak around behind someone and vault up onto a box before they turn around, and you end up shoulder-charging straight into them because you pressed the button before the prompt appeared.

I honestly would've been happy with a new setting plastered over Human Revolution, but that game infuriated me to the point I gave up on it after only a few levels.

remnant_phoenix said:
I still relish the moment that I stacked up metal barrels to jump-climb a fence that I wasn't supposed be able to get past without level 2 hacking or the strength upgrade for moving dumpsters. I couldn't remember the last time I felt that clever in a video game.
I don't know if "clever" is the right word, but in Half-Life 2 I was completely stuck after defeating the helicopter with the airboat... it wasn't until my 2nd or 3rd playthrough that I found the gate on the far side of the area. I wound up pulling barrels out of the water and stacking them up next to the dam so I could open the floodgate and proceed.
 

Ieyke

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I love jump buttons probably more than the next guy. To me, not having a jump button in anything resembling an action game is usually an unforgivable sin.
But, honestly, I can't think of a game with less need for a jump button (even though it DOES actually have one) than the Assassin's Creed series.

They removed the need for a jump button entirely. Navigation is utterly free form and unbound from the limitations that are normally addressed by a jump button.
Jumping in Assassin's Creed is automatically woven into your movement. Everything you do makes you jump if there's something to jump to....which there basically always is unless you're standing in a big flat space.