The Troubling Case of Mario Foot
“Doctor, I have trouble stopping and making sharp turns while running. It’s like I have bananas strapped to my feet.”
“Hmmmm……You seem to have a severe case of Mario Foot.”
Have you ever just barely slid off a thin platform in a platforming game? Or skidded right into an enemy while trying to turn the other direction? Of course you have, we all have. But here’s the thing, through hours of research & experimentation* (yes, sadly, many lives were lost in the process) I figured out what causes that last second slip into death: It’s not your lack of skill or an enemy’s magnetic powers, it’s a gaming-physics phenomenon I’ve dubbed, Mario Foot.
If you go back and play many old games, particularly platformers, you’ll notice this odd phenomenon: Characters often have a hard time stopping once they’ve started running in one direction or another. Depending on the game, you may not notice it at first, but pay close attention & you’ll start to see it through the fog of difficulty. But be careful, it’s a veritable gameplay-iceberg sitting right in the path of your good ship Level Progression and it can really ruin your day.
I’m no programmer, but it seems the most logical & realistic way to code a character’s movement would be when you press the directional button, he moves that direction. When you stop pressing the button, he stops. When you press the opposite direction, he moves in that direction since you stopped pressing the other. Even if a character is running, they’d have to be running Sonic-fast for any amount of sliding to be deemed realistic. Unless of course the character is on an actual glacier. Or actually has bananas strapped to his feet.
So this begs the question, why do developers design their games with such slippery feet? Some misguided attempt at realism, trying to replicate the forces of inertia or momentum? Or are they just trying to screw with us, like those quarter-gobbling arcade machines? We may never know, but this is why I laugh whenever someone calls Mario a “solid” platformer. IT AIN’T SOLID IF THE CHUBBY PLUMBER CAN’T STOP HIS FORWARD MOMENTUM! Seriously, Mario should invest in some track shoes or something. Or lay off the mushroom souffles.
*Here’s a bonus video, displaying some of my findings.