There aren’t enough games where you hit things.
I’ll grant you, in something like 60% of all games you direct a character to punch, kick, or spin attack something. The other 40% involve shooting. Punching or shooting, that’s it. Those are the video game verbs.
What about Tetris you might ask. That’s both. Shapes shoot from the top and punch the bottom. It’s obvious really.
But how often have you just hit something? Head on crashed right into it, on purpose. How often was that impact satisfying. Rarely? That’s what I thought.
The problem is this. It’s really hard to do. A computer can very easily and efficiently detect when two volumes are intersecting. You can register that as an impact. You can then have the computer output a response to that impact. It’s feedback, but it isn’t often that the two events seem directly connected. You can see the canned animations and you can feel the unconvincing physics. It all feels a little ‘simulated’.
There are a few games that get close. Crashing cars in burnout is visually impressive and is very satisfying, but you either feel like the impact was light and the response was overly spectacular or the impact was impressive but more of less out of your control. Sometimes colliding in Rocket League feels pretty good, but only sometimes and it seems more of a luck thing than a lined up, planned out hit. Running into the ball (more of a bounce than a hit) always feels pretty good though. I will also say that I am bad at Rocket League and maybe there is some pro tier way to hit in a satisfying way.
Flatout, Wreckfest, and other collision focused racing games will have a good feeling impact every once in a while, but more often than not everything just feels a little bit like it’s happening underwater.
So far I have only really talked about car games, because those are really the only games where devs spend a lot of time polishing the hits. Full body contact sports like Hockey and Football have enjoyed video game re-creations for as long as there have been video games, but I have never experienced a simulated hit that felt anything like actually playing either of those sports.
Here is a strange thing about me. In everyday life I could be easily labeled a pacifist. I own that. I have never been in a physical fight that I started, and I have never, ever, sought one out. But, when I play hockey, I like to hit people. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t go out looking to hurt anyone and it’s been years since I have actually played full contact hockey, but I like the feeling of running into another person intentionally to push them off the puck. I think maybe it’s because when playing hockey everyone is on equal ground and they are trying to do exactly the same thing to me. No one is angry that you ran into them, they expect it, and likewise I’m not angry that they ran into me. In fact, it’s fun. We have all agreed that in this rink for this hour or so everyone can run into everyone else, while sometimes moving very fast, and that’s okay.
Video games have a lot of things running into other things, a lot of characters that smash through the world with wild abandon. Very rarely have any of them ever felt as fun as colliding with a real person in real hockey. It might take me awhile, and I might never get there, but that is the feeling I’m chasing with the game I’m working on. The simple fun of hitting something.
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