Late game dancing will go a lot further on the leaderboards than boogieing right out of the gates. Dancing at the end of the level, however, does not come quite as carefree as when you are two steps out of the starting block.
As I suggested in my last article there are more things to learn from Bit Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. Last time I touched on my path of varying engagement with the game, which ended in some heavy lifting for attempts at high scores. This time I want to speak more of a lesson to be learned in that high score grinding end game.
I’ve talked about risk before but today I want to address a different aspect of risk: how the balance of risk shifts over the course of a level.
I touched on the point-scoring last time, but didn’t address the key component to this article. That is, as you progress through the level, you pick up items that multiply all of your scores for the rest of the level. There are four in each level and they give you a score multiplier of 2, 3, 4 and 5 as you gather them.
This means that when you are dodging obstacles or dancing and the beginning of the level you are getting 1,000 and 2,000 points, but by the end of the level you are getting 5,000 and 10,000, respectively. Thus, late game dancing will go a lot further on the leaderboards than boogieing right out of the gates.
Dancing at the end of the level, however, does not come quite as carefree as when you are two steps out of the starting block. Every step you take brings you further from the beginning and thus adds to how much of a setback comes with a death.
Building the Strategy
The stage is set. We understand the escalation of the risks and the rewards. Now it is time to consider what we can do to deal with this.
First, it was important to decide if I wanted to go for a “perfect run” (by which I mean dancing the theoretical maximum amount given the spacing in the level) or if I was fine with sub-perfect runs that would take much less time and could scratch the surface of the leaderboards. If I was aiming to be the best, there wouldn’t be much to consider. I would be dancing constantly and probably dying quite often. That 2,000 at the beginning is equivalent to the 10,000s at the end of the level as missing any dance would take away from that perfect score.
If I was aiming to be the best, there wouldn’t be much to consider. I would be dancing constantly and probably dying quite often. That 2,000 at the beginning is equivalent to the 10,000s at the end of the level as missing any dance would take away from that perfect score.
But that isn’t really what I was interested in. So with that notion put aside let us start building a strategy.
Translatable Skills – Front Loading vs. Back Loading
It’s important to analyze how much the skills I build by practicing the beginning of a level translate to the later tasks. If the skills are very translatable, front loading is an appropriate strategy. In this case I try to master the beginning, making sure I find a rhythm with the dances and dodging and use that as a catalyst to attack the second part of the level.
If the skills are very translatable, front loading is an appropriate strategy.
If skills are not easily transferred to the latter portion of the level, then it makes more sense to try to back load. For example, if there is a unique pattern that is consistently killing me in the latter portion of the level, it makes sense to hold up on intensely grinding the beginning of the level so that I can get used to the segment that is giving me the most trouble. I grab the checkpoint (which I normally skip for bonus points) just to get comfortable with the latter portion of the level.
This kind of consideration is often relevant for me when I’m practicing for presentations. It is natural to start at the beginning when practicing, and I often don’t have enough time to run through the entire thing, so I end up practicing the beginning much more than the end. This is also somewhat self-reinforcing since I get more comfortable with the beginning and have the positive feedback of doing better.
This could turn out well if the introduction is a comprehensive representation of the presentation to follow. Practicing the intro is then solidifying the overarching concepts of the presentation and the rest will cascade from this. But other times, this could be fatal as I never really get to practice the body of the presentation and end up unprepared to add depth to the conversation. Having a weak closing can be very costly as the end is what the audience sees last and it tends to heavily influence their reaction.
There is far more to question about translatable skills, but that will find its own post one day, so I’m going to move on.
Don’t Get Burned Out
When pushing for high scores, I died a lot trying to fit dances where they don’t belong. It’s important not to burn yourself out going for early points so much so that you just don’t feel like working on points later in the level.
I remember one level where there were three very tight places where I could pull off a dance or two. I got so into trying to perfect that early sequence (which point wise was probably only worth a little over 1 dance at the end of the level) that by the time I had done it right a couple times I was going straight into “play it safe” mode where I wasn’t taking chances later in the level.
…by the time I had done it right a couple times I was going straight into “play it safe” mode where I wasn’t taking chances later in the level.
I had a somewhat relatable experience in college. I loved learning and pushing myself in an academic setting at Emory. I may have pushed a little too hard in my early years though, and ultimately was a little burned out for some of the higher reward tasks later in my university years.
For example, I couldn’t get myself to put the required time into my undergraduate honors work and it was much harder for me to push myself to care about the networking and job hunting aspects expected of a business school student. Both of these are more value-added tasks than some of the grades I worked to death to get early on in college.
Memorializing Score or Experience?
Everything I’ve said assumes that the score is the metric of consideration. It’s important to take these lessons with a grain of salt and remember my last topic: finding the right play experience for you. For example, maybe nothing would give you more pleasure than fitting three dances in one tight spot and then completing the level. If that is so, then screw the leaderboard and bask in your moment of success.
I touched on some small examples outside of the gaming realm, but if you think about it, this escalation is quite omnipresent in life. For example, our path through academia starts with very little consequence. Our grades and decisions start to matter a little bit more every year as we climb closer to various goals and transition points.
Often the end of each stage of academia leads to the culmination of past choices and perhaps some stressful decisions that will direct our futures. We pursue different schooling or jobs. Progression in the workplace too is all about taking on more responsibility and reaping the benefits that align with this additional responsibility.
Let me know what you guys think in the comments below. Do you consider this escalation when formulating a strategy for success? Do either of the above sub-concepts strike a particular chord with you? And can you think of any games which particularly resonated with this message?
Thanks for stopping by! Game on and learn on!