Looks like we’re on another Youtube binge, ayup ayup. This time it’s another hopeful video constructor asking us to consider the oddity of the score system in the original Mega Man (a.k.a. Rockman).
When you post as many Youtube videos as I do, it’s easy to form opinions about their style. That of “TheRetroDude,” as he styles himself, is interesting, it’s still hyper-edited in the way that so many Youtubers loathsomely adopt, but it’s not nearly as distracting as those. He keeps the volume down, as well as the number of swoopy objects tearing around the screen like a toddler newly introduced to Toblerone.
He has good points about how extraneous the game’s scoring system is too, although his misgivings could be laid against many other games. In Super Mario Bros, score is mostly a spacer before toppled turtles start giving extra lives. I think that score isn’t a bad addition to a game as long as it’s implemented thoughtfully, yet for too long it hasn’t been. Even in the NES days it was included to give players a short term goal to aim for, when they didn’t really need it.
What would a good scoring system look like, one that rewarded skill? Well–
- Losing a life would reset score to that at the last passed checkpoint, eliminating point pressing from lives.
- Extra lives at game end would be worth a bonus each.
- Game timers are worth a small, yet substantial, award at level end, to prioritize fast play over slow.
- Awards should be given for score, most typically extra lives, but others are possible too.
- Replaying levels, and other means of “minting points,” earning arbitrary scores, should be ruthlessly eliminated. If the player can replay levels indefinitely then think about if your game really needs a score, and if it does, don’t allow players to earn more points from replaying them without costing them the points from that last pass.
Two games that come to mind that do scores well are:
- ZANAC on the NES, being a scrolling shooter without checkpointing score is generally fair, although it is possible to warp backwards does break the no-replay rule, and
- Star Fox 64, which only adds a level’s score to the player’s total at its end. SF64 is a game obviously designed around score attacks.
Where was I? Oh! Here is that video about Mega Man’s scoring system.
Mega Man 1’s Really Weird Score System (Youtube, 9 minutes)