The Jumping Game

Posted on 2nd Oct 2012 at 09:49 by David Hing with 27 comments

David Hing
You've all played the Jumping Game. Maybe you've only played it once and didn't care for it. Maybe you only ever play it for short spaces of time. Maybe, like me, you have identified its signature across many different games.

More commonly found in first person or third person games that allow some degree of freedom in movement and feature irregularly formed terrain, the Jumping Game is played by trying to jump up something that may or may not be a wall.

Step one is to identify a point that you can see, or sometimes merely imagine to exist, and try to reach said point by scrambling over whatever sits between you and your goal. Occasionally, the game's developer will have thrown you a bone and made it obvious which surfaces can be scaled and traversed with the use of some sort of road-like texture, or just made surfaces classify as either a gentle incline or a vertical wall without any of that speculative middle ground. More often than not however, many surfaces will exist in that awkward penumbra between something that gravity approves of or something it distrusts.

The Jumping Game
Looks like a ramp. Isn't a ramp.

Being an awkward game, the Jumping Game has a high rate of failure, with just enough breakthroughs to keep you playing. The repeated failure of getting onto a ledge or something that looks like a ramp can make you scowl like a mad thing, but actually getting to a point in the virtual world that you're not entirely convinced you're supposed to be able to has an odd if somewhat muted thrill to it.

It's rare that the Jumping Game is played with any major purpose beyond "because I want to get to that bit up there" although can sometimes have a purpose. I first really became aware of its existence in Morrowind, where I ended up playing it almost exclusively as a way to find short cuts to various destinations, because I sure as anything wasn't paying for that overpriced silt strider.

The short cuts would inevitably end up becoming extremely long detours and time sinks. The amount of hours poured into trying to scale a demi-mountain could have easily been used to travel to Mount Doom and back three times, even taking into account the dodgy transport links between the island of Morrowind and Tolkien's Middle Earth.

The Jumping Game
Looks like steps. Might be steps.

The Jumping Game can be found everywhere. I've played it in World of Warcraft, often instigated by particularly hard-to-reach ore nodes. I've played it in online first-person-shooters in an attempt to get to a decent vantage spot, giving opponents the baffling site of someone humping the wall and allowing them plenty of time to ponderously line up their crosshairs. I've played a particularly high altitude version of it in the Jedi Knight games with the assistance of a suped up force jump. I've played it in dozens of third person platformers where I've not quite been able to clock exactly where it is that I'm supposed to go.

In essence, whereas in games I can spend a long time looking for a way into a building before thinking to check for a door, I will spend even longer trying to climb a wall before looking for stairs. Although I was confident I wasn't alone in playing the Jumping Game, I was still surprised to see Guild Wars 2 turn it into a core mechanic.

The first Guild Wars was an exceptionally well crafted, well balanced, carefully designed and in many ways unique game, sitting as some sort of team-based collectible card game in terms of mechanics that lent itself to a highly competitive PvP scene and an extraordinarily deep and re-playable PvE experience. However, I suspect the developers were often criticised for not letting the player jump.

As a result, in Arenanet's sequel to the MMO, jumping is in some respect a focus of the design. Tasks affectionately known as "jumping puzzles", otherwise known with far more expletives and best pronounced to the tune of smashing your keyboard into your desk, basically repackage the Jumping Game, giving you some sort of goal at the top of something which is not obviously reachable.

Cue a lot of loosely structured and frustrated jumping, not-quite-making-the-gapping, falling, breaking, crying and repeating. I'm annoyed with the person who introduced me to jumping puzzles, because I'm fairly certain that they knew that I'd hate them, love them, would be unable to stop playing them, and would be universally terrible at them.

The Jumping Game
That chest at the top is nice, but just getting up there is better.

The Guild Wars 2 community being what it is at the moment, if you stand looking up at a particularly hard-to-reach mountaintop long enough, someone will eventually cheerfully come along and help you find your way up, giving you a companion to fail with, which makes the bone-crunching armour-rending falls all the more bearable.

I hate the Jumping Game with a passion in all the titles I've found it, but I can't stop playing it. If I were to get psycho-analytical on myself, I could suggest that maybe it all stems from a childhood fascination but ultimate incompetence in relation to climbing trees, but really, I just want to get up onto that rock because it's there. I don't need Guild Wars 2's shiny treasure chests, achievements and experience boosts to make me throw my face into a not-quite-vertical wall, I am compelled to do it anyway. Sometimes 'because I think I can do it' is a perfectly adequate player motivation.


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Ripitup121 2nd October 2012, 10:03 Quote
Oh yes, spent many an hour in skyrim playing this too.... epic
proxess 2nd October 2012, 10:09 Quote
You've caught me red-handed. Pretty much every game I've ever played, I spent more time trying to reach places I'm usually not supposed to reach than actually playing the game.
RichCreedy 2nd October 2012, 10:10 Quote
ha, I've also done this in skyrim
barrkel 2nd October 2012, 10:36 Quote
Skyrim pretty much requires it in order to take full advantage of stealth when attacking bigger dragons at lower levels. Those encounters are staged as head-on cinematic things, but stealth characters aren't built for that.

Far Cry (the first one) had a couple of levels that greatly rewarded climbing mountains. Combine that with a sniper rifle and it can make you feel pretty good. It's my preferred tactic in FPSes; get them before they see you, from a place they can't get to, through careful recon and planning. Feels much more realistic - hate getting hit, never mind dying, don't have any Rambo fantasies and think that style of play (which Crysis encouraged) a bit too unrealistic, breaks immersion for me.
Bobman 2nd October 2012, 10:39 Quote
It seems this is the PC gamer's lot in life! I too jump.
Guinevere 2nd October 2012, 10:56 Quote
L4D Dead Air, Runway Finale. Once you learn you can get up on top of the hercules!

Used to take ten minutes of setup to allow us on top, but sweet joy of joys when playing from that vantage point. High risk but a lovely view :)
wuyanxu 2nd October 2012, 11:00 Quote
I jumped all the way up to High Hrothgar on my first play through of Skryim....... it took a while.
law99 2nd October 2012, 11:18 Quote
Wow... same. I spend literally hours doing this. One of the first games I discovered it on was the gameboy Zelda, Link's awakening

I discovered you didn't need to do the bosses to get places. You just had to be really persistent at jumping.

Ever since then, if I play a game with jumping, most of my time is spent repeatedly jumping at stuff in the hope I can ascend it.

The single most frustrating gaming experience I've had recently is playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Many times I would find boxes, crates, bins and all sorts of stuff, stack them up and try to jump into the scenery and make my escape to digital freedom. Only to find once on the platform looking down into my reward I am bound by some sort of invisible force that prevents me from living my new life in the matrix.

Strangely though, I don't like platforming games... go figure?
abezors 2nd October 2012, 11:35 Quote
I just had my entire years worth of jumping in Black Mesa. The ol' crouch-jump is so satisfying to pull off.
Dave Lister 2nd October 2012, 11:37 Quote
I used to play this in the original Crysis on the mountain tops looking for shortcuts.
mi1ez 2nd October 2012, 12:05 Quote
I remember in that HL2 demo they did (can't for the life of me remember what it's called) getting way off into the background and the other side of the bay, and all the houses were 2D! Joyous discovery!
Griffter 2nd October 2012, 12:11 Quote
latest game that i did this was dear esther... u slide so slowly down certain steepish walls/boulders that u think u can jump over this somehow.
steveo_mcg 2nd October 2012, 12:44 Quote
Originally Posted by mi1ez
I remember in that HL2 demo they did (can't for the life of me remember what it's called) getting way off into the background and the other side of the bay, and all the houses were 2D! Joyous discovery!

I remember that, Lost Coast, you could get in the water and out again if you were fast enough not to get eaten alive by the water borne nasties.
cjb119 2nd October 2012, 13:57 Quote
What will be the first game to actually recognize this though? and give you a rope and hook to clamber up these things (not Just Cause style though!
Darkowl 2nd October 2012, 13:59 Quote
I'm amazed that there isn't a mention of the Jump map mods in TFC. They made jumping a precise science. Though I will admit that their purpose was actually to perform jumps.
SMIFFYDUDE 2nd October 2012, 15:14 Quote
CS:S cs_office map
Arma 2/DayZ (not strictly jumping)
Oblivion, Skyrim
and many many others
Guinevere 2nd October 2012, 16:12 Quote
[QUOTE=cjb119]What will be the first game to actually recognize this though?/QUOTE]

Tomb Raider? Wasn't a rope and grapple but you had to search for the jump routes.

But 1996 is probably way too recent as many a 2D platformer used invisible platforms and off-screen 'leaps of faith' which is surely the precursor to what is basically the same technique in 3D
Lance 2nd October 2012, 17:02 Quote
I did this yesterday in WOT, yes World of Tanks.

Managed to get my friend to push my tank up a massive rock that was unpassable, and sat up there sniping and lighting up the enemy tanks.

Was also really fun taking my T44 down the hill at 70 shooting at them when I got bored.
Pliqu3011 2nd October 2012, 17:20 Quote
First happened to me in Zelda: the Windwaker. I just NEEDED to get to those ruins in the background of underwater Hyrule...

Since then it's happened to me in pretty much every game where you can jump, especially Skyrim etc.
Eiffie 2nd October 2012, 17:56 Quote
In Guild Wars 2 in a place called Lion's Arch there's a really legit jumping puzzle/maze section near one of the vistas and it takes about 20 minutes to run through on your first time. Really, really fun stuff, it feels like I'm in that movie, The Goonies!
Eiffie 2nd October 2012, 17:57 Quote
There's even a treasure vendor at the end who gives you some good loot after the ghosts troll you with a boring old chest of MEH items. :)
docodine 3rd October 2012, 02:56 Quote
Non-expandable screenshots, can't tell what's happening
lacuna 3rd October 2012, 11:10 Quote
Ah the rocket jump in TFC :)

FarCry was probably the most interesting game to use it though since it was often useful and the graphics didn't fall apart
gosh 3rd October 2012, 15:48 Quote
surprised no-ones mentioned borderlands - BL2 has some ladders and generally only has chests at the top of hard to scale hills or buildings but the first one had loads of puzzle sidequests involving massive floaty jumps and surfaces that you'd slide down if if you didn't stop running into a wall while trying to angle your next hop.

deus ex : HR was a pain too, plenty of secret routes, gear and advantages to climbing but often i'd stack up crates from all over a level because i was convinced something was up there !
Sloth 4th October 2012, 21:22 Quote
While reading I couldn't help but think of my time playing WoW, then lo and behold the author mentions it! Azeroth used to hold so many little secret places (maybe it still does after being reshaped, don't know), be they easter eggs or areas which players weren't meant to reach. My favorite memory is exploiting the swimming fatigue system to swim from Tirisfal along the coast into an unlabeled zone, then getting stuck in a hole where some dev seemed to have been messing about with the world editor.

I'm now really excited for Dishonored. It sounds like a game with plenty of Jumping Game opportunities. From what I've seen the devs were impressed by what some early play testers were coming up with so I hope they decided to leave in plenty of secret places.
Pinguu 6th October 2012, 16:55 Quote
I remember doing this on Enemy Territory, trying to find ways to get around the map quickly. Strafe-jumping and sliding up tiny 'ramps' allowed you to get to some pretty nice spots- Q3 engine physics were the best :D
jammy_fred 7th October 2012, 01:13 Quote
I have spent dozens of hours playing a *******ised version of this in Burnout: Paradise.

Once we got too lazy to concentrate on racing or completing a challenge for more than 2 minutes we'd instead just spent hours shooting the **** and periodically finding a new parking space.

p.s. After reading this back to myself I feel like I've just described the most boring possible gaming experience ever.

tl;dr: I'm too lazy to play video games.
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