Indoor, Outdoor & Kids' Trampolines

How real is the parkour in games?

(synth music) – Frosti Fresh makes this look easy. But he knows better than anyone how difficult doing a stunt is. In real life or in a game. – ‘Cause it’s not just
what height you hit it. It’s what angle you hit it at,
what momentum you hit it at. It’s a very natural thing
when you’re doing it, but very hard to calculate it. – Frosti fresh is a
world-famous freerunner. He also served as Ubisoft’s
Chief Parkour Officer for recent Assassin’s Creed games. And he’s part of the reason why the movement in those
games feels so good. But parkour in games isn’t just a matter of strapping a mocap suit
on an expert like Frosti. When you dig into it, a lot of work has gone into
the animations, the gameplay, and the world itself to
achieve the ultimate feeling of flow.
– [Everyone] Flow. – That kind of elusive magical aspect where you can take momentum from one thing and turn it into something else. – Flow is a state of mind, a feeling of control that you get from trusting your body
and the world around you so you can just move
without worrying about whether you’ll be able
to make that next jump. – It feels so innate in
our bodies and our minds, and it connects to
something really, really, almost primordial in all of us. – Which is a hard thing to translate into a video game mechanic. How do you communicate a
feeling that’s so physical? – Usually, it’s details, like the music starting
to increase in tempo. – This is Henrik, a level designer on
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and he’s referring to the
game’s responsive soundtrack. – So when you run, we
have more percussion, if you stop still, we’ll
have (mumbles) chords. Basically, you control how the music plays by your actions in the game. – In “Sunset Overdrive”, every song is broken down into sub-mixes, and the layers are added
in as the action heats up. So even when you’re just
climbing up a building, you still get a feeling
of doing something epic. (rock music) That’s not to mention the
sound of wind blowing past you or the Doppler effect you get when you brush past some
chump stuck in traffic. (car horns) There are also visual effects that are so subtle you
might have missed them. “Mirror’s Edge” and “Dying Light” both give you tunnel vision when you’re really hitting your stride to help you focus your attention forward, while more comic book-style games give you actual motion lines
at the edge of the camera. In some cases, the camera bobs more as you pick up speed to give a greater sense of physicality. – All those small things together with a sense of flow or a
rhythm in your movements kind of all ties it together to give you an experience
that is kind of unique. – For “Mirror’s Edge Catalyst”, they had that rhythm down to a waltz. – The player has to do something or the ability to do
something every three seconds, otherwise you get bored or you
get overwhelmed by options. (synth music) (chimes) (synth music) (chimes) – This rhythm is key in
creating a sense of flow. And for keeping you from feeling too frantic or overwhelmed, which is especially important in games like “Assassin’s Creed” or “Dying Light”. – It’s like running on
top of the water surface. If you stop, guess what happen? So you can’t stop because
you gonna be killed. – Adrian and Bartosz are part of the team behind “Dying Light 2”, where every move is a difference
between life and death. When you’re in a flow state, you feel in control of your character, which gives you the confidence to escape a precarious zombie-filled situation. (character yells)
(zombie groans) Feeling in control isn’t so
hard in third-person games when you can always see yourself
and the world around you. But this becomes an issue
in first-person games when your body mostly just
comes down to your hands. – The hands for Faith in first person is, for the majority of the time, our only means of communicating
what she’s doing really. Unless you’re looking
down a lot while playing, which no one is. – [Jenna] So your character
is basically just a camera floating on an orb with hands sticking out like a creepy Mr. Potato Head. But first-person parkour games still give you the feeling of a full body. – So the character has weight. It’s not a camera moving
through the environment, but our character with
a weight, with physics, that has a body. – That weight comes form
making the animations feel as realistic as possible. – So let’s say for example
you’re going over a wall and opening a chest or something. Then you do capture them over
and over from every angle, and it’s a very weird thing to transition almost naturally from doing
aggressive parkour movements into like, and now I’m reveling this treasure. – Frosti’s talking about
contextual animations, which are easy to take for granted because they feel so natural
when you’re playing a game. For every input, the game is making dozens of calculations to figure out what animations should play. So when you press a
button to execute a jump, the game is checking
vectors like your speed, the distance to landing,
the angle you’re moving at, and much more, to prepare the appropriate
landing animation. But despite the variety of
physics-based animations, most of these games aren’t
really going for realism. Although the developers for
the first “Mirror’s Edge” tested out motion capture for Faith, they found it actually
looked too unnatural. – To use motion capture
on a first-person rig is like you, you sort of feel like
you move in molasses. It’s slower than you would
expect your player to move. – So instead, they created her every
movement in animation by hand. And because it was all
done with such attention, the developers could, well– – We could cheat a little because the FOV is limited so the hands can pop up
on the different spots or the body can move outside of the camera in an unnatural way, it still wouldn’t matter for the players. – [Jenna] Not just that, but parkour games cut a lot of corners when it comes to making the
gameplay more forgiving. – We fake a lot of things to
make it look nice or feel nice. Our job is to make you not know that we’re actually helping you out a bit. – And it’s my job to
expose these cool tricks so that we can better appreciate the hard work that went into them. See, Henrik’s talking
about helper systems, which most platforming
or parkour games use to improve the experience
of controlling a character. – One helper system was, you’re allowed to run a
little bit outside the ledge before you start falling. – This goes by a lot of names,
like “ledge assistance”, or more colloquially, “coyote time”. (roadrunner chirps)
(orchestral music) And it’s a common, if invisible
feature, in lots of games. Basically, you don’t start falling immediately after you stop
standing on the ground. There’s a grace period when you can still launch into a jump. And if you jump too early– – We predict where you gonna land. And if we see you just missing
the ledge for instance, then we can adjust that mid-flight, and kind of make you land
where you’re supposed to be. – In a first-person game, it’s easy to hide this because your perspective is so limited. But even third-person
parkour games still do this. “Sunset Overdrive” and “Assassin’s
Creed” use edge detection that snaps your character into place when it detects the right kind of ledge. It happens so naturally, you usually don’t notice
until you make a jump that’s a little awkward. It’s all in service of
keeping that feeling of flow. But if you’re like me, you probably thought you were
just good at these games. And this comes as huge blow to your ego. – We know that you will miss, but unfortunately, it
would look so unrealistic that we couldn’t help you. – Now you know that if you missed a jump and plummeted to the ground, you didn’t mess up a little, you messed up a lot. Flow doesn’t just play a part
in the body and how it moves, it also has a huge effect on
the design of the environment. – I call it hills and valleys. So usually when you enter a new place, you stand on top of a hill
looking down on the environment, and it’s a way of us
introducing a new area. – [Jenna] Not only does
this build a sense of pace, like the ups and downs
of a rollercoaster– – It’s also a good way of letting the player take
in this new environment and plan their steps ahead. – If you have a sense
of where you’re going, you don’t have to stop as
much to find your bearings. Which would seriously stutter your flow. The world for a parkour game needs to unfold slowly for new players to give them time to step up their skills. “Sunset Overdrive” starts out with areas that are relatively open, with long lines and easy bounces. As you get more movement
options and develop your skills, the levels get bigger. As you progress in “Dying Light”, more and more loot spawns on rooftops and those rooftops get
higher and higher up. The designers also need to
remove any ambiguous elements to cut down on the frustration of trying and failing to
interact with an environment. In “Dying Light”, every wall that you can climb
is no higher than 3.3 meters. – You don’t have to try, you have to know. This is our rule. – [Jenna] So once you’ve played the game and get a sense of the scale, you immediately know if you
can or can’t climb something. – By making it more directional,
making it more exploratory, it gives you a better sense
of you doing something even if you’re just holding
down the sprint button. – Basically, the more
active your character is, the more in control you feel. The more control you feel, the more connected you
are to your character. And all of this makes doing cool stunts feel super satisfying. A good parkour game makes me feel like I can
swing from buildings, break through glass windows, and confidently leap off Zeus’s ass. – I also think it’s what makes it fun. Because if all of the characters
that we played in games could just do what we could do, then we would just go
out and do it ourselves. – Well, speak for yourself, Frosti. (upbeat music)

Reader Comments

  1. Between this and Pat's explosion video, you're really hitting us hard with this "videogames have always been lying to you" thing 🙁

  2. I love this video essays! Jenna is amazing as always and the experts you guys are bringing in to explain stuff are awesome as well! Very cool to take a peek into the videogame magic. 🙂

  3. In case you're wondering, YES, that is the same Michael "Frosti" Zernow who appeared on Survivor: China

  4. 1:36 HOLY S***! And i thought Nier Automata did amazing music sound engineering (it still does but damn, just imagine if EA didn't rush Mirrors Edge Catalyst into the terribad ending with no sequel in sight)

  5. Flow was the reason I got into Warframe, but sadly flow alone isn't enough to keep me personally tempted to log in.

  6. I don't think I consider being able to jump a second after stepping off a ledge as assistance, I think that's just realistic. If you're going to jump a gap are you going to jump when your head is vertically over the ledge or after you've leaned past it a little, pushing off of the very edge?

  7. Why do women like looking like a crosss between random 90s surfer and Norman Bates, with a punk rock twist while maintaining the persona of most boring person ive ever met?

  8. I’m excited the Games Feel a Good videos are back, but the sudden change to sitting at a desk instead of standing is weird for me. I know it’s for the sponsorship so you can have the computer in front of you, and that the things I’m saying aren’t really meaningful in any way, but,

    I didn’t know how to finish that sentence.

  9. Fun fact… Most videogames i play i have some of the skills represented in game to a certain degree in real life… In some cases(like, fighting skills… I cant fight like an action game character… But if we take lets say… Hand to hand skills in skyrim vs my hand to hand skills after years of martial arts and combat sports, i would be the best brawler in the whole game no doubts!) i get frustrated of how bad the epic character is at basic skills… Like… Why the fuck does most videgsmed have no way of slipping punches and doing evasive footwork? Why cant i kick someone when they stand squared to me and sit them on their ass? Why cant i just climb that small wall that is not higher than my chest? Why cant i just crawl under that obviously tall enough obstacle for me to go under it? Why cant i just swim!

    Then i notice the infinite stamina… Surviving fatal things by waiting it off, etc… And im thankfull its not more realistic xD

  10. I would get into a fight with whomever tried to convinced me otherwise than polygon has the best video crew on the internet. Just love every one of you a lot.

  11. this is stupid……..everyone knows that to pull off any of these easy stunts, all you need to do is scream "PARKOUR" BEFORE each jump which then triggers the Parkour motor skills central nervous system to take over and perform the stunt for you.

  12. i will never stop admiring how amazingly smooth the environments in mirrors edge: catalyst are. it’s become my go to game to relieve some of my anxiety because even the fights end up coming across almost choreographed, something i can’t find in other games. for instance, assassins creed was my introduction to parkour games, and as much as i love the series, the fighting always comes off so clunky in comparison to the parkour mechanics it makes it more difficult for me to enjoy in the same way.

  13. I appreciate the flow of the video with Jenna giving us the illusion of interviewing artists real time. Keep up the great work!

  14. Bored now.
    You got one more video to do something that doesn't reek of corporate sponsorship fodder, and BDG or no… I'm out.

  15. you think i don't know the game is "assissting" me? assassin's creed, especially, every environment feels super contrived and you can see the character gravitating towards the "right" place to land, even if that's not what you actually want.

  16. What? HELL yea! What??!?!
    Polygon this content is so good. it makes me so happy and i leave feeling smart.
    but also i feel like a big stupid idiot because these people's whole job is making me feel cool with explosions and pushing me onto edges i missed like im their needy stepchild
    but ty for these vids ily

  17. Also, maybe a video about side quests in games? Is there people whose entire jobs dedicated to writing them specifically? Thanks!

  18. Dying Light was the first game I played with free running in it and it just WORKED. It felt so smooth, and so perfect.

  19. The real question is why rolling in original mirrors edge slows faith down when in real life rolling after a jump can actually give you a sick ass speed boost as you get up

  20. For all that don't know, if you play any level of competitive game and start to win streaking and feel in the "zone", you're also experiencing a level of flow. Even in video games.

  21. Part way through the video, but I want to say Warframe has replicated at least a part of real life parkour, which is seeing a good line through some obstacles.

    The movement itself (it’s called bullet jumping in the game) is more like jumping and gliding, but the awareness of space feels similar.

    Edit: Just wanted to add that Warframe replicates the feeling of parkour with more “video game” style movement that allows more consequence to failure but less hand holding and frustration. If you mess up you’re just a little slower, there isn’t any weird animations or dead stops.

  22. Original Mirror's Edge was great fun. Even though I unfortunately leave a lot of games unfinished, Mirror's Edge was one that I played through to completion years ago.

  23. 0:25 Till AC:Origins I assume. I really like AC:Unity now that it is all polished up. I prefer the style, gameplay and graphics of that game above all the more recent AC entries like AC:Origins and AC:Odyssey

  24. the freerunning/parkour was one of the few redeeming qualities about AC:Unity, and it has never been as good in subsequent games. Plenty of other improvements in them, but the climbing was never again as good.

  25. I'm curious about how the opposite mechanics in a (theoretical) parkour game about a beginner could be fun and informative; anti-flow, or the innate fear from not trusting any of your limbs, the frustration at not quite being strong enough to do a move yet, and the intense satisfaction of doing something, however tiny and literally centimetres from the ground, that you couldn't do last time.

  26. no game has a better flow than spiderman. when i first picked it up and it first gave us control of peter i fully ignored the fisk disaster to swing around for a while, the entire time saying "whoooooaaaaaaa oh my goooooodddddd oh my god oh my goooooood" out loud

  27. It would be nicer if in this kind of videos you try to find more women and black peoples that are involved in games.

  28. edge detection ruins parkour in assassin's creed, it makes you jump where you DON'T want to, it's not a assistance, I prefer to die because I jumped at the wrong direction than wasting time because this "assist" made me jump to the wrong roof.

  29. I remember back during earlier Assassin's Creed games you had to hold circle to activate the "pity help", otherwise your guy would just jump right past a railing that was a bit too high to land on, instead of grabbing it and pulling himself up. That was my "oh shit, i missed a jump and now am plummetting to my immediate death. Hold Circle and try to hold on to literally anything" button.

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