The math behind platform games
I just ran through a couple of well-known platform-games (mostly 8 bit classics) to find out about their ratios in terms of the differents sizes involved. I measured a couple of things, most importantly: the size of the main character and the size of the screen.
I only checked platformers that were well received with the general public (ranging from Super Mario Brothers to Super MeatBoy) or that I particularly liked and remembered. The results are nothing spectacular but a couple of interesting properties did come up:
1. The main character is usually contained within a square. the size of 51×51 comes up a lot (I scaled everything to 1024×768 IPad resolution to normalize everything), it seems to be the sweet spot size for a character at that resolution.
2. In percentages, we can say that the character ranges between 3% upto 7% of the screen width (these are the minimum and maximum values), with an average of 5%.
3. The height of the screen varied the most, ranging from 56% to 75% of the width of the screen with an average of 66%. The height seemed irrelevant, and is probably mostly determined by the given screensize of the particular device.
So what does that all mean? Let’s say you are developing an 8bit styled platformer for the new IPad with 2048×1536 resolution. Your character should then measure 102×102 pixels and the height of your game should minimally be 860 pixels (that leaves a LOT of room for virtual buttons, menu’s, or different resolution support for other devices). Ideally the height would be 1013 pixels (average). Personally I would aim for a full-screen game but a little more than half of the screen has been shown to be sufficient as well.
So there, finally a useful way to apply your basic math skills and learn something about the ingredients of a good platform game as well!