Why games should be smooth (Canvas Rider)

There is an aspect of gaming which does not get enough attention. You could call it “smoothness”. It’s connected to the idea of “flow”. Flow is the feeling of being immersed and focused. Flow is like being “In the zone” or “On a roll”. Games are better and more immersive when they allow you to focus on the parts of gameplay which are fun and challenging, rather than the parts which are dull.

When movement in a game is smooth as well as challenging, I’d say a game has good “smoothness”.

You can see how important “smoothness” is when you play a game like Canvas Rider. In Canvas Rider, you control a person riding a bike. You can brake, pedal, and adjust your balance. The goal is to reach the end of the level, and the variety of levels is part of what makes canvas rider so fun.

The levels are made by other users. Some levels are artistic, others are funny, and some are terrible. In a good level, small adjustments to your pedalling and balance let you climb ramps without pausing and land without losing speed. Good levels, to put it briefly, are smooth.

Bad levels are not smooth. In a poorly designed level, it is difficult to build momentum. Ramps are not at the right angles, and there are minor hazards like bumps to slow your progress. These levels are as much a test of your patience, as they are your skill.

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Canvas Rider isn’t the only games where smooth levels work best. Most racing games allow you to move smoothly through tracks. When you get the line right, everything works well, and you can glide through bends as if they were hardly there.

Not every game needs to be smooth, but most which rely on movement can ebenfit from “smoothness”. There are examples in most genres of games. Take platformers: in 2D Mario games, it’s fun to be able to jump smoothly from one goomba to the next. In Sonic, the levels are specifically designed to allow fast and unimpeded movement.

Even frantic shooters are better with smooth movement. Just look at the Tribes series, which is defined by ‘skiing’, the process of timing jetpack propulsions to glide smoothly over rolling hills.

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To get a feeling for the idea of smoothness, play the level ‘100 jumps’ on Canvas Rider. You can find it here. It’s playable in your browser and doesn’t require any sort of download.

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