Game Mechanics How do you feel about enemies respawning offscreen NES style?

Kyrieru

Member
I'm referring to how in NES games, enemies would often disappear if they went too far offscreen, and they respawn in their starting location if you leave and come back to that spot. I assume this was just a result of how memory was read, but it had some gameplay implications,

-Worst case scenario, it annoyed the player because they kill something, and then move forward only to find that it's back even though they just killed it.
-Best case scenario, it means that if you try to play it too safe by retreating constantly, you have to deal with enemies behind you, which keeps them on their toes.
It also means that if enemies are weak and easy to kill, then it might give the player something to do if they need to backtrack a little, preventing the level from feeling lifeless.

Do you think that such a mechanic would be annoying to players, even if the effect is managed? For example, making it so enemies only come back if you go fairly away, as opposed appearing based on the boarder of the view.
Also, this would be in the context of a fairly linear platformer, where levels are generally horizontal in nature and enemies only take a couple hits to kill.

It would probably also be limited based on the type of enemy. For example large enemies may not reappear, and it may only be limited to small, simple enemies.
 

mobiusdisco

Member
I think it just depends on how strong the enemies are, In an FPS game it might be fairly annoying, in a sidescroller I think they serve a good purpose. I am pro-offscreen-respawn.
 

muki

Member
often fine.

the way I look at it, if the enemy small enough to crawl out from behind bushes or a rock? then the offscreen respawn feels just fine I think, in the eyes of the player. on the other hand, is the enemy large, or is your environment really empty (an open space with no cover), then I think that might feel wrong.
 

NeoShade

Member
It doesn't have to be strictly one way or the other. Look Super Mario World. If an enemy walks into a bottomless pit, it will respawn when you walk away and back. If you shoot it with a fireball and collect the resulting coin, it will never respawn.
 

pixeltroid

Member
IMO respawning enemies would be a problem if:
a) the player had limited ammo. I shouldn't have to waste ammo on enemies that keep coming back.
b) if the respawning enemies are difficult to beat. It just makes things difficult for the player.

If I had unlimited ammo, and if the enemy could be defeated in a shot or two, I wouldn't mind enemies respawning off screen.

You can also give respawning enemies a purpose by making them drop loot or health. That way, I could always come back to them to get something from them. Games like Zelda and Metroid use this method.
 

TehCupcakes

Member
I mostly agree with what the others have written that it's fine if done correctly, but I also find it annoying many times. On the one hand adding a pickup like ammo or health from defeating enemies helps it feel less annoying, but it also cheapens the resource so that it can feel trivial to farm up your stock. On the other hand, if you went through a metroidvania with no respawning enemies then the backtracking would feel very dry with no opposition. It's a balancing act that is very game specific with how you manage to give those enemies meaning.

The one guideline I will suggest: Don't respawn enemies when they go off screen; only when the room transitions.
...unless you have exceptionally large rooms like an open world or something. In which case you still probably shouldn't respawn them immediately when they are out of sight, but only when the player is fairly far away. If you have a small viewport and/or a fast-moving character, increase the range proportionally. The player doesn't want to kill an enemy, make a U-turn, and then 2 seconds later the same enemy is back again. On that note, a time-based requirement might work for alleviating annoyance as well depending on how it's implemented. (E.g. They respawn when coming into view but ONLY if it's been > 15 seconds since they were defeated or something like that.)
 
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muki

Member
There's also the question of the style of game it is. Does the game try to take itself seriously? Is the world logic meant to be at least somewhat realistic? Or is it arcady and "gamey"? This will also have an effect whether or not offscreen respawning feels ok.
 

Zizka

Member
I personally don’t like it. Game design evolves with time and some practices are centrally left behind and sometimes for good reason. Enemies which respawn off-screen is, in my opinion, outdated.

I could see the appeal if it’s to tailor the recreation of a nes game for people who wish to re-experience games from their childhood.

There has been more elegant respawning options since then.

I think some design choices were made to deal with restrictions which do not apply anymore. For instance, you don’t see passwords anymore to resume progress.
 

Kyrieru

Member
I personally don’t like it. Game design evolves with time and some practices are centrally left behind and sometimes for good reason. Enemies which respawn off-screen is, in my opinion, outdated.

I could see the appeal if it’s to tailor the recreation of a nes game for people who wish to re-experience games from their childhood.

There has been more elegant respawning options since then.

I think some design choices were made to deal with restrictions which do not apply anymore. For instance, you don’t see passwords anymore to resume progress.
Yes, but what is the good reason it was left behind? The outdated version was mostly technical, having enemies de-spawn the movement they are offscreen, and respawn the moment you enter their zone. These days, you can control the distance to be whatever you want, be it a few tiles, or width of the screen, and you can be selective about what respawns.
 

Khao

Member
It really depends on the game.

If it's a game where enemies are extremely strong and hard to avoid, and the player just want to go through that area quickly the second time, respawning the enemies would be awful.

If it's a game where the enemies are actually useful to the player, for example, if the main mechanic lets you bounce off the enemies to reach new heights, respawning is an absolute must.
 

Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
If you're interested in WHY this happened on the NES, here's an informative video:

The TLDR is that there was enough memory (barely!) to store two screens' worth of data in the scrolling RAM, so anything beyond that needed to be loaded in as you went along - some games dedicated extra RAM to enemy status, other read directly from the cartridge ROM (which resulted in enemies always loading in even if previously killed)



It depends a lot on a game-to-game basis what works best...
  • Bloodstained (and a lot of the IGA metroidvanias) would have enemies respawn on a per-room basis, and since some rooms are big enough that you can spend 10 minutes in them and others are just a single screen, it works pretty well as a way to add an ebb-and-flow feel to the gameplay (and ensures you never run out of enemies no matter how you move through the map - a pretty big feature in a game about exploring).
  • Bug Fables only respawns enemies when you leave an area, but if a puzzle requires you to do something funky with an enemy, it respawns after just a few seconds (and it's always weaker than the average encounter so you can dispatch it easily if you accidentally engage it).
  • CrossCode likewise has puzzle enemies respawn almost instantly, while regular enemies are on a pretty long respawn timer - one of the game's mechanics is giving you higher rare-item drop rates the longer you can chain together battles, and to have a chance at the best items you need to plan a route through the level so you don't risk running out of enemies to kill!
  • Twilight Princess has infinitely respawning bomb fish / bomb beetles in areas where you need to bomb things to progress... which basically renders resource management obsolete and instantly tells you what the solution to the current room's puzzle is. Not quite fond of this kind of crutch to prevent players from getting stuck...
 
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