Dev reveals the many ways their tough game secretly helps the player

Celeste is an excellent platformer that can get pretty difficult, depending on the challenges that you take on. Creator Maddy Thorson recently took to Twitter to detail how the protagonist’s movement actually works, and it’s a fantastic look at how developers fudge mechanics to empower the player even as they make mistakes.

Thorson clarified that they did not invent any of these techniques, but having them all together in a single game certainly helped give Celeste a unique feel, even among a sea of other platformers.

“Coyote time,” for example, gives players an extra moment to finesse their maneuvers.

If you hit an obstacle along the way, Madeline, the character you control, will course correct a little:

Wall jumps, meanwhile, don’t always require you to actually hit the wall. I’m shook.

The full thread is worth perusing on Twitter, where Thorson goes into some advanced mechanics that may also be of interest. I played plenty of Celeste, and experienced many of these phenomena first-hand, but it was difficult to verbalize what the game was doing that made it so forgiving, even as it was killing me over and over again. The effect was that while I’m not typically a huge platforming savant, I felt encouraged to keep trying, eventually graduating to the more difficult Strawberry collectibles and other bigger (but optional) challenges.

“You might have noticed a pattern!” Thorson remarks at the end of their thread. “All [mechanics] centered around widening timing/positioning windows, so that everything is fudged a tiny bit in the player’s favor. I think this is a big reason why Celeste can feel kind even though it’s very difficult — it wants you to succeed.”

Celeste may go farther than most, but it’s hardly unique in fudging its own rules to help the player through tough spots. BioShock, for instance, gives you a couple of seconds of invulnerability when you’re near death — but before you even get to that point, the enemies are programmed to miss their initial shots. At this point, I’m wondering if any of my video game achievements are real … and maybe it doesn’t matter.

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