Two Guys Arguing

tour de mario – jumping

Posted in ai, challenge, java, mario by youngnh on 08.10.09

My co-blogger Ben and I are working on an entry for the Mario AI Competition 2009. The idea is to develop a Java program that simulates button presses to guide Mario through randomly generated levels of increasing difficulty. The competition is aimed at exploring Artificial Intelligence methods in gaming, but before Ben and I can even get to that, I think a short tour of the code we will be working with is in order.

Jumping is key in Mario. Maybe more precisely, landing is key. Controlling where you land will stomp an enemy or clear a gap. Jumping is easy, landing is hard.

Since this is so integral, let’s take a look at the code that makes Mario tick.

The class ch.idsia.mario.engine.sprites.Mario controls Mario’s behavior.

The tick() method of Mario’s superclass, Sprite is called once for every frame of the game, 24/sec. tick() is pretty simple, it just calls move(), which Mario happens to implement.

The move() method has a lot of code in it — 224 lines — but at it’s core, it just sets the xa and ya variables — x-acceleration and y-acceleration — and then uses them to increment Mario’s current x and y position variables.

move() starts on line 156, but doesn’t start doing anything we’re interested in until line 211:

        float sideWaysSpeed = keys[KEY_SPEED] ? 1.2f : 0.6f;

Mario moves horizontally at a rate 0.6 per frame at normal speed and 1.2 when the SPEED key is pressed.

The jumping code starts on line 234. I’ve left out the conditions we don’t care about:

if(keys[KEY_JUMP] || ...) {
    if(onGround && mayJump) {
        xJumpSpeed = 0;
        yJumpSpeed = -1.9f;
        jumpTime = 7;
        ya = jumpTime * yJumpSpeed;
        onGround = false;
        sliding = false;
    else if(jumpTime > 0) {
        xa += xJumpSpeed;
        ya = jumpTime * yJumpSpeed;

This is the heart of the jump. jumpTime is a frame counter variable, and a jump lasts 7 frames. I’m not positive, but I think that the y-origin is in the upper right of the screen, hence the negative yJumpSpeed. After 7 frames, jumpTime is reset to 0.

There are extra bits of code that limit Mario’s maximum acceleration to 8, cut Mario’s xa and ya to 85% of their value and every frame that Mario isn’t on the ground his y-acceleration is is decreased by 3.

        ya *= 0.85f;        
        if (!onGround) {
            ya += 3;

But it’s enough to figure out where you’re going to land.

I made a couple of mistakes, which are crossed out above, and besides the mention of sideWaysSpeed I didn’t mention anything about horizontal speeds. As you can see above, when you are in the air xJumpSpeed starts out as 0 and you don’t gain any acceleration from it for the duration of your jump. The code that sets your horizontal acceleration regardless of whether you are on the ground or not is at line 288:

        if (keys[KEY_RIGHT] && !ducking) {
            if (facing == -1) sliding = false;
            xa += sideWaysSpeed;
            if (jumpTime >= 0) facing = 1;

which merely sets your acceleration depending on what direction you are pressing.

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