Watch Game Maker’s Toolkit On Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst

The RPS gang sits around in our secret treehouse every day, chatting about the things we’d like to post more of to the site. One of those things is, “Nice things what we read/watched/heard elsewhere on the internet.” Sure, we already have the Sunday Papers, but wouldn’t this be a more interesting, enlightening, day-brightening corner of the internet if we occasionally pointed and yelled, “Look over there!”

So here, look at YouTube series Game Maker’s Toolkit. Particularly, look at this video of Mark Brown explaining what Mirror’s Edge Catalyst should have learned from Burnout Paradise.

I like this video not only because it agrees with me, I swear:

It’s also because it agrees with John.

To summarise: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst trades the linear levels of the first free-running-’em-up in favour of an open world, but that open world is poorly used. Story missions mostly take place in external locations that can’t be reached at any other time; delivery missions are awkwardly communicated via stand-about NPC zombies; collectibles require you to abandon all your momentum; and the open world funnels you down a few corridors again and again, presumably to hide loading times. Burnout Paradise meanwhile was an open world racing game that found ways to introduce collectibles and side missions and story missions all without taking you out of its world or breaking the flow of the fun you were already having.

Mr. Brown does a fine job of articulating and illustrating these differences over the course of the ten minute video above, which is part of his ongoing Game Maker’s Toolkit series. In each episode he breaks apart an element of game design in order to explain how and why it works. The videos are consistently good – and you can support them on Patreon, should you wish to see more.

If you miss our own Cogwatch or Fail Forward, these might scratch a similar itch.


  1. Vandelay says:

    What happened to Fail Forward? Season 2 appeared for about 2 episodes.

    These are a great alternative though. This chap knows what he is talking about with game design and they should be mandatory viewing for all current and wannabe game designers.

    Also worth mentioning is MrBtongue who has a very low output, but constantly makes great videos on games and other bits.

    • Baines says:

      I’ve found Game Maker’s Toolkit to be fairly hit-or-miss. Some are really good while others miss the point to varying degrees.

      I recall his video about RE4’s adaptive difficulty failed to address the various shortcomings of the system. He painted it as some subtle secret, when it was rather quickly discovered by fans. In his praise for how great it made players feel, he didn’t touch on how some players got upset when they realized what the game was doing.

      While the Mirror’s Edge video hits some good points, I felt that he underplayed other issues in the title in order to oversell the importance of his POV about the open world. (Near the beginning he outright pins Catalyst’s lower review scores on that one point.) I also noticed that some of the commenters questioned some of his claims about how Catalyst “failed” in its open world.

      • Marcus says:

        I think in these “Deep Dive” videos he gets more personal on the subject.

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      Graham Smith says:

      Fail Forward came to an end because Marsh was hired by Mojang.

  2. Stellar Duck says:

    Wait, Mirror’s Edge 2 is out? When the hell did that happen? I thought it was like half a year away?

    I’m assuming it was a smooth launch (or nobody bought it) as I never heard about it at work.

    Egg on my face for missing it though.

    Is it good?

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I also forgot it was out until this article came out. Talk about a whimper and not a bang, right?

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Yea, a whimper indeed.

        I’m genuinely shocked I missed it. Both because I was somewhat looking forward to it (the first one is one of my favourite games) but also because it’s sort of my job to keep on top of game launches.

        It’s so unreal that this just came out and had no idea.

    • RobinOttens says:

      From what I’ve gathered; It’s good in a lot of the ways the first one was. Good story missions, great movement and atmosphere and music. But it trades the crappier parts of the first game (story, gun combat, length) in for some new downsides. Like the implementation of the open world mentioned in the article.

      I think it just got overshadowed by other releases and wasn’t ‘new’ enough to warrant any more attention than it did.

      • suibhne says:

        On balance, Catalyst is probably a bit better than the first game. But the storytelling is cringeworthy awful (and I do mean the storytelling, not the story itself, which is more forgettably/enjoyably bad), the beginning is ho-hum, and the final two missions are by far the worst in the game. It left a pretty disappointing impression (recency and primacy, etc.), and I regret buying it now rather than wait for a 75% sale in the fall.

        And yes, Dying Light is about 1000x better – in terms of parkour, but also mission structure, world creation, even narrative delivery.

  3. SkyeF says:

    I really like this video cause it puts my major complaint into words. Good words. I played the Beta and got intimately familiar with the first couple sections of the map. I also thought it would be more fun to play without runners vision, and it was most of the time. But I found myself getting lost too much outside of the story missions and eventually, I just used the fast travel system. Which is ridiculous. For a game like this, I should not have to use fast travel to get to enjoyable content.

    That said, its still a great game that I enjoyed immensely, and I’m planning on getting a three star time in all the time trials

  4. Jason Moyer says:

    I liked Catalyst well enough, primarily the missions that took place on their own maps, but the open world and floating icons were completely unnecessary. I’m not sure how anyone could look at the first game and say “what this really needs is to Ubisoft’d up, plus we should add forced combat because everyone loves that, and let’s make it a reboot”.

    It’s pretty clear that most of the changes between the games were done entirely for the sake of people who didn’t like the first game (it’s not open world! omg that story! y does teh combat sux!), and I don’t understand why publishers consistently do this with existing IP’s. All you’re doing is alienating a segment of your established fanbase, and if you’re not making the game for that fanbase why use the IP at all.

    • Xocrates says:

      The fanbase includes more than the people that enjoy the game for the same reasons than you. Some people saw it as a racing game in which case the linear levels make more sense, some saw it as a game about traversal and in that case an open world could be seen as a good idea.

      I did enjoy Mirror’s Edge quite a bit, and very much thought that open world made sense in the context of the game. That Catalyst failed to implement it successfully (or apparently improve on its predecessor in any of the obvious ways) is not a problem with the concept.

  5. Orix says:

    Just finished Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst’s main story and the majority of side missions and collectibles.

    The main missions and story were good fun, the story is a really daft hollywood logic romp that I very much enjoyed. I’m also a big lover of scavenger hunts in games, Catalyst challenges you not only to find things, but to figure out how to get to them, making the open world full of little puzzles.

    My own peeve with Catalyst was that timed missions (such as dead drops, timed delivery, distractions and covert timed delivery) all had very strict times within which to achieve the run, which meant replaying them over and over, this ruined my outlook on such, so that, even when buffed up with all upgrades, and my knowledge of the city had improved, the timed runs just weren’t fun. I liked doing some of the rated runs, whereby you could earn 1-3 stars on how fast you ran, as they were generally more lenient, but these lacked the flavour text of the covert/fragile deliveries.

  6. Jerykk says:

    He’s correct in that figuring out where you need to go without using Runner Vision is hard. However, you can still turn it off and complete the game without it. Doing so just requires a much better knowledge of the city’s layout. Because the game takes place almost entirely on rooftops, there will naturally be dead-ends or circuitous routes you have to take to get where you want. Learning the map lets you avoid these.

    I think the biggest reason why ME:C has seemingly failed in terms of commercial and critical reception is simple: it isn’t novel anymore. The original game was unique when it came out. It was a first-person parkour game with a female Asian protagonist and a very distinct aesthetic. ME:C is just more of the same. Many reviews complain about the fact that the side-missions are primarily time trials but anybody who actually enjoyed the gameplay of the first game would know that time trials are perfect for ME (they were the best part of the original game). Truth is, most people only cared about ME because it was something refreshingly new. ME:C doesn’t have the same benefit.

    • Baines says:

      Definitely not novel, and it kind of feels like DICE didn’t move forward in their design.

      Everything has parkour elements these days. There are various 2D parkour games. Other types of games (like first and third person shooters) have indulged heavily on parkour elements. And you have Dying Light, a first person zombie survival action game with a rather large area where the devs worked rather hard to implement a fairly freeform parkour traversal element.

      Even at the announcement, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst sounded dated.

  7. syndrome says:

    Well, since the announcement of ME:C it was obvious to me that its ‘open world’ will simply be a glorified main menu which has to be traversed on foot. Quite similar to what we have in GTA, for example.

    The obstacle/puzzle platform course logic it relies upon, necessitates hand-designed ‘racing flow’, because any kind of real open world would actually look like the real world, which is far too random and/or non-intuitive (with parkour in mind), and nowhere near the fluency of the first game.