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Ladder Physics

Much like Jump Physics, characters in video games don't usually tend to interact with ladders the way people in real life do. These things range from climbing ladders apparently without needing to use arms (i.e. keeping them free to fire large weapons, like the BFG), to completely breaking one's fall simply by grabbing them. Also, in many cases you'll be able to rotate your view a full 360 degrees while attached to the ladder, with no physical restraints. Sometimes, it's even possible to 'jump' up the ladder, or climb up backwards.

This works against you as well, as ladders are among the most prevalent causes of death in first-person shooter games. The primary reason for this is that getting on and off a ladder in many FPSs is automatic: if you're touching the ladder and walking in the proper direction, you'll get on or off and climb. The problem with this being that it's very easy to slide off the sides or walk backwards off the front to your doom. It also makes getting onto the top of a ladder something of a crapshoot, since it seems no two developers ever come up with the same solution; you might have to walk as if stepping off whereupon you'll automatically turn around and grab on as you start falling, step backwards off the ledge and use air control to grab the ladder on the way down, hit the use key...even when you're on it, climbing is a risky business and working out what 'climb down' is can result in death. For example, pressing 'back' (because forward is up the ladder, surely!) may make you leap backwards off the ladder to your doom, because the devs thought it made more sense to use crouch and jump as the climbing keys.

Third-person games tend to be more realistic with ladders than first-person, because when the player can see his character the developers have to at least try to make it look good.

Another frequent trope is when a ladder with free space from both sides is only climbable from one side. This is done to avoid frustration (you don't want to climb a long ladder for ten seconds only to find out at the top that you climbed the wrong side and can't get up on the platform), though it can be annoying if you want to quickly latch onto a ladder to escape something on the ground. Besides, you'd think your character could just move to the other side of the ladder... Maybe they're too afraid to do something that risky?

Examples:

Action Adventure
  • The earlier Castlevania games, while lacking in ladders, had stairs that behaved rather frustratingly: you couldn't jump on or off of them (until the SNES ones), and often you were attacked by Goddamned Bats as soon as you were situated atop them (though they at least couldn't make you fall to your doom while you were "glued" to the stairs). Even in the SNES games, it's still possible to fall through the stairs if you don't explicitly press Up or Down to climb them; this often results in death.
    • Snatcher on the Sega CD firmly lampshades this with a conversation between the main characters about teenage suicide rates in regards to Castlevania's stairs.
  • La-Mulana has very frustrating ladders: while you can use your weapons (main weapons, at least) while on ladders, you have to start climbing them from the bottom or the top; you can't jump or even walk onto the middle of ladders. You can't jump off ladders, either, but taking any hit while on a ladder, usually from colliding with Goddamned Bats, sends you falling to the bottom. You also can't climb down a ladder if its top is the foot of the screen above it, which makes it easy to get caught in traps.
    • Maze Of Galious, which La-Mulana is largely derived from, is much the same way with ladders.
  • Ōkami avoids the issue entirely; ladders are treated like doors, automatically cutting to the next room whenever the wolf protagonist would need to climb a ladder to exit (as in Susano's room).

Action Game
  • God of War features a few ladders which Kratos either jumps up five rungs at a time or slides down the arms. However, the real fun comes when Kratos climbs masonry or cliff faces. Using his blades as pitons, he stabs the wall the direction he wishes to go when going slow or takes giant leaps between wall sections, stabbing the wall with both blades when he gets there. To top it off, he can also still attack enemies with his blades, and even grab them and throw them off the wall.
    • God of War II ups the ante by letting Kratos also climb the ceiling. Not only can he still attack, but he can also catch an enemy with one blade while hanging on to the other, pull it towards him, and smash it into the ceiling several times while sticking to the ceiling like glue.

Fighting Game
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl uses and averts this. Obviously, every character has limbs—but you'd think Ivysaur (the only true quadruped) would have a bit of a tough time getting up each rung. Avoiding spikes and long pits in the Swamp stage requires jumping from ladder to ladder.
    • Ladder jumping isn't so much of an issue for characters that don't suffer fall damage.
  • The Game Boy Advance game based on Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart uses an especially lazy implementation. Grabbing onto ladders is automatic if you're in position to do so and not still moving up from a jump, and there's no way to let go other than jumping or reaching one end. On the positive (if unrealistic) side, you can jump at full height on ladders, so you can move up super-quickly by mashing the jump button.

First-Person Shooter
  • Half-Life - Freeman's HEV suit evidently has magnetic feet, because even during earth-shattering explosions, he's able to stick perfectly to the ladder without even taking his hands off the weapon. It's even possible to reload while on a ladder.
    • This looks ridiculously stupid in multi-player games, watching players walk up ladders - even sillier if they're crouching, because the player appears to be levitating up the ladder from a kneeling position. Egregious in supposedly realistic settings like Counter-Strike, though at least climbing the ladder makes your gun horribly inaccurate.
    • It's notoriously hard to grab ladders on the way down in this game. Most players have learned to quick-save before even trying to descend a ladder, because of the sheer number of ways it can go wrong. That or players approach the top of the ladder while holding down the use key, the crouch key, the walk key, or a combination.
    • Also, in Half-Life: Opposing Force, the ladder physics become even more absurd when they get applied to rope climbing. Cpl Adrian Shepard must be one hell of an acrobat.
    • Even better, you can walk and strafe up ladders simultaneously for a healthy speed boost.
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein takes the above example a little further: it's possible to not only reload and fire your weapon (even the minigun!) but also kick while climbing the ladder. This presumably means that your character is attached to the ladder by one foot.
    • The game avoids the 360-degree rotation bit, though: if you aren't facing the ladder, you'll promptly fall off.
    • They must have had a lot of fun with these ladders during development: there is a note posted in an early level mentioning that safety cages have been installed on all the ladders due to a rise in "ladder-related injuries".
  • In games like Quake III: Arena that lack actual ladder behavior, some maps attempt to get around this by just launching the player upwards when they approach the ladder.
  • The ladders in Quake II are like glue: once you're attached to them, there's no way in Hell you're going to get off unless you've reached the top or bottom. Need to jump off? Not bloody likely.
  • Red Faction is bad with this. Ladders work like no-gravity areas where you can move almost freely: you can move off a ladder a bit and still hang on... You can also grab onto and climb girders, climbing up and even shimmying across them, and you can, with small difficulty, climb from the bottom of a girder to the side, and then onto the top! Jumping towards a ladder near-instantly halts your momentum, and can be a life-saver when you're falling to your death but notice a ladder next to you. You can also look anywhere and shoot while climbing ladders.
  • Similar to the Half-Life example, in Halo, Master Chief and the Arbiter run up ladders, not climb them. Which means not only can you climb and shoot, you can let go and climb back up, so long as your character's looking up. The developers realized the inherent silliness of this trope, but have no real way of fixing the ladders without breaking the pace. Solution? They've replaced practically every ladder in the game with gravity lifts. The ladders make a reappearance in the Halo 3 campaign.
  • In the original Far Cry, you couldn't use weapons on ladders, but the controls on the ladder are relative to how you got on the ladder. So it was possible to go down a ladder facing away from it, which also made it possible to run off the ladder to varying degrees of pain or death depending from how high you fell off.
  • In Deus Ex trying to look in any direction other than straight up while climbing a ladder may result in the main character launching himself off at truly impressive velocities and breaking his legs and climbing down a ladder without a very, very careful approach is more dangerous than throwing TNT at enemy soldiers.
  • In Battlefield Heroes, you can use an emote while climbing a ladder, which will cause your character to let go of the ladder and perform the emote (e.g. waving, making airplane motions, and other hilarious things).
  • Stalker is a funny one: you can't use anything that isn't a pistol or a knife while climbing, but if you do equip a pistol (sometimes it's necessary to deal with whatever nasties may be at the top), you hold it in a two-handed grip. Such is life in the Zone.

MMORPGs
  • In La Tale, ladders can be grabbed while jumping or falling. Due to a graphical glitch, the character's hands and feet never quite line up with the rungs, either.

Platform Game
  • In Stinkoman 20X6, Stinkoman can only move straight up and down while on ladders. 1-up climbs ladders slower than Stinkoman, because he's hauling himself up with his teeth.
  • In Commander Keen 4 and later in the series, firehouse poles feature as ladders. Keen can arrest a fall instantly by grabbing a pole, and also alternate jumping and grabbing to move up faster than simple climbing.
  • Bio Menace, due to using the same engine, as Commander Keen, allows you to hold the "up" key and repeatedly hit jump to climb ladders really fast. Some players nickname this "ladder flying".
  • An interesting example/lampshade in Psychonauts: ladders work properly for the most of the game execept for one that twists after you start sliding down, making you slide upwards. Justified since it's a ladder inside the mind of a circus acrobat currently experiencing serious... problems.
  • Chuckie Egg allows you to jump and catch onto a ladder, but you can't step off one midway unless there's a platform there. Also, if the bottom of a ladder is in mid-air, you can't let go; you must jump up to fall off the ladder. Finally, probably a glitch, but you can climb ladders sideways, so that your character retains his normal walking animation.
  • Especially noticeable in Action 52, where you can freely walk off ladders most of the time and the climbing animation often doesn't match up. Lollipop is the worst example of this though, as you literally climb ladders by jumping up them.
  • Freedom Planet is pretty good about this most of the time - characters will even swing themselves around a ladder before grabbing it if they're moving fast enough - but all of that is thrown out the window with Carol's motorcycle, which can ride up ladders and stick to them without moving at all.

Role-Playing Game
  • Legacy Of The Wizard, where it was a matter of course just to jump up all those zillions of long ladders you face, since it's faster than just pressing Up.

Stealth-Based Game
  • Hitman 2: Silent Assassin takes this to ludicrous extremes: Climbing a ladder forces the camera in to 3rd person perspective, and it doesn't restrict your firing capabilities at all, meaning you can and are forced to watch Agent 47 run up a ladder in third person while contorting his body so much that he can fire a shotgun directly below and behind him.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3, Naked Snake has to climb a looooooooooooooooooooooooong ladder. The only exhaustion experienced is on the part of the player.
    • Though the climb may well eat into your rations.
      • The ladder is so long, about a quarter up, the game starts playing the theme song to kill time.
  • The guards in Thief: Deadly Shadows are completely incapable of dealing with ladders. If you ascend one, any guards chasing you will stand at the bottom, shaking their fists at you and shouting "How did you get up there?". Unless they're armed with a bow, in which case you're in (minor) trouble.

Wide Open Sandbox
  • Ladders in Minecraft are subject to all kinds of weirdness. They seem to simply slow your fall when you occupy the same square as them, and move you upwards at the same rate when you move against them. This means, among other things, moving into a ladder square while falling at terminal velocity will instantly slow you, and it's possible to mine a block while facing away from the ladder you're on. This reaches ridiculous levels when you realize, with a bit of luck, you can place a ladder segment while in freefall, and instantly cancel your momentum with it.
    • Also, neither water nor lava can exist in the same space as a ladder, leading to shenanigans where a ceiling made of lava lights up a room, but won't actually fall down into it because it's afraid of invading the ladder's personal bubble.
    • Spiders can climb up vertical walls, but any overhangs can stop their progress. Ladders, which barely have any width at all, can block a spider's climbing as well as a 1x1x1 cubic meter stone block can.

Aversions

Action Adventure
  • There are some really long ladders can take an annoyingly long time to climb, especially in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess speeds Link up a bit.
  • Shadow Complex averts this by treating ladders fairly realistically. You can climb ladders as normal, you can climb them quickly up to the limits of your stamina (which quickly increases as you level), you can slide down them (friction burns are ignored, but later on you get armor, so then it's okay), shoot from them by holding on to the ladder with one hand (but you're not climbing up or down while you do this, and it takes a moment as you stop and pull out your firearm and put it away, and this doesn't address the issues of recoil while holding an AK-47 with one hand), reload with one hand (again, you're stuck on the ladder in one spot while you reload, with a lead-in and lead-out time), and once you get the jet pack, you can even slide up the ladder. Which looks kind of awesome.

Beat 'em Up
  • God Hand has a few ladders sprinkled throughout the game, but Gene never actually climbs them, he instead just jumps up and down to where they begin and end.

Fighting Game
  • Ladders aren't subject to many unusual movement styles in the SmackDown vs. Raw games, or the earlier Smackdown ones. Aside from being OK to dive off them onto someone and being able to walk away, or being able to smash someone with it and have the victim be able to walk away.

First-Person Shooter
  • Project IGI, a FPS, did third-person, unarmed ladder climbing back in 2000.
  • Any of the Tom Clancy games, especially the Rainbow Six series, have rather realistic ladder behavior: all limbs are required for operation, and you often can't look any further than 90 degrees left or right while climbing. Since the person on the ladder is essentially a sitting duck, it's usually a good idea to have the rest of the squad cover the top and bottom of the ladder. Additionally averted in that getting on a ladder is never a crapshoot. Point in the general vicinity of the ladder, press use, and pray that you don't get shot.
  • Medal of Honor: Allied Assault works about the same way as above, with the added bonus that it's possible to climb up ladders on the wrong side and have to climb back down to get on the correct side. Even better yet, the use key allows you to grab onto ladders reliably from any angle, no more suicide mounts!
  • Breakdown had realistic ladder physics, as you would actually see Derrick Cole's hands grabbing the ladder and climbing it, getting the same view you would get in Real Life when you climb a ladder; within a few rungs he would start to look up at the ceiling as he ascends the ladder.
  • TimeSplitters: Future Perfect would zoom out to a 3D view of Cortez climbing the ladder realistically, during which you couldn't really do anything except go up or down. You never really need to fire and climb at the same time anyway, so it's more a neat little graphical trick than an attempt at realistic gameplay (this is Time Splitters, after all).
  • In Call of Duty 4, you cannot fire weapons or do anything else that requires the use of your hands (except throw grenades) while climbing a ladder. You can't see your hands, but you only have hands during one cutscene and while you're actually holding a weapon.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay also has good ladder physics. You cannot do anything else while climbing.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon takes the most realistic approach to the ladders in its thirst for averting First-Person Ghost: your character is shown mounting the ladder from either up or down, you can see your arms and legs gripping it as you climb. As you might expect, even looking any further than 60 away from the ladder's vertical axis is essentially impossible.
  • Far Cry 2 doesn't have very many ladders, but yes, you climb them pretty realistically and can see your arms grabbing the rungs.
  • Likewise Crysis, which is actually pretty good at showing your own limbs, including if you look down. Feet!
  • Left 4 Dead averts any kind of ladder related weapon using nonsense despite running on the newest version of the Source engine. The fact that a survivor character can still hold onto a ladder with a couple dozen common infected standing on their head is another story.
    • Ladders are still major deathtraps in Left 4 Dead anyway, though - especially when you have to do anything beyond reach the top of the "ladder," which is common when playing as the Infected.
    • The new ladder behavior only applies to the Survivors. Infected players in Versus mode, in addition to being able to climb up damn near anything like it's a ladder, can still take advantage of the old diagonal speed boost nonsense.
  • In Americas Army, the player loses the ability to brandish any weapons while touching a ladder.
  • In the Battlefield series, you can't use weapons and you only have up and down motion for the duration of climbing the ladder. You can even switch to third person view and watch your character climb the ladder.
    • A heavy downside in Battlefield 2 and 2142 is that a soldier who gets killed while holding on to a ladder is always instantly eliminated without any hope of being revived by a medic.
  • Turok 2 not only represents the action and strain of climbing a ladder, but makes it impossible to do anything else.
  • Dark Messiah, partially. Being on a ladder means you can only look around 90 degrees, move up or down the ladder, or jump off. The player can climb chains, which behave similarly, but these can break a fall and so fit this trope. Mooks suffer the same restrictions, though they will gladly attempt to pursue you up a ladder no matter how many of their comrades you've effortlessly arrowed to death from the top.
  • In Killzone, your character puts their weapon away and you actually see their hands grip the rungs of the ladder from the first person view. When going down you grab the side of the ladder and slide down. Both are activated with a use key.
  • In Shadow Warrior, while climbing a ladder you cannot use weapons, or even look around.
  • Operation Flashpoint and ARMA, being heavily-realistic shooters, require you to put your weapon away before climbing ladders. Oddly enough, at least in ARMA II, your hands and feet never actually line up with the rungs.
  • Averted in Duke Nukem Forever, where you have to "use" a ladder (or corrugated pipe when shrunk), can only move up and down, can only LOOK up and down with a very slight side-to-side, and can't really do anything else until you get to the top or bottom. Fortunately, there are very few instances of ladders you have to climb during intense combat situations, usually you can just wait until you've hamburgered the incoming waves.
  • Ladders in Command & Conquer: Renegade force the player to hit the use key to get on them, at which point the viewpoint shifts to third-person (if the player wasn't already playing in third-person) so the player can watch Havoc climb the ladder. This actually makes guard towers somewhat dangerous, as Nod Officers tend to hide in them, and it's usually difficult to take them out without going into the tower yourself (unless the Officer is keen on completely ignoring you, which he likely is).
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution switched to a third person view whenever Adam started climbing a ladder, accurately showing him grabbing each next step while being unable to do anything except climb. In fact, he can't even let go except when he comes to a ladder's end (even when he has the aug that negates fall damage), which means for instance putting a box at the bottom of a ladder prevents climbing down it.
  • The developers of Team Fortress 2 specifically avoided having ladders at all both because of the stupidity of physics involved and because having spots where people have their movement slowed down is just asking for people to camp.

MMORPGs
  • Final Fantasy XI avoids this in a rather nasty manner. In the few places where ladders can be found, the player is treated to short-but-too-long Resident Evil style animation of a ladder being ascended and stared at, while their character position remains unchanged at the base until the animation ends, and groups of aggressive monsters that see through invisibility effects wander around behind them.

Platform Game
  • The recent Tomb Raider games have pretty good ladder physics, probably because the game's about 80% Le Parkour and 20% gunplay.
    • The original games also have relatively realistic ladder physics, although graphic limitations meant that Lara generally climbed on flat surfaces and therefore did not always hold on the "rung" aspects of the textures.
  • Mirror's Edge noticeably restricts your ability to turn and look while climbing a ladder. Also, while you can still grab a ladder while falling, it will do a fair bit of damage, and it is possible to die by falling onto a ladder from high enough.
  • Oh, dear sweet Donkey Kong. You're quite vulnerable to a barrel to the brainpan if you forget to finish climbing not only the ladder, but getting up once you're on the higher platform. And no grabbing the ladder as you run by and jump, either. Granted, you've also got the broken ladders hanging out (though they may just be missing rungs).
  • The Ratchet & Clank series has the "jump up the ladder" variant.
  • Though ostensibly a bug rather than a deliberate aversion, the original Mega Man deserves a mention for making your one-armed hero fall off of a ladder whenever the game is paused.
    • Also deserving of mention: in the first two games of the series, attaching Rock/Mega Man to a ladder reversed his direction (so if facing right when initiating a climb on a latter, the character would face left when reaching the top, when reaching the bottom or when jumping off. This can make for an amusing effect if the ladder is just above ground level, but still reachable when standing on the ground (one such ladder exists in Elec Man's stage): hold "down" and Mega Man will continually switch direction rapidly.
    • In Mega Man X 2 and X3, X uses both arms to fire a charged shot once upgraded. Which means falling off any ladders you might be holding on to.
  • Climbing up a ladder in Jak 3: Wastelander works pretty much exactly like in real life. If you walk up to one you automatically put your weapon away to grip the sides with both hands.

Puzzle Game
  • Uru had fairly realistic ladders - it's a puzzle adventure, not an FPS - though with the obnoxious tendency to shunt you into third-person when you get on or off. There's also the quirk that, to avoid making multiple "climbing" animations, all the rungs on all the ladders in every universe are the same distance apart - even the ones you improvised by breaking a rope bridge.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent has you grab to ladders with the Interact key, making you much less likely to accidentally fall off or get stuck to them, and you can't carry an object in your hands while climbing. However, you still can only climb one side of each ladder.

Role-Playing Game
  • Gothic ladders tend to interrupt long falls safely but otherwise behave correctly. Your character can't do anything but climb or let go while on the ladder and getting hurt while climbing will knock him off of it for good.
  • Averted in Dirge of Cerberus; the player cannot take any actions while on a ladder, both arms and legs are required, and there is no automatic climbing, although being a third-person shooter, the camera can be rotated almost all the way around Vincent.
  • In Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles The Crystal Bearers, you climb ladders without even touching them, instead using Layle's powers to pull yourself up to the top of the ladder instantly, making you wonder why you can only do this when a ladder is present.
  • Similar to the Jak 3 example above, whenever Sora (and his friends) climb up a ladder in Kingdom Hearts, it's realistic.

Third-Person Shooter
  • Gears of War averts this trope in the most badass way possible. Players climb ladders with one arm, leaping from rung to rung with pull-ups, and climb down ladders by leaping off the top, grabbing the ladder half way down to slow their fall and flip back upright, then drop the rest of the way to the ground. You can't do anything else during these scripted climbing sequences, but since ladders are extremely rare, never very long and you climb them ridiculously fast it doesn't really matter.

Wide Open Sandbox
  • Averted in Grand Theft Auto IV: the gun goes away, and you climb the ladder slowly (though you can speed it up by pressing A).
    • However, it should be noted that Niko simply slides down ladders - even on the ladder of a 200ft tall construction crane, which should rightly burn his hands clean off.
  • Averted in inFAMOUS, where Cole will realistically hang from any surface (including ladders) with one hand and either switch hands or twist around any way he needs to in order to aim a lightning bolt.
  • Averted in the Assassin's Creed series, where free running is one of the main mode of getting around.
    • Even better is that climbing up the wrong side of the ladder doesn't mean you have to drop down; just hit left or right on the joystick and you swing around to the correct side.

Knockback EvasionVideo Game PhysicsNot the Fall That Kills You
Inertial DampeningDangerous HeightsPlummet Perspective
Jump PhysicsArtistic License - PhysicsLaw of Inverse Recoil

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