Monday, 25 July 2011

Their First Time...

One of my major challenges in mapping is presenting a world the player can understand the first time they encounter it.
It takes refinement and playtesting and can sometimes really stand in the way of a great idea being implemented.

But should it?

Consider this example:
Say I want to implement an Indiana Jones style moment of action where the player is chased by a huge boulder down a tunnel. The player jumps down into the tunnel and the ball starts rolling, only at top speed can the player outrun the ball.

Exciting stuff, but the player has no warning of what is about to happen and almost no chance of getting out of the situation alive unless they're incredibly lucky.

So, is it fair or right for the player to have to learn through death or injury?

Should a map always be completable the very first time the player plays it?

I've played many official games and maps where the learning through death approach is taken and it can be very frustrating.

To counterpoint this though, a map that you can breeze through in 5 minutes may be fun but not really any challenge.

Also... some events work better if the player has no warning or pre-knowledge.

So how can I know which events the player needs to be warned about or not?

Playtesting will only get you so far on this issue as it's often a case of play style preference.

A good example is found in a recent map of mine.

I added a jump to my map where the player must jump diagonally down and through a window across a gaping chasm. Traditionally, glass doesn't break in HL2 if you jump at it horizontally. So the player has to take a leap of faith at this point.

Its all carefully set up so that the player has no where else to go, a shotgun (first weapon after going a map and a half with only the grav gun) and heathpack are on the other side of the window as a lure but still playtesters said they were reluctant to jump.

When they finally plucked up the courage they were thrilled by the fact they'd made the jump, broken through the window, snatched the shotgun and killed the combine guard patrolling on the other side all in one swift movement.

So common sense gameplay training would indicate that I should train the player to understand the new glass breaking rule, however if I did it would detract something special from the experience. The unwillingness of the player to make the jump adds a huge amount to the triumph when they do.

All this can get rather complex... this is where instincts come in as to what I feel the player experience should be...

Sometimes you just know when something is going to work and it's worth pushing that idea through.

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