Friday, 19 August 2011

HL 2 Weapon Fatigue

Weapon Fatigue

One thing I learned from a recent map testing session was that players actually got annoyed by the sound of their own gun if fired too often. The repetitive sound of the shotgun every few seconds as they capped another zombie grated on them.

What I discovered was that players would switch weapon, not because it was a more effective weapon against an enemy, they switched weapons also to add variety to gameplay and sounds.

I've learned that if you give the player at least two weapons at any one time their feeling about a map changes dramatically. The map seems more interactive, more dynamic because the player can engage the enemy in a number of ways.

This is worth noting if you're intending to use lots of the same NPC in one area. Due to the fact that there tends to be an optimum weapon for each NPC, if you use lots of one NPC type in one area, the player will be tempted to use that same weapon over and over. As a result, that particular gunfire sound is going to start to really grate after a while.

So how can you prevent this weapon fatigue?
By making the player engage the enemies in different ways.

The shotgun is fairly ineffective at a distance. The SMG ia also pretty useless at a distance.

The magnum is crap against fast moving NPCs like fast headcrabs.

The zoom on the crossbow is risky to use if you could be attacked by a melee class NPC.

The rocket launcher is slow to reload and dangerous at close range.

The AR2 is probably the best all round weapon so keep the ammo scarce.

The grav gun is wayyy powerful so limit the prop physics in some areas.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

My current dev map and a great example of good mapping feedback

OK.. it's my blog so if I can't post my own maps in development here... where can I huh?

Here's the map... it's still a work in progress hence the feedback. This is the 3rd map in a 5 map series.
It's for HL2 EP2.

Here's the feedback I received from an very kind individual who took the time to play my map and then feedback...

This is the kind of feedback you should be looking for if you can get it. To each point below I'm going to add some comments of my own.

I won't mention the testers name but I would like to say thank you very much.

Any other comments from readers are welcome.


The first gate I come to after the lift, on the left, only opens a fraction. I kept thinking it was how I was opening it. Eventually I realised that I wasn't allowed down there. I suggest blocking the door with something that obviously can't be moved with the Grav Gun. Perhaps a generator or something.

This is an issue with the player's visual dictionary. The player has just opened a door with a breakable padlock on it. The player then comes across a second door with the same set up. The assumption by the player (quite rightly) is that this door can also be opened too. The player has performed the act of breaking the padlock but the fact the door doesn't open means the player doesn't get rewarded for that action. Bad Aazell!

I found the first area too dark and I am not a big fan of dark areas. Perhaps have some of the torches all around.

As per my previous post on darkness. Getting the balance right between light areas and dark is very tricky. I have way too much dark in this first area. So more light must be applied for the player not to get frustrated.

The first zombie I encounter was too close to the corner and I could see him waiting for me. If you moved him further back and had him moving towards me as I turned the corner it would feel better.
Actually, same for the second zombie.

A quick fix but clearly this will make all the difference to the players reaction to that moment. As I have said previously the difference between something feeling right to the player and feeling wrong can be a simple small movement of an NPC.

I found both sets of steps a little steep. Didn't seem right.

I'm pissed at myself about this. The first area with the arches was a pain in the ass to seal and optimise. Now I need to rethink some of it. Thinking of removing the stairs completely...

There is a round opening that allows barrels to fall through but not the player. I tried to jump down there and was frustrated not to be able to. The "cover" of spiders web is not a strong enough indication I can't go there.

The web referred to above was a response to a challenging issue. I had manholes where NPC_Fastzombies would spawn from. How do I communicate to the player that they can't go down there yet leave it open for the zombs to pass through. My solution was to place Player clip over it and a non-solid brush covered in the Antlion web texture. I think it works in the later area but without a light on the web in the first instance it's very hard to see and therefore doesn't work. Will add a light.

I got the feeling that the handle that open the gate carried on forever. I didn't see it stop. Does it?

A simple fix but it's interesting that the player picked up on it. The turning degrees of the turning handle is currently set to 3000. Lol. I honestly didn't think the player would care if it stopped or not as long as they could get under the door. But clearly the expectation is that they are to turn the handle until it stops and that indicates that the door is fully open. So I've learned that even though the main reason for turning the handle is to open the door, it's not the door that the player focuses on. Interesting stuff innit!

The area with the three fans is excellent but it feels too much like a place in a game than a real place. For example, why would all those crates be there? Think about it. That would mean they would have to have been manually carried there and that doesn't seem "real" to me. Of course, this area needs something, but I would suggest just rubbish would be enough and maybe some tools etc.

Very true.. A further detailing pass on this area with a few fake doors added should clear this up and hopefully make it feel a little real world.

All three fans stopped permanently after I turned them off a few times. Is that supposed to happen.

This is exactly the sort of testing feedback I need. It's a very good example of why the mapper is not the best person to test their maps. I'd become so familiar with playing through the map I simply rushed through each fan area on the first time I hit the reset button. It didn't occur to me that players might hesitate and hit that switch more than three times. LOL

I would delay the fast zombie for a fraction longer, as when I entered the area I looked around and didn't seem him get sucked into the fan. of course, it's pretty obvious, but if he is there to demonstrate, as I assume he is, it would be better to have it very obvious.

A moment I'm really proud of was missed by the player simply by triggering it slightly too early, I think we're literally talking about a 2 or 3 second delay but it makes all the difference.

The next large area looked fantastic but this is where I really wished I had recorded the demo because it was boring to play. The first thing I did was jump down onto one of the supports and collected the ammo etc. I then jumped across to the main area. A quick look around told me that a poisonous zombie was behind the door.

I don't know what made me do it, but I decided to jump to the next support. At that moment, the lights seem to come on and the fast zombies appeared. I simply stood next to one of those pipes and as they came out shoot them. Of course, they also cam out from other pipes but jump across and when they land it's easy to pop them.

Another classic example of the fact that the player will not always play an area as you saw them playing it. My intention with the fast zombie Arena was have the player constantly moving around being chased by zombs. It's much more fun that way.
By putting the ammo next to the zombie holes I gave him a perfect combination of ammo and spawn point so he just stood there and capped the zombies that appeared. Must have been really dull. For those of you that play the map, try and stay over on the main area and you'll get the idea of what I was going for.
I now have to rethink this area a little to stop the player moving onto the spawning platforms.

I feel that that support area should be just for the fast zombies and I should be forced to move around in the main area.

The double fan was fun, but when you smash the crates the piece fall to the ground. I suspect there's nothing you can do about that.

A minor tickbox change to my trigger_push brush, but when the debris from the broken crates falls to the ground when everything else is being blown up to the roof it can break the mood and the illusion.

The vertical elevator shaft is fine, but those three fast zombies are wasted. They should appear the moment I enter the corridor, so I have to run to break the wood or stand and fight.

When I got to the elevator shaft I assumed the blades were to kill the zombies or break the wood blocking the entrance. I tried three time to jump into the elevator, thinking this was the way forward. It too a few moments to realise that I needed to cut the cables.

Yes my big finale to this area. It clearly needs a little more work to stop the player from wanting to access the elevator and to stop the player from heading back down the ladder and killing the zombies. I think I will have the zombies climb up towards the player. Should add some pressure.


Hope this gives you a good idea of the sort of feedback you should be looking for and I think it gives some great examples of the traps you can fall into when putting a map together.

Hope you enjoy the map in it's current form. I'll be posting a new version soon.
Let me know any further feedback you have, and please keep it constructive... (be gentle).

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Example of map area development... choices choices.. hmm...

Developing an event list

I thought it might be useful to take a look at the thought process that leads to a small section of my map.

The setting is simple... a lift shaft..

So how much fun can we have with a lift shaft. Heres several scenarios I've built in test mapping.

1. Player jumps to ladder on far side of shaft. As they climb, combine blow the lift cables and lift falls down shaft past the player. As player nears top of shaft, manhacks are released and combine with SMGs fire down onto player from top of shaft.

Pros: Movie moment with lift hurtling past the player. Combat while on ladder is different and plays quite well. Feels kinda Die Hard!

Cons: Lift never actually is near player so no interaction. Manhacks are rather predictable in these circumstances. Difficult to gate in order to ensure player doesnt just speed up ladder and escape.

2: Player ascends ladder with lift at top of shaft. As player climbs, fast zombie jumps on ladder below them and climbs up towards them. Player jumps off ladder onto lift roof and across to other side. Lift is blocking exit. Player is presented with circular saw blades which, using grav gun can cut lift cables and send lift falling down shaft to kill persuing zombie.

Pros: Love the idea of player seeing zombie jump onto ladder and start coming for them. Love the idea of finishing off zombie area with a final fairwell of crushing them with a lift.

Cons: zombies cant attack player while climbing, its a set animation. So player would have to reach the top of shaft before zombies start climbing. Will player even notice zombies are at bottom of shaft? Will have to be a pretty short shaft...

3: Player climbs ladder of abandoned shaft and reaches beams blocking shaft with prop_physics metal panels on top. Player has to use grav gun to clear the ladder and send prop physics junk falling to bottom of shaft. Once clear player moves to top of shaft and jumps onto lift roof. Lift creaks and one cable snaps and lift descends a little to a point that player can jump off onto second ladder. As player jumps off lift, final cable snaps and lift crashes to bottom of shaft.

Pros: Like the upward grav gun play. Nice movie moment at the top. Also good to have puzzle and movie moment section as this follows a big long combat sequence.

Cons: No combat.

I haven't decided which to go with yet but as you can see, by creating three different test maps for each scenario I can establish which is the most fun and try and judge which players will enjoy the most.

I'm very tempted by number 2 to be honest. Its a nice bit of closure to the zombie section of my map series...

Let me know your thoughts...