Saturday, 7 January 2012

Chekhov's Gun Theory

The theory of Chekhov's Gun is a ruleset used in dramatic writing.

There are several rules and you can check out the full explanation here however there is one element of this theory that is most important to us mappers.

Chekhov maintained that if you place a cannon on a stage during a play, the audience will expect that cannon to be fired at some point.

The mapper could look at it this way. If you are going to put an object in your map, the player could very well assume that that object has a purpose and be distracted from their main goal.

This is at it's most important in puzzle areas. In order for your puzzle to be clear to the player you need to keep things as minimal as possible. Don't add fake buttons or consoles, don't add pointless props to a puzzle area and don't add lots of detail to the walls etc...
Such additional detail to a puzzle area will only promote "Use button Spamming" which is the sure fire signature of a puzzle area done poorly. Yep, the moment the player ends up jumping round the walls hammering the "use" key, it's time to go back to the drawing boards.

Here's an example:
If I were to create a courtyard and place a combine antlion thumper in the middle of it. The player would naturally assume that they were supposed to interact with the thumper (by either turning it on or off). If I had just placed the thumper there to purely add an interesting centrepiece to the courtyard, I've actually just placed a huge distraction to the players attention, which should have been focused elsewhere (say on the jumping puzzle in the far corner).

The player will naturally be drawn to items of interest in your map. Make sure that those items of interest are also items of importance.

If you want to add items of interest to your map that are not important to the gameplay, make sure you place them in areas where it is obvious the player cannot reach (e.g. behind a fence or on a high ledge etc...).

In my map pack "Daylight" I added an explosive barrel hanging from a cuttable rope in the first area. It was presented there as a sort of play thing for the players to begin to understand the new gameplay feature of cuttable ropes. Unfortunately some players really didn't understand it's purpose and thought they had to obtain the gas tank in order to progress to the next area.

This is a classic case of Chekov's Gun Theory. The player assigns importance to objects that have been placed in the map whose purpose is unclear.

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