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Time to Take the Brakes Off Game Design

Posted 01-31-2010 at 01:42 PM by Anenome

I'd like to talk about an issue that affects all of us as gamers. It's about the positive and negative affects of gaming history on our hobby.

We live in a world still indelibly marked by past games and past technology. The constraints of the past are hampering us today.

Let me give you an example: Wolfenstein / Doom.
Doom is a great example of how technological constraints determined what kind of game was made.

It wasn't technologically possible to create expansive outdoor environments in those days. So corridor-gaming was the result.

Technological limitations shaped game-structure.

But, as technology progresses designers increasingly have these technological brakes taken off. There's no reason to make a corridor shooter these days.

Yet, take a look at a game like Mass Effect 2, and you see that's what we still have. ME2 does occasionally take us into the outdoors and show gorgeous landscapes--landscapes which are ultimately not available for exploration however.

My favorite pet peeve in this category is the limitations placed on weapons in games.

Harken back to the game "Syndicate" for a moment. Here we had players powered by individual nuclear generators which turned electric power directly into matter--ostensibly by converting energy directly into mass, and then shooting it out the barrel of a gun.

There were other weapons: a sniper rifle that generated its own bullets, even a rocket launcher that made its own rockets.

In fact, Mass Effect had a similar 'infinite ammo' system, yet Mass Effect 2 decided to remove this mechanic and bring back clips. WHY?

What this represents is a failure on the designer's part. Their stated reason for this was to force users to use more than one 'favorite' weapon, to be more strategic.

Yet, the proper way to do that is to reward the player for making strategic choices among the weapons by making them highly variable and appropriate for different situations.

Mass Effect continues the fair tradition begun with Halo of pistol shooting being highly accurate and powerful. Yet, if you tried to use a shotgun for long-range shooting you'd be in trouble.

The game is -already- strategic. Even without clips in ME2 I'd be moving guns around all the time. And is using clips even the best way to achieve this goal? Why not use a overheat system? Use one gun too much, it overheats, give it a rest, switch guns.

So, to sum, game designers are building in artificial constraints to increase challenge in their games, as in the early days. In Wolfenstein you had limited ammo and you also had limited enemies.

What I'm asking for are infinite ammo weapons and infinite enemies!!!

If you gave me a minigun with infinite ammo that could fire continuously for literally minutes at a time, as in Syndicate, then you can drastically ramp the challenge of oncoming enemies to compensate.

As tech progresses adding more and more enemies becomes totally feasible. We're not living in the sprite-days of Wolfenstein. Put 50 enemies on screen and make me truly fight for survival, and make it possible with guns that do not require CLIPS!
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