Game levels can’t go on forever. I get that. That’s why they’re called “levels”. The word "level" implies one of a stacked progression of separate, self-contained stages. Finite nature of levels confirmed.
Above: Decent-enough visual joke, but I basically just wanted to Photoshop a mime getting his head blown off
Even open-world games have boundaries. Unless you’re going to make a complete simulation of the globe and surrounding universe, eventually there’s going to be a bit where the player can’t go any further in a particular direction. But the trick here, the oh-so-simple trick, is to disguise it well. Don’t just make me launch myself face first into a lump of solid atmosphere and don't – and this one is even worse, in a way – put a token, foot-tall obstruction in front of my character with the intention of using it to plausibly defeat his three-foot jumping ability. It looks lazy and it pulls me out of the game. So stop it.
Above: Either this is a great joke or I've just made myself look really old
Unless a gamer is of a particularly intellectually unfortunate persuasion, his not knowing where to go in a game, especially a linear game, is an unforgivable screw-up on the part of the developer. And the error generally comes about as a result of laziness or self-absorbtion on the part of said game-builder. Just because you know where to go next, having designed both the destination in question and the route to it from the current bit, it doesn’t mean anyone else will. Geometry. Lighting. Lines of perspective to channel the player’s vision in a certain direction. It’s all there for you to play with, and it’s all easy to use. The best games have been using it for decades. You should too.
Crap restart points
Devs, I get it. You’ve spent hours lovingly crafting that cut-scene or dialogue sequence. It’s your favourite cut-scene or dialogue sequence that you’ve ever crafted. You watch it over and over again in the office, smiling to yourself with a little happy tear in your eye over all the bits you're most proud of. Hell, sometimes you stay in work late just to watch it again for a couple of hours. You probably bring in some popcorn or a pizza. But that does not mean that I want to be respawned immediately before it, repeatedly, having been killed by the really hard sequence you’ve planted right after it.
Above: Not everyone was excited about going through Groundhog Day again
You made the game. You know where the hard bits and easy bits are. You should have done some proper research on the bits that a lot of people are getting killed at. So you should know to put your restart points right at the start of them. Not before the lengthy cinematic bit you’ve already bored all your friends and relatives with like so many holiday photos of your hotel bathroom. Not at the start of the easy but lengthy part five minutes before. Not half a level back just for the hell of it. Right at the start of it. And should you get that right, make sure that I get the very same restart point if I save, quit and restart later, okay? Okay. I do not want to play a whole level again just because I didn't have time to finish the last bit.
Feb 24, 2011
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