Game Development Reference
Other times, flow gaps can appear due to fictional or aesthetic design
elements. Menu transitions, movement animations, and dialogue can all
block the player's ability to act for a moment, creating a gap in the decision
This is a classic mechanics-fiction conflict, because it is caused by a
piece of art that looks good and enhances the game's make-believe layer,
while weakening the mechanical decision-driving interaction of the game.
Obviously, the best solution is to find a design that both looks good and
sustains flow. But if a choice must be made, most games benefit more
from sustained flow than fancy menu transitions or animations. Because
while graphics look good the first time, flow feels good forever.
If a delay can't be removed, we should find some way to introduce deci-
sions into the gap to fill it. Sometimes this is as simple as making other
abilities available. The wizard's rod may be recharging, but the player can
still move and attack with a knife.
Other times, we need more exotic designs to handle unusual situa-
tions. For example, many different games across genres have included
some sort of stun attack. Fantasy games have stunning spells, military
games have nonlethal stun grenades, Spiderman can throw a web on his
enemy, and a boxer can punch his opponent in the ribs to stun him. It's
a good design because it combines elegantly with other follow-up attacks,
and it varies the pace of combat.
But there's a problem with stuns: the victim gets a brutal flow gap.
The most naïve version of a stun is freezing the victim. But while this
makes fictional sense, and it may be fair, it's an infuriating flow breaker.
The victim cannot make any decisions during the stun since he can't act.
How do we solve this?
Different games have used a variety of methods to keep the essence of
stun without this side effect. For example, some games stun by interfering
with the victim's controls while still allowing him to act. The stun grenade
in Modern Warfare 2 slows the player's turning rate and makes his view
sway. This degrades his aim and makes it easy to attack him from the side,
but it still allows the stunned player to keep interacting and deciding. Old
arcade fantasy games used to model stun spells by scrambling all the play-
er's controls, so pushing up made the character move down and vice versa.
Again, the victim is affected, but can still act. The flashbang grenade in
Counter-Strike whites out the victim's screen for several seconds, but leaves
his controls fully functional. This means that a blinded player can still
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