Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Consider my story about the bomb opening the crack in the wall in
The Legend of Zelda . In the fiction, a bomb opening a cracked wall makes a
sort of sense. A bomb might very well be able to make a doorway-sized hole
in a weakened wall. The problem is that upon first seeing the cracked wall,
the player has no way of knowing that this particular aspect of a real wall
is expressed in game mechanics. The game is full of things that suggest
uses but don't actually work. Loose bricks might be pulled out and used
as weapons—but this isn't simulated. A dead monster's blood might be
drunk—but this isn't simulated either. The player can't go around assum-
ing that everything in the fiction is also in the mechanics, because he'll
be wrong almost all the time. Players need some signal that this crack in
the wall is actually a mechanic, not just another piece of fictional dressing.
One way to do this is to call out the interactive elements using ex-
plicit indicators. But this quickly becomes tiring. Constant screen overlays
pointing out every available action obscure the fiction. A better long-term
solution is to teach players how to interpret fictional cues.
A game must establish a METAPHOR VOCABULARY that indicates which
elements are simulated mechanically. It must then remain consistent
with this vocabulary.
Every game must set up its own metaphor vocabulary. For example,
in the acrobatic game Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands , it might have
been hard to tell exactly which parts of the environment can be climbed
upon and which cannot. The developers solved the problem by creating a
vocabulary of environmental cues that signify which actions can be per-
formed where. Long streak marks along a wall indicate that the character
can do a wall-run. A peculiar kind of protruding brick can be climbed
upon. These elements are established early on in very simple puzzles. The
unique-looking climbable bricks, for example, first appear in a place where
there is obviously no other way to progress. The player is guaranteed to
attempt to climb the bricks because he has no other option. And once the
player knows what the climbable bricks look like, he can recognize them
for the rest of the game because they never change. He travels through
palaces, sewers, and temples. But no matter where he goes, those climb-
able bricks always look exactly the same.
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