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Secrets and Yawns (in single-player levels) - 12/13/97


>>>This week's level for review is robot salient. It's a Descent 2 level
>>>by NgC. Please post reviews here or on the message board.
> [...]
>> Cuppla gripes - it took too long for me to find some of the secrets,
>>especially the yellow key - my personal preference is to be challenged by
>>layout and by enemies, not by puzzles - i have enuf trouble remembering
>>where i left the car keys, don't make me wander the mine looking for litle
>>control panels, not more than a minit or 2. IMO this detracts from the
>>realism - no one really hides control panels on ceilings and behind walls
>>and such. OTOH some pepl seem to enjoy this, prolly find things faster that
>>me, too.
>I don't enjoy this either. To all level designers out there, I personally
>hate being stuck at a puzzles for more than two minutes. So I agree
>with Grant here. Which is why in most of my levels, the switch
>puzzles and stuff are optional things, not required to figure out in order
>to defeat the level.

Hm, after reading Jay & Carl, i wanna qualify what i said - my objection is not to the puzzle itself, i don't mind a puzzle, but i object to the loss of realism. For me, realism is the three most important things about a game. (Well, ok, not exactly /realism/, this _is_ scifi, more a "willing suspension of belief" - the less suspended, the better).

Look, anyone can make a level that has things hidden behind walls that aren't there, or in really odd corners. The point is, the level was supposedly designed as a working mine, and engineers don't generally put control panels where they can't be found or erect fake walls. I just hate to spend my valuable Descent time flying along every single wall to find the one cube where the wall is an illusion or a dead-same textured door. Or wandering aimlessly looking for the one random action that will trigger a door to unlock.

There's a place for hidden things & puzzles IMO - look at D1 level 1, there's about 3 hidden doors, but if u look close, u can /see/ them. I'm trynna say there's fun puzzles & there's "duh" puzzles. Ok, here's "Grant's Scale of Secrets" - for rating hidden things - a kinda "Good Housekeeping" magazine-style test.

1) is the secret a natural part of the architecture and game flow? Like a key could have fallen under water, or be behind a grate, u hafta find the way in, that's realistic. Or u hafta solve a maze, all openings are visible, it's just tricky navigating. If yes to any of these, add 3 points.

2) is the secret likely to be stumbled across without too much trouble, just exploring and fighting the bots? (See suggested list below), or will it be revealed in a later action/ambush? If yes, add 2 points.

3) is the secret visible in the normal course of play? Add 1 point.

4) is the secret only visible if u stand on your left ear and hold your tongue /just so/ - add 0 points.

5) is the secret an essential part of defeating the level? Subtract 1 point.

6) is the secret hidden by an opaque illusory wall, or a door texture that looks just like adjacent cube sides? Subtract 2 points. (see definition of "just like" below)

7) does something shoot outta the wall, but there's just no way to get in or shoot in? Subtract 3 points.

If the secret door/ key/ hostage/ powerup scores:

  • +2 or more = Good challenge, probably fun to play.
  • 1, 0 , -1 = find a way to help MatDef, examples below.
  • -2 or lower = Yawn. Keep ur secrets. I gave up and went to play real Descent.

Using this scale, i'd rate finding the control trigger that opens the access to the yellow key in Robot Salient (which started this thread), as (4)not that noticeable->0, and (5)essential to defeat the level -> -1, for a total of -1. Conclusion, mebby add another clue. (BTW no intent to pick on this level, i mostly /liked/ it :)


What's the threshold of door visibility? some examples (D2 texture numbers) -

  • door31 + rock014, or door20 + rock224 - just barely visible IMO, if there's at least 50% illumination.
  • door23 + ceil037, or door30 + rock223 - no way i'll ever see these. Give me another clue.


Clues to help MatDef find the secret door/switch/whatever without being too obvious:

  • a "full automap" powerup, that would give away the door's location, have it contained in a bot or sth. Or,

  • pick or make a door texture that is visible to reasonably observant players. Or

  • add a visible switch, or

  • modify the texture so that it looks suspicious - not too subtle, either. Or

  • put a bot in front of it, so the stray shots would make it open. Or

  • trap a thiefbot (i /hate/ thiefbot) in the room, so he'd reveal the door by fleeing thru it. Or

  • trigger it to open when u pass nearby, the sound is the clue, or

  • put a custom-texture sign on the adjacent wall, "door here", or

  • a trigger nearby, the door opens, shuts, if u pay attention to the sound, u hear the door.

  • put a seethru texture nearby, so the standard (not full) automap can suggest a hallway going to the door from behind.

  • seethru texture, guided missile opens the door from behind. Cute. Once.

Sigh, another long Grantpost. Just hadta get this stuff off my chest. [...]

Grant Hallman

taken from Descent Developer's Mailing List


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