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There better be secret passages!


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The only reason would be uninspired world builders and/or too strictly hierarchical personnel management. As an example: Piranha Bytes (admittedly a much smaller team) seems to leave their world builders/designers with fairly free hands in regards to what they are allowed to build and implement. Therefore their worlds are chock-full of cool details, hidden loot, special encounters, secret passages, easter eggs, you name it. All this on top of already supremely well designed game worlds.

 

We don't know anything about Obsidian when it comes to this so it'll be interesting to see what they have done with Dungeon Siege 3 (and, first, Fallout: New Vegas).

Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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The only reason would be uninspired world builders and/or too strictly hierarchical personnel management. As an example: Piranha Bytes (admittedly a much smaller team) seems to leave their world builders/designers with fairly free hands in regards to what they are allowed to build and implement. Therefore their worlds are chock-full of cool details, hidden loot, special encounters, secret passages, easter eggs, you name it. All this on top of already supremely well designed game worlds.

 

We don't know anything about Obsidian when it comes to this so it'll be interesting to see what they have done with Dungeon Siege 3 (and, first, Fallout: New Vegas).

 

There are at least three additional factors besides the two you mention (which I partly agree with); technology, tools and time. Maybe I should start calling them the three T's!

 

What do I mean? Most of the things you are talking about are not things that designers always think of in their first pass on a level. You try to get the big brushstrokes in, and as you are working away at those, or playtesting them, thoughts like these occur to you - "Man, a secret door would be really cool here", or, "I should turn that bookshelf that an artist put in here into an examinable lore object", or ,"Hmm, this would be a great place for a special ambush encounter". A surprising amount of this stuff just isn't even something that designers consider in their first pass on an area. It's like writing - your first draft usually doesn't have the same level of detail and polish when it comes to individual sentence structure - you're more trying to get the big ideas down and organized, and you go back and clean up the details later.

 

How does this relate to tech, tools and time?

 

In some engines, iterating on content is slower or faster than others due to the pipelines and processes used. So, if you want to make a change, it might take you 5 seconds, 5 minutes, an hour, to a full day depending on how you have to implement and test your change based on your tech and tools. This is especially relevant if you're trying to get an area feeling just right - imagine if, when writing a document, you had to wait for 5 minutes every time you made a change before you could read it again!

 

Also, in some engines, making changes to a level is more or less risky based on how the engine handles memory management/visibility and how much leeway designers have to add or remove sections of levels without dramatically affecting the performance of levels. So, imagine if half the time you edited a document, you had to make sure your word count per line remained under a certain amount, or your word count per page, or your average word length... or else when you tried to read the document it would crash. Obviously making changes would be much more difficult, because they would have to adhere to a very strict set of rules in order to function.

 

Finally, obviously, time is the ultimate variable in all of these cases. The more of it you have, the more you're able to playtest and identify things that will flesh out your levels. Additionally, the more time you have the more you're able to buy your way out of disadvantages that you may have due to tech or tools.

 

Obviously this kind of thinking is part of what has gone into Onyx and is why we love working with an engine that's designed to make our type of games. But I want to say that it's a little premature to blame the area designers in any case where you play a game and it doesn't have that attention to detail. You'd be surprised how much of an effect these very non-design driven factors play in the quality of area design.

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If they told you that there were secret passages, they wouldn't really be secret anymore? Saying yes would be a lie no matter what.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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So will there be secret passages?

 

I interpreted is as a yes since he threw in that managment to allow fast changes went into the design process of Onyx which in turn allows for a much more detailed world.

 

So, why wouldn't there be?

 

But will there be secret passages?

 

The drunkard aussie is striking! HE'S STRIKING!

 

...

 

I don't know anyway. But I hope there will be rainbow passages. :grin:

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This brings back bad memories of Leprechaun fighting... ye gods I hate those little buggers. All my precious gold :banghead:

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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There are at least three additional factors besides the two you mention (which I partly agree with); technology, tools and time. Maybe I should start calling them the three T's!

Yes, I do realize I generalized too much. I agree that time is always the deciding factor when it comes to extra detail like the ones I am discussing (and the topic starter too). I am not sure, however, that I fully agree with the technology and tools factors.

 

First, the kind of detail and "secret passages" I am referring to doesn't actually have to be very complicated. For secret passages, it might be as simple as having a small ravine winding through a rocky part of the landscape. The ravine walls would be pretty simple rock textures on relatively flat surfaces, covered with hanging vines for variety. An ordinary world builder would place a few rocks here and there, fill out the place with as much detail as needed and move on to the next area. No matter if the tools were weak and the technology constrained, the builder would have to work within the limits of both and still make the best of the situation.

 

A great world builder would admittedly spend a few hours more on the same area, but he would trade away a few rocks, remove a man sized part of the wall halfway through the ravine and add a hidden cave entrance behind the thick vines (making the entrance invisible unless you happened to walk up against and through the vines). With a few less rocks lying around and a relatively small cave behind the vines (with perhaps one strong encounter and one chest), both the polygon and memory quotas would be quite similar in both examples.

 

Time would obviously be a factor (as testing the new area, placing the cave layout and the movement restrictions, or whatever they are called, and the two new entities would take more time than placing a few more rocks along the ravine wall), but both examples should be doable within the same tools and tech. The difference being more time used by the builder, more creative freedom/artistic inspiration/hand-on approach required by the builder.. and a whole crapload of more fun for the player.

 

Most often it is these small, almost insignificant little details that move a game from the mediocre into the interesting range for me. The above example is actually an example stolen from Gothic 2. Another example (from Gothic) would be the hollow rock that noone in the entire world discovered until several years after the game was released! It was so clever, demanded almost no resources and yet it had the entire Gothic community talking about it for months. It was a single large rock lying next to a river, just at the beginning of the game. It was big and round and surrounded by weeds that grew around the rock and down into the streaming water. There was absolutely nothing special about it, except that it was one of the bigger rocks along the river. Everyone who played the game passed that rock probably a hundred times during one playthrough.

 

A few years after release someone was swimming in the river close to the rock, even though there was a path and a bridge very nearby so swimming really wasn't necessary. At some point this person decided to dive in the shallow water, and happened upon this rock. As it was surrounded by weeds it was difficult to see underwater so he swam closer and noticed that the water actually got deeper the closer he got to the rock. When he swam through the weeds, he realized that there was a very narrow 'tunnel' going up under the rock and that the rock was hollow! So he swam up under the rock and entered the tiny space underneath it. In there was a goblin skeleton and a few trinkets and gold (if I remember correctly).

 

That little place might as well have gone unnoticed forever. Still, it was there. Someone had spent the time and effort of making something that 99.99% would not find.. unless someone mentioned it in a walkthrough. THIS is the amount of detail that impresses me. THIS is the reason why I keep replaying the Gothic games. THIS is what I wish every game world designer would aspire to. Piranha Bytes are the masters of this. Everywhere you look, you're rewarded with something. It might just be a few gold coins, a meal of food, a small note (another Gothic 2 famous moment..), but it shows the designers didn't just phone in their effort. They reward the players with their own time.

Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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First, the kind of detail and "secret passages" I am referring to doesn't actually have to be very complicated. For secret passages, it might be as simple as having a small ravine winding through a rocky part of the landscape. The ravine walls would be pretty simple rock textures on relatively flat surfaces, covered with hanging vines for variety. An ordinary world builder would place a few rocks here and there, fill out the place with as much detail as needed and move on to the next area. No matter if the tools were weak and the technology constrained, the builder would have to work within the limits of both and still make the best of the situation.

 

A great world builder would admittedly spend a few hours more on the same area, but he would trade away a few rocks, remove a man sized part of the wall halfway through the ravine and add a hidden cave entrance behind the thick vines (making the entrance invisible unless you happened to walk up against and through the vines). With a few less rocks lying around and a relatively small cave behind the vines (with perhaps one strong encounter and one chest), both the polygon and memory quotas would be quite similar in both examples.

 

It's still not that simple. In this case the player will just walk right through the vines as he goes up to it and that doesn't look right, so what you're asking for is that we implement a physics system that allows the player to push away the vines as they walk up to it. This requires programmer time to implement tech for it, another programmer then has to spend time developing tools to use this system, then an artist would have to spend more time to create vines that look good using this system and then it would have to be placed in such a way that it still obscures the passage and is rewarding for the player to find. All this just for one little offshoot with some loot in it.

 

It all goes back to what Nathaniel mentioned about "The Three T's", we have to decide if this is something worth investing our precious resources on. That's not to say we have or have not done this, but just keep in mind that it's a little more complicated than you think. :p

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It's still not that simple. In this case the player will just walk right through the vines as he goes up to it and that doesn't look right...

The reason I used that specific example is because it's been done already. In Gothic 2 from 2002.

 

And yes, the only way to find the place was to brush up against the wall and walk through the vines (unless you'd found the guy who'd given you the right clue, but that's another matter). It did look right just walking through them, but then again.. it was 2002, the year of the immobile vines.

 

My point is merely that it CAN be as simple as I suggest to reward the player. It doesn't have to involve heavy scripting, massive art resources, complex tools. It is possible to add detail that keep people talking about your game for years to come just by using a little ingenuity.

Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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This is me speculating, but I have a feeling this will play more like Baldur's Gate: DA and the Norrath games on PS2.

I sure hope so...man i love the BGDA series. Also liked the Champions games. Plus drop in drop out co-op with friends. Tons of loot to grind and find and trade, bring it on.

 

I liked the party based gameplay of DS1 and 2 but i for one always liked the solo dungeon crawl that Diablo and BGDA series had better.And with a strong co-op and multiplayer it should be awesome!

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It's still not that simple. In this case the player will just walk right through the vines as he goes up to it and that doesn't look right...

The reason I used that specific example is because it's been done already. In Gothic 2 from 2002.

 

And yes, the only way to find the place was to brush up against the wall and walk through the vines (unless you'd found the guy who'd given you the right clue, but that's another matter). It did look right just walking through them, but then again.. it was 2002, the year of the immobile vines.

 

My point is merely that it CAN be as simple as I suggest to reward the player. It doesn't have to involve heavy scripting, massive art resources, complex tools. It is possible to add detail that keep people talking about your game for years to come just by using a little ingenuity.

 

Well said!

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It's still not that simple. In this case the player will just walk right through the vines as he goes up to it and that doesn't look right...

My point is merely that it CAN be as simple as I suggest to reward the player. It doesn't have to involve heavy scripting, massive art resources, complex tools. It is possible to add detail that keep people talking about your game for years to come just by using a little ingenuity.

 

I completely agree with you that it's important to reward the player in such a way, but in this next-gen world we have to do it in a way that looks good or else we get people going "OMGZ Obsidian r N00bs the playurs r walking thru teh vines!!!111" As you can see from the screenshots and trailer we've stepped up our game on the art side of things, but there's no point in having better art if it doesn't accentuate the design. A pretty game that isn't fun isn't a good game. So we have to come up with systems that still reward the player in a fun way, look good and make sense with the three T's in mind.

 

The astute ones here should take a minute to not just think about what I'm saying it, but why we know so much about this subject. :rolleyes:

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It's still not that simple. In this case the player will just walk right through the vines as he goes up to it and that doesn't look right...

My point is merely that it CAN be as simple as I suggest to reward the player. It doesn't have to involve heavy scripting, massive art resources, complex tools. It is possible to add detail that keep people talking about your game for years to come just by using a little ingenuity.

 

I completely agree with you that it's important to reward the player in such a way, but in this next-gen world we have to do it in a way that looks good or else we get people going "OMGZ Obsidian r N00bs the playurs r walking thru teh vines!!!111" As you can see from the screenshots and trailer we've stepped up our game on the art side of things, but there's no point in having better art if it doesn't accentuate the design. A pretty game that isn't fun isn't a good game. So we have to come up with systems that still reward the player in a fun way, look good and make sense with the three T's in mind.

 

The astute ones here should take a minute to not just think about what I'm saying it, but why we know so much about this subject. :p

 

Some people will ALWAYS complained about SOMETHING. What you are doing won't stop that in any way.

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