Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Standing in the wellies of giants!

The other day we read some AMAZING slides from Bungie about how they balanced the sniper rifle (and all the weapons and vehicles and monsters) in Halo 3. We'll bung the link at the bottom of this post for you if you're interested, but we're going to give you the gist of it in a second anyway so don't feel you have you go through it. Maybe you're not as big a games production geek as we are...

So here's the thing: Bungie say that to make the game balanced (which brings with it a tonne of benefits like player readability, longevity, feelsfairitude, good teeth etc etc etc) it's a good idea to take your elements and make sure they all have proper roles in the game.

The theory is: as long as none of your elements are all doing their roles properly and none of them are stepping on the toes of any other element's role your game is going to be a heap more fun.

"Every tool in the tool box should have a specific job to do and should only do that job. Get it wrong and your player will be banging nails in with the spirit level and complaining that the game is confusing. Then their shelf will fall down."
- Peter Theophilus-Bevis, non-Bungie employee

Call us dumb if you like - but we'd never really sat down and worked out what each of our plants' role was before! They'd just been bundled into the game with their little foibles and compatibilities and we'd thought "Well that's just their personalities isn't it?"

Only as soon as we started to think "well... is this an advanced plant or not? And if not, is it appropriate that you have to learn an advanced behaviour to use it?" the problems became clear.

It became apparent that one of the big blockers to people being able to exploriment effectivly was role-less, arbitrarily constructed plants bumming around unhelpfully and claiming

"this is just who I am man! You can't control me! My friends are my family now - I'm going to live in a squat with some bikers until you get my soul!"

Everything we want players to discover was a mess. How did we expect people to be able to work anything out if the answers were all random?


We've just finished a big fat review based on Bungie's advice and improved the game a tonne! :D

This is the sort of thing we have to write blog posts about though since, when you play the game, it's a change you'll have no idea ever happened (since you'll've never tried to play the old and confusion version of the game).

Here's some diagrams that illustrate the point (even if you don't know it)

This is a diagram of how the game worked before our review. We made this diagram to see if it would show up any unpredictable or confusing relationships in the game.

oh sure, it LOOKS simple enough. But it's a bit random about what arrows go where. And how are you supposed to guess how the dark blue arrow behaves when there's only 1 of it?

Maybe you can't see it 'cos you don't know what the arrows mean, but they're important and we hate this diagram because it shows up how unpredictable they are! Shun this diagram! Booo! Hissss!

This is more like it though!

This is the model for the game that we produced based on our having properly defined roles for all the plants.

Sure it's bigger and looks a little more complicated - but look how beautifully it all comes together in the middle. This is how diagrams should behave.

What's that? Two types of orange arrow that would be just as unpredictable as the blue one from that last image? Pfft! They're special cases that make perfect sense after we properly considered how to balance the role of the plums with that of the fixit berries! We'd go into it further but we'd only bamboozle you with our amazing semi-science and plantchemy!

You'll just have to trust that we know what we're doing and praise this diagram! Lovely diagram! Oooh, just look at how splendid it is! Why not kiss it. Go on, it's fine, no-one's looking. Yeah... lovely diagram... You understand us... You're not like those other diagrams...

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