This post goes along with the previous post on combat. Besides being short and sweet (or not so sweet if you get yourself killed) when thinking about combat it needs to be remembered that bad guys aren’t going to fight fair. Unlike MMOs today where the mobs will just stand there and trade blows with you, “real” bad guys don’t want to do that. They’ll set up ambushes, traps, run away if the fight goes sour on them, etc. Players will need to change the way they think about taking on the bad guys if they want to come out on top, let alive just survive.
Any time a player has to enter into hostile territory, he needs to start thinking about several things:
- What in the immediate area can kill me?
- What in the immediate area can hide things that can kill me?
- What in the immediate area can let the bad guy know I’m here?
- Is the immediate area even the best way to go?
- The last is something that needs to be considered by the area designer. The bad guy is almost never going to want a direct route that leads to him that’s easily discoverable by players. This is part of why mission planning is going to be important. If the player doesn’t know how to find the bad guy, he shouldn’t just be able to follow a path to him.
- The first 3 are also things that need to be considered by area designers, but in a different way. Even if the area the player is in doesn’t lead to the bad guy, it needs to appear that it might and thus, needs to have things that are hazardous to the player, although not overwhelmingly so. Thinking like a bad guy means that the stuff the designer puts into or near an area of the bad guy’s lair costs money and bad guys are probably going to be cheap about what he leaves lying around, unless the bad guy is a multi-millionaire, which shouldn’t be common, obviously.
- What kind of cheap but deadly things might players encounters in an area? Things like mines, pits, things that a character might touch that are electrified, trip wires that release gases, etc. are all usually staples in a bad guy’s arsenal, though they’re also all pretty cliché. Still, some of the usual suspects should be used to satisfy the player’s expectation.
- The area designer is also going to have to consider how players might be able to escape or evade these things in order to keep things fun for the player. A trap that is unavoidable that kills the character 99% of the time isn’t going to be fun and if the game isn’t fun the player will not continue to play. Typical building architectural pieces like ventilation shafts, fire escapes, rear entrances, and roof accesses are all things that should be options to be considered when designing the area a bad guys makes his HQ in. Most bad guys in the game are going to use regular buildings as their lairs so these things should be present, although possibly booby-trapped in keeping with the thinking above.
- Depending on the bad guy, he also might not want to kill agents that come knocking at his door, so traps may be non-lethal. Not only does this give the player a better chance of making it to the bad guy it also means the designer has to plan for what happens if the traps incapacitates the character. Is there a part of the lair that can be used as a holding cell? How thorough are the minions of the bad guy going to be in making sure the character doesn’t have anything on him that will allow him to escape? How escapable is the holding cell going to be (again, it might just be an office in the building the bad guy has holed up in)? Is the bad guy going to want to interrogate the character and, if so, how is this going to play out in the game?
Ultimately, building a world that is both fun and exciting for the player for several years of game playing time and one that is also not just another standard MMO is going to be challenging. I think it’s something that has to be done though, to bring some freshness back to the genre and pull in players like myself that have given up on MMOs that devolve into grindfests and new players that are looking for something different.