What makes gameplay fun and successful? Distinctive encounters that feature variety within the player’s toolkit and clear escalation in challenges and rewards. To find this pattern for success, let’s break apart what an encounter is and apply them to your project.
A lot of pieces are needed to bring a game world to life. To help understand the complexity, take a look at the chart below.
Fig. 1: How a game is brought to life.
At the lowest level we have a raw game world waiting for something to happen in it. Now spray over a layer of “Reference Points” and we now have spots to help game logic understand the world. The game world is now aware, but not alive.
The next layer is “Hard Scripting”. This is where most games stop. Controllers and Data Nodes can be used to bring the world to life, offering dynamic interaction within the world, but they still need user-scripting to connect events. The last layer let’s us dynamically create events. Our game world is now completely alive and able to “think” for itself.
It’s important to note the following metrics are based around typical action (FPS shooter) games. If your technology allows for more and the quality of gameplay doesn’t decrease with quantity, experiment with larger sizes.
During the initial layout, take into consideration future performance. Working back from those hard numbers, we can figure out the physical size each Action Zone can be within a level.
Define the area with up to ten “plates” (1024×1024). The following example showcases a variety of layouts Action Zones can have. Example A could be a mix of Track and Capture encounters. Example B could be a whole Action Zone devoted to exploration. Example C could be a street-to-street Chase encounter. The “plates” aren’t meant to be rigid rule set – only a tool used to stay within a general area of space.
Having these quick layouts can be used to also test draw distances. As a general rule of thumb, don’t string more than 2-3 “plates” together (~2500 units). Special vistas or establishing shots can ignore this limitation. Objects can exist outside of the play area, but should be non-interactive and built for high-performance.
To help manage memory and streaming elements (as well as providing a good story and action!), traversing from one Action Zone to another provides a great way to reset the pacing. These Transition Zones should be simple, non-descript routes and have no major impact on the overall budget.
Let’s take the previous examples, label the Transition Zones and potential Combat and Safe areas.
With these concepts in mind, let’s apply them to an example area…