After a horribly long entry in the rescue of Dead Space 3. Mr. Towelhead presents the second part of the Crazy Talk entry. Bare with me and don’t [sniff, sniff] click away. Crazy Talk by the way, is the time of the month where we talk freely about game design and development :D And by freely I mean RANT.
Without further ado:
Crazy Talk: Dead Space 3 Re-Design to the Rescue (2 / 2)
So dear weird-movie-goers, lets get on with problem número three.
Re-Design PROBLEM 3: Too many weapons, too many enemies
“Too many Names! So Little Time!” [and bare in mind dear readers that I hj’ave a terrible voice]
So lets get it on with the Weapons first. What about the new approach to create your “own” weapons?, the so-called “freedom” to create? Create weapons to your whim (considering the protagonist is an engineer) sound freaking amazing, but is it? Well, it would be if only the system was good, but there are FAR TOO many flaws of design in the practice. Here:
A. Irrelevance. There are way too many weapon-combinations. A.2. Irrelevance. Roughly 10% of weapons are useful (plasma cutter, shotgun). B. Diversity. There isn’t a single situation the plasma cutter can’t deal with, and deal with ease. B.2. Diversity. Most weapons function similar to a machine gun. C. Entangled Mess. There is no logic nor guide as to how weapons are assembled; what engines in what position (up or down), support which tips, in which frames seems random at best. D. Flair. Not to be picky, but let me exemplify this one. The plasma engine looks like a small barrel on the compact frame but becomes (magically I suppose) a freaking kinetic engine on a heavy frame. How? E. Names. Engines and tips have cool names but they make their task difficult to guess. SPECIALLY considering that this is the third installment of the game, not the third installment of this crapulent weapon system.
F. as in Freaking Idiocy. My personal favorite (mistake that is). You can “create” weapons to your whim, but the guides and tools to do so are unlocked as you progress through the game. Wait what? You tell me I can’t craft a flamethrower from the start? Unfortunately yes. You can only create the weapons the game lets you at each given point in the story. So really. There is no big difference in buying weapons as they are unlocked in the game, compared to creating weapons as they are unlocked in the game.
The weapon crafting system sounds great but fails in practice.
So, lets tackle the enemies now. In a nutshell, there are way too many enemy variants.
Can you imagine if this were Mega Man?
This, is, Madness!!
BTW Isaac’s sprite was created by and is (C) of Andry “Shango” Rajoelina
Enemy design was a precious feat. of the Dead Space franchise. Unfortunately things take a weird and fugly turn in Dead Space 3. Laissez moi vous expliquer:
A. Variety. The game features a staggering number of 29 different enemy-variants but only three variants comprise like 85% of enemy encounters (slashers, wasters and feeders). B. Wasted Space in Disc. Several enemies appear only once or twice in the entire game. So why even have them? (tentacles, guardians, nests, wheezers, pregnants, spitters, wheezers). C. un-Challenging. There’s a ton of enemies that are boring, useless or annoying at best. Medusas: A flying ball with tentacles? Unitologist: I mean, they are just humans with guns. The Swarm. A fluffy ball with a mouth.
So you see. Its like the developers went nuts with ideas, tried to include everything, and managed to sprinkle the game with tons of undeveloped potential… it’s like, like… it’s like what Bilbo used to said:
No wait! Wrong quote.
“Gurgle, gurgle, gurle!”
Damn IT! Wrong quote again.
” … slurps”
Ups. Wrong again.
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”
THERE YOU GO!
On all accounts there is so much wasted time, programming code and human resources AND potential.
Design Solution 3: Streamline
Focus Damn it! Streamline it baby! Of lately streamline, has become a synonymous with evil in my dictionary [destroying Mass Effect 3 and ruining my Supreme Commander 2 experience], but that doesn’t mean streamline is evil per se. So now lets forget about our old enmities and embrace darkness, I mean streamlining.
Streamline of Weapon Design
Streamline in freedom of weapon and item creation means to make things easier and intuitive for the player. A. Obvious. Weapon-engines and -tips should have purpose-clear names (provided some of them have), engines and tips should have clearly differentiated and obvious tasks. Thus… B. Default Weapons? Default items shouldn’t even exist if the rest is clear. C. Simple. The system should be simple and logical. Why even include frames when all weapon function almost the same, and most weapons function better in the one of them (the heavy frame).
So the question is. How to streamline a do-it-yourself approach to weapon design? [I mean in such a way that it makes sense and is fun] Easy piecey lemon squeezy! Lets go back to the basics and let us be helped by DESIGN MANAGEMENT :D
So we present to you…
Weapon design should be a reflection of game design. Games are comprised of a basic idea, core design if you like. The bulk of the game follows this formula, whereas challenges, side missions, or fun situations go slightly off the core design in order to keep players interested, challenged.
What does this mean in Dead Space 3
The core design of Dead Space is to dismember monsters accurately, so that’s the basics formula. Challenges of design go against the basics, like unstoppable monsters (regenerators), swarms of small targets (creepers, swarm, feeders) or large targets with pin-point weak points (nexus). Design for fun are parts of the game that are meant for entertainment and diversity rather than following the formula or not (hacking machines, zero-g, climbing/rappel, turret sections). Errors of design are things that make no sense in the Dead Space design or universe (human enemies with no distinct role).
Next we translate game design into weapon design
Basic weapons are a match with the core design of the game (weapons tailored at dismembering enemies like the plasma cutter or ripper blade). Counter weapons are bellow average but extremely effective against certain challenges (like the pulse riffle being neat against swarms of little targets). Fun weapons are meant to be cool while marginally effective, for example the mines of the line-gun are too slow, but nothing beats seeing a slasher blown to bits by carefully placed mines. Flawed weapons are boring, useless or broken [broken means in video game jargon something that is overpowered], the seeker riffle for example has simplistic animations and is capable of killing enemies with simple body shots, going crassly against the basic formula. AND… I thought of another category: Badass weapons, these are a match with the core design, being extremely powerful at the cost of a huge draw-back. The contact beam is effective as hell but needs to charge before fire, is slow and has a low ammo clip. Tada.
Now we have categories or criteria that matches our game design (basic, badass, counter and fun). What’s next? Well, Dead Space 3 incorporated a do-it-yourself approach to weapon creation. It goes without saying that such a take should be intuitive, or at the very least logical. Now its when streamline comes to the rescue so lets keep it simple and short.
For example: A. Simple Math. Say we feature 5 weapon-engines that can be combined with 5 different weapon-tips for 25 possible combinations of weapons. B. Create and Assign. In a next step we assign each of the 25 weapons to slots of weapon criteria (basic, badass, etc.). C. Less is more. Forget about unnecessary steps. Currently weapons are made of: 1 frame (trigger), 2 engines (bullets), 2 tips (muzzle), 2 attachments and up to 8 upgrade circuits.
Sometimes more, is not better…
… overkill indeed
That’s 6 steps too many for a single goal [ONE weapon]. Lets simplify things for the sake of fun. Frame, attachment-1 and engine could very well be one element; Muzzle, attachment-2 and circuit interface another. Et voilà, we present to you a Mr. Towelhead approved schematic to how weapon design could have looked like:
Mr. Towelhead’s Approved Weapon System
Plasma-engine / Electric-engine / Bullet-engine / Javelin-engine / BMW-engine
Cutter-tip / Bayonet-tip / Rapid Fire-tip / Precision-tip / Pennis-tip
You don’t need to be a genius to get what comes out of each engine, specially if you are familiar with the franchise. And you don’t need a lot of imagination to figure out how each weapon-tip influences projectile behavior. Tada!
Streamline of Enemy Design
Just like weapon design we can streamline enemy design (good streamline that is). A. Focus. Ditch enemies that serve no clear purpose and/or barely make an appearance in the game. Guardians, pregnants, tentacles, medusas, the swarm, unitologists, FREAKING mines. B. FOCUS damn it! Ditch useless stuff in favor of one (or two) thoroughly-thought enemy(ies) design. C. Multitasking. Design enemies that may fill different niches of gameplay (zero gravity, stationary enemies, climb and rappel sections, etc) to save time and impress the player.
What about a wheezer-infector hybrid!
Get it, because he’s the lead singer of the band Weezer :[
Now seriously, here is my concept art of the Wheezer-Infector hybrid
I mean really, that or any cool necromorph design. What the game needed is an infector that is not as vulnerable, a cool stationary obstacle and out of the box challenges, like corrupting or freezing the air around it, forcing the player to use his wits and be quick. For example:
Climbing, Sliding and Rappel: Why was the gürl from the movie “The Ring” so scary? Because it was a (human) girl crawling up a wall in a weird, inhuman fashion. Unsettling indeed! Why was the Alien Necromorphs crawling up the shaft not scary? Because it was a cool looking creature (cool, not scary) climbing up a mountain much like a regular animal would [it was intense, in an action-movie kind of way]. Can you imagine the horror of a fairly human looking monster (wheezer-infector) crawling up the mountain towards you?
… I know, my photoshop skills are frightening :P
Stationary Challenge: Make life easier for you. A single stationary enemy (wheezer-infector) could easily replaced many enemies in the game. I remember the animation of a legless Brute opening his chest and shooting organic bombs as truly unsettling. Same would go for a human looking stationary monster, pry-opening its chest or stomach to launch, spit, vomit organic matter at the player.
Well that’s enough for today.
Dear weird-movie-goers and video-game-aficionados, I have talked WAY TOO much (talking about streamline), so lets close the doors to my brain and see you in the next Crazy Talk episode. Meow!
What have we learned today. Greed is bad.