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'The Door Problem' of Game Design

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the making-adoorable-games dept.

Games 305

An anonymous reader writes "Game design is one of those jobs everybody thinks they can do. After all, they've played a few games, and they know what they liked and disliked, right? How hard could it be? Well, professional game designer Liz England has summed up the difficulty of the job and the breadth of knowledge needed to do it in what she calls 'the door problem.' Quoting: 'Premise: You are making a game. Are there doors in your game? Can the player open them? Can the player open every door in the game? What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open? What happens if there are two players? Does it only lock after both players pass through the door? What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time?' This is just a few of the questions that need answering. She then goes through how other employees in the company respond to the issue, often complicating it. 'Network Programmer: "Do all the players need to see the door open at the same time?" Release Engineer: "You need to get your doors in by 3pm if you want them on the disk." Producer: "Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?"'"

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Will the door have windows? (4, Funny)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 7 months ago | (#46821427)

I'd like little windows so people can see into the next room. These are always missing in games.
ALSO, I want to shoot something through the doors and blow them up with things.
#FeatureCreep

Re:Will the door have windows? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821597)

The proper way to describe that you are describing feature creep is by using XML. Example:

        <featurecreep>idea</featurecreep>

Also, for additional geek points, you should make sure that your comment complies with a schema that you link to in your comment.

Re:Will the door have windows? (4, Funny)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 7 months ago | (#46821661)

I'm going for a manager vibe. I've read the word json somewhere and I think all company use of HTML should in the Json now. So if you could just implement that and fill out this TPS report that would be great.

Re:Will the door have windows? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 months ago | (#46821701)

This is Slashdot. There is no schema (even in Beta)!

Re:Will the door have windows? (1)

ardor (673957) | about 7 months ago | (#46822027)

But you forgot to use an XML schema for validation, and XSL transformations to be able to automatically write a game out of the XML files!

Re:Will the door have windows? (3, Funny)

Assmasher (456699) | about 7 months ago | (#46821927)

I love that "Feature Creep" is both adverbial and can be a noun. "Oh, look, it's the feature creep..." ;)

Re:Will the door have windows? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 months ago | (#46822047)

That has long been what many people wanted. Games that act like things in real life. Instead, we get things that look like real life, with high quality graphics, but think still don't act like real life. I'd rather have a game that didn't look as nice, but had things that reacted much more as they do in the real world. Breakable windows have been done, but doors and walls are usually completely solid, which, I guess, is usually why they don't put windows on them.

Personally, I really liked the way Metroid was done on the GameCube. The levels just went on and on forever, and you rarely had to wait for loading. When you did have to wait, you were in an elevator, and even then the loading times were relatively quick. That's something I really miss about the old cartridge systems. Everything was so instantaneous. I think that Nintendo is the only game make left who makes it a priority to have very low loading times.

Re:Will the door have windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822191)

If I recall correctly from playing counterstrike about a decade ago it was possible to shoot through walls.
The walls offered some protection but mostly the benefit was that you were hidden.
Didn't help much if the opponent could anticipate you there.

Re:Will the door have windows? (1)

AlabamaCajun (2710177) | about 7 months ago | (#46822151)

Try Minecraft! Yes you can see through all standard doors and hatches. The only question is can you get shot through the window? Skeletons and witches are the only above ground enemy that have weapons. You also have access to the bow and can throw things. So far I have not seen any projectile pass through.

if (door.state == HalfOpen)
{
Debug.WriteLine ("Can't determine what the door is doing, Try knocking on the door");
}

Re:Will the door have windows? (1, Funny)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46822303)

ALSO, I want to shoot something through the doors and blow them up with things.

Oh, Gawd, a believer in the Joe Biden School of Civilian Marksmanship....;-)

Article is empty (4, Insightful)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 7 months ago | (#46821437)

The article doesn't really say anything. For starters, it took me a while to realize she's talking only about computer games, and then even more specifically only about first person adventures / RPGs. From what I understood from the list of problems, I got that you decide on game mechanics and then generally boss people around.

Re:Article is empty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821815)

What I got from it is that someone wanted to write a book for the $ake of writing a book.

And personally, fuck doors. Its a game....I deal with doors all day IRL and they suck too. Focus more on axes or sharks with laser beams.

Re:Article is empty (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 7 months ago | (#46821839)

I love doors in video games as long as there is some way to completely and utterly destroy them. There's something very satisfying about wrecking a door to splinters that I don't get from my office day job.

Re:Article is empty (2)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 7 months ago | (#46821963)

Bring an axe to work.

You may not keep your day job for long, but you can wreck the hell out of some doors and go out in a blaze of glory.

Re:Article is empty (4, Insightful)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 7 months ago | (#46821991)

I couldn't distinguish her "doors problem" from any other mundane problem in a complex system that some of us deal with every day.

RPG Games (2)

fatp (1171151) | about 7 months ago | (#46821445)

Most RPG Games I played have large number of fake doors.

Re:RPG Games (2)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 7 months ago | (#46821451)

A good thing. I'd have to open every door in the game. I don't have OCD. OCD.. OCD... O.C.D.

Re:RPG Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821493)

OCDC

There. Fixed!

Re:RPG Games (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821585)

OC/DC

There. Fixed!

Re:RPG Games (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821685)

AC/DC
There. Made Awesome!

Re:RPG Games (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 7 months ago | (#46821845)

It's A Long Way To The Top, If You Wanna Open Every Door

Re:RPG Games (5, Funny)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 7 months ago | (#46822269)

I spell it CDO, because it doesn't annoy me as much when it's in alphabetical order.

um (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#46821495)

Those issues sound like any feature in any other software project I've worked on...

Are there "Save" buttons in your application?
Can the user click them?
Can the user click every button in the application?
What tells a user a button is click-able?
What happens if there are two user?
Does it become read only after both users click it?
What if the UI is REALLY BIG and controls can't all exist at the same time?'
'Network Programmer: "Do all the users need to see the record save at the same time?
Release Engineer: "You need to get your buttons in by 3pm if you want them on the disk.
Producer: "Do we need to give everyone those buttons or can we save them for phase 2?

Re:um (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46821551)

Not really. Not unless your application has hundreds of save buttons, some of which are purely there for decorative purposes. And most applications don't have multiple users sharing a UI.

For app design, all these are solved problems. The typical answers are "yes, usually, yes, unclickable buttons are faded, the first user has a lock on the file, no because that would be stupid, your UI is too complex, yes, ???, we need the save button in phase 1".

With a game, I've seen different answers for all of these.

Re:um (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 months ago | (#46821737)

What if the UI is REALLY BIG and controls can't all exist at the same time?'

your UI is too complex

So every app with more than one window (or mode) is too complex?

Re:um (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46821755)

Fine. My solution here is incorrect.

Break down the UI into simpler components. Although to be fair to GGP, this does also apply to level design.

Re:um (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822117)

If a button cannot be clicked, then you shouldn't be displaying the user a widget that affords clicking.

Re:um (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822203)

Release Engineer: "You need to get your buttons in by 3pm if you want them on the disk.

As a release engineer with 20 years of experience, that is so 1990's. Today you should have continuous integration / continuous deployment capabilities so that as soon as the buttons pass QA and are promoted to production they are rolled out to the end users via an auto update process. The release engineer should be focused on making sure this service is bullet proof and not as worried about what features actually went into a build. That's the release managers job.

Easy answers (4, Insightful)

DeathToBill (601486) | about 7 months ago | (#46821499)

I'm not convinced by TFS. The answers are, roughly:

  1. 1. Are there doors in your game? Let's say for the moment there are.
  2. 2. Can the player open them? Yes. If you have doors in a 3D game and they don't behave like doors, you have failed.
  3. 3. Can the player open every door in the game? Yes. See point 2.
  4. 4. What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open? It's a door. It opens.
  5. 5. What happens if there are two players? Doors behave the same for all players. It's a door. See point 2.
  6. 6. Does it only lock after both players pass through the door? See point 5.
  7. 7. What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time? Then your technology is not good enough to implement your vision and one or the other needs to change. See point 2.

Am I the only one who finds arbitrary restrictions in games, either because the technology couldn't cope, or because the game designer knows how you want to play better than you do, or just because, really annoying? If there's a door there, it should open. If it won't open, there shouldn't be a door there. How hard is this? Putting a door there that's never going to open just frustrates the player and destroys the suspension of disbelief. It reminds them that they're not really in this world they can see, they're in some arbitrarily limited construct devised by a "product manager" at some company to try to screw a few bob out of them. Of course there need to be some limits on the world, because the technology isn't infinite; good game design should make those limits look natural so that the player never even notices that the limit is there.

Tomb Raider games are amazingly annoying - some things you can jump and grab, some things you can't. The only way to tell is to jump and try grabbing it. If it doesn't work, maybe you can't jump and grab that thing, or maybe you just didn't quite get it right. I know, I know, this is not the point of Tomb Raider games, Lara is, but still...

Actually (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821589)

The first tombrider game was really good in that regard. Lara wasn't the point back then. In comparison to other games of the time the first tomb rider was very believable in how you could use the environment. It just worked right. After that, the graphics quality went up, and game quality went down.

Re:Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822055)

Lara wasn't the point back then.

See GP. Technology wasn't good enough to implement that vision.

Re:Easy answers (5, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 months ago | (#46821591)

I like your world where no locked doors exist; it's so very much like reality where I also need no keys to unlock doors.
Also in reality nobody can ever block a door. If somebody else (let's call him "player 2") blocks the door from opening, I'm still able to open the door. Because "It's a door. It opens", the door will magically pass right through the other person.
Also; what is behind every opened door? If there are doors behind an opened door, they should open too, right?

In my world, a locked door is normal. How can I see if a door is locked in real life? If it has a hole for a key and closed, it's probably locked.

Re:Easy answers (-1, Troll)

DeathToBill (601486) | about 7 months ago | (#46821603)

1. Learn to read.
2. Come back and try again.

Re:Easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821673)

why wouldn't you have locked doors? simple enough feature.

if skyrim can do it, you can do it. you can even add a lockpicking subgame. stop being a faggot.

Re:Easy answers (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#46821735)

But there might be red herring doors which behave like all other locked doors, but which have no key available in the game or are (visibly?) blocked from behind or chained together. These doors will never open, and threads on Internet forums will be created about them detailing ways people will have tried to get through them. I appreciate painted-on 2d doors that let me know it's not a real door so I shouldn't even bother. I appreciate a complete world where every door can be unlocked or destroyed with powder kegs, but whole-world design is a lot tougher than level design. Even Origin had issues creating worlds after their buyout.

Re:Easy answers (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 months ago | (#46822063)

3. Learn how to posit valid arguments.

Implied ad hominem attacks are not valid.

Why do you think I'm wrong and why do you feel my argument are incorrect?
I thought I made a decent case, using mild sarcasm, for not having every door be openable.

Re:Easy answers (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about 7 months ago | (#46821675)

If it is locked, then that implies that the door opens, but it's being blocked by a device (the lock). If the door wouldn't open (ever), then it's probably just a texture that looks like a door instead of an actual, in-game door that it's just locked.

I think it was in F.E.A.R. where there were doors whose sole purpose was to look pretty. They opened, except there were some boxes or stuff on the other side so you could never go through them. Perhaps you would go to the other side through another way, or perhaps you wouldn't. Either way, they behaved like doors instead of being just a texture on a wall that looks like a door.

Re:Easy answers (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 months ago | (#46822121)

But did the boxes behind the door behave like boxes? Could the boxes be opened, or shoved aside?
I'm perfectly used to encountering doors that I will never be able to unlock in real life.
When I walk to my own frontdoor (to which I do have the key) I encounter dozens of doors for which I have no key and which will remain forever locked to me.
Why couldn't this be true for a game as well?

Re:Easy answers (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 7 months ago | (#46822181)

Because in real life those doors don't come in a package you bought.
You bought the game, therefore you bought all the doors within it. They should then have the ability to open and let you explore.

Re:Easy answers (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46821695)

Except it doesn't always work. Suppose you have a hotel room level or something. The hotel corridor will be lots of rooms that you don't need to open and wouldn't make sense from an immersion point of view if you could. So what's the solution here?

Re:Easy answers (3, Insightful)

Thruen (753567) | about 7 months ago | (#46821855)

This is a huge problem for me in exactly those types of levels. I do want to open every door, every single one, and I very rarely can. Admittedly, my favorite games are open world games which shouldn't have many areas inaccessible to the player, but I also play shooters and want the same thing. Battlefield 4 is full of elevators that only go from the lobby to the top floor or roof, I want to get out on the 32nd floor and kick the door in to the corner suite and set up my rifle where I won't immediately be spotted, taking that option away never makes sense from an immersion point of view. It only makes sense from a technological point of view. Does it create the possibility that 64 players will be roaming room to room with silencers in a hotel while ignoring the rest of a large map? Yes, and that's perfect. The previous post is entirely correct, while doors are important these questions are easy to answer.

Don't get me wrong, I believe game design to be rather difficult, but this is a poor attempt at explaining why. "The Door Problem" is not nearly as difficult as budget problems, working within technological limitations, or keeping a coherent storyline while letting the player make meaningful decisions. I speak from years of experience, in unrelated fields but experience none the less!

Re:Easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821959)

Go to a hotel right now, get in the elevator, get off on any floor, how many doors can you open?

Re:Easy answers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822037)

If I'm armed like I would be in Battle of Duty or whatever, every single door.

Re:Easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822103)

with a shotgun, all.

Re:Easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822163)

All of them, if I have a gun to shoot out the locks with.

Re:Easy answers (2)

Drethon (1445051) | about 7 months ago | (#46821739)

It has little to do with technology coping and how you implement these behaviors in code in a way that works smoothly and consistently.

So what I read is you think the "technology" should be able to implement reality? "Technology" does not exist, code written by humans does and writing this code takes time. Say it takes ten hours to implement code for a non realistic door to be coded up, a hundred hours for a fairly realistic door to be implemented and a thousand hours for a completely realistic door. Is the developer going to go with the simple door that cost $250 to implement and makes most users happy or the complex door that cost $25,000 to implement?

Now look at the fact that that door is 0.001% of the total complexity of the game. If the entire game is implemented with the same complexity, how many people have to buy this $2.5Bn game for it to be profitable?

5. What happens if there are two players? Doors behave the same for all players. It's a door. See point 2.

Great, it behaves the same for all players. Does that mean when one player unlocks the door it always remains unlocked for everyone or do we have a door that automatically relocks after it is closed? Say access to an area is restricted as part of a high level quest. When one player completes the quest after hours of questing and gains access to the special area we want all players, including those who just started the game, to be able to enter this hard to attain room?

It isn't just about making a door behave like a door, its a question of what does this door mean to the whole game, what does each door mean to the whole game?

Re:Easy answers (2)

Dan East (318230) | about 7 months ago | (#46821741)

If there's a door there, it should open. If it won't open, there shouldn't be a door there. How hard is this? Putting a door there that's never going to open just frustrates the player and destroys the suspension of disbelief. It reminds them that they're not really in this world they can see, they're in some arbitrarily limited construct devised by a "product manager" at some company to try to screw a few bob out of them.

What kind of world do you live in that you're able to open every single door you see? You actually believe that is realistic? Especially for games like the original Half Life, set in this huge commercial / industrial type top secret research setting. I would expect that EVERY door would be locked by default!

Re:Easy answers (2)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 7 months ago | (#46821975)

In the world of Half Life where there is an emergency and aliens are invading and I have a gun, I can open more or less any door, one way or another.

Normally shooting open doors is frowned on in polite socity, but that same socity understands when shooting open doors during an alien invasion.

What is REALLY stupid is to give me a rocket launcher that can't destroy glass walls.

Re:Easy answers (1)

mooingyak (720677) | about 7 months ago | (#46821981)

If there's a door there, it should open. If it won't open, there shouldn't be a door there. How hard is this? Putting a door there that's never going to open just frustrates the player and destroys the suspension of disbelief. It reminds them that they're not really in this world they can see, they're in some arbitrarily limited construct devised by a "product manager" at some company to try to screw a few bob out of them.

What kind of world do you live in that you're able to open every single door you see? You actually believe that is realistic? Especially for games like the original Half Life, set in this huge commercial / industrial type top secret research setting. I would expect that EVERY door would be locked by default!

The complaint is more that IRL, there is *some way* of opening every door out there. Most of the time it's out of simple respect of what a locked door indicates that you don't even try. The rest of the time it's usually that the effort isn't worth it. But it's totally possible to open every single door in, say, a hotel. In many games, doors are just decorative, despite that there's an implication of something behind it.

Re:Easy answers (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#46821791)

Arbitrary restrictions are what differentiates game design from VR engineering.

Re:Easy answers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821803)

I'm not convinced by TFS. The answers are, roughly:

  1. 1. Are there doors in your game? Let's say for the moment there are.
  2. 2. Can the player open them? Yes. If you have doors in a 3D game and they don't behave like doors, you have failed.
  3. 3. Can the player open every door in the game? Yes. See point 2.
  4. 4. What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open? It's a door. It opens.
  5. 5. What happens if there are two players? Doors behave the same for all players. It's a door. See point 2.
  6. 6. Does it only lock after both players pass through the door? See point 5.
  7. 7. What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time? Then your technology is not good enough to implement your vision and one or the other needs to change. See point 2.

As soon as you got to your step 2 and step 3 you just increased the programming load by a considerable amount. If you want all that you need to tell your VP that you need the funds to do it. If the answer is no, then your list just changed.

Re:Easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821979)

Played Half-Life 2? It takes place largely in the middle of a city. As you might imagine, there are doors everywhere. Endless, endless doors.
Some of these doors cannot be opened. This makes sense in the context of the game, as the Combine have gone to great lengths to restrict peoples' movements by locking, or blocking, many doors.

You're suggesting that the player character should actually be able to, somehow, open these doors despite being physically incapable of doing so.

Because door open.

Re:Easy answers (1)

atwupack (917125) | about 7 months ago | (#46821999)

1. Are there doors in your game? Let's say for the moment there are. OK

2. Can the player open them? Yes. If you have doors in a 3D game and they don't behave like doors, you have failed. Not every door can be opened in RL. Why should it be possible in a game?

3. Can the player open every door in the game? Yes. See point 2. Then you have to provide every possible room for a location even if it is not necessary for the game. Why should I be able to open every door of every house in a street only because there is one house I have to visit?

4. What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open? It's a door. It opens. Again, you have a street with houses. Why should it be possible for the player to enter each house on the street? You cannot do that in real life, can you?

5. What happens if there are two players? Doors behave the same for all players. It's a door. See point 2. No, because one player could be allowed to open the door as owner of the house, apartment. The second one is not allowed to open that door.

6. Does it only lock after both players pass through the door? See point 5. See, my reply to point 5. Who locks the door? Is it possible that the invited player enters the apartment and lock the owner out of his own place?

7. What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time? Then your technology is not good enough to implement your vision and one or the other needs to change. See point 2. This question is about the technology. What technology to chose to make doors in the huge world work. But because doors normally have only a local impact on the environment this is really not that difficult I would say.

Re:Easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822007)

You don't play many games do you? Go have a look at top sellers in 3D: GTA 4/V, Batman, Uncharted et al. All have far more doors than doors that open.

Re:Easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822021)

Perhaps you are the type of person TFA is talking about. Completely unable and unwilling to even consider the problems associated with implementing features in a game.

Re:Easy answers (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 7 months ago | (#46822073)

Let me guess, you only ever play sandbox games?

The summary questions are essential questions to answering what kind of game you want to design, and you explained the consequences of ignoring them perfectly in your commentary. A game is a combined experience and challenge. That experience needs to fundamentally be finite, if only because you have finite designer time. What you have to do is make the experience finite without throwing arbitrary restrictions at the player when possible. Yet I wouldn't want EVERY game to be set in a featureless canyon rather than a city just because I can't open every door.

Sandbox games aren't bad, per se; it's a good design challenge. Frankly though, I've never played a sandbox game that didn't feel a little soulless (Nethack, GTA, Minecraft, etc.). I prefer games with some narrative thread or plotline, and that inherently will mean balancing the experience and interactivity you want to provide. If I can't open a door that I think I should be able to open, that is a failure, but it's not simply that they shouldn't have put a door there or built a room.

Re:Easy answers (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 7 months ago | (#46822155)

It's why I stopped playing the last thief. Zounds of doors out of which 3 open, everything else is just there because... I have no idea why.
How to beat the ultimate thief: just place the loot behind one of those unopenable doors.

Re:Easy answers (2)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 7 months ago | (#46822281)

As I have been playing this game lately (friend invite)

2. Can the player open them? Yes. If you have doors in a 3D game and they don't behave like doors, you have failed.

Or succeeded - not every door in real life can be opened.

3. Can the player open every door in the game? Yes. See point 2.

Not necessarily.

4. What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open? It's a door. It opens.

Unless the door knob is missing. Then it doesn't open - and every player realizes this visual cue pretty quickly.

5. What happens if there are two players? Doors behave the same for all players. It's a door. See point 2.

Agreed.

6. Does it only lock after both players pass through the door? See point 5.

Except for certain doors that require all players to have passed through. The door opens/closes just fine, but only locks if all players are either in the room, or outside the room but dead. How do players know? It's written on-screen - but after a while, people just know.

7. What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time? Then your technology is not good enough to implement your vision and one or the other needs to change. See point 2

Or you load/save as applicable and call each section stages/chapters.

The game? Left 4 Dead 2.

Now, should all games be designed that way? No. But it's certainly a solution to the problems put forth, and fits within the game's overall design.

next up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821513)

"The Slashdot Effect Problem" of websites.

Fallout 3 has the answer (1)

wjh31 (1372867) | about 7 months ago | (#46821523)

I believe fallout 3 handled the issue of too many doors and not enough resources to program a room on the other side quite nicely as demonstrated in this clip (possible NSFW) http://youtu.be/WGKs9-VLgsQ?t=... [youtu.be]

If I were her employer... (0)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#46821527)

I'd point her the door.

Answers: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821539)

It's like she has never played a game before.

> Are there doors in your game?

Probably.

> Can the player open them?

Some way or another, yes.

> Can the player open every door in the game?

Unlikely. Some doors will be locked, if only to remove the expectation that doors are no obstacle.

> What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open?

A locked door conventionally makes a distinctive thud sound when the player tries to open it. If there needs to be an indication that the door will never open, those doors don't make a sound (and typically have artwork indicating that they're not really usable doors.) There may be visual indications of a lock status (keypad, etc, with display, red=locked, green=unlocked) nearby.

> What happens if there are two players? Does it only lock after both players pass through the door?

Depends on the kind of event that you want the player to believe is the cause of the locking.

> What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time?

Does a tree make a sound if there is nobody near to hear it?

> Do all the players need to see the door open at the same time?

Yes, if they can see it and the status of the door is relevant to the game mechanics.

> You need to get your doors in by 3pm if you want them on the disk.

What's the question?

> Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?

Yes.

Re:Answers: (2)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 months ago | (#46821659)

Well, thanks for demonstrating the point.

Re:Answers: (3, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46821877)

> Are there doors in your game?

Probably.

Not the case for every game ever. Maybe not even a majority

> Can the player open them?

Some way or another, yes.

Do we even want access to every single room? We may want to illustrate that we're in a corridor. It would make no sense to be able to open all the doors and it would requitre a lot of level design time and memory space to have something on the other side of each door.

> Can the player open every door in the game?

Unlikely. Some doors will be locked, if only to remove the expectation that doors are no obstacle.

If no doors are locked then why do we need to remove this this expectation?

> What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open?

A locked door conventionally makes a distinctive thud sound when the player tries to open it. If there needs to be an indication that the door will never open, those doors don't make a sound (and typically have artwork indicating that they're not really usable doors.) There may be visual indications of a lock status (keypad, etc, with display, red=locked, green=unlocked) nearby.

This is one solution. Should we have a message saying the door is locked? If so, what message? Should all doors make the same thud? Does that make sense for a metal door? If we go for different thuds, is the inconsistency too jarring? How much space do the thus assets take up? Is a keypad the correct design given the setting of the current level?

> What happens if there are two players? Does it only lock after both players pass through the door?

Depends on the kind of event that you want the player to believe is the cause of the locking.

So which events will cause the door to unlock or lock for both players and which will cause the door to lock or unlock for only one?

> What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time?

Does a tree make a sound if there is nobody near to hear it?

Yes. Now, how do you propose we deal with the memory issue created here?

> Do all the players need to see the door open at the same time?

Yes, if they can see it and the status of the door is relevant to the game mechanics.

What if the door is only usable by players with a certain key or character type?

> You need to get your doors in by 3pm if you want them on the disk.

What's the question?

It's not a question.

> Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?

Yes.

Sucks for those who didn't pre-order. We're now the subject of an internet hate capaign because our game is broken. Or, we don't get as many pre-orders as we otherwise would have.

Every one of these questions is a decision that has to be made. The decision depends on the type of game, the resoucrces avalable (both in terms of hardware and developers), and all the decisions you'e made already.

And the point is, this is just doors. You have a similar lot of questions for any other item in your game.

Re:Answers: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822143)

So the point is that making a game involves lots of decisions? And that is different from what? An average assembly line worker's job, maybe. I think I can hear the world's tiniest violin playing for the poor creatives who don't have monotonous jobs.

Re:Answers: (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46822259)

The point is, most people don't realise just how much minutae you have to deal with in game design, and the job isn't as easy as a lot of people who want to work in games seem to think.

Most people think "Hey, wouldn't it be awesome if we ha could blow holes in all the walls and just kick down every door and we have an entire hotel toplay in with hundreds of rooms.

Yes, it would. But there are other things to consider that people don't think about.

Re:Answers: (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 7 months ago | (#46821893)

"A locked door conventionally makes a distinctive thud sound when the player tries to open it."

I usually play with game sound off so I can have Nertflix on another monitor (at least until more games embrace multi-monitor gaming) or Pandora in the background. If a game doesn't support subtitles (that include all relevant in-game sounds), then it better be 100% playable with the sound off.

Walls, Hills etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821555)

Whilst we're sorting out the doors, I'd also like to be able to lift my feet a bit higher and climb over small walls, rocks etc.

Re:Walls, Hills etc (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#46821891)

Whilst we're sorting out the doors, I'd also like to be able to lift my feet a bit higher and climb over small walls, rocks etc.

Hear, Hear!

Re:Walls, Hills etc (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46822093)

This is sort of the point...

Sure, we can do that. What height is the limit for climbing over, and do we need to make climbable items distinguishable from climbable items that are marginally taller? Some objects need a more complex bounding objects so we need to find the resources to handle that. There are decisions to make here.

And now you can't simply pile up some small rocks to block a door, so you need to revisit the decisions you made on how to prevent access to a door.

Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (2)

Assmasher (456699) | about 7 months ago | (#46821567)

Compare that to "we need to store patient data..."

Do you know what HIPAA is?
Is this going to be accessible over networks/internet?
How are you planning for archive/restoration?
How will we handle auditing?
Should it be over web services or custom server?
How are we going to manage permissions?
How do we securely persist on the client side?

Seriously? The door exercise is strenuous mentally? Anybody with actual software engineering experience will tell you that ALL software features result in design complexities, and a door in a game is pretty simplistic one - whether networked or otherwise.

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 7 months ago | (#46821573)

I should have added that the real challenge doesn't lie with the Game Designer, it lies with the Gameplay Engineer who has to correlate the design person's wishful thinking.

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821607)

Seriously? The door exercise is strenuous mentally? Anybody with actual software engineering experience will tell you that ALL software features result in design complexities, and a door in a game is pretty simplistic one - whether networked or otherwise.

It's not strenuous, it's an example to explain to people who work behind a bar what they do for a living.

Ridiculous (0)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | about 7 months ago | (#46821753)

The whole thing reminded me of a fashion model interview in Bruno:

Modelling, a lot of people think it's easy. But it's the hardest job in the world, isn't it?

It's very hard. Standing in heels all day, and everyone's watching you, so you have to make sure your walk is good.

And, yeah. Yeah, it's really hard, 'cause you've gotta remember, like, to put your right leg forward and then put your left leg forward and then, like, which one now? Right leg again, and then, like, the left one.

And then sometimes you even have to turn. Yeah. And especially the turn. It's so scary.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 7 months ago | (#46821915)

Made me laugh, and I used your analogy in another post...

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 7 months ago | (#46821811)

It's a microcosm of a bigger problem.

We like to think of doors as simple and easy to understand. That's why this example was picked. Imagine all of the other little things that we take for granted and it all stacks up.

Not to say that storing patient data or doing complex modeling or whatever isn't tough. But, it's an insight in the game development process.

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 7 months ago | (#46821887)

I understand, but trying to make a door sound complicated as opposed to trivially simple is a bit too far (imho.)

The issue is that Game Design isn't difficult from the technical point of view, it is difficult from the creative point of view.
Game Implementation is difficult from the technical point of view.

Anywho, I know what you mean, but it still seems a rather egregious example. ;)

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#46821835)

But implicit in the description is an argument between gamers if they like not knowing "the one true path" through the level (all locked doors look and act alike, but some have keys and some don't, which leads to many wasted hours trying to open doors), while other gamers enjoy seeing a door with a red light in the distance and instantly knowing it will never open; it's just decoration. As a designer, you have to know what your demographic wants. Puzzle solvers and first person shooter fans have vastly different desires, and that's just with visible doors. Wait until you get to secret doors, flower pots, and cooking utensils, etc.

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 7 months ago | (#46821911)

Yes, and a Game Designer will know who the target audience is, the genre, and the platform (important.) It doesn't make a door any harder to design, it does make it harder to implement.

It's clear that the Game Designer was trying to say "It's not as simple as saying we have doors in the game", but it sounds a lot like someone saying (and I'm ripping off another poster here) "Being a model is like, super hard... You have to stand around all day, and then they expect you to walk... It's not like we just show up and they pay us..."

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (1)

Drethon (1445051) | about 7 months ago | (#46822013)

Agreed, the summary (and the article too) seems to cover the what of the thought process when I think why this is complex is probably more interesting. They why this is necessary is the consequences when these items are not thought out.

One example I can think of off the top of my head is, a door that is being used to prevent access to a special area in an MMO. If it isn't designed to restrict access appropriately, it devalues that room. Another question comes in when you consider if you actually need a door preventing access or if some other method would be more appropriate.

I think this article would be far more interesting with examples of real life systems showing the consequences of not fully thinking out the design of something simple. Why was the chosen design implemented and why did it turn out not to the be best decision when that part of the game was played?

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (1)

Drethon (1445051) | about 7 months ago | (#46821899)

In medical and avionics the designers are forced to take regulations and certification into account because failure can have sever consequences (injury or death). This (hopefully) means the design process will get things more things right before development starts and everything right before the application is released.

In computer game and basic application development these regulations don't exist. This means that either the designers use the same amount of discipline used up front in critical application development, or they take a lot more time later when the software ends up not working as intended (if they decide to fix the issues anyway).

Ultimately development of non critical (games, windows apps that do not affect life and limb) or critical (medical, avionics, etc) applications is the same. Both take inputs, process them and produce outputs. Both have the same immediate consequences if not coded correctly, the wrong outputs for a given set of inputs. It is only the impact of using those outputs that has differing levels of consequence, ex annoyance, injury, death.

Re:Lol, yeah, that's real tough... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822107)

I believe that this line of questioning is a result of people saying "I love games. I'm really good at them. I should become a game designer." And then they say "You think so, huh? OK, can you handle designing a door?"

It's not like people say "I love healthcare software. I'm really good at using them. I should become a healthcare software designer." Of course if you do say that, then you probably are qualified to design healthcare software.

Obviously slashdot nerds are going to find those questions banal, but that's because we're not generally the ones that the questions are intended to filter out.

dom

Back in the day... (2)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 7 months ago | (#46821665)

We'd call 'em overlays.

One project I did, a series of mods c.1981 to bring real POS invoicing to an early version of Peachtree Accounting, was a BEAR. It was written in MBASIC running under CP/M -- Interpreted tokenized BASIC running on a machine that started with a 64k transient program area. No extended memory then!

Minus OS call kernel, COMMAND.COM, minus BASIC interpreter, your program was born with ~32k to use in its lifetime. So 32k minus the size of the program itself left you with a memory heap for variables. The heap grew downward with every string assignment and when it bumped into the code there would be this pause for "garbage collection" while the heap was de-fragged and re-written to the top of memory again.

No comments, too much room! No long var names! You'd use CHAIN to jump to another program leaving vars in memory. But if you your were clever you'd carve out line number ranges and place temporary functions into 'overlays' that loaded over existing portions. When you did a MERGE no p-code optimization or block was going on here, any load command did its work line by line, it was like a really fast monkey typing in the program code.

So in place of Peachtree's default invoice which was clunky and required lots of input steps (mostly useless for cash sales) to implement a streamlined invoice was difficult. They use lots of strings. My first attempt worked great --- but every couple of line items the heap would touch and trigger global garbage collection -- ~3 to 5 seconds where the machine would be unresponsive. In those THREADLESS 8-bit days when garbage collection began your keyboard controller would save ONE keystroke but the rest would be LOST. This is a total wash. Clearly it needed a whole re-write.

The only way I could make the entry portion useable was to throw out the programming concepts that made things 'easy' (yet caused heap movement). Don't assemble a string of spaces, use a loop to emit them one CHR$() at a time. Don't assign to strings, pre-allocate a number of strings of reasonable length and use MID$() to replace its contents, keep a separate string length var so you can only emit the portion of the string that was being used.

It was sorta like coding in C, in BASIC. That was kind of a 'door' problem. But it worked. Then the world went CBASIC and all our problems magically vanished.

Just like this war (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821669)

Your version of Windows is not genuine. Please call for further details.

$mod up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821677)

Th3o de Raadt, one Kill myself like

After reading her article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821697)

...I'm inclined to believe she simply has a glitch in the engineering portion of her brain. I really can't see the problems she's painting over her walls.

What door problem? (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 7 months ago | (#46821779)

The majority of games in existence nails doors and windows shut. Without bothering to justify why they're shut, or by throwing in a generic "door is locked" animation when the character tries to open them, or by stacking up debris / chairs against the door to justify why it can't be opened. First person shooters are the lamest at doing this - Call of Duty etc. where a heavily armed, fit man can't even knock a pane of glass in or kick / shoot a door open or climb over a modest obstacle. Why? Because fuck you for asking that's why.

More likely it's because their lame engine or AI cannot cope with a dynamic environment properly, or their collision detection / physics get all confused by someone shooting through a door or window, or simply because they can't be bothered to make it work properly.

I don't see it as the problem of a new designer to solve, so much as the entire industry, particularly those who produce tools & middleware for physics, collisions and destructible environments. If the likes of Unreal Engine allows a building to collapse or take damage (e.g. a tank putting a hole in a wall) or to kick open a door then it is likely that many games would make use of that.

Re:What door problem? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#46822173)

You're the kind of guy who plays chess and gets really angry that a bishop can capture a knight, aren't you?

A similar piece from Clint Hocking (5, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#46821783)

Clint Hocking (of Far Cry 2) wrote a similar article last month, using the design of reload systems as an example:

http://www.edge-online.com/fea... [edge-online.com]

If this is the complexity to deal with (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821787)

I should switch my job from programming to game designing.

My favorite one: (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 7 months ago | (#46821801)

What happens when alleged game designers (and/or producers, etc) get bogged down arguing about the minutiae of the actions/responses of doors, to the point that it takes more than 30 seconds to resolve 'challenging' questions like: Do all players need to be able to operate the door? Does it lock behind a player? Must they all see the door open/closed? Can the door be optional DLC?"?

Answer, you shouldn't be surprised that your project can't meet its deadlines or budget.

Re:My favorite one: (1)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#46821917)

Do you know how I know that you didn't read the article?

Inspired by this comic, apparently. (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | about 7 months ago | (#46821905)

Seems entirely too coincidental [trenchescomic.com] .

So complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46821935)

This design of entertainment product is SO complicated. It must be stressful, no?

Thank God we don't use the same technology for dealing with people's lives, health or finances..

Fire the Producer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822089)

Producer: "Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?"'"

My opinion, who gives a crap about the doors, but fire the producer.

Why is this even an issue? (1)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about 7 months ago | (#46822195)

If the game design document says "All doors should be openable, provided the door is unlocked, the player has the key or the player is willing to take a reputation hit by breaking and entering", then your job as a game developer is to implement doors as specified in the game design document.

If the game design document says "Doors are graphic inserts for effect only", then your job as a game developer is to implement the doors as specified in the game design document.

If the game design document doesn't say how to handle doors before people start building the game, then the game design document is incomplete.

Incomplete game design documents, like incomplete architect blueprints, lead to stupid things like what you get by googling "architecture fails" [google.com] .

Re:Why is this even an issue? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#46822273)

What strikes me is the producer question. "Are we trying to make a good title, or are we going to bait customers with exclusive content so we get millions of people to buy our game before the reviews pour onto Amazon that it's garbage not worth playing?"

Re:Why is this even an issue? (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46822287)

If you're the game designer, you're the one deciding what the document says.

Responses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822247)

Programmer: Welcome to the 21st century. We can distribute content these days that isn't included on the disk. Gigabyte-plus launch-day patches are not uncommon, now. Stop being a dumbass.

Producer: No. We're making a game for you that will make you lots and lots of money. Stop being a greedy douche.

Do it like everyone else.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46822295)

Add doors as DLC at day 1

Then patch door opening and other stuff during the next year.

Then later when people start to whine that the doors are too difficult to open, make them always open :)

Add pandas

???

Profit!

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