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Ideas for lockpicking mechanic?

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#1mercy^4  Members

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 12:29 PM

Hi all,

I've been working on a personal RPG project, and was trying to develop an interesting lockpicking mechanic, but I'm stumped. I realize not every player enjoys this mini-game (ala Fallout, Elder Scrolls, etc.), but it's something I've wanted to do in my own games for some time.

My original idea was to have a series of sliding pieces that acted like tumblers, which were moved by the rotation of two picks in the keyhole. Each tumbler would move independently of the others and at different speeds. Moving the pick would move different tumblers at different speeds/directions at the same time. Solving the lock requires finding the right position of the two picks so that the open slots line up. The precision would be affected by lock difficulty.

I think this would work, but it's not very exciting and doesn't really take any skill on the part of the player, and I was hoping for something more graphical and puzzle-like. However I've had trouble coming up with ideas.

Was wondering if anyone here has any suggestions on either:
1. Brainstorming for these types of mini-game puzzles
2. Examples of other lockpicking mechanics that you found entertaining

edit: typos

Edited by mercy^4, 10 December 2012 - 12:33 PM.

#2Luis Guimaraes  Members

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 02:34 PM

Take a tour at flash gaming sites in the puzzle section, in there you might find lots of inspiration.

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 02:49 PM

I don't think I'd personally try for a realistic simulation of using lockpicks. Instead I'd go for a block sliding puzzle. At the center of the puzzle would be a circular piece which is trying to rotate, but it has 1 or more slots (lock difficulty level) into which the end of a rectangular block is stuck. The other end of the rectangular block would need to be freed by sliding the blocks around it, and the starting open space would be off in a corner or somewhere else not immediately useful. So it's more or like like those board games and phone games where cars are parked every which way in a parking lot nightmare (occasionally with some immovable support pillars added to the mix) and you're the valet who has to move them all around to get out the one the customer wants. Though, since they are not cars, you could add things like a consumable item that could simplify a lock by exploding one block (or just skip the puzzle), and blocks could be able to slide sideways if they were free along the whole side, etc.

Or, the thing you describe with one action causing two objects to rotate different amounts is something I've seen done in two or three adventure games. In that case there were several rotating pillars or rings which had to be aligned to make a picture. And there was a set of buttons or levers, most of which rotated two or three of the objects at once, including the possibility of one rotating clockwise and the other counterclockwise. So you might get something aligned by using button A 3 times, but then you'd use button B to get another piece aligned and one of the first pieces would get spun too much and now be unaligned... it's related to rubix cubes but not 3D.

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#4sonicarrow  Members

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 02:52 PM

Another way to do it would be (depending on the tech/magic levels in your RPG), using different kinds of locks, other than just the simple key lock. Try combination locks (and have the combos hidden in levels/corpses/etc), computer locks (to pick them, you need a device to hack from and software to hack it), magic locks (could be anywhere from intelligence levels to having learned blueprints/lock schematics prior to picking), and more. There are many kinds of locks, and while it's extra work to program more, it adds variety and challenge to the game.

#5Servant of the Lord  Members

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 02:52 PM

I enjoyed Morrowind's. I also enjoy how Morrowind let's you skip the minigame, and just do it as chance-based.

Thief 1 & 2's was fun, particularly because it was completely in-game, and not some pop-up screen.
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#6mercy^4  Members

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 03:42 PM

I don't think I'd personally try for a realistic simulation of using lockpicks. Instead I'd go for a block sliding puzzle. ... Though, since they are not cars, you could add things like a consumable item that could simplify a lock by exploding one block (or just skip the puzzle), and blocks could be able to slide sideways if they were free along the whole side, etc.

Another way to do it would be (depending on the tech/magic levels in your RPG), using different kinds of locks, other than just the simple key lock. Try combination locks (and have the combos hidden in levels/corpses/etc), computer locks (to pick them, you need a device to hack from and software to hack it), magic locks (could be anywhere from intelligence levels to having learned blueprints/lock schematics prior to picking), and more. There are many kinds of locks, and while it's extra work to program more, it adds variety and challenge to the game.

Great ideas, thank you all; I hadn't considered using these types of puzzles, seems like it would work well, and also by keeping the art direction focused the puzzle components could be made to look more like internal lock mechanics (tumblers, sprockets, etc.) and the puzzle would still look visually as though the player was picking the lock. Thanks again

#7ShiftyCake  Members

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 05:50 AM

The best lockpick mechanic I ever found was in skyrim, which used a chance-based system as such. It would actually give you a view of the lock itself, and you would simulate doing it as if in real life. Two picks used, you could rotate one lockpick and when you believed it to be in the right spot you would click. If it worked, it would open, if not, your pick would be damaged and you would have to try again. After enough damage, the pick breaks and you have to use another one.

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#8TheChubu  Members

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:03 AM

Can't comment much since I actually like FO3/FONV and TES systems for lockpicking. Its just the right mix between in-character skill and player skill.

Beth sold a LOT of their games. If most people would not have liked the system, they'd have changed it (they kinda did but its more or less the same minigame with a different mask).

You could improve that with different kinds of locks (magical locks, harder locks, easier locks, maybe the lock can break if you're not gentle enough?), "real time lockpicking" (meaning that the game doesn't stops when you're lockpicking) or different kind of picks (this one can open magical locks but breaks easily, this one is strong but doesn't works for level 4 locks, etc).

Anyway, you shouldn't add too much depth to it if its not a central part of your RPG. Maybe a complex system is too tedious if the player has to pick a lock each 5min.

Edited by TheChubu, 11 December 2012 - 11:13 AM.

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#9All Names Taken  Members

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 01:42 PM

I enjoyed Morrowind's. I also enjoy how Morrowind let's you skip the minigame, and just do it as chance-based.

Thief 1 & 2's was fun, particularly because it was completely in-game, and not some pop-up screen.

Morrowind didn't have a minigame did it? It was just use lockpick on lock and it determined if you could or not?

#10Servant of the Lord  Members

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 02:29 PM

I'm probably thinking of Oblivion's then. Whichever it was, they had a nice lockpick minigame and the option to skip it, iirc - but it's been awhile.

Edited by Servant of the Lord, 11 December 2012 - 02:30 PM.

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#11Iron Chef Carnage  Members

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 07:14 PM

I'm definitely a fan of having different types of locks. Picking a deadbolt isn't the same as picking a set of handcuffs, after all. Making it abstract will work well if the game is otherworldly, like a futuristic sci-fi lock or a magical dwarven lock or something, but having a block-sliding minigame to see if I can pick a conventional tumbler lock would feel very strange indeed. I don't think I'd like that. I'd rather just have a progress bar.

One thing I've been thinking about for a lockpicking minigame is a tree system. It's like a brute-force combination breaking system, but dressed up a little bit. Here's the naked mechanic:

Have the combination for opening the lock consist of four digits between one and three. That's 81 different possibilities, so it'll take a long time to get through them all. Players can get good at mashing the buttons to speed things along, and character skill can help out by verifying a correct choice on one of the numbers, effectively reducing the complexity of the puzzle by 2/3 for every level in the skill. So you put in 1-1-1-1, 1-1-1-2, 1-1-1-3, 1-1-2-1, and on and on and on until it pops open. When you get better, you can test the first digit individually, so you'll get it in three tries max, leaving you with no more than 12 tries for a lock, instead of 81. Here's how you dress it up:

Your guy kneels down by the keyhole, stick his picks in there and you've got three buttons to hit. One is a sort of prodding motion, one is a twist, one is a rake. You flail wildly against these buttons until the thing opens. With character skill, you'll be able to "feel out" a given tumbler and solve it before moving on, so your picking will become more deliberate and efficient. You don't need a little window to come up showing the lock's innards, you don't need an on-screen prompt, just a character animation and a few different sound effects to convey the needed information to the player.

#12TechnoGoth  Members

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 10:37 PM

I had to hire a locksmith once to get me back back into my flat after being locked out it took him about 15 seconds to get in using just a bendy plastic sheet. Basically the credit card trick you see in old movies is apparently the quickest and easiest method. If that doesn't work they just drill the lock.

But I have my doubts that would make a fun mini game...

Futuristic locks though could have all kinds of fun possibilities like manipulating a routing table so that it changes the stat to a unlocked without triggering an alarm.
But if its a medieval game hmm.. What if you had a set of tools and you had to figure out what order to use a subset of them in to unlock the lock. There might be 6 tools and a lock might require up to 5 to be used in the correct order with 1 tool that is always the critical failure tool, which jams the lock. This way the mini game is about the player using deduction, and experience.

#13MrDaaark  Members

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 02:47 AM

Arkham City had a nice system with digital locks. You rotated both sticks to find 2 sets of matching characters that would work the password. Very close to skyrim's system, but with a different presentation on top.

http://oyster.ignimgs.com/mediawiki/apis.ign.com/batman-arkham-city/c/cb/479.jpg

It was basically a word game. Random gibberish would appear on both sides, along with bits of different words. You try to math them up until you get the proper word.

start watching at 3:10

#14WildField  Members

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 04:36 PM

Anything that requires mouse control precision. You can take ideas from "mouse maze" games, where you move cursor to not touch walls.

Here it can be setting a set of tumblers with lockpick to a very specific height, provided beforehand by rules, and pushing button, all under time constrains. Failure to meet time constraints may reset the puzzle and do something in the outside world, like alerting guards. Pressing button before all tumblers are in their very specific places may break the lockpick.

Edited by WildField, 14 December 2012 - 04:38 PM.

#15cronocr  Members

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 12:22 PM

I remember in Metal Gear Solid you had a memory alloy key that changed its shape depending on the environment temperature. You had to visit a cold and a hot room to get the right shape and open a given lock. That was a very simple yet interesting mechanic.

I'm developing my own lockpicking mini-game with construction kit in Unity:

It has 4 tools, and 6 different components.

Edited by cronocr, 15 December 2012 - 12:31 PM.

#16Memetic1  Members

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 07:23 PM

How about keeping it simple but suspenseful at the same time. When you click on the lock your character goes into a lock picking animation. The skill comes from not being detected by the roving npcs time it wrong and you risk getting caught. Whether or not you also incorporate the whole thing of lock picks breaking is up to you. I also think your skill should lvl up the more you use it. So you can for instance break a simple lock in a few seconds while more complicated ones might take a minute or too. You could also have some distraction special abilitys that could be incorporated. Anyway just a few ideas.

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