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Wavinator

Implications of destructable environments

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Imagine that you can have a firefight aboard a starship. You can destroy walls, bulkheads, equipment and vital machinery. Or imagine you can dig through walls, blow up bridges or create openings in the sides of buildings. What are the gameplay implications for this kind of behavior, and what do you need to ensure the player has a good time doing all of this. (I'm not speaking about the hardware implications... that's for another forum). A couple of things occur to me right off the bat: Getting Trapped The player could dig themselves into a hole, or blow up enough machinery onboard their ship that they're dead in the water, unable to even call for help. Should the game prevent this from happening? Should it automatically detect this situation and end the game? Should it always offer an "instant teleport" that allows them to recall to a safe location (an indestructable lifepod for ships, and an "emergency transporter" for getting stuck on the ground). If the game offers you a way to always repair, should the repair be free, kind of like the default weapon provided in most FPS games incase you run out of ammo? Also, should the AI ever play dirty and trap the player? It would be intelligent behavior to blow up a bridge the player needs to escape some catastrophe, or to sabotage their air filtration systems. Even if players can repair the damage, there's no way to determine in advance that they can still survive the situation (engine repair, for instance, when you're near an impending supernova). Level Limits Objects in space naturally have a level limit (their hull). But what about things on the ground? Should there be, as in Red Faction, walls you can dig through and walls you can't? Even if you could provide the player with endless terrain to dig through, as a game designer aren't you obligated to stop them from doing that which is pointless (given that they don't know in advance)? I'd say you are, and that impassible areas, as much as those of us who love open-ended games hate them, are a necessity. They stop players from getting into areas they're not ready for, and they keep the player roughly on track. Is there a more elegant way of handing such limits as being able to dig through or penetrate walls? Do you see any more gameplay issues implicit in destructable environments? Have any solutions or comments to what I raised above? Again, this is just theoretical. Even when we have the technology to do all of this with ease, we may not have the game design know how. -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership... [edited by - wavinator on April 22, 2004 5:24:28 PM]

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I think this might work well when combined with your idea for a customizable ship. If you do the interio of a ship or building like you do the houses in "The Sims", then you can just have a tiled system for construction, and modify things like that.

For instance, you have your "interior wall" object, your "engineering console" object and your "automatic door" object. During a boarding action or mutiny, if these things get whecked with hammers or laser fire, then maybe they''ll just turn into "destroyed interior wall" (which you can walk through), "damaged engineering console" (47% of the skill bonus it usually gives), and "broken automatic door" (which doesn''t open automatically, and has to be destroyed if you want to get in/out).

I actually envision this as being like the fences and buildings you make in Command & Conquer: they''re structures, but they''re destructable. If you want, you can rebuild them, but that takes time and resources. In your case, maybe certain advanced objects can''t be rebuilt by members of your crew, and you''ll have to get to a port to have them worked on.

With this system, the interior of your ship can be totally destructable. You can use a cutting torch to get through bulkheads and doors, you can smash equipment, compromise airlocks, cut power conduits, and burn the American flag. Applied to buildings, the same is true.

\When you get to things like actually blowing a big chunk off of a ship or demolishing a building, you''re in a different situation. I think it should be possible to totally destroy a spacecraft, but should it be possible to blow a big hole in the hull, eliminating three compartments and the crew in there? I think it could be done. Going back to the "The Sims" example, you can just replace those areas with "vaccuum" objects when the hull fails.

It''s a complex matter, and will take some real doing, but I think you can make it work.

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quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I think this might work well when combined with your idea for a customizable ship. If you do the interio of a ship or building like you do the houses in "The Sims", then you can just have a tiled system for construction, and modify things like that.



Yes, I like this idea. One of the foreseeable problems, though, is that as the level increases or the tiles become smaller, memory is wasted and rendering time will increase (rather than dealing with 5 faces for a seperate floor that''s a cube, for example, you''re dealing with 5 x the number of floor tiles).

quote:

For instance, you have your "interior wall" object, your "engineering console" object and your "automatic door" object. During a boarding action or mutiny, if these things get whecked with hammers or laser fire, then maybe they''ll just turn into "destroyed interior wall" (which you can walk through), "damaged engineering console" (47% of the skill bonus it usually gives), and "broken automatic door" (which doesn''t open automatically, and has to be destroyed if you want to get in/out).


The really fun thing about this is that it can create on-the-fly puzzles and challenges to deal with. You could have to cut through a bulkhead to rescue a crew member, or subvert enemy turrets by blasting out a wall into another section.

quote:

I actually envision this as being like the fences and buildings you make in Command & Conquer: they''re structures, but they''re destructable. If you want, you can rebuild them, but that takes time and resources. In your case, maybe certain advanced objects can''t be rebuilt by members of your crew, and you''ll have to get to a port to have them worked on.


Right. Do you think ANY of these types of structures should be vital ones? For instance, should your communications and life support gear be indestructable? Or lifepods be indestructable?

Part of me says no, as it makes it a more gritty game. But the moment a player finds themselves in a situation where their ship is leaking oxygen, no surviving crew have the skills to repair, and they''re dead in space without the ability to send a distress call, they''ll be forced to restore and lose all progress. I''m torn between making this the player''s responsibility to carry redundant systems (emergency beacons, repair supplies, toolboxes in every section, cross-trained crew) and giving players a silver bullet just in case they get in over their heads.

quote:

With this system, the interior of your ship can be totally destructable. You can use a cutting torch to get through bulkheads and doors, you can smash equipment, compromise airlocks, cut power conduits, and burn the American flag. Applied to buildings, the same is true.


Buildings pose a particularly ugly problem. If you can cut away the outter wall of a building on the 10th floor, you then should be able to see the surrounding city-scape. If you don''t mind playing at 3 frames per second, that is. I''m inclined for this reason to make outter walls indestructable, even though that doesn''t make much sense.

Of course, I could replace the vista with a symbolic tile, like Fallout''s red-tinged "exit zones." You wouldn''t be able to see outside, but entering the area would trigger a load & transition to the outside world. (It still doesn''t solve the vista problem, but might help with object management).

quote:

When you get to things like actually blowing a big chunk off of a ship or demolishing a building, you''re in a different situation. I think it should be possible to totally destroy a spacecraft, but should it be possible to blow a big hole in the hull, eliminating three compartments and the crew in there? I think it could be done. Going back to the "The Sims" example, you can just replace those areas with "vaccuum" objects when the hull fails.


Yes, this seems very possible, though more than anything else would create the "getting trapped" issues I mentioned above. If you put the lifepod, spare parts, transponder and your chief engineer in the sections that get tagged, you are so out of luck!

quote:

It''s a complex matter, and will take some real doing, but I think you can make it work.


Half of this is in the planning!



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Yes this is an age old problem, how much rope can you give the player before they hang themselves.

First off how much warning does the player get? If they destroy their oxgen generators and engines in fire fight will they be told then there that nearest oxgen source is 5 days journey but they only have supplies for 2 days? If so what alternatives can you offer them? If ask my officers for suggestions will I get things like sceince officer says if we reduce the number of active crew members by half we can make it. or my engineer says he maybe be able to canabilize enough spare parts to make an emergany replacement but its going take 36 hours to make.

Diggin underground isn''t a major problem you can simply make minerals to tough to dig through with the current equipment or lava flows that prevent further exploration in that direction.

-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
First off how much warning does the player get? If they destroy their oxgen generators and engines in fire fight will they be told then there that nearest oxgen source is 5 days journey but they only have supplies for 2 days? If so what alternatives can you offer them? If ask my officers for suggestions will I get things like sceince officer says if we reduce the number of active crew members by half we can make it. or my engineer says he maybe be able to canabilize enough spare parts to make an emergany replacement but its going take 36 hours to make.



Firstly, the player would get some kind of automatic alert from the game interface so that they don''t just drop dead. The alert would include the problem and the time they have to fix it. For instance, if they''re leaking air they''d have the total amount, the rate of leakage, and the time until all air is gone.

The standard way of fixing things is to have skilled personnel use repair tools and material to take care of the problem. In some cases they can perform engineering miracles which allow them to temporarily bend the rules, say fixing something for a limited time with half the resources.

But what if the section holding their resources gets blasted? What if their crew are lost? What if they didn''t invest in their people and got into a jam? I have to decide on a cutoff point where the player is just out of luck.

I''m in a bit of a bind with an open-ended game in that unless I build a permanent, umbrella safety valve into the gameplay itself (like the teleport home spells in Diablo or Morrowind), I can''t anticipate that the player will get out alive from all situations that I allow them to get into.

quote:

Diggin underground isn''t a major problem you can simply make minerals to tough to dig through with the current equipment or lava flows that prevent further exploration in that direction.



Yeah, I guess this could work. Also, constant caveins and collapses might work, too.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Is there a more elegant way of handing such limits as being able to dig through or penetrate walls?
Yes. You make the limits social rather than physical. You can''t leave the planet because there''s nobody to take you off (and space is peaceful...something like the Spacer''s Guild from Dune). You can''t enter a country because they''re at war with all their neighbors and will shoot foreigners on sight.

Aboard a ship, I see no reason not to give players all the rope they need to hang themselves and anyone else they care to hang.

As far as encouraging robust designs, just make these things happen often (there''s a vital component in practically every room, especially ones invaders are inclined to contest), and then the player will learn to build in redundant components.

quote:
Even if players can repair the damage, there''s no way to determine in advance that they can still survive the situation
Don''t make impending supernovae, then. These are intended to be as freeform as possible, so supernovae, which happen, as we all know, only at dramatic times, would be out of place in such a freeform game.

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My opinion would be that everything that you mentioned, even crucial things like lifesupports sytems should be molestable, this makes for use of more tactics when boarding a ship, or saving a crew member like you said. But maybe make an option that you can exactly adjust what things can and what things can''t for an adjustable difficulty level ?

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Just hope they win the battle and get to scavenge stuff from the enemy''s ship.

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quote:
I''d say you are, and that impassible areas, as much as those of us who love open-ended games hate them, are a necessity. They stop players from getting into areas they''re not ready for, and they keep the player roughly on track.



Impassible areas at level limits are largely a necessity. Beyond that, impassible areas are a result of lack of level/story design. I did enjoy Red Faction, but I was not all that impressed with it''s destroyable terrain because, for the most part, it was strictly limited to specific areas where it was useful. Having an indestructible environment is indeed unrealistic, but having an environment where only certain areas are destructible and there''s no apparent logic between what is and isn''t destructible is even more unrealistic. I can blow a whole in this wall here, but I can''t do so ten feet down this same wall?

Let players hang themselves. Consequences. Powerful weapons are used sparingly in real life because the damage is mostly uncontrollable. We don''t fire rockets and toss grenades into buildings we are trying to regain control of cause we want those buildings intact. We don''t fire rockets in our space ships because if we compromise the hull and decompress the ship, we''re all dead. Rockets, grenades, high explosives are all very potent weapons. The consequences of using those weapons should be every bit as potent.

I think we need to break games into two categories. The action/entertainment games where everyone just runs around shooting and dodging and don''t want to deal with consequences, but just frag the hell out of everything that moves. This game doesn''t need destructible terrain, or doesn''t need to be concerned with the realistic aspects of having destructible terrain, so put in all the restrictions you need to maintain the ''fun'' gameplay.

The immersive and realistic strategy/tactics type of games where every action has a reaction, every choice a consequence. This kind of game, destructible terrain needs to be taken to it''s realistic limits. Safeguards? The only safeguard should be the players common sense and desire for self preservation. Cave in the only exit out of the room slowly filling with toxic gas because you were too absent-minded to NOT use your rocket launcher and you die, and next time through you''re a bit more cautious with your potent weapons.

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mmm, deformable terrain...

I suppose I am thinking not on track with the specific examples you have given. Looking more at fighting games, or "god" games, It is always great to know that you can throw your opponent through a wall or make a crater in the ground. Depending on scale, I like the mech assault technique. non essential buildings (i.e. ones that can''t be entered) would show external damage in the form of craters and such, until an integrety variable is compromised and the building collapses. But, that may not necessarily apply to what you were wondering.

I have not played Red Faction, but that does make sense. The player should be able to destroy walls internally of structures, but only certain walls of external ones.

And about underground, I would assume (again in "god" games) that if a player can dig himself in the ground, he should be able to summonthe strength to emerge again. This could be done with some sort of "attack" where the player flys straight up until they have cleared all vertical obstacles. it depends on what type of game tho.

Well, thats al I can think of right now. happy programming

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