1.25.2007

Two Roads Diverged...

More than a few times recently, I've been navigating an area in a platformer or RPG and come to a fork in the road. Isn't it odd that these completely blind forks happen so often? In a situation where the designer is presumably trying to provide us with some choice, why are we often never given a clue?
For me, the rationale guiding my decision is usually completely ludicrous -- "Well, I'm looking for the bad guy, and that path looks a little darker.../That path is a little wider. I'll have more time to react if an enemy jumps out of the bushes." Usually, I'll end up having to explore both paths anyway, so the choice is irrelevant, or maybe they'll reconnect in a few hundred yards and the only thing I miss by choosing wrong is an item. Nothing is more infuriating, though, than investing in one path, only to find out that I have to go back to the other and flip a switch first before I can cross some bridge... Does anyone find this engaging? I don't think I've ever gotten excited by one of these situations -- "Wow! I completely thought the switch would be to the right, because my character is right-handed...but it was to the left! This game is chock-full of surprises!"

Maybe this is a level designer's way of keeping an element of realism. I suppose it's fair to say that, in real life, most dungeons aren't conveniently marked with "BOSS THIS WAY" signs. I'd love to be sitting next to a designer when they make these decisions, though. If this is just a half-assed way of making a level seem non-linear, well, that's lame. Go make me a new level.

Think about how you choose a path in these situations. Maybe the designer just wants us to get a kick over how ridiculous our logic can become when given no hints.

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