Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
November 1, 2014
arrowPress Releases
November 1, 2014
PR Newswire
View All
View All     Submit Event

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

Undeath - The Struggle to Rise Again
by Marc Bell on 05/23/11 12:23:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


'The more things change, the more they stay the same.'

I do believe gaming has changed in many respects - I had just explored the fact in a piece on Digital Romance Lab - but another recent experience has reminded that change isn't necessarily across the board. In fact, besides some veterans and start-ups alike trying to break new ground, most big blockbusters stick to gaming's roots and safer territory.

These thoughts were born from frustration. The kind of frustration that hits harder than most; after so many hours enjoying a game the sudden realisation hits that, well, It's just not fun anymore.

Let's not beat around the bush, the game was DOOM II (yes, that old thing). Of all the games played this year DOOM II was the one I'd been enjoying most and therefore was taking up most of my game time (it being a lot bigger than I remembered). But having reached the tail end of levels I was beginning to falter in my unabashed adulation with every firefight, as it was soon apparent that these moments were becoming much less common. Instead, every battle was taking the form of monster closets or death rooms.

A bit of clarity for the uneducated: 'Monster closet' is the term given to a particular circumstance usually involving the player collecting an item or pressing a button, only for that to trigger a hidden door behind from which - as the term suggests - a monster leaps out and rakes your back with deadly claws or worse. The general consensus on such tactics from players being a cheap way to enhance difficulty, and an unfair and not very fun gaming experience.

Death room is a description that came to mind after repeatedly being teleported into a situation that more often than not led to utter annihilation. A large enough room to house multiple monsters in every direction that begin firing immediately. Usually the player dies as the exits aren't obvious, leaving multiple reloads the only respite and learning mechanism.

These two occurrences repeat endlessly and it soon felt time to hang up the ol' double barrel and let the demons have their way. They can't over-run Earth stuck in their closets and lunch rooms anyway, right?

Having sunk a few weeks into my progress on DOOM II it was hard not to feel annoyance and unhappiness with the sudden turn in what was otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Why design the last areas this way and, if it weren't for having saves and reloads, who'd bother battling through? No one would put up with such ruthlessness today…

But then a thought - the succession of insta-deaths is not necessarily an extinct mechanic. DOOM being the flagship of its time, Modern Warfare of today. Are we not asked to repeat the same 10 seconds of pain over and over now as we were then? The reload menu of the past exchanged for the retry prompt of the present? Granted, monster closets more akin to Gauntlet style monster generators here, but attempt a dash past and you may as well have taken one in the back.

Death rooms abound though lacking instant entrances. Flashback to the airfield in Modern Warfare 2 where fatality rates can reach 3 digits and life times less than 2. A repeat attempt can have as much action as a single step before feet are taken from under.

The blockbuster first person shooter of today may avoid the clear monster closets and death rooms of yesteryear - they may not trigger from a health pack nor a grand entrance - but the legacy lives on. Every reload and retry a test of resolve, a test of player patience. With so many games vying for attention patience wanes thin quicker than of times past. There's always something else worth doing.

Related Jobs

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — Troy, New York, United States

Assistant Professor in Music and Media
The College of New Jersey
The College of New Jersey — Ewing, New Jersey, United States

Assistant Professor - Interactive Multi Media - Tenure Track
Next Games
Next Games — Helsinki, Finland

Senior Level Designer
Magic Leap, Inc.
Magic Leap, Inc. — Wellington, New Zealand

Level Designer


Aaron Truehitt
profile image
When I run into situations like these, it always feels like bad pacing. I wasn't ready for this. I don't feel I have all the needs to meet this situation. What's funny is, these situations are always followed by having such a breezy time. A simple walk and WAM instant brick wall in your face. A cheap shot. And after numerous reloads, I manage to get out by the hair chinny chin chin. And you know how I get away? Instead of manipulating the opponents, I manipulate the game itself! Meaning, I roll around like a moron, run in such away to get an opponent slowed down as his AI tries to turn a corner, so I get get my own cheap shot in.

To apply it to Call of Duty, Black Ops. I repeatedly died at the...I don't remember where, but you had to kick a barrel over to put up flames. I shot the barrel and all sorts of other things. Hit it with grenades, meleed ot etc. Didn't budge. But I think..You just kick it over. What? That's it. I died and fought countless enemies only to realize physics do not apply in this game unless the devs want you to feel it.

It all comes down to the game not explaining things cleary and setting you up for failure. It's stupid. Maybe the devs didn't realize it. But they cleary set you up to fail.

Well you just suck at the game. You aren't doing it right. Well, I'm sorry. You don't learn to lift weights the by consistanting lifting a hundred pound weight, for it only to change instantly to a 300 pound weight on the last lift.

It's terrible when it happens at the end of a game though. It just makes you think...Where in the world did this come from? The previous bit of the game didn't prepare me for anything like this.

David Serrano
profile image
"But they cleary set you up to fail."

You nailed it. And this is the problem with the mentality of hardcore developers and designers. Their goal isn't to "challenge" or entertain players, their goal is to abuse players and force them to fail, as often as possible. Then they have the brass balls to claim unfairly forcing players to fail is "teaching" them how to play. Which is 100% BS! Hardcore games now have very little to do with "challenge". They are what they are, which is thinly veiled sadomasochism simulators. Developers like Treyarch have actually sunk to the level of using S&M terminology as labels for their multiplayer challenges. I just hope I live to see the day when it all blows up in their faces.

Rey Samonte
profile image
I don't think developers do this on purpose simply because their focus is on trying to give the player the most cinematic experience when playing modern fps games. It's one of the reasons why I've pretty much stopped playing fps games because it has more to do with the cinematic experience rather than the gameplay experience.

Not too long ago, I was designing levels and one of the focus of my level designs was to create the one experience that would define that level so people can remember it. So a lot of times, my time was spent trying to come up with that defining moment rather than designing the level as a whole and letting the gameplay define itself as that memoriable moment. When you have a group of designers focused on moments rather than focusing on cohesive level designs and consistent gameplay mechanics, the player suffers because the rules of the world keeps changing.

David Serrano
profile image
I completely agree.

In COD games, Monster closets and Death Rooms take the form of AI grenade spamming and "friendly" squad mates. Treyarch is by far the bigger offender but both TA and IW use the same tired and obnoxious gimmick over and over again. As a player approaches an ambush point and or kill box, one of three things will happen.

A - It triggers the AI squad mates to rush ahead of you, blocking all forward cover spots. This forces the player out into the open, directly into the line of fire of the enemy npc's.

B - When the player crosses the trigger point, the squad mates rush forward to block cover AND the AI lobs grenades directly behind the player, leaving no option but to sprint forward directly into the ambush.

C - If the player takes cover behind the squad mates, the squad mates will block any clear shots the players has at the enemy npc's by sticking their heads up or out, into the line of fire. Which forces the player out from cover and into the open just to get a clear shot.

I created a wallpaper about COD grenade spamming as a joke and posted on my Deviant Art page... it's been viewed 47,458 times and received 547 comments! Everyone hates it which makes you question why they continue to do it in every single version of the game?