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Designer ego vs. player agency in Broforce Exclusive
April 11, 2014 | By Mike Rose

April 11, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Design, Exclusive, Video

Over-the-top platform shooter Broforce hit Steam Early Access this week, and it's got quite a kick to it. Players are able to destroy pretty much anything in each level, and essentially forge their own path through the world, rather than necessarily sticking to the obvious route.

But making a game where players can simply burrow from A to B, rather than traversing the level as in a traditional platformer, brings its own issues -- if a player can potentially just blast a hole all the way through to the exit, how do you encourage them to play the game in a more fun and satisfying way?

"For us it's about designer ego vs. player agency," says Evan Greenwood, creative director at Broforce studio Free Lives. "Sure, players could just break their way through, but to us freedom of expression is more important than curating the experience."

For this reason, while Greenwood says playing the game in a specific way certainly leads to more fun, his team was not into the idea of forcing players to follow set themes and level design.

This possibility of drilling your way through a level also brings up another potential issue -- the protagonist is clearly very overpowered, and is able to mow down enemies like they aren't even there. So how do you balance an experience like this, such that it's not such a cakewalk but rather it slowly ramps up, instead than presenting the player with difficulty spikes?

"There are a few difficulty spikes in Broforce," Greenwood admits, "but we try to not make them insurmountable. We give a lot of lives, checkpoints and other boosts to assist the player."

"But mostly if it feels like there are few difficulty spikes in Broforce, its because we've tried to situate the difficulty in the player's tactical choices and their caution," he adds, "and these factors are both within the player's control.

For example, it's notable that very few enemies actually engage with you until you cause a ruckus around them. "This might be 'stealth' in another game," he notes, "but in Broforce, it's a way for players to not be overwhelmed."

Broforce is available now on Steam Early Access.

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Matthew Fundaun
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Having been playing this for a while... Well, sure, you can just drill through the level and completely bypass all enemies ever.

You can also use cheatcodes to turn on godmode and infinite ammo and play Call of Duty like you're the Terminator.

The real question is whether you want to, 'cause the fun on that tends to wear out fast.

Drilling your way through the level is great for speedruns, but you can't do that alone when it comes to the boss fights, and sometimes you're climbing a tower instead of sidescrolling.

Heck, for said boss fights, drilling your way around underground is an extremely advisable tactic, given how much firepower they pump out and that you die with only one hit. I honestly have to agree with the statement on the protagonists being overpowered because of that. When all it takes is one alerted enemy and one bullet, (or even just one of your own grenades if you're particularly foolhardy!) you can easily burn through bros like no tomorrow.

It really comes down to what each individual player values most, how they balance victory, lives, speed, and etc. Personally, I go at it with a certain completionism: I must rescue ALL THE BROS and kill ALL THE BADDIES before finishing the level! Otherwise FREEDOM and JUSTICE aren't satisfied! Though, given they give you your time taken at the end of each level, there's always the impulse to push past what's strictly cautious for lower times...

Kudos to Free Lives for their game design, for how they set this up.

I'm curious, how do the rest of you go about it? No bro left behind? Any Ironman No-Deaths runs?

Jared Wheeler
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I mostly do no Bro Left Behind, no Cave of foes left standing. Only exception is when I feel like speed-running it.

I usually only drill to be able to come up from below enemies or to collapse flooring. I'm a Bro with a gun, not a miner or a mole. Plus, watching enemies fall is somewhat fun.

Yama Habib
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After beating the game, I found a lot of enjoyment in speedrunning. I was disappointed, however, to find a bug in which the timer resets after respawning at a checkpoint, allowing me to get level clear times like 2.5 seconds with hardly any effort. The randomness in character selection also became a nuisance as some characters are much better suited to speedruns than others (namely, Mr. Anderbro and the Brominator), and luck is a speedrunner's worst enemy.

Luis Guimaraes
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Only one possible solution: spawn way moar and biggar enemies from the destroyed blocks!!! \o/