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Not Puzzles, but Scenes: Cinematic Gameplay Interactions
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Not Puzzles, but Scenes: Cinematic Gameplay Interactions

June 5, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

Why this "Perfect" Idea Didn't Work

Deadlight is an old school game with an inventory, but it isn't a graphic adventure. Graphic adventures rely on players revisiting areas in order to look for missing items and to try new item combinations. And at that moment, we couldn't support this backtracking.

Firstly, we had already built a lot of the scenarios of the game (around 40 percent of the content was already there), and they simply hadn't been designed for it. They had been conceived as a completely linear, cinematic experience.

Zombies and traps were triggered assuming that the player will arrive from a specific direction; cutscenes were triggered on the same basis; even the navigation and the layout were meaningful and interesting only if the player was moving in a predefined direction.

That means that if the player decided to go back, he would find completely dead and empty areas without any interest. Backtracking would have been painful and boring.

Secondly, as Deadlight is a game that relies heavily on graphics, we had plenty of no-turning-back zones in order to deal with the streaming of Unreal Engine. If the player misses an object in one scene, we simply won't be able to go back for it.

In the end, we had already created an extremely linear, but appealing, game experience. And then it was supposed we should simply "add puzzles" to it.

We tried to include a few inventory-based puzzles, but we simply didn't have time to rebuild the levels. We had half a year for the alpha submission and we still had to finish the ranged combat system, the AI, the melee...

We desperately needed to close the layout of all the levels. We didn't have time to keep looking for solutions. So we decided to cut the feature. Our puzzles couldn't rely on an inventory system.

We changed our focus, starting to look in more detail at games of reference. At the end of the day, Limbo was an extremely successful game full of puzzles and no inventory.

What We Had to Change

Removing the inventory meant that the player would not need to look for and to carry items to solve the puzzles. But we still believed that making the player to explore and investigate was something really important to establish the mood of the game.

Moreover, our artists had already created dozens of evocative, highly detailed game areas, some of them off the main path, and it would had been painful to not guide the players to them.

They only thing we could do was to take the collectibles and the ammo picks and make them play this role. In this way, collectibles turned out to be something much more important than just an achievement or a trophy. Apart from their narrative role, they let us to populate every corner of our maps with something to reward the players and to foster that survivor-like exploration we were seeking.

The other big consequence of removing the inventory was that we needed to simplify the puzzles we had already built. From that moment, all the puzzles had to be solved using just the navigation system, simple combat actions, plus the standard interaction button: "Press A to do X," where X could be "open a door," "turn on the lights," "push the crate," etc.

In other words, we started to morph our graphic adventure puzzles to Limbo-like puzzles. 

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

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