[KamikazeTutor is the first of many that will be promoted to the front page for Destructoid's Monthly Musings. In this "Good Idea, Bad Idea", Kamikaze looks at destructible environments. -- CTZ]
This article touches the subject of how destructible environments can create an immersive or frustrating experience and how they can make a game look more realistic and the complete opposite.
This leads to the topic of destructible environments, the new fad in gaming -- and I say this as both praise and insult. Okay, I lied; this feature has existed since the primordials of gaming. From the simple smash of a block in the old days, to what has escalated to what we see now.
Creating a world that the player can freely destroy can originate the most amazing eye candy ever, if well done and if not, the worst type of obstacle.
The first and main thing developers must settle is how important destructible environments are to the game. Does the game mechanic rely heavily on this feature or will it only exist as a jaw opener? How much of the world is malleable by the hands of the player? And how will it be controlled, to avoid the player getting stuck in the game?
This takes us to the point of this article. Players are curious, and as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat. If the player can destroy the world that surrounds it and make it impossible to complete his goals, then we have a flawed game.
Allow me explain my point by exemplifying some situations while using certain games as reference.
Mercenaries 2, yet to be released, will have mass destruction and where we’ve seen screens of buildings collapsing, etc. What if one of those buildings, which the player needs to enter and get some important files, gets destroyed? Game over, of course, but what if it’s done not by the hand of the player, but the enemy’s? Without warning, just, boom.
The player is able to destroy the world, why not also the enemy? Doesn’t the player use the enemies’ weapons at some point? Does the developer choose to make that specific building indestructible?
Although unrealistic and lacking proper AI adjustment, this happens for a reason. Even possessing the gravity gun, the player cannot manipulate heavy objects, but only push them. If the player would succeed in blocking his way out of a room, then he wouldn’t be able to accomplish his goals, which would make the game flawed. This is why doors in this game have unrealistic powers against friction, unless part of a puzzle.
Going back in time, I remember this place where I would get stuck 9 out of 10 times in Contra Force for the NES. Often was the situation where the player destroys a certain box needed to reach a higher platform, which would return if the screen scrolled away from where the box was. But not on one spot in level 3, oh that dreaded level, where it was impossible to move away from the box spot; I still want to kill the one responsible for such a flaw.
As with all development choices, destructible environments can result in a good thing or a bad thing to a game, it depends how it is implemented and how far goes the liberty given in using and abusing of it.
That’s about it. I hope you liked how I opted to write this article. I’ll be glad to read your opinions about on which games destructible environments worked out or not and even weird situations that that feature got you into.