After paper design, we move to initial settings. Usually there is a period in between while the programmers build the system into the game.
Some of the best producers I have worked with really understood the fact that this stage needs some breathing room!
How many of you are familiar with the concept of Flow? Lots of talks have been done on this, I’m going to assume you know what I am talking about, in general.
The problem is, he wrote in the ‘70s, he doesn’t address video games. So what does flow look like in a video game?
Smiling makes you happy; laughing makes you healthy. Certain finger movements make you have flow. We call that Cadence! This timing for the Sniper Rifle is very specific, because the cadence determines the type of flow created. It is different for different weapons or different parts of the game, but cadence is important in all kinds of flow.
Verisimilitude: the quality of seeming to be true. For controls this means that the physical action of your character in some way corresponds to (or at least doesn’t clash with) the action taken by the player. Remember the Paper Design for Halo 1? It speculated that zoom was on a trigger. If I could go back in time, it probably would be.
The sniper rifle doesn’t unzoom as soon as you fire your last shot (even though that would be more efficient). It unzooms with a slight delay so you can see the results of your last shot. Why is this important?
Studies have shown that blue sleeping pills work better. They are chemically identical, but the placebo effect is enormous. Slow-mo explosions look more “real”. Ask any action director, authentic explosions look fake because we have been looking at slow ones for so long. Your brain has expectations and when those expectations are met, the effect is amplified and that encourages your brain to maintain flow.
Let me tell you a story.
The Sniper Rifle looks great on YouTube because you can really follow the action. Even someone that has never played Halo can figure out what happened. Maintining a thread from beginning to end is a key component of staying in the flow state. For more information, check a specific post I wrote on the topic.
Sadly, I missed this talk at GDC last year, but I tracked down the full deck online and have read through it repeatedly and had my junior designers read it. This is a master class in weapon balancing. Thanks for sharing.