I've been lucky enough to have a couple of posts from AboutGameDesign.com to repost here so I could continue with some intense gaming, but I'm all out now, so I guess I'll have to actually write one this time.
There's been some FPS:ing going on for me with MAG and Killzone 2 so I thought I'd dedicate this post to the importance of feedback when killing stuff.
I can't stress it enough, how extremely importance feedback is in a game. Any game, feedback for everything!
In games, such as shooters, where there's lots of stuff going on and several enemies at once, it's important to know two things (well, a whole bunch of things, but I'll focus on two):
- Am I hitting my target?
- Is it dead yet?
Some games fail on giving me, the player adequate information on this topic, but let's talk about the ones that don't.
Am I hitting my target?
Since MAG (Open Beta) and Killzone 2 (friggin' awesome!) are two of the most recent played games, I'll talk about them.
In MAG, if you hit an enemy when firing, your cross-hair change form into something bigger and goes red. Since the cross-hair is the point of the screen where you'll be spending most of your time and concentration, it works great. But I've noticed one very interesting thing when using a Sniper Rifle.
If you're far away from an enemy and you're using you're scope to zoom in. If you then manage to hit your enemy, not only does the cross-hair change but you'll also hear a fleshy impact sound. The funny thing is that even if you're a mile away, you'll still hear the sound like if it was just and arm reach away. Strange? Perhaps. But it actually works! It doesn't throw me off game with a big WTF; instead I get a clear audible cue that I hit my target!
In Killzone 2, you get a red cross hair once your aim is on a living (or activated, if it's a machine) enemy but it doesn't change whether you hit or not. The spread of the bullets can cause you to miss. However, Killzone 2 is so insanely driven with the help of it's animations and effects, so while no extra HUD-help is there you'll still know when you hit thanks to the blood/sparks and the impact animation played by the enemy.
So while MAG has more of a HUD-based system, much because it's online so you can't start having players to cripple once hit, Killzone 2 has a more in-game approach. They both work fine and one should see to the needs, tools and possibilities when deciding what to implement. But there MUST be some kind of feedback.
Is it dead yet?
The reason why it's important to know when something is dead is pretty obvious, I want to know when I can start shooting something else!
Once again, I'll start of with MAG. When you kill someone in MAG, you get experience points, so that's pretty much the easiest way to know. When the text "5 XP" pops up over the enemy's head; he's dead. Simple as that.
Let's mix things up a bit and discuss some more games. In Uncharted 2 (online at least, I haven't played single player yet) what happens when you kill someone is that you get a really distinct sound effect that goes like "Ding!" that really stands out. The only bad thing with this is that you have to learn what the sound means, as "Ding!" doesn't come naturally as "You killed that mother f*cker!", but once you get that, it's smooth sailing!
Killzone 2 doesn't give any "extra" information as to when someone is dead, so what I did was to keep looking at the cross-hair. Since it turns red when I'm aiming at someone, it goes back to white once he's dead. I guess it's feedback in its own way, but not very explicit.
The problem is that sometimes enemies can take a while to fall to the ground because of long "Oh, I'm dying, the pain, oh, the pain..."-animations before.
Another game where I found that to be an extremely big problem is in the recently released Alien Breed to XBLA. You're meeting these huge Zerg-like creatures, several at a time and once they're dead they take forever to stop moving, so I can never distinguish the live ones from the ones already dead. One could argue that's part of the design but personally, I just find it frustrating!
So there you have it. A few thoughts on feedback when shooting stuff.
Okay, I've done my deed. It's time to got back to Assassin's Creed 2 now!