In the previous weblog some difficulties with puzzles in adventure games exactly where discussed. It was also mentioned that a significant culprit in all of these exactly where that a lot of adventure games do not have a coherent system for carrying out interactions, like for instance a Super Mario game. A nice way of solving this and nonetheless allowing a varied set of feasible actions might appear to be physics. For the last couple of years, especially after the launch of Half-Life two, physics have gotten a lot of attention and is quite significantly a regular component of any 3D game today. It may possibly for that reason look obvious to start off making use of physics in adventure games in order to bring the genre forward. Even so, having implemented physics for 4 games now and working on a fifth a lot of difficulties have emerged. Even though adventure games and physics seems like the promised land at 1st glance, it is far from it.
Classic adventure games like Myst and Broken Sword got quite inntuitive and simple controls and can still give the player a quite detailed and varied expertise. It is just matter of moving the mouse and clicking to control games, and it is difficult to make it far more simple than that. For a game using physics, it is much tougher. Doing something comparable to Broken Sword with physics would be extremely challenging and I have but to hear an concepts on how it would work. A very first individual viewpoint is fairly a lot demanded in order to have a control system that lets the player perform adequate actions to solve varied types of puzzles. This leaves games like Myst and Tex Murphy to use physics. The 1st person method is also what is utilized by Penumbra.
Nonetheless, controls swiftly get messy since of anything referred to as the z-axis or the third dimension. The dilemma comes from the primary input device, the mouse, working in only two dimension and the actions on screen taking place in three. When manipulating objects this can make issues a bit challenging, and in Black Plauge we added the scroll wheel to make up for this. Penumbra was also implemented on a haptic device which allows the user complete 3d movement, adding a extremely good way of interacting. Even so, offered the existing spread of haptic devices, it is not viable to style a system around them. As for other gadgets like the wii-mote, it only has acceleration in 3D, postioning is nonetheless in 2D and hence it does not solve the issue.
The difficulties with controls do not stop there even though and the user also desires to rotate objects and do other kinds of manipulation. We added rotation in Black Plauge too and by now the full control technique was quite complicated. All of this complexity still only allowed really fundamental interaction though and attempts to additional improve the interaction could simply lead to one thing like Trespasser which featured increadibly difficult controls.
The Chaos effect
Even though physics are controlled by a really restricted set of rules, since of its complexity, even the smallest varition can result in major variations in outcome. The most striking instance of this is the mining cart puzzle in Penumbra Overture. Here the player is supposed to push a cart down a slope to hit a wall, but for some explanation, every single now and then it would derail and miss the intended target. To repair this, extra forces where added keeping the cart in location and many hours was spent at getting it stable. Right after all this perform, the cart can still derail though! In hindsight it would have been a lot easier to just use an animation. This shows how such a easy event can cause tons of difficulty when physics is involved.
Not only does a physical simulation suffer from undeterministic behaviour (chaos) , it can also fail. As hinted in the word "simulation", game physics is not a ideal replica of the genuine planet and can break down at specific points. In the Penumbra games, the ideal example is that the player can bang objects via the floor if utilizing enough force. Some objects are less difficult to bang through (simply because of shape, size, etc) and in Requiem we had make an crucial object magically seem if it went via.
In adventure games, the designer can typically set specifically the types of interactions possible with an object and have complete control of all possible outcomes. For physics, it is not possible to anticipate all that can happen and one can only test as a lot as attainable, hoping all gaps have been closed. For example: a pit that need to not be attainable to cross at certain point in the game, may be possible to cross with some ingenius use of objects. In order make confident certain items does not happen we had to add alot of additional checks and hacks in the Penumbra games, often even excluding the player from performing particular actions. This can easily break the sense of immersion, but may well be a must in order to have a stable game.
Yet another type of sequence breaking is doing some thing "stupid". An example from Penumbra Black Plauge is in a machine area where the player demands a steel pipe as leverage to break open a door. However, there is also a hole in this level and it is attainable for the player to throw the pipe down in it. To remedy this, we added several pipes in the level and if the player exactly where to throw them all down the hole, a pipe would magically appear inserted into the door that needed to be opened. It is not extremely immersive, but at least the game did not break. Luckily, most player appear to not trow imporant objects down in holes.
Player acquiring stuck
All of the dilemma listed above can lead to the player obtaining into a unwinnable situation. Usually physics game have a reset selection that lets the player start more than. This is vital for most physics game, for instance consider how Planet of Goo would be if it the player ought to in no way be capable to finish up in an unwinnable state. It would quite a lot destroy the whole game.
Adventure games do not have this luxary though and unless one particular counts some actually old games, it has often been attainable for the player to continue unless death occured. This restriction ends up making numerous physics puzzles not possible to implement in an adventure game and when designing the Penumbra games, several puzzles had to be abandoned due to the higher threat of putting the player in an unwinnable state.
I turns out that employing physics as a way to bypass the rescritive actions and incoherence of regular adventure game interaction is not attainable. Instead adventure games with physics demand alot of restrictions and special circumstances to be added in order to make a operating game. It also limits the quantity of puzzles that can be employed in the game and is not as groundbreaking as it very first may well seem. This can also be observed in games like Half-life 2 that has not only really couple of physics puzzles, but also heavily restricted ones. Some physics-like puzzles (for example a huge bridge acting as a see-saw) does not even use physics!
Nevertheless, provided all of the problems with physics, it should not by discarded. It permits for wonderful immersion, which is particularly imporant for horror games, and properly implemented it can make puzzles look much more intuitive and enjoyable to execute. It can also makes it less difficult to do puzzles with many solutions and make puzzle encounters less frustrating. We will nevertheless be employing physics for our upcoming game and would like to see a lot more adventure games trying it out!
What is your opion about physics in adventure games? Know any other games with good physics puzzles?