Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walls, barriers, obstacles and what's keeping you from the treasure.

    Take a look at almost any game you find.  The dank, dungeon walls in D&D that the party follows and wish they could bust through to get into that next room.  The giant immobile objects in a doorway preventing your party from accessing the latest wing of a room.  That ledge that is a bit too high to climb up, or that wall that you always seem to clip through and get shot at.  We've all run into these kind of things in our various travels throughout the various gaming worlds.  They can range from merely laying out how a dungeon or area should look, to being obstacles we need to overcome, to artificial barriers constructed by other players to keep others out of a certain area.
    Every game has barriers like this in them.  Think of any time you've tried to go into an area that looks like you should be able to get to it by some means, and watch as your unable to arrive at your destination.  Sometimes these are commonly seen and even expected.  In games such as Diablo 2, Counter Strike and even some strategy games like starcraft, walls are placed in certain area to direct a player in a certain direction, to provide cover from enemy fire, or to provide another layer of strategy that the player can use or have use against them.  They're expected in almost every game we play.  We generally assume that the mountains off in the distance are inaccessible, or that we cannot go around the fearsome beast in the doorway and instead have to either defeat it or trick it into leaving it's position.  Developers use walls to help players make better sense of an area, to mayhaps give warning of dangers that lie nearby, or even to slow down progression.  This is not to say obstacles and walls have not been abused.
    An old story from the days of Everquest talks about guilds using ogres to block doorways.  The game had collision detection, which means that when two players met, they could not pass through one another.  So guilds would have ogres, the largest character model at the time, let the guild into a room, and then stand in the doorway, barring the way for other people to enter.  This was a clever use of game mechanics that used the in-game detection of other players to prevent other players from accessing areas in the game.  This of course was a use the developers did not intend for, and thus we can see that barriers in this case were used as a barring mechanism instead of their intended goal, which was to prevent overcrowding of areas.
    Of course, players have also used it not just against other players, but against monsters in dungeons as well.  Stories abound of players using wall clipping to attack monsters but be unable to be attacked by them, or even to kite them around an area so that by the time the monsters reach them they are dead.  The players are using the walls, obstacles and barriers around them to manipulate the monsters to their advantage.  Of course, sometimes the terrain is used against the players.  Having certain bosses be invulnerable on certain sides, or even have to be maneuvered off of ledges or into certain areas where the terrain hurts them.
    We can all remember those times when walls frustrated us to no end.  We knew something was on the other side, but were unable to actually get to them or could not find our way around the path presented to us.  We wanted to check out that weird building by the end of the game road, only to run into an invisible wall or clip through into some weird pocket dimension we were never meant to get into.  As long as we have games, we are going to be stuck, with walls.

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