Monday, February 26

Crippling Gameplay-Its Uses

Today, I've asked myself a hypothetical question? Is it OK to cripple a character's abilities after they've already been established? What uses are there to crippling a player character?

Lets look at some examples where the player was crippled, like Metroid Prime, where the player is crippled after the opening sequence. Samus' first half-hour on the frigate served a number of purposes. It served as a tutorial, teaching the player how to use most of Samus' abilities and functions. In this way, the player already knows how to use Samus' moveset later in the game. It also "teased" the player by showing what Samus' will be able to do in the future. Need for Speed: Underground 2 also teased the player, allowing the player to handle one of the game's best cars in at the very start, before taking it away. The player then had something to strive for; allowing the player to test drive a top-tier car served as motivation.
Samus loses her suit
But, is it feasible to cripple a charater temporarily? Specifically, how about to create a certain mood. Let us assume the player character can run fast, jump etc. A few hours into the game, a dramtic event takes place, but the player is still in control of the character. What we are striving for is it elicit emotion. We want the player to feel sorrowful perhaps. Player's are restless, I wonder what the walk-to-jump ratio is in massively multiplayer games? In our game, lets say someone is being sacrificed at an alter at the end of a hallway. There are candles down the aisle of colums, a red carpet leads up a set of stairs to the alter. Slow, powerful music plays, probably violins are involved. How would the mood be effective if the player were running and jumping all over the place? Mayebe it would, whos to say? But, what if the character were handicapped? What if the player could only walk, that is all, just walk towards the sacrifice?
Then the mood would presumably be much more dramatic.

It is likely that the player even wants to save the one being sacrificed. So then we must ask, how will the player react to this sudden crippling? The answer is obvious, many would be aggrevated (effectively negating the intended drama), a few would appreciate what the designers are trying to achieve. So, is it feasible? Maybe, maybe not, the act of crippling a player is likely much more specific to game and scenario. So what if in our game, the player character has just been poisoned or severly injured, and limps and stumbles across the carpet, spitting up blood? Ah! Now the player has a rational explanation for the crippling of the character. And BAM, the mood is set.

Is it that simple? Personally, I think this specifically could work very well in achieving all purposes, and maybe help in advancing the story. Resident Evil 4 avioded this confliction entirely. Much of the game is built on mood, and relies on its effectiveness on the player. In RE4, Leon can walk or he can run at a fairly slow pace. Leon can only move so fast for a number of reasons: each area or room is only so big, but heavily detailed, and, the ganado are everywhere, forcing the player to carefully approach each situation. Therefore, the player has no need and no desire to move any faster. Everything about this works cyclically, the end result is that Leon's slow movement allows the mood to establish itself within the player. When the game becomes particularly moody or dramatic, the player has the option to walk slowly. I found myself walking through much of the game, I wanted the mood to have an emotional impact on my game experience. Players with options will sometimes swim against the intensions of the designers, and sometimes swim with it.

Setting the Stage
Is it ok to force this mood upon the player?
Or even outside of mood, is it alright to cripple the player to serve some gameplay purpose?
What are the potential negatives and positives to doing this?
Can you think of any other games where your characters abilities were handicapped?


  1. Hey I don't know anything about ganados! ;)

    Anything that helps build a roleplaying story is helpful. One of my favourites was Planescape Torment where the hero has no memory and learns when he gets killed. That is was so cool and fresh because most of us are used to reloading a game if our characters are killed.

  2. Blog too gray, maybe shorter posts, some variety or font/format, and photos of people no one knows hold little interest.

    Photos should be of more general appeal, see wht I mean:

    good luck