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Invisible Walls and Player Limits

This blog discusses what we as players hate, but as designers and developers we must have. Player Limitations, walls, blocked off paths, etc, etc... The issues arise when you take away my freedom of movement. If I see a bridge, LET ME JUMP OFF!

Michael Isaacs

October 18, 2011

4 Min Read

The Invisible wall, and how I hate thee.

 Designers and programmers must limit were a player can go, its something we cant get around... Even open world games like Fallout, must have an end. So they have to limit where players can and can not go. Fallout is a PERFECT example of how to do it right. Where as so many other games do it horribly wrong...

 As a player, I want to explore, I want to see where I can go and look for hidden items and or Easter eggs. But when I'm trying to climb over this mountain and or I run to the end of the "road that's ridiculously long and leads to nothing" then I hit a invisible wall... What runs through my mind, isn't "Oh OK. I guess I cant go here.." its more like "WTF, this is stupid, another invisible wall, this game is already pissing me off!" If you want to limit where a player can go, that's fine! Whats not fine, is just tossing up a invisible wall... If yo want to stop me from going past this point. Block it off, put a rock slide, or a road that has collapsed, or a tunnel that's collapsed, or a Tree or like 10 that have fallen, or a land mine field. Give me a REASON that is plausible to me as a player immersed in your game, could believe. As a programmer / designer, I know you just didn't want me to go there. That is something I'm OK with, as long as its done in a non blatant NO! in the type of a blank wall I cant walk past. So many developers do this because it is quick and easy, but it ruins immersion, it ruins the fun of exploration, it seriously hinders the experience of your game when you do this.

 Another player limit that is more of a player safeguard then anything else but, it still ruins game-play... Limits on bridges, and lava pits, and other OBVIOUSLY deadly areas.... As a player and a programmer / designer, I want to see where games LET me go, or do. I am that guy that tries to jump off the bridge of utter doom, just to see if I can. And about 95% of my experience as a VERY addicted and avid gamer is that the game wont let me. Why? No reason, it just wants to protect the player... Well I think its stupid... I mean If I want to jump into the lava pit of doom, then let me! Prime example of this is World of Warcraft, they normally have safeguards to stop you... Well in the Cataclysm Expansion, there is a Dungeon / Instance , that has a HUGE lava pit, next to a boss... As the Tank, I'm running in front pulling mobs, and getting beat on... I see the lava pit, my mind starts to think... I run directly for it and try to jump off the ledge, RIGHT after, attacking the boss. What happens? Well what do you think? I fell into the lava and got incinerated.

 Was my group of friends of players angry? Not really, we were too busy laughing, and quite entertained... Why ? I will tell ya why, because it was an unexpected outcome. We enjoyed the fact that I was allowed to do something that stupid in the game. The fact that they didn't limit my movement, left us with a story I will remember for as long as I play video games.

 Lets look at the alternative... I run at the lava pit, Jump, hit an invisible wall, nothing happens, we fight the boss, and  then we complain about invisible walls for the next 15 mins, and get upset at how stupid things like that are. Our game play for the day may have a negative after taste. Ya the feeling would pass, until we wanted to do something stupid again later that day, or that week.


Player Limiters are needed, invisible walls are not. If you don't want a player to go some where, block it off with a REASONABLE idea, Collapsed tunnel, Rock-slide, Landmine field, or hell, do what Borderlands did, put BIG GUN turrets that blast the player if he steps out of bounds! Even then, I have a reason to not go off the beaten path. Albeit, a crappy unexplained reason, but a reason none the less.

 Also, let players jump off that bridge of doom, don't try to make your game so stupid player proof. Some smart players, wanna have fun and do those stupid things, why ruin their fun?

 -Michael Isaacs

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