[This was originally posted on my personal blog www.reachingperfection.com]
[Forge Lessons is a level design series that I have written for the halo forge (the simplistic in-game level editor) communities. While it is tailored towards Halo multiplayer map design I feel that it covers general level design very well. I would love everyone's opinions on how these lessons can translate into other games and genres like the Call of Duty series, the Unreal Series, RTS games, platformer games, etc.]
What makes players move around the map the way that they do? If their goal is straight ahead, what makes them detour to the right? What delays them from having the chance to win the game? There are a couple answers to this question, but there is one answer in particular that is more prominent than the simple placement of a Rocket Launcher or the Sniper Rifle. It exists in a higher quantity than weapons, power ups, armor abilities, and cover combined. Yup… you guessed it based on the title of today’s lesson; Deterrents.
By definition a Deterrent is something that discourages something else from proceeding. Several synonyms exist that may help you better understand what a deterrent might be; impediment, hindrance, disincentive, etc. Deterrents are the most prominent tools of Path Manipulation, however they are one of the least bit utilized and researched tools. A deterrent can be many things.
If you see your opponent straight ahead, you change your short term goal to account for him by moving to cover, or preparing an ambush, or simply avoiding the confrontation. If you know the location of the sniper on the opposite team you maneuver in order to stay out of line of sight.
If several fusion coils are in your direct path, you cautiously work your way around them in fear of the opposition killing you with one shot. Anything that threatens your chance of winning can be considered a deterrent.
Limitations of “discouraging”
The word discourage is one that suggests that deterrents do not always work, which is true. Maybe the main reason why deterrents are not talked about much is because they are not always a sure fire way to get players to move around the map. Some players are stubborn and seek to fight against the odds.
Some players are just too skillful to allow such a hindrance stop them from moving forward. Do not fully rely on deterrents to move players around when you start to fully understand them. However do not completely disregard them as useless either. With the right adjustments and tweaks to the map a turret or other deterrent can be a force to be reckoned with and will become a true path manipulator.
Learning to control planted deterrents as well as dynamic deterrents is a skill that cannot be overlooked when trying to perfect one’s level design theories. Learning when and when not to use deterrents or any theory for that matter is what makes perfection so impossible to achieve. However the more you learn the closer you can step towards the unreachable goal of no flaws.
Just the beginning
There is so much to deterrents that one can analyze. Everything will be covered over time. Deterrents are a big part of controlling a player’s movement around your map and can serve to be quite useful if utilized properly.
Studying deterrents will require that you understand that while you have the ability to add deterrents around your map such as fusion coils and turrets, deterrents are created and destroyed constantly throughout the playtime of your map. Dynamic deterrents are a difficult concept to grasp, so learning the basics first are important. Once you do that you will have the power to completely weave the situations that your players encounter.