How Game Developers Hack Your Brain | 7 Secret Game Designs

How Game Developers Hack Your Brain | 7 Secret Game Designs


Nowadays, it can feel as if games are obsessed
with telling you too many of their secrets. As gaming grows out of its esoteric phase
dating back to the ancestor consoles of the 20th century – the amp up on things such as
required tutorials and in-game guide menus can really take out some of the enjoyment
in finding out what lies beneath their surface. Because of this, hearing about concepts after
the fact that developers manage to sneak past us and influence our experience can be ridiculously
exciting to finally notice. So that’s why today, let’s throw some
love to 7 hidden details and features in particular that really show how developers hack our playstyle
without us even knowing. Hey all you secret spies and cool guys, I’m
Skip the Tutorial – and this is Game Bites, an appreciation anthology of the best bits
of design that gaming has to offer – and hey, if this is your first time here, then make
sure to search out that subscribe for weekly insights into your favorite things about gaming. Overwatch Enemy Sounds Jeff Kaplan’s stated goal for the audio
team on Blizzard’s 2016 release of Overwatch was the ability to play the whole game with
the monitor turned off. And as implausible as that direction might
seem, the devs actually covered a lot of ground in approaching this reality. Chief among which is the Enemy Prioritization
Sound System, known in-house as the “importance system”. In an effort to keep players safe from unwarranted
deaths – as the flanking McCree’s footsteps are drowned out by the sounds of your ally
Reinhardt’s attacks – Overwatch’s audio engineers chose to side their HDR or high
dynamic range audio mix to dole out “importance points” based on how likely a threat is
in proportion to you. To make sure that players can always pick
up on the most important details, the audio systematically adjusts based on essentially
how big you are on the enemy player’s screen. So if a foe is nearby but goofing off and
keeping you out of their vision, their prioritization will fall into the middle tier of priority
– whereas an enemy who is several meters further from you but trying to lock headshots is blasted
to the top of your eardrums. From here, the system then “buckets” these
different sound effects into separate levels from the importance data. Here’s an example the team demonstrated
at GDC. Notice how the audio differs between when
the Reaper is switched from enemy to friendly, and likewise their importance and threat level
to you drops. Now, where I think the real beauty of this
system stands out is in how subtle these changes can be, yet still provide a huge amount of
conveyed information to the player. Although there are some examples of sounds
that don’t rely on this system as much – such as ultimate call outs, since their importance
to a match is pretty big. I think the way this prioritization is implemented
gives an elegant solution to what could’ve otherwise been a 6v6 headphone blasting cacophony. Doom 2016 Health Bar Ticks Surviving on your last leg can be a blast. There’s plenty of thrill to squeezing your
controller while on the edge of your seat – just trying to make it out of the difficult
section without retry. Some games work to create this feeling through
tough as nails enemies that keep you gasping for air, but when it comes to the titles like
iD Software’s recent Doom, sometime the developers will sneak in a little bit of extra
design to keep you in that state. Within the game, you have life bar presented
on your heads up display’s bottom left corner – pretty standard stuff; however, the secret
genius here is that last tick of life juice on your indicator isn’t worth the same amount
as other bits on the life bar. Instead, that final segment is actually valued
significantly higher than any of the visually comparable pieces. So what this means is that when yourself near
to bottoming out, the game plays a slight trick to make you feel just that bit closer
to death. And from this, the system can drive a lot
of the same decisions that often arise when a player is close to a respawn for an effectively
larger period. Worth noting here is that this detail partners
beautifully with the game’s glory kill system, which stems from driving enemies to a stagger
with your weaponry before sailing in close for a final melee blow. Since these bloodbath finishing moves always
net some health, a worried player is therefore pushed to the more exhilarating moments of
offense. In sum, this sweet little lie that the developers
hide from you works to keep you in the most exciting stories the game’s systems have
to offer – and comes together to give the extra bit of inevitable joy to just nearly
meeting your demise. Silent Hill Shattered Memories A.I. Senses In a game that warns you that it plays you
just as much as you play it, you can be sure that there’s plenty of subtle tweaks going
on within the lines of code. Partner this with the fact Sam Barlow headed
up this one and Silent Hill Shattered Memories is packed to the brim with hidden features
and details. A personal favorite of mine and one that Barlow
isn’t afraid to share himself is the concept of AI dumbing down – particularly through
the removal of senses in the game’s monsters each time you respawn. So for example, a struggling player would
have their nightmares’ key awareness bits systematically eliminated until they can finally
take on the challenge properly. By removing smell, then hearing, and then
messing with their sight, the developer’s intention here was to make these sequences
scary, but not overwhelmingly difficult. This isn’t the only feature they chucked
into the A.I, with features such as only two things being allowed to chase you at once,
and the foes slowing down when you check over your shoulder so that they appear right at
your tail – but I think this one in particular really goes to show the importance of fairness
within a game designer’s job, -even if the atmosphere is supposed to be
grueling and terrifying. Although it’s a system that can potentially
be exploited for easier runs, and any players that chose to repeat these sections might
think the system as just bad or stupid artificial intelligence –
it’s the weight that Barlow puts on first-time player experience that really makes it something
special – and definitely worth some praise when peeking under the hood. Pac Man Ghost Behavior It’s odd to think how one of the most iconic
titles in gaming is still to keep some cards up its sleeve all the way since the 80’s. But sure enough, creator Toru Iwatani designed
the ghosts in the game to keep us all on our toes. Within the files of the arcade classic, each
of the game’s 4 ghosts is designed with their own movement patterns and behavioral
quirks to maintain some freshness to the gameplay. Iwatani’s reasoning for this was that he
“wanted each ghostly enemy to have a specific character and its own particular movements,
so they weren’t all just chasing after Pac Man in single file, which would have been
tiresome and flat.” So with that, we get the ghosts of Blinky,
Pinky, Inky, and Clyde all described to their personalities as Shadow, Speedy, Bashful,
and Pokey, respectively. This is why the red ghost will chase down
your current tile as soon as possible, making him the earliest threat, but also short-sighted
in his planning that allows to eventually lose the fellow. The Pink ghost, which has sort of misnomer
as “speedy” in the English version, since the speed is actually the same as the other
ghosts; however, this phantom is characterized by targeting the tile the player’s moving
towards, rather than where they’ve been. Inky, or the blue ghost, probably has the
most difficult to predict vectors in the game, since his supposed bashful nature is reliant
both on the player’s position and orientation, in tandem with how Blinky, or the red ghost
moves. And finally, the goofiest on the bunch in
Clyde aka the Orange ghost balances between the lock on sight system of Blinky when he’s
away from the player, but then starts to throw in all kinds of zig zags and lollygagging
when he gets close. Overall, I think Iwatani does a great job
here in throwing us off the game’s four-ghost scent with the variations these different
enemies have. Creating an ever-shifting battlefield of foes
to continually reconsider your way around for the pellets is a lot of fun – and I’d
argue the chief reason this game is still so legendary to this day. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Distractions This game is a manic test of friendship that
does astounding job of milking high tension out of the seemingly mundane. I mean, any game that’s able to get you
screamingly nervous over a tragic lack of communication over some weird triangle tentacle
looking symbol is worthy of that praise. But where the game really takes an interesting
exploration into all of this, in my mind, is with the purposeful inclusion of distractions. As developer Ben Kane states, “distractions
like the alarm clock are based on how well you’re doing. Makes last second defusals [sic] more likely.” This small feature covers a lot of distance
in how it plays out realtime. While it’s easy to sit here and say that
an alarm clock really wouldn’t be that distracting, in a game – especially a VR functionality
one – where every seconds counts, taking a bit of time to look at that can send an excelling
team to a crashing loss. On top of this, Kane’s philosophy here of
driving last second defuses is huge in building the game’s reputation of high octane craziness
that eventually gives some largely satisfying payoffs. So while the little noises and side details
in the room might seem random or just some unnecessary filler, it’s the way that the
team uses them to accomplish these hilariously awesome moments that really makes playing
this game, especially with your closest and loudest pals, a blast. Furi Last Boss Phase Scoring a high stakes win against a big baddie
is not to be understated. And no one understands this better than The
Game Baker’s very own Emeric Thoa – who stated that within Furi, the final phase of
the game’s centerpiece boss fights is purposefully designed to be lower difficulty with a higher
emphasis to the visuals. This approach fascinates me since most bosses
you play in games would lead you to believe that designers see proper difficulty as a
steadily increasing slope. But loosening the reigns on these final bits
can produce impacts on the player’s connection with the gameplay. For one, it builds a sense that the boss is
in a sort of “desperation phase,” where they lash out in one last weakened hurrah
of their final resort before being taken down. Moreover, this develops a sense within the
player that they’re improving over the course of the fight since as they reach the close,
it feels more as though the power begins to shift to your established skills. And don’t get me wrong, there’s still
plenty of challenge to be found in Furi as a whole regardless – even the decrease in
difficulty here is mostly comparative, and has plenty of capability to send you back
for a retry. But ultimately, I think what the team expertly
discovers here is that there’s plenty of power to create moments in gaming past just
barely surviving through some juiced foe -instead, flipping the script so that the
player can score some taste of an all-important power trip and truly feel like the boss destroying
machine the game asks them to become. Spider-Man Vocal Change There’s a lot to love in Insomniac’s Sony
exclusive Spider-Man title. So much love and detail went in from the studio
to create a truly superb experience here – and while some those might have been removed post-launch
– my favorite of this game’s subtle details lies in the way the developers play around
with voice actor Yuri Lowenthal’s portrayal of the titular hero. As anyone who’s spent some time in this
game knows, it’s not uncommon to spend your fair share of time simply swinging through
the various buildings of Manhattan. And from there, I’d also be fairly certain
that you’ve had a fair share of time listening to the different scripted communicator conversations
that Spidey has with the other characters. But what I find fascinating about how Insomniac’s
team handles what could’ve just been run-of-the-mill lines of dialogue is that they seamlessly
switch between different recorded takes depending on whether or not the hero is exerting himself. Take a listen to the differences in this same
conversation you have with MJ in the game. On top of being just an impressive performance
on Lowenthal’s part, this also shows the insane amount of consideration the folks working
on the game put into its design. Quite honestly, it’s a feature I’m certain
that I wouldn’t have noticed if it was gone – since I’d have been too busy delivering
pizzas or something to even pick up on it. But all in all, if you ask me, the truly special
pieces of works that we’re exposed to, be it movies, games, what have you – are the
ones that take the supplementary little steps that eventually add up into their extra mile. Hey there! Investigate this one up in the top right for
the 7 most scrumdiddlyumptious food-centric designs in gaming –
or discover this one down in the bottom right for another video. If you want to support the channel and score
new uploads every week, then tell your secrets to that subscribe button – and I promise it’ll
absolutely keep them and let you know about future Game Bites episodes. But until then, take care, and you have a
good one, alright?

24 thoughts on “How Game Developers Hack Your Brain | 7 Secret Game Designs

  1. Show Notes:
    [0:52] Overwatch Sound Design
    [2:50] Doom 2016 Health Bar
    [4:18] Silent Hills Shattered Memories AI Senses
    [5:35] Pac Man Ghosts
    [7:21] Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Distractions
    [8:34] Furi Boss Final Phase
    [9:52] Spider-Man Vocal Change

    Further reading: https://twitter.com/Gaohmee/status/903510060197744640

  2. Surprise surprise a goddamn arcade game has better enemy AI than so many more modern games lol.
    Even if I’ve heard that neat detail about Spidey’s voice clips several times before, it never fails to amaze me the level of nuance they went to.

  3. The thing with Furi also seems to apply to the Jevil fight in Deltarune. It may just be me but the Final Chaos attack where all the knives come down and create lasers is way easier than the majority of the fight, in fact I've never died to that part, but it is an epic finale to the fight! Again that may just be me though.

    Great video as always!

  4. I like the furi approach. I've noticed before that continually rising difficulty can sometimes break a boss experience right at the end. If you fail right at the climax and have to restart, it can utterly destroy the pacing. When you reach the same point again, it no longer has the same surprise factor it had the first time, leading to an overall less fulfilling experience.

  5. You should do a video about all the tricks Valve pulls to make their linear games feel dynamic and adaptive. The AI director in Left 4 Dead, Schrodinger's Ammo Boxes from Half Life 2, and so on.

  6. Another interesting one is half-life 2.
    Not only does the content of breakable crates shift from delivering hp to ammo depending on how much heath the player has, but smaller details, like how long an energy pellet takes to dissipate, shifts with difficulty settings to make puzzles, as well as combat, more challenging.

  7. If you want some great examples of bosses that feel awsome to fight despite the fact that they're actually incredibly easy, Twilight Princess has a ton of them.

  8. The different patterns for the PAC-Man ghosts also make the game more challenging. It wouldn’t be too hard if they all followed a specific pathway or always followed you, but by giving them different patterns they be tricky to avoid. I remember playing the game for the first time and wondering why the ghosts were so smart they seemed to always trap me.

    Great content as always. Keep it up.

  9. Undertale's final boss (light spoilers ahead) gets easier every time you die against him. I also think, that the damage he deals gets smaller the more damaged you are and the damage you deal yourself gets gradually bigger, but I don't have proof for them.

    I think this is a good way to make the battle feel challenging without being too hard or frustrating, since that fight is mostly story-driven.

  10. Not really that secret, but Night in the Woods, a story driven platformer, intentionally lacks any tutorial to make the story feel more immersive (as the protagonist don't have much idea either). It's toned down a bit in an update, but the most of the minigames still expect the player to play without any formal memory.

  11. So if someone can almost play with the monitor off can the deaf almost play it? Could you learn to play without seeing if you could actually play with out the noniter?

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