on Jan 8, 2013
Chris made a really good point about guns in this episode: If this was a straightforward shooter with talky bits, then players would simply treat it like one. They would always have their gun out, and they would tend to stay and fight. It’s incredibly hard to get players to run away. If you starve them for bullets, they’ll run out, die, and complain that the game is too hard or that bullets are too scarce. Or they’ll save-scum until they get all headshots and the tension and pacing of the scene is completely demolished by the save / reload cycle.
Sure, SOME players will shoot and run at the proper time, but others won’t because they’ve played a hundred other games that have built up this expectation of an empowerment fantasy. Those players will become confused and frustrated. I suppose you can boss them around with on-screen prompts telling them to stand or run, but then the players will want to argue with the narrator’s decisions. “Why do we have to stay? We could climb this fence and escape!” Or perhaps, “Why do we have to run? I think we can take these guys.”
Additionally, making this a shooter would require shooter mechanics: First or third person perspective. Suddenly players would be free to look around. We’d lose the wonderful cinematography and face all the framing problems of players overlooking critical details because they were rubbernecking. Also, this would make the game more expensive to produce. A lot of these places are probably built like movie sets: Only the relevant areas are filled in. If the camera doesn’t look in that corner, then nobody has to fill it with detail or texture it. In a movie, the only props that need to look good up close are the ones you plan on using in a closeup. In a game, anything that can get near the player’s face has to be presentable enough for a closeup.
In this game, the interpersonal exchanges are the gameplay, and taking this approach lets those mechanics take center stage. The brief action events are mostly there to create tension though uncertainty. (Am I going to die if I fail this? Could have executed that previous action differently and gotten a more favorable outcome? Was there a choice I didn’t see?) If they made this a shooter it would pull all of the focus onto the shooting, and pull it away from the dialog. In this game, the camera shows us what the director wants, and characters make decisions about when to shoot or fight based on things we don’t always see. As long as we trust the writers, then we can accept it. “I don’t know how many bullets Lee has and I don’t know how many zombies are outside, but Lee knows and he’s decided that it’s time to run. So it probably makes the most sense and I don’t need to second-guess him.”
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.