262: The World is Out to Get You

The World is Out to Get You

The final boss of a platformer may be easily defeated while the combined pits, spikes and wall-traps leading to his chamber are stained with the blood of a hundred reloads. Kevin Hoole explains how the environment can be the harshest villain in videogames.

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You know, now that you mention it, I wonder why we've never seen a survival game. Not survival-horror, where something evil is trying to kill you and you have to escape from it and/or fight it off. Just survival; your character gets plonked down in the middle of nowhere and has to use a variety of tools and his own knowledge and senses to survive in the wild and reach civilization. Levels of progressing difficulty see you in different environments with harsher climates, more scarce resources, or greater dangers.

It's not the bosses, their hordes of faceless mooks, oncoming traffic, opposing racers, or even lack of ammo that has wrecked controllers for me. No, over the course of many generations of consoles, not one has gone by where I haven't had to replace the interface device because of the environment. Pits, spikes, spiked pits, walls, rocks, lack of walls and rocks, trees and of course just plain empty space have all conspired to introduce gamepad to real wall at some point over any of my consoles life spans. I have destroyed controllers previously considered indestructible, all because of some ingeniously (or badly) designed level. I have to concur that I've probably spent more game lives dying to the landscape than I have to anything that was actively trying to kill me. But I wouldn't have it any other way. The landscape not sitting there and malevolently murdering me would feel somehow wrong.

In Gears of War, I've always considered the environment to be more of an ally than an enemy. After all, in any battle there just so happens to be these conveniently located chest-high walls you can take cover behind.

Interesting article. Brought back memories of the gravity-defying instant-kill apples in I Want to Be the Guy.
Now there's some enviroments that take no prisoners...

Has there been a game made where you control the environment to try and take out an NPC protagonist? Y'know, cuz that would be sweet.

That is certainly an amusing point. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've careened into Jagged Rock Junction, or down a pit, or into lava/acid/purple cloud stuff over the years. Or when traversing a rope line to jump off too early and miss the landing by a couple of micrometers, or jump to a platform that looks safe only to discover that there was a hidden trap. Maybe my timing was off, maybe my jump was just a few degrees off, or a second too early, and whoops, there I go making another stain again. Maybe I was running across a building top, jump off the edge and leap to the next building, but misjudge the distance and land face first on some poor sod below me who apparently is composed of motile reinforced concrete. Maybe it's the random bit of wall that juts out in an infested corridor that seems specifically designed to bounce my strafing-thrown grenades right back into my face, or that bit of ceiling that seems to pop down right as I jump up and try to launch a rocket at someone across a room, only to realize that a half-foot radius is no where near enough room to dodge an exploding rocket and end up launching myself back to the ground, in a multitude of little bits. Truely, the environment is out to mash us into little gibblets.

RebellionXXI:
You know, now that you mention it, I wonder why we've never seen a survival game. Not survival-horror, where something evil is trying to kill you and you have to escape from it and/or fight it off. Just survival; your character gets plonked down in the middle of nowhere and has to use a variety of tools and his own knowledge and senses to survive in the wild and reach civilization. Levels of progressing difficulty see you in different environments with harsher climates, more scarce resources, or greater dangers.

Actually, there was a survival game for the Game Boy Color, called Survival Kids. It was an okay game, with an actual story(well. The worst ending had practically no story, but as the endings got better, the story got bigger), and fiendishly difficult to get the best ending (I managed to do it after, like, 3 years of playing). It was a kiddie-ish game, but at the same time, it was a lot of fun. You start out armed with a knife, some wet matches, and a broken radio, and have to survive off the land, be it by eating different grasses, fungi, fruits, and nuts, or hunting, getting water from a stream... Some foods were poisonous, some water made you sick if you drank it, plenty of animals tried to kill you.

You could hunt or trap animals for food, and you could fish, or pick up clams from teh seaside, all of which had to be cooked in order to be edible, and all of which go bad in a few days.

You have to keep an eye on your hunger, thirst, and fatigue meters, there was even health. Finding places to sleep could be difficult, and some places were inaccessible due to flooding on rainy days.

Plenty of different things to pick up, almost all of which were useless if you left them as-is, however, you could craft items (lots of items) from items you pick up.

Also, Konami continued the series with Lost in Blue for the DS.

There were a lot of different endings, and every time you got a new ending, a few pieces would be added to a puzzle, until you got all the endings. I think there were 16, or something like that.

Definitely worth checking out.

" Sure, perhaps they share a table at the Things That Make People Want To Kill Themselves awards, next to Stephenie Meyer and the vuvuzela, but unlike gameplay mechanics, the Environment doesn't make itself obvious. "

This made me laugh.

Beware the infinite holes.

A recent game presented in E3 has shown some nasty enviroment. Check out for "Limbo" in youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV-0w8I-oAc

It seems to me that what you are asking for really is a game in which you, the player, are able to use the environment to dispatch your enemies. That is certainly how it seemed to me once I neared the end of your article. If that is what you are after then it seems to me that the game you should look into would be Bulletstorm: the much advertised (at least on Xbox) game from Epic Games/ People Can Fly. In that you can use the environment (as well as your guns) to destroy your opponents. True it's still a plain FPS and most people will probably just use their guns any way, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. For instance one element that springs to mind is that you can kick enemies into carnivorous plants for extra points. This then is not just game in which you can use the environment to your advantage but a game in which you should use the environment to your advantage. Surely then, if this game is anything to go by, the market is starting to take a few doddering steps in the right direction. As long as this game sells well and other developers think that the environment is the cause of it.

But I could have completely misconstrued what you mean and this is definitely not what you're looking for
Still looks like an awesome game though

In plants Vs. Zombies you are the enviroment that is killing the zombies. :P

In terms of game where you feel like even the earth is out to get you, i think STALKER makes you feel pretty unloved by the landscape, literally 1/2 the places you could stand in the game will kill sharpish you and the other 1/2 will just kill you slower. Radiation coupled with constant anomalies to run into makes the world an extreamly hostile place, unusually so for an FPS.

Phuctifyno:
Has there been a game made where you control the environment to try and take out an NPC protagonist? Y'know, cuz that would be sweet.

Dungeon Master, maybe? I've never played it - something like that, where you build the dungeon...I dunno, someone else will know what I'm talking about if I'm right. >.>;

Single-player game that comes to mind in which you can toss folks off cliffs: Force Unleashed.

lol. I'm actually thinking how cool it'd be to be Bowser, throwing waves of goombas like in an RTS, and solving puzzles to pull off elaborate chain reaction traps while watching an NPC Mario figure stuff out. The longer it takes Mario to finish, the higher your score. Bonus points and secret endings if his brains paint the mushroom sidewalk. It'd be like Blast Corps, but instead of clearing a path, you're putting dangerous shit in the way.

RebellionXXI:
You know, now that you mention it, I wonder why we've never seen a survival game. Not survival-horror, where something evil is trying to kill you and you have to escape from it and/or fight it off. Just survival; your character gets plonked down in the middle of nowhere and has to use a variety of tools and his own knowledge and senses to survive in the wild and reach civilization. Levels of progressing difficulty see you in different environments with harsher climates, more scarce resources, or greater dangers.

Sims: Castaway was sort of a game like that, although how difficult it actually was is up for interpretation. I have a feeling that wasn't quite what you were looking for, though.

Phuctifyno:
Has there been a game made where you control the environment to try and take out an NPC protagonist? Y'know, cuz that would be sweet.

I think Gheist for the GameCube might be that. Haven't actually played it though. I need to hook up ye olde Cube to find it out...

You appear to have left out how satisfying it is to charge a survivor off the hotel in L4D2.

in soviet russia, environment uses you.... sorry about that...

OT: pretty much spot-on about environment being unused, and when used is plain awesome...
i would realy like an AI that would use bodies and the changes that happen ingame against the user...

Yeah, I want more red barrels too.
And a game with messing-with-da-environment powers where you annihilate a bunch of soldiers by making the earth eat them.

Phuctifyno:
Has there been a game made where you control the environment to try and take out an NPC protagonist? Y'know, cuz that would be sweet.

Populus for the SNES is probably as close as you're going to get, or possibly Black & White for the PC.

As a sailor on shore leave, I'm really getting a kick out of this article, and these replies.

There is a Neverwinter Nights server I play on, where several of the environments are quite lethal. The weakest does 70 damage a minute, the next most severe is randomly timed 350 damage(Could be a turn, could be a minute, could be several minutes), the next most severe is 500 damage a minute, and only in death can you find 10% of your max health every 3 seconds nasty. Wait, it's 10% if you have the right equipment, otherwise it can go as high as 50%.

The Random One:

Phuctifyno:
Has there been a game made where you control the environment to try and take out an NPC protagonist? Y'know, cuz that would be sweet.

I think Gheist for the GameCube might be that. Haven't actually played it though. I need to hook up ye olde Cube to find it out...

I was just going to say that. (It's Geist, by the way.) As a ghost you could possess certain objects in the environment to scare a human so you could posses them. Now that I think about it, I wonder why I ever traded that game in.

This also reminded me of the Halo 3 map Rat's Nest. Ahh, so many Warthogs launched over that cliff. I love the Gravity Hammer.

I always remember that the environments were out to bastardize me - sure, I could beat on this boss with my bare hands, but wouldn't it be better if I got the environment in on it?
Mother nature hath wrath and she's out to get you!

I will say one word that, in my mind, is the perfect proof of this idea:

Portal.

grinding a level 80 Paladin into dust with nothing more than Typhoon and a 300 foot drop, however ... that is infinitely more rewarding.

/cast divine shield
/laugh

Silly druids thinking they can beat us pallys. :P

 

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