297: Green Barrels Don't Explode

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Green Barrels Don't Explode

Players may sigh when they see yet another crate or barrel, but without those familiar gaming landmarks, it's easy to feel lost.

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Well, swapping red explosive barrels for green ones seems a bad way to attack convention. Might as well have a driving game where red lights mean go and green means stop. Thats not so much making a statement as being confusing.

Why are medkits white with red crosses or vice versa in most computer games? because they are in real life. Well, the one near me is green with a white cross just to defy me....wheres my paint?

Some conventions should be challenged. e.g. having a health bar that goes between 0-100. Changing that worked great for Halo. Having a game designed for multiplayer coop worked great for L4D. But changing things that are pretty standard in not just computer games but the world is silly.

Green barrels used to explode...Doom and Crash Bandicoot had that.

I loved the Zak and Wiki game, my mother tried it and she was stuck on several places namely because you have to flip the crank to fit it into the hole.

There's a fine difference between a trope and a cliche. Generally a trope is something that uses its familiarity to help the player, whereas a cliche simply bores them.

It may be a bit absurd to have exploding barrels and item crates in nearly every FPS, but I honestly don't think that removing them would help the genre.

I've always gone with the trial and error approach to exploding barrels. I'm colour-blind and never knew which barrels would explode and which wouldn't. Unless they had some sort of icon on them (a flame or explosion).
Still I just give most barrels or crates or other "interesting" object a try, some might explode, some might heal me and some just sit there and do nothing, colour-coding doesn't exist in my world. Then again for people who do see the difference I can imagine it might be confusing, welcome to my world ;)

Sometimes there's just a right way of doing things, or at least a way that feels right. I can and have played games without exploding barrels, but the crowbar must SMASH!

"We worried about the crate cliché a lot during development," Gabe Newell said in the coffee-table book Half-Life 2, Raising the Bar. "Finally, we gave up, and one of the first things you see when you start the game is a crate. We figured this was the ... equivalent of throwing yourself to the mercy of the court."

Time to crate! THIS is why Old Man Murray is notable! (Damn Wikipedia admins.)

Doom had exploding grey barrels filled with green goo. Green goo is always bad, especially if it's bubbling- it's the exception that proves the red=bad/green=good rule. Presumably then this means that the most explosive of all exploding barrels would be a red barrel filled with bubbling green goo?

therandombear:
Green barrels used to explode...Doom and Crash Bandicoot had that.

Crash Bandicoot also had red exploding crates I believe. Red ones had a count-down timer and had TNT written on them, the green ones exploded on touch and were marked with Nitro. So apart from their different colour, they were still clearly marked as explosive.

OT. Interesting read, though I believe the exploding barrel conundrum, specifically, has been tackled before.

I dont really thing of it as a "convenient" way of putting something in a game, I do think that people are made out of habits, and if one has learned that the red barrel explodes, its really hard to change that perception

and an habit is much more hard to change than a simple rule

all this years we have worked hard to learn and master the rules that are implemented into the game, yes, the games have changed more and more, and with each installment, we have grown, and we know our games, we love them, even with its cliché barrels and such.

but one has to wonder, if after the first game that created "explosive barrels" there came a seccond game where the "explosive barrels" where something else entirely, would we as gamers have accepted it?, would we be more willing to accept change in our games?? or we would have probably dissmissed the idea entirely and focus on the next big game with "explosive barrels"?

check out the dead franchises, I can assume most know that if an idea is too weird or too different from the norm, people wont buy it.

I thought red barrels were red because in the natural world red equals danger? If memory serves biology tests have proven that our eyes pick up red, particularly moving red, much faster than other colours.

In the natural world red means either Danger! or Poisonous. Fire extinguishers are coloured red so you spot them when you are otherwise panicking.

It, therefore, always made sense to me that relevant items you don't want to miss (e.g explosive barrels and med kits) were coloured red.

Green barrels would just confuse me because I would expect them to contain acid because pop culture for years has told me that green equals acid.

As a side note blue is Electricity. Not sure how you can keep electricity in a barrel but they managed it in borderlands.

Tim Latshaw:
Green Barrels Don't Explode

Players may sigh when they see yet another crate or barrel, but without those familiar gaming landmarks, it's easy to feel lost.

Read Full Article

It's hard to know when and how to innovate... and it's even harder to know if a change is "innovation," or just "bucking the norm to be a dick." It's really a fine line to walk.

I think the mistakes that most folks make, in any medium, when they're trying to "shake things up" are pretty common. You see it in reboots of franchises, retellings of classic stories, and in games that try to set a new standard by challenging the old. Those mistakes, in no particular order:

1. Trying to change too many things. If you're going to make changes, you make them one at a time. There's no law that says you've got to build everything from the ground up. Your audience needs to have a few familiar landmarks, and a few "anchors" that keep them from feeling lost. And the bigger the change you're going to make, the fewer other things you should tweak for now. Save some for the sequel. Maybe a game in which players use the environment to construct creative "skill kills" isn't the best time to change up cosmetic features like barrel color...

2. Trying to change too small a thing. Overreaction to fear of being guilty of #1, usually. Rather than make one change that matters, you make several small changes to things that are largely inconsequential. Change a color here, a name there, just tiny stuff. And either your audience doesn't really notice (in which case you really haven't made any changes)... or they go "Why on earth would they bother to change this and leave everything else the same?" Is there a reason to change the color, other than saying "We don't have red barrels like those sell-outs," or something? If not, consider leaving it alone and innovating elsewhere...

3. Changing something without letting the audience know it. You're not just changing one thing. You're also challenging a ton of prior knowledge, experience, and instruction that have gotten your audience used to a certain expectation. You've got to prepare for that transition if you want your change to work well. If you want exploding barrels to be green, include some content that demonstrates this for your player...

I've definitely felt the pull towards the familiarity of the red exploding barrel. I was playing through Half-life 2 the other day and there were some barrels near some enemies who hadn't seen me yet that seemed red, but were more rust colored. I was disappointed to find out that they wouldn't explode no matter how much I shot at them (by this point I was discovered).

But this illustrates how much we (or at least I) subconsciously rely on the red exploding barrel to explode. I saw a color similar to red on a barrel and I instinctively tried to blow it up. After that experience I took a minute when I entered the room to give a quick look over any barrels in the room to make sure if they could explode or not.

I wonder if anyone else shot the green or blue barrels in Borderlands. If Gearbox put in any sort of telemetry, it'd be interesting to see a comparison of exploded barrels by color.

I watched an LP of Halo 3, where it had blue and purple "energy cores" scattered about. He never recognized them. Not once.

Game design is an art and a science. You never know what will happen. I was playing the Crysis 2 demo this week and it was a nugget of such discoveries. On the first demo, back in January, people didn't use the invisibility and armor upgrades, because they were trying to play it like Medal of Honor because it looked like it. (Of course it made it more fun for those of us who did learn to use those features.) But the more damning thing is that the level they were showing off, Skyline, and a huge outdoors area and a huge indoors area, both similarly designed. No one stays indoors. Apparently people hate it! The creator commentaries in the Orange Box also repeatedly pointed these things out, and how they pretty much had to figure it out from playtesters firsthand how people would react to things.

I thought that a good way to see if a people has the skill to solve a problem by thinking outside of the box would be to create a text-based escape the room adventure. You have to find a key to open the door; the key is taped to the ceiling, and you can't reach it, but there's a ladder in a crate; you can't open the crate, but there's a crowbar under the bed, etc. You could solve the game by completing all the actions, but one of the items you'd need would be a screwdriver, and the best solution would be to use the screwdriver to remove the doorknob/hinges to escape.

Green barrels totally explode they're just filled with highly corrosive acid, red barrels are filled with fire, blue ones are filled with lightning and yellow barrels are full of raw nitro glycerin.

therandombear:
Green barrels used to explode...Doom and Crash Bandicoot had that.

Actually, DOOM's barrels were grey-ish with green liquid inside... and exploded red.
So, if anything, the lesson is barrel equals explode, not red equals explode. It sounds to me like complaining for complaining's sake to quibble over the colour...

They use the red because it's easier for the human to detect brightly colored objects faster than darker colored ones, as they generally stand out more. I associate green with explosives, but that's because it's something I've seen before. Well, not so much seen, but I've been trained about it. Compressed O2 is a dangerous thing.

image

Formica Archonis:

"We worried about the crate cliché a lot during development," Gabe Newell said in the coffee-table book Half-Life 2, Raising the Bar. "Finally, we gave up, and one of the first things you see when you start the game is a crate. We figured this was the ... equivalent of throwing yourself to the mercy of the court."

Time to crate! THIS is why Old Man Murray is notable! (Damn Wikipedia admins.)

Ha! I was wondering if someone would mention Old Man Murray. The full quote, as you may know, says, "We figured this was the Old Man Murray equivalent of throwing yourself to the mercy of the court." but I cut that part out for fear many people wouldn't know the reference.

Scorched_Cascade:
I thought red barrels were red because in the natural world red equals danger? If memory serves biology tests have proven that our eyes pick up red, particularly moving red, much faster than other colours.

In the natural world red means either Danger! or Poisonous. Fire extinguishers are coloured red so you spot them when you are otherwise panicking.

You're very much correct, at least human-wise. We likely notice red so quickly and associate it with danger in so many things we have made because it is the color of blood. Is it as perceptible a color for poison in the natural world, however? I'm not so sure. A lot of food is red, and many toxic animals use a variety of bright colors, including yellows and blues, to designate they are toxic. Some poison arrow frogs and the black widow do have a tell-tale red to them, though.

Dastardly:
Snip

That's an excellent little checklist of dangers that can be faced when trying to design around tropes. I really wanted to get the point across that it's not as simple as "Screw trends and be awesome." A myriad of effects and ripples must be considered.

Tim Latshaw:

Scorched_Cascade:
I thought red barrels were red because in the natural world red equals danger? If memory serves biology tests have proven that our eyes pick up red, particularly moving red, much faster than other colours.

In the natural world red means either Danger! or Poisonous. Fire extinguishers are coloured red so you spot them when you are otherwise panicking.

You're very much correct, at least human-wise. We likely notice red so quickly and associate it with danger in so many things we have made because it is the color of blood. Is it as perceptible a color for poison in the natural world, however? I'm not so sure. A lot of food is red, and many toxic animals use a variety of bright colors, including yellows and blues, to designate they are toxic. Some poison arrow frogs and the black widow do have a tell-tale red to them, though.

I was thinking more along the lines of bright red berries (nightshade berries etc) and small critters that have red colouring as a "don't eat me I'm poisonous". I thought that poisonous as opposed to venomous or toxic things were generally bright colours and most commonly red. I was taught it at school but that was a long while ago and I can't think of further examples so maybe I got that a bit muddled.

I did find a quote from an human eye specialist stating that "Red is the one color, outside of the ordinary white or yellow light, that is seen at a great distance...There is no other unmistakable color that can be seen at so great a distance."

They were arguing however that red is insufficient as a warning colour and the fact it was unmistakable was the one thing it had going in it's favour. This, I think, ties into my belief that things are red so you don't miss them.

I liked the box containing tacks study by the way I gave the same scenario to a few of my friends who aren't gamers and who are more practically minded and they got the answer almost straight away. It just goes to show how conditioned we gamers are; worrying really.

Edit-Please excuse the gramatical/spelling errors, they seem to be sneaking in all over the place due to tiredness.

Two words: Coconut effect.

Tim Latshaw:
That's an excellent little checklist of dangers that can be faced when trying to design around tropes. I really wanted to get the point across that it's not as simple as "Screw trends and be awesome." A myriad of effects and ripples must be considered.

Classic butterfly effect, man (which at this point is a cliché, not a trope).

It's tricky to design anything right. People have expectations of how things are supposed to work (On button is on, volume knobs turn from left to right, hot water is on the left side, cold on the right, etc, etc.) So often designers forget what people 'know' in order to get something cool-something that the designers feel is instantly understandable because, hey, they get it right?

Look at the Gawkwer web redesigns; roundly and soundly hated. There are two reasons for that: 1) they released the sites without full functionality (commenting) and 2) the design was a clusterfuck. Nobody likes frames-and any proper web designer from 1998 could have told you that-and NOBODY in the US reads from right to left. NOBODY.

But they wanted to do something cool, and insisted (despite evidence to the contrary, from what I've read) that everyone would do what they told them to.

And the user base said; eat shit, we're going somewhere else.

So it is with games; We've been conditioned to understand that red things are harmful or warnings. That's damn near worldwide, not just games. We've been conditioned to understand you press the jump button 2x to double jump, not the jump and an alternate button, etc etc and we need those things because they help us understand and master the world that we enter (in a gaming sense.)

I'd also recommend the book the Design of Everyday Things, if you dig on this stuff.

vxicepickxv:
Compressed O2 is a dangerous thing.

And yet, the amazing "Things I Learn From My Patients" thread has multiple people who smoke while on O2.

Tim Latshaw:

Formica Archonis:
Time to crate! THIS is why Old Man Murray is notable! (Damn Wikipedia admins.)

Ha! I was wondering if someone would mention Old Man Murray. The full quote, as you may know, says, "We figured this was the Old Man Murray equivalent of throwing yourself to the mercy of the court." but I cut that part out for fear many people wouldn't know the reference.

I'd have caught it, but I'm a thirtysomething geezer :) who remembers when OMM were stymied by the original Doom's 0 second Time to Crate. (Er, Start to Crate, now that I look it up.) Was fresh in my mind as well since I've been reading the recent Slashdot threads on OMM and Wikipedia.

I never thought of this phenomenon, but it may explain my problem with players when I GM pen and paper RPGs. I run games other than D&D (currently Savage Worlds), and focus strongly on the role-playing part and less on task resolution, combat, or character sheet management. I have found that newer players to RPGs would interact better with my games than players that had been gaming for a long time. I think it may be do to the fact they don't have the same built-in expectations from how they game should work compared to the experienced players. I have been impressed by new players who think how their character would solve the challenge if front of them. Where as experienced players look to their character sheet, rules, mechanics, or even rules lawyer-ing the challenge.

Phishfood:
Well, swapping red explosive barrels for green ones seems a bad way to attack convention. Might as well have a driving game where red lights mean go and green means stop. Thats not so much making a statement as being confusing.

Why are medkits white with red crosses or vice versa in most computer games? because they are in real life. Well, the one near me is green with a white cross just to defy me....wheres my paint?

Some conventions should be challenged. e.g. having a health bar that goes between 0-100. Changing that worked great for Halo. Having a game designed for multiplayer coop worked great for L4D. But changing things that are pretty standard in not just computer games but the world is silly.

Heh. That's because the Red Cross has a very specific meaning. (And the way it's used in computer games has annoyed the 'red cross' organisation quite a bit, actually.)

The official meaning of a red cross is a medical service, and basically is mainly intended to be something that you don't shoot at if you're on a battlefield.

Your 'medkit' (or rather, first aid kit), uses the correct symbol for such, which is a white cross on a green background.
...Which is really what games should be using as well, but using the 'red cross' instead has become really ingrained somehow.

megs1120:
I wonder if anyone else shot the green or blue barrels in Borderlands. If Gearbox put in any sort of telemetry, it'd be interesting to see a comparison of exploded barrels by color.

Must admit, at first I just shot the reds then I accidentally shot another colour...from then on I just shot them all.

CrystalShadow:

Heh. That's because the Red Cross has a very specific meaning. (And the way it's used in computer games has annoyed the 'red cross' organisation quite a bit, actually.)

The official meaning of a red cross is a medical service, and basically is mainly intended to be something that you don't shoot at if you're on a battlefield.

Your 'medkit' (or rather, first aid kit), uses the correct symbol for such, which is a white cross on a green background.
...Which is really what games should be using as well, but using the 'red cross' instead has become really ingrained somehow.

Huh, learned something new. Wouldn't want to shoot first aid kits on the battlefield though either. :P Thinking about it harder, I did (sort of) know that. symbol for a pharmacy is a green cross too. Makes sense - as others have said, Red (or mauve, mauve is much more dangerous) = danger, green = safe.

Still, incorrect use aside - we use red for health and blue for mana and green for acid. Its just not something that needs changing. If my health was purple and my mana was yellow it would change nothing except make a game slightly more confusing and harder to learn.

captcha: kovacs onsoup Waiter! Waiter! There's a a Kovacs in my soup. Well don't shout about it, everyone will want one.

Ever shoot a barrel in real life? Usually don't get the same satisfying results, just people yelling at you because you've shot their barrel...

ClaytronJames:
Ever shoot a barrel in real life? Usually don't get the same satisfying results, just people yelling at you because you've shot their barrel...

No wonder. Those things can be expensive.

This made me think of one of my favorite series of games. Lost Planet. I've heard a lot of people complain about the strange or unintuitive controls and I never understood why they would feel that way. It's probably because they're used to third person shooters controlling a certain way and I'm not because I've had no prior experience with them. So as I was learning the controls I had no preconceived notions on how they should have been. They were what they were and I was fine with it. More than fine, actually. I've mastered them and very few people are better than me at them. This, foolishly, lead me to think I would be equally as awesome at other third person shooters. Some time spent with Gears of War tore down that idea pretty quickly.

"We tried not doing red barrels, but The Customer is always right."

No, no, no! This is the worst and most tired cliche of all! The customer is often wrong, stubborn, stupid or some combination of the three, and none of those make them right! When creators, and in this case specifically game creators, stop believing this trope, we won't always have to have "red barrels for explosions" and "green crates for health". Hell, when you think about it, green for health doesn't even make a ton of sense, since we've all been conditioned to the red cross of the health symbol, red first aid kits and other red iconography related to medicine. For Pete's sake, the organization dedicated to health and medicine is called The Red Cross! Where did green come from, anyway? An arbitrary decision at some point that other creators started parroting and look where it's gotten us. (I do realize the relation between a green cross on white first aid kit, but most first aid kits I've ever dealt with are red, with white markings, further ingraining the "health is red" conditioning)

It shows a surprising lack of originality and creativity that the developers of Bulletstorm couldn't figure out a way to give players an exploding barrel that wasn't red. What about a barrel with the large "explosive" symbol we find on aerosol cans? Not only is that a common symbol that everyone recognizes, they also would know immediately what it would mean in an in-game context.

Giving in to consumer pressure is sometimes good, but it's often bad. It's why we end up with games like DA2. Bioware and EA wanted a more accessible, "streamlined" product to appeal to more gamers. Well, look at the shit storm that's created for them. If creators stopped bowing to gamers and just did what was "right" for their game, or heavens forbid!, do what they want to do we'd start deconstructing and eliminating some of the hoary old tropes that plague so many games.

I understand that the bottom line and the future of your company is a powerful motivator, but without innovators and people willing to take a chance, we wouldn't have games, successful, critically lauded games, like Demon's Souls, Heavy Rain or Valkyria Chronicles. (just off the top of my head).

Sure, in a fast paced, frenetic gameplay environment clear signals and information is important, but I think sometimes, and this is especially true of modern games, there's too much hand holding going on and developers have made games too easy. Save points and check points are nice, but when there's no real penalty to dying, there's no real sense of accomplishment either. Going back to Demon's Souls, when I finally kill a boss demon and get to that new archstone, I'm stoked, because some of the levels are really hard and it takes a lot of skill and patience to get through. Other games with instant respawn without penalty can be just as fun, but I find the actual challenge is diluted by the lack of penalty for dying.

Personally, I'd like to see more Demon's Soul's and less games with a Fallout style progression where, if you're so inclined, you can save every five minutes in order to avoid having to repeat sections or lose too much progress. (Note, I'm not bashing Fallout, just using it as an example of a very easy to abuse save system)

Jarrid:

therandombear:
Green barrels used to explode...Doom and Crash Bandicoot had that.

Actually, DOOM's barrels were grey-ish with green liquid inside... and exploded red.
So, if anything, the lesson is barrel equals explode, not red equals explode. It sounds to me like complaining for complaining's sake to quibble over the colour...

Doom also had black flaming barrels you couldn't shoot.

Green barrels can explode, but only into acid or poison that lingers and deals damage over time. Don't game designers know anything?

I just paint all my barrels black. Black barrels don't do anything, so I can keep them all in the same shed and not worry.

vxicepickxv:
They use the red because it's easier for the human to detect brightly colored objects faster than darker colored ones, as they generally stand out more. I associate green with explosives, but that's because it's something I've seen before. Well, not so much seen, but I've been trained about it. Compressed O2 is a dangerous thing.

Hell, compressed any gas is a dangerous thing.

But you are correct. However, while we do detect bright colours more easily, our eyes are also more sensitive to specific wavelengths. Incidentally, green is the one we are least sensitive to, hence why if you're highlighting anything of importance in text it should absolutely not be in green. Red is the most noticeable colour to us, with blue being in the middle.

Actually I wonder if blue explosive barrels would work...

Zom-B:
Hell, when you think about it, green for health doesn't even make a ton of sense, since we've all been conditioned to the red cross of the health symbol, red first aid kits and other red iconography related to medicine. For Pete's sake, the organization dedicated to health and medicine is called The Red Cross! Where did green come from, anyway? An arbitrary decision at some point that other creators started parroting and look where it's gotten us. (I do realize the relation between a green cross on white first aid kit, but most first aid kits I've ever dealt with are red, with white markings, further ingraining the "health is red" conditioning)

Actually the Red Cross is a trademarked symbol and I think games that have tried to use a red cross have gotten into some legal issues with The Red Cross over it. It's not just an arbitrary decision.

Although here a green cross is used for pharmacists (drug stores, to the Americans here) so it sort of makes sense to me.

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