Bulletstorm Dev Explains the Art of the Exploding Red Barrel

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Bulletstorm Dev Explains the Art of the Exploding Red Barrel

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Bulletstorm has red barrels that explode when you shoot them. Why? Because green barrels don't explode, duh.

The balance between intuitive gameplay and original gameplay can be a difficult one to walk for a game designer: How do you try to stand out from the crowd when gamers have become so accustomed to conventions? Your health meter is green; a red flash on the screen means you're being injured; A is "yes" (or the jump button) and B is "no." Say you wanted to put barrels in the game that would explode when shot - what color would you make them? You certainly don't want to make them red, since every action game has red barrels that explode when you shoot them.

But that's exactly what gamers have come to expect. A red barrel isn't filled with delicious salsa: It will explode if it gets hit by a bullet. In a post on the studio's official blog, a People Can Fly rep explained that gamer expectation had shaped the development of hyperkinetic shooter Bulletstorm, because people just wouldn't shoot green barrels.

"We made a stab at trying something different, instead of going with the cliché. In the beginning we had green barrels, but people didn't get it right away," wrote designer Arcade Berg. "They got completely ignored by the players and no one guessed or assumed that they were explosive. Why not? Because they weren't red. Everyone knows that only the red barrels are explosive."

In a game intended to be as fast-paced and frantic as Bulletstorm, he elaborated, it was important to provide visual cues that a player could easily identify and quickly process. That means making explosive barrels red. "There's no time to analyze objects on a detail level, so the shape and color have to be enough. It became apparent for us that the most efficient way to communicate its purpose was to make it red."

And yet the developer's work wasn't done there. It turns out that a surprising amount of effort and thought has to go into something as simple as "paint it red."

If you're interested in game design, the hows-and-whys of explosive barrel design, (or just interested in Bulletstorm), the full blog post is a fascinating read. I would like to point People Can Fly at 2009's Borderlands, which had red barrels, green barrels, orange barrels and blue barrels - they all just did different things when you shot them.

(Via Kotaku)

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Crash Bandicoot games had green crates that exploded...granted red were tnt and green were nitro, but still.

So why not add both, red for tnt explosion and green for nitro explosion? xD

Doom had green barrels.

Borderlands has many colours of barrel, different effects from each.
I agree though, red = danger.

Not only do the explode, the red ones go faster as well.

Damnation had yellow barrels. Lots of yellow barrels.
I think it also had some grey barrels, but they were boring and didn't go BOOM when shot at. In fact, they didn't do anything at all.

Fronzel:
Doom had green barrels.

Doom only had green barrels

John Funk:
I would like to point People Can Fly at 2009's Borderlands, which had red barrels, green barrels, orange barrels and blue barrels - they all just did different things when you shot them.

Borderlands wasn't made by People can Fly, it was made by Gearbox.

The same reason you run faster with a knife. It's just common sense right?

Blue Musician:

John Funk:
I would like to point People Can Fly at 2009's Borderlands, which had red barrels, green barrels, orange barrels and blue barrels - they all just did different things when you shot them.

Borderlands wasn't made by People can Fly, it was made by Gearbox.

...yes, I know.

Blue Musician:

John Funk:
I would like to point People Can Fly at 2009's Borderlands, which had red barrels, green barrels, orange barrels and blue barrels - they all just did different things when you shot them.

Borderlands wasn't made by People can Fly, it was made by Gearbox.

Hence the part about the pointing.

Blue Musician:

John Funk:
I would like to point People Can Fly at 2009's Borderlands, which had red barrels, green barrels, orange barrels and blue barrels - they all just did different things when you shot them.

Borderlands wasn't made by People can Fly, it was made by Gearbox.

Uhh, he wasn't implying that it was?

Hmmm, well my thought is that they probably should have kept the green barrels and made it part of the game's learning process, since it would make the game stick out a bit more. What is being said here is "we decided our game wasn't generic enough, so we made it even more generic!". :)

I've just bought and been playing Max Payne 2 - that shit has exploding green crates!

I'm so glad developers left such crazy habits behind.

teh_Canape:

Fronzel:
Doom had green barrels.

Doom only had green barrels

Doom had silver barrels filled with green stuff that exploded when shot, and dark gray/black barrels that were on fire as scenery. Seen here:

Anyway, I'm sure they could have trained people to shoot green barrels if they had really wanted to. Just make some kind of mandatory spot really early in the game where the only way to progress is shooting green barrels to explode a wall or something. Still though, barrel color isn't really a big deal. Is anyone really going to be petty enough to say "They stole red exploding barrels from ____, what unoriginal bastards!" over it?

Therumancer:
Hmmm, well my thought is that they probably should have kept the green barrels and made it part of the game's learning process, since it would make the game stick out a bit more. What is being said here is "we decided our game wasn't generic enough, so we made it even more generic!". :)

Actually it's more of a case of "we tried something less common, and people didn't respond to it well, so we had no choice but make it generic."

If you wanna be creative or original, you don't put exploding barrels in your game at all. The color is merely a tool, to aid the players in understanding what to do; the barrel itself is the cliché.

P.S. Thanks

then again, normally, a barrel wont explode when you shoot it, you'll just make a whole for the salsa to come out, so what would make the player think that shooting at a random barrel would make it explode unless it's color that's synonymous with danger like red, orange, or yellow, or labeled as explosive, or shown that they are explosive.

I think they're forgetting the Nitro boxes in Crash Bandicoot.

Although, they were clearly labled Nitro.

DC Universe Online has a few barrels fire/red ones that go boom, medicial cross/green ones that radiate healing auras after impact and even cryo/blue barrels that freeze stuff and a Cyclones in others.

Although I must say that in Borderlands I only noticed that the other barrels exploded when one of them exploded due to collateral damage (a missed bullet or a grenade on the wrong spot). The red ones I assumed right away that they exploded.

It's nice that they're trying to be original, but just changing the paint job won't make it original. This just comes across as lazy and stupid IMO.

That article is all bs. red barrels are red because red a colour associated with DANGER!

Why make a barrel any other colour?

And another thing i dont get is that people ignored the green barrels? That has to be lies because if i was playing a new game and i saw a barrel that was green id be like wow i wonder what happens if i shoot it!

don't use exploding barrels, make EVERYTHING explosive

mjc0961:
words and shit

you're right, but...

can't I play smartass at least once? =P

but yeah, I always noticed the green thing on them, rather than the actual barrels, for some reason

I got to say it, does anyone really care? I mean sure red exploding barrels are cleashey. but you know whats more cleashey, exploding barrels. The fact there red is just cos red equals danger...its like if they exploded and where green I'd expect them to be poison, its just the way colours read.

Nitro Boxes from Crash Bandicoot were scarier...and they were green

Fronzel:
Doom had green barrels.

My thoughts exactly. Or rather the barrels were of a metal colour but they were filled with green toxic waste that exploded when fired upon.

therandombear:
Crash Bandicoot games had green crates that exploded-

That is literally the first the that came to mind.
Glad to see someone remembers the nitro..

Yeah, stupid clichés! Either do this:

teebeeohh:
don't use exploding barrels, make EVERYTHING explosive

OR

make the barrels grow legs & arms and then run at you with a knife!

You can have green exploding barrels, you just have to do it right! It worked for crash bandicoot.

I like the idea that different coloured barrels do different things though. Like red could be explosive, green could be toxic, orange could be napalm.

Fronzel:
Doom had green barrels.

Glad I wasn't the only one who immediately thought this.

Crash had green barrels, but it wasn't a first person shooter and you quickly learned to be leery of any crate that wasn't brown or silver in the early Crash games. Excuse me, the *only* Crash games - there's a certain rip-off series made after the PS1 days that tries to shares its name and pretends that it has the same character, but in actuality it doesn't.

As for Borderlands - pretty much any barrel that was fully intact and not dull-looking exploded, and you learned that pretty quickly as well.

OH - to point out one more thing. Halo 3, ODST, and Reach all have what I've called "plasma barrels" - they're squat and bright blue and explode like a big plasma grenade. Don't remember if they're in the first two. For that matter, I don't think there are any red barrels in any of the Halo's. See? It does have some originality!

Silly developers. Barrel color doesn't matter. Quake 2 had gray barrels, we all expected them to explode.

Simple rule: Barrels explode, crates don't.

"We made a stab at trying something different, instead of going with the cliché."

The ironic thing here is that we're talking about exploding barrels, itself a video game cliche (one of the oldest). If they really wanted to try something different, they would have barrels that don't explode. Or, heaven forbid, no barrels at all.

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