Level: Airship
Level: Blackwall Yard
Level: Embankment
Level: Catacombs

Chapter 9: An Uneasy Alliance

Section  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |  8  | 9 | 10 | 11


Timeline of the level
  • Galahad and Lakshmi arrive via tunnel

  • They use scaffolding to reach street level

  • Lakshmi climbs over a gate; they get separated

  • Galahad takes out the sniper threatening Lakshmi

  • Galahad protects and reunites with Lakshmi

  • They cross through a ship under construction

  • They finally reach the shipping warehouse

  • Lakshmi reveals the vampires in UIC crates

  • They set fire to the warehouse

  • The warehouse burns; they battle UIC and Lycans


 
Protection missions

Stepping back again to the middle of the chapter, we get one version of a sometimes-maligned trope in video games:  the "protection mission."

Once Galahad takes out the first sniper in the level, he uses that guard's weapon to shepherd Lakshmi down the street to safety.



Knowing what a tightrope getting a sequence like this can be, we implemented a lot of variations and made several key decisions to keep frustration down.

First, Lakshmi can't die.  The player should feel like she's under significant threat and be compelled to save her, but the danger to her is all in the player's mind because we decided that no one should be forced to restart the sequence because "they're not good enough with the controls" to succeed.  Like a variety of other choices made throughout development, we kept in mind that we were making a narrative game, and a narrative is worthless if one can't see it through to some sort of resolution.

There is danger to the player, however. We played around with which characters are and are not allowed to target the player, and settled on these three rules:

  • The "heavy shotgun" enemy can't target the player - too distracting

  • The sniper at the end (see below) can't target the player - too deadly, and takes some feeling of threat away from him targeting Lakshmi

  • The rest of the enemies can target the player, but they should prefer to shoot at Lakshmi, overall



In other words, the only way to have to restart is to make yourself too much of a target and not return to cover when the enemies return fire.



Timeline of the level
  • Galahad and Lakshmi arrive via tunnel

  • They use scaffolding to reach street level

  • Lakshmi climbs over a gate; they get separated

  • Galahad takes out the sniper threatening Lakshmi

  • Galahad protects and reunites with Lakshmi

  • They cross through a ship under construction

  • They finally reach the shipping warehouse

  • Lakshmi reveals the vampires in UIC crates

  • They set fire to the warehouse

  • The warehouse burns; they battle UIC and Lycans


 
Cinematic sequences with fail cases

Just after the sniper sequence, Galahad grapples with an enemy and they both fall over a railing.  Galahad is seriously wounded and needs to limp across the line of fire if he's to reach Lakshmi.



This is a custom, scripted sequence of a different type than the protection mission described above.  Galahad can only limp (or limp faster) more-or-less straight ahead, diving behind cover at a couple of spots for a moment's respite from the off-screen enemies shooting at him.

From the first moment control is returned to the player, this sequence is rife with potential fail-cases for the player.  Don't walk.  Don't walk fast enough.  Spend too long in cover.



It benefits from being a short sequence, and one unique in the game.  If a player struggles with it or doesn't enjoy it, it's over quickly.

The hope is that they'll be enough "in Galahad's head" by this point where his plight feels like the player's.

When an enemy tosses a grenade that lands nearby, Galahad's fear should become the player's.



This moment is an explicit fail-case.  The player has to take two specific actions in a limited time window to survive.

It's tense.  It can be exciting when the player succeeds.

Failing—and having to do some portion of the sequence over again—undercuts the tension.  Some players are very critical of Quick Time Events in general, others get frustrated by any number of "unfair" variables that can lead to a failure.

The simple fact, though, is that fail cases are necessary to have exciting, do-or-die playable sequences.  And almost no game can afford to handle the possibility space where a main character can die and the game continues on from there.

The narrative of the hero is that he survives the trials and ordeals thrown at him to eventuall emerge victorious!

Therefore, failure has to lead to another chance at the same success, until someone figures out a better way.



Failing at a "buddy" QTE is a particular challenge, since the player's innate attachement to a character he's controlling will likely be stronger than one to a supporting character.



The death of an ally character can be met with confusion: "But I didn't die, so why is it restarting?"

The death of an ally character can be met with frustration or denial: "Well, it wasn't me that failed.  Galahad / the game didn't let me save her!"

The death of an ally character can even be seen as humorous: "Did you see what happened when I didn't manage to save her?





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