Destructible Environments, Where Art Thou?

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With all the fancy technology of the current console generation, you would think that there would be more attempts to give us a greater degree of destructible environments. This is a game mechanic that seems to have been over-looked to an alarming degree.

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Flash back to E3 in 2005. The Playstation 3 shows an excellent line of up and coming titles. But I want to take a look at a specific game on that list. It was a first person shooter called Killing Day. Whatever happened to this game? Does anyone know? They showed it once and 3 years later we have yet to see anything more from it. If they canceled it, it would be such a shame. This game looked like it had a lot of potential. The game itself doesn’t look that great, but the concept of using destructible environments as a game mechanic never fails to interest me.

This idea has the possibility of doing great things in level design and changing how we go about moving around in those levels. Red Faction was a good example of what could have been done. The Geo-mode system allowed you to literally blow holes in walls to make your own path. You could only use it on certain walls, but that was way back when the PS2 was just starting out. With the PS3 or 360, I can only imagine how much further it can be taken. I’m so tired of seeing the occasional ‘breakable’ object that’s placed on a level to make it seem more interactive.

Now I know what you’re thinking, this kind of free movement in games could totally destroy level design as we know it. Of course it will, that’s the point. However, you can still have the same general layout. It only gets more complex. You still have a goal, but the paths to those goals can increase and become more complicated.

Example 1: Let’s say you have to get through a locked door in the game. Naturally you have to find the key. But what if you placed a somewhat out-of-the way room on that level with a super explosive device like a Grenade Launcher. You could use that to blow open the door. Or if you don’t want to alert any guards and the door has a visible lock, you can shoot it off with your silenced gun.

Example 2: There’s an item setting high on a ledge of a wall. You can’t get to it right now, but you see a tall column near the wall. You blast it and it crumbles into a pile of rubble. You can now climb it to get to the item.

Example 3: You are outside a cave and you get into a shoot-out with baddies who are at it’s entrance. You have a rocket launcher and fire at the top of it. A bunch of rocks fall and kill them all. Problem solved.

Simple things like these could make a world of difference in a game. Not only does it change your awareness level but it also lets you be free to think and invent different ways to solve a problem. That’s not to say we aren’t making advances. There’s an online shooter called Warmonger that seems to be working more with destructible environments than most shooters out there. However, this is an online shooter and its level design can only go so far.

In the end, I’d really like to see more developers take the chance to experiment with how they set up their levels and the use of destructible environments. Does that mean I want a 3D version of Dig Dug? Actually…. yeah. That could be pretty cool if some right.

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