Resizing, Pull Switches, Bloodborne’s Level Design

Where I am now: Updating Act 1. These last two weeks I got a few more things working with the new player avatar, resized and reorganized a few things, and made a new switch to replace most, if not all, the levers.

This won’t be as big of an update as there weren’t too many big changes and mostly code fixing and updating.

Resizing. With the new body I added which uses hands that actually touching other objects, I realized how out of scale everything is. And I literally mean everything. Luckily there aren’t too many objects so it shouldn’t take very long to resize the world to a more believable ratio. Here’s a couple drastic examples of how big a difference there was:

oldSchool1

newSchool1

There’s an old and new version, respectively, of one of the school buildings. The new scaling is about 1/2 the sizeof the old one and it feels much tighter and focused. I also love how much more noticeable the skylight is, which is good since I want this structure to feel open and breathable.

Here’s another doozie:

workboardsResized

That’s the old and new sizes of the problem boards in the school areas. This really surprised me since the new size is much smaller, but the player can still walk up close to it and have it fill their entire view.

Pull Switches. I created a new type of switch to replace most or all of the levers, since there were a couple aspects I don’t like about them. First was the collision on them:

newArms_lever

Because the handle sticks out, the handle’s collision does so as well and it doesn’t feel natural for the player to collide and be hindered with something so small and trivial. The second thing was the unnecessary complexity. There’s code that calculates whether the player should move to the right or left of the lever based on where they’re standing when they reach for it. There’s also different placements for the right and left hand, which is further changed based on what side the player’s standing on. All of this made me want a simpler solution, so I made this instead:

pullSwitch

 

which I’m calling a pull switch. This solves the lever’s collider from sticking out and hitting the player, and both hands use the same animation to move the handle. It also retains the player control the lever has:

newArms_leverFlex

as such:

pullSwitchWiggle

 

Spinners. Here’s spinners working with the new body:

moveSpinner

 

The hand placement is currently off but that’ll be fixed soon. I also put in the same type of flexible control the pull switches have:

wiggleSpinner

 

*  *  *

Bloodborne’s level design. I like Dark Souls 2, but it was a bit of a comedown from its predecessor. Perhaps more than a bit. The boss designs weren’t as interesting or varied as the first, which made it feel unnecessarily long, but the main kicker was the level design and how uninteresting it was. The distant lands and buildings weren’t placed in correct or believable places based on how the player got to them, which created a disconnect for where I was in the world (in their defense, this seems like a hard thing to achieve, and dark souls 2 wasn’t made with the same people as the first). It was more than strange to ride an elevator up from harvest valley, which was placed outside and above ground, to iron keep…also placed above ground. It didn’t make sense logically or thematically. The biggest bummer I had though was how straightforward the level design was. All the wonderful interconnectivity and macro-connectivity of the first dark souls was gone. It was back to playing demon’s souls’ level design of having a central hub connecting 4 or 5 different branches that didn’t intersect with each other, but with far less shortcuts or “circuit” design placed in each branch. It was too straightforward and as a result made exploration boring and forgettable.

Luckily, based on 7 hours of playtime so far, Bloodborne has brought it all back, and it also seems more methodically paced than before. In the first dark souls, you were immediately opened to three different choices after the tutorial area, two of which were the “wrong” branches to travel. This time though (small environmental spoiler start), Bloodborne offers a couple different paths in the beginning, both of which lead to the same place and have the same difficulty. It wasn’t until I was 5 or so hours in that I hit the first real branching structure, which presented 4 ways to go. One contained a boss I don’t know how to kill, and another has two npc hunters that DESTROY ME. The other two options seemed equally viable, so I’m currently exploring one of the branches. (end spoiler).

Welcome back to interesting level design. Not only interesting, but it ties thematically to what souls games, and now bloodborne games, aim to achieve with its gameplay. It’s largely about discovery, and facing the unknown. When I see a large ogre with a brick in its hand for the first time, I don’t know its move set, how agile it is, how much health it has, whether I’m strong enough to defeat it, nothing. Only by facing it can I discover what I’m truly up against. The same is with the environment. When presented with multiple branching paths, I don’t immediately know which is the best choice for my character until I move forward and explore each one. Dark souls two may have started with that choice, but several branches are gated off and the rest that you explore don’t have the same sense of discovery or depth that Bloodborne presents. In times I’m not playing Bloodborne I find myself piecing together the world’s structure, thinking about the different choices I have to make and how far along my journey I’ve come. I could continue to push down my current path, or retreat and explore the other one, or try the boss again. I’m only 7 hours and I’m already consumed by Bloodborne. I’m savouring every minute of it.

 

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