“Can the player open every door in the game?”
October 29, 2017 11:07 AM   Subscribe

“The Door Problem” by Liz England [Theory & Design] “Game design is one of those nebulous terms to people outside the game industry that’s about as clear as the “astrophysicist” job title is to me. It’s also my job, so I find myself explaining what game design means to a lot of people from different backgrounds, some of whom don’t know anything about games. [...] One of the reasons I like this example is because it’s so mundane. There’s an impression that game design is flashy and cool and about crazy ideas and fun all the time. But when I start off with, “Let me tell you about doors…” it cuts straight to the everyday practical considerations.”

• What Lies Beyond: Doorways in Gaming by Dale Dobson [Gamasutra]
“A general conclusion is that doors -- portcullises, wormholes, transporters, whatever form they may take -- mean something natural and specific to the human beings out there in the gaming universe. From a game design perspective, the act of opening up a door can be rewarding in and of itself. The very presence of a gated passage suggests that the player should put some effort into trying to open it. And when, as human beings proxied to a visible or imagined in-game avatar, we go through a door to a new section of the game world, we are effectively resetting our brains and preparing for a new experience. [...] Doors are a venerable human construct, seen in every culture that has left a historical record behind. Buried deep in our evolutionary history is a belief that opening a door moves us forward into new places and experiences, but our brains also tend to get a little bit lost when we do so. Game designs that recognize and accommodate these basic human needs and tendencies are more likely to provide rich and rewarding human experiences.”
• The Horror Of Video Game Doors by Kirk Hamilton [Kotaku]
“Is there anything scarier than a door in a horror game? I submit that there is not. Most horror video games feature monsters or ghosts. Or aliens, or ghouls, or giant gore-drenched spiders. Those things are scary and dangerous, because of course they are. Usually they hunt you, or attack you, or pop out of a mirror when you least expect it. They may hide in the shadows or walk straight toward you, but their intent is clear. Doors are more subtle. Doors just sit there. Rare is the video game door that seeks to actively frighten. Instead, a door inspires fear because of what it represents. It is both barrier and portal. It momentarily stops your progress as if to ask, “are you sure you want to keep going?” [...] Like a nightmare, horror games require participation. You must face the shrieking wight in the attic. You must survive the scary little girl in the mirror. You must endure whatever beast that is sloshing around in the flooded basement. Passing through a door in a horror game means actively choosing to confront what’s behind it.”
• The 34 greatest, most absurdly interesting doors in gaming [GamesRadar+]
“Because a door is usually more than just a door. 1) the internet is really big, and 2) there are lots of great doors in gaming. After a short period of shock and disbelief we decided to rectify this utterly embarrassing internet failure as a matter of urgency. You can thank us later, but for now, please enjoy the internets debut feature on the 34 greatest, most absurdly interesting doors in gaming...”
posted by Fizz (54 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would say that 'doors' could even be generalized to 'hiding places' (doors, treasure chests, crates/barrels/boxes/etc., hidden rooms, niches, etc) and the problem, as I see it, is this:
"It's much, much easier to create a place to hide things than it is to create something worth hiding."
posted by sexyrobot at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Which reminds me of my old D&D days, when the players insisting on kicking down every door they came across (1-2 on d6). It took forever for one of them to just suggest "why don't we try just opening the door?" Looking back, I understand that they were just following the rules and I had done nothing to make it clear that the "every door is stuck" rule did not apply to my dungeons.
posted by SPrintF at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


One of the things that drove me nuts about GTA was all of the doors I couldn't open. Especially the Chinatown arcade in GTA4 where you could see glimmers of the coin op machines through the crack.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2017 [9 favorites]


Player: “I totally didn’t even notice a door there.”

As a UX Designer for web apps, this is totally my life. In both a good way (a well designed game means that the user should not have to notice the doors till they are needed, and then it should be seamless), and a bad way (all the discussion and effort to make something just right, knowing the user may never notice, but if it is not done right, the user will definitely notice and be pissed).
posted by greenhornet at 11:32 AM on October 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


For whatever reason, I played a demo of one of the Tex Murphy adventure games at just the right time in my life that his "Hey! This door is just painted on!" line stuck with me forever, and now pops into my head whenever I encounter an unopenable door in a video game. It's pretty annoying.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 11:58 AM on October 29, 2017 [9 favorites]


Concerning the kotaku article, the first two editions of Resident Evil seemed to me to really use that dread of the unknown to make a virtue out of the slow load times between areas by having a door slowly grow on the screen, with you not knowing what was on the other side. It really built up the possibility that you could be screwed and would need to panic run back through pretty much at any time.
posted by biffa at 12:01 PM on October 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


I was crushed when they removed Portalis from that Lawstar MMO.
posted by Talez at 12:06 PM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Shout-out to game designers that let you smash any door with a crowbar so you can hear the sound of broken glass. So satisfying.
posted by Fizz at 12:32 PM on October 29, 2017


My favourite doors were in Dungeon Hack, each set randomly generated in different colours. I wish there was a modern version of this game :)
posted by Calzephyr at 12:42 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I a door this thread.
posted by srboisvert at 1:03 PM on October 29, 2017 [10 favorites]


So many people have jobs that are hard to explain these days.

The doors in Silent Hill games were always a stop and take a breath moment.
posted by bongo_x at 2:12 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


in a proper game, a door has four states:

+ - closed, maybe also locked

- - open

. - broken
posted by idiopath at 2:18 PM on October 29, 2017 [10 favorites]


Five: hungry.
posted by SPrintF at 2:35 PM on October 29, 2017 [11 favorites]


I had assumed that a game designer ... designs games.

And this, indeed, seems to be what they do.
posted by kyrademon at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


The stage of Gone Home are perfectly delimited by the door you open to get there from the front door to the (spoiler) attic. Taking away enemies really puts the environment front and centre when describing a gam and they did an excellent job of it. Another fun quirk I learned from the commentary was that it was too hard to make it so that the player doesn't get in the way of an opening door so they made the doors swing out no matter what die you approach them from, unlike doors in actual houses.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


On the opposite end of the spectrum, a TAS of Ocarina of Time that clears all dungeons without opening any doors just came out.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 3:16 PM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


I used to be on the staff for the text-based online game DragonRealms. The entrance to the Thieves' Guild was, at the time (and maybe still is) a minor puzzle.

When it opened to players on day one, one player found a locked door in a sewer, and decided this must be it -- pick the lock to prove you're worthy -- so he spent the next several hours trying. That door never actually went anywhere.
posted by Foosnark at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


I was crushed when they removed Portalis from that Lawstar MMO.

Christ, that's a deep pull.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:46 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


One of the things that drove me nuts about GTA was all of the doors I couldn't open. Especially the Chinatown arcade in GTA4 where you could see glimmers of the coin op machines through the crack.

Freaking False Door Syndrome, amirite?
posted by Samizdata at 4:41 PM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


My favourite doors were in Dungeon Hack, each set randomly generated in different colours. I wish there was a modern version of this game :)

Me too. Me too. I want a decent 3D procgen dungeon crawl. Preferably with reasonable system requirements so I can use it to waste time while waiting for stuff to download and such. Also, turnbased, not real-time. There's enough procgen FPSes already.

Maybe you should do a Kickstarter? (You do NOT want me planning a project. Seriously.)
posted by Samizdata at 4:43 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Christ, that's a deep pull.

Yes but didn't you smile when you got the really obscure reference?
posted by Talez at 5:07 PM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of the Beginner's Guide, Davey Wreden's lovely followup to the Stanley Parable. The whole thing hinges on doors and barriers in game design, and what they're for ...

"Apparently this space station has a labyrinth on it! I – heh, sure, I dunno. There's really no reason for it that I've ever been able to discern so in the interest of time I'm just going to skip you on past it."
posted by john hadron collider at 6:09 PM on October 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


FFIV features Trap Doors—try to open them and start an inescapable battle that might end up with your entire party dead from its Ninth Dimension attack. Worse, there’s often nothing in the small rooms behind them.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:20 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Related: Let's Talk About Doors in Video Games [YouTube]
posted by Fizz at 7:02 PM on October 29, 2017


I wonder how doors are handled in VR. Like other aspects of gaming, I'd assume that VR changes quite a bit when it comes to game design, doors must be an interesting element/feature in VR to play with.
posted by Fizz at 7:07 PM on October 29, 2017


Back when I designed text adventures, I thought a lot about doors and how to use them to gate the player's experience. Solving a puzzle involving a door rewarded the player with new area to explore.

I had one beta tester who had the absolute bonkers genius habit of closing every door behind him, often breaking my game because *who does that*? He gave me my earliest lesson in what odd things players will try.
posted by sgranade at 7:07 PM on October 29, 2017 [9 favorites]


Maybe we could have more AAA titles worth good single player modes of they would just stop futzing about with doors.
posted by jonnay at 7:11 PM on October 29, 2017


I had one beta tester who had the absolute bonkers genius habit of closing every door behind him, often breaking my game because *who does that*? He gave me my earliest lesson in what odd things players will try.

This makes a lot of sense to me though, especially if you're playing a game where you're being pursued, it's a way of keeping yourself safe while you're in a new room. You've prevented someone or something from following you into a new space/area.
posted by Fizz at 7:14 PM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Inoperable doors are perhaps my biggest pet peeve in a game. Interactivity shouldn't be set dressing!
posted by codacorolla at 7:18 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


this would actually be a pretty good intro primer to try to get someone to understand what UX is and why it's so friggin' hard.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:42 PM on October 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


"It's locked." - Nancy Drew
posted by BiggerJ at 8:00 PM on October 29, 2017


I was admiring the doors in Wolfenstein: The New Order just the other day. Not that they're particularly pretty or interesting, but the fact that a red "NO" symbol shows up if you aim at a non-opening door. You don't even have to futilely attempt the USE key like in most other games, which gives you more time to go shoot some Nazis.
posted by neckro23 at 8:04 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just once in the Arkham games I'd like to see the door that all the mooks use to get into their base when Batman can only get in using grappling hooks, ice, vents, and ziplines.
posted by zompist at 9:21 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


we got fake doors! come on down and get yer fake doors!
posted by gkr at 9:50 PM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was admiring the doors in Wolfenstein: The New Order just the other day. Not that they're particularly pretty or interesting, but the fact that a red "NO" symbol shows up if you aim at a non-opening door. You don't even have to futilely attempt the USE key like in most other games, which gives you more time to go shoot some Nazis.

id did that back in Rage...
posted by Samizdata at 10:16 PM on October 29, 2017


Just once in the Arkham games I'd like to see the door that all the mooks use to get into their base when Batman can only get in using grappling hooks, ice, vents, and ziplines.

This is a patented Pizza Test® Failure .

The patented Pizza® Test is a measure of how many illogical obstacles are in a "dungeon" that are solely designed to pad out game time. The test is simple: If the zone boss were to order a pizza, how long would it take them to move to the entrance to collect said pizza? Obviously, high numbers are bad.

Also, what happened to the trend a few years ago of putting one-way shortcuts at the beginning of zones/dungeons, instead of making you walk all the way back to the beginning again??
posted by Samizdata at 10:21 PM on October 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


Re link 1: I was just thinking yesterday about a site/repo that hosted game design documents (basically everyone’s answers to the door questions). I’ve made a handful of games and my favorite part by FAR is making flowcharts with post-it notes working out what needs to happen when and how. I enjoy writing game design docs (even for games I’m not making) and would love to read more, but they’re hard to find!
posted by divabat at 11:35 PM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Bethesda player 1: Download the unofficial player patch v2322.12996 using NMM to correct the doors that break quest VB345, preventing final boss battle.

Bethesda player 2: I have created a retex so that all doors are not identical.

Bethesda player 3: are you as fed up as me that 95% of doors are not openable? Download my mod to explore much more of the environment.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:36 PM on October 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


Also, what happened to the trend a few years ago of putting one-way shortcuts at the beginning of zones/dungeons, instead of making you walk all the way back to the beginning again??

I was in IKEA today, they have this exact thing. As with every single time I go, I mulled over how very similar the whole experience is to an RPG. I even got to the warehouse level before being told I couldn't buy an item on that level, and was sent on a fetch quest back to the showroom to retrieve a piece of paper saying I could buy it, but not from the showroom level, but the pickup section.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:56 PM on October 29, 2017 [11 favorites]


IKEA walkthrough
posted by Segundus at 12:14 AM on October 30, 2017 [7 favorites]


Bethesda player 4: why are there so many fucking door mods? Who has time for this bullshit? The original doors are fine, just play the goddamn game and stop whining about nothing.
posted by um at 4:43 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


IKEA is basically optimized for stealth archer builds.
posted by um at 4:46 AM on October 30, 2017 [6 favorites]


IKEA is basically optimized for stealth archer builds.

Rogues beware. There are wizard's who have magic spy-glasses that watch you. Theft is not tolerated within the IKEA dungeon.
posted by Fizz at 8:16 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


IKEA is basically optimized for stealth archer builds.

Rogues beware. There are wizard's who have magic spy-glasses that watch you. Theft is not tolerated within the IKEA dungeon.


I hate it when alerts break line of sight. I thought we were talking IKEA, not Morrowind!
posted by Samizdata at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Back to the actual subject of game design, this conversation reminds me of King's Quest 6 and how frustrating that game was because sometimes you had to click on a specific part of your screen and who the hell knew what that was. Yes there might be some shell that twinkled but if you didn't select or click on it in the right way you're stuck.

Maybe it's not the game's fault but my own. I was never good at those kinds of King's Quest story-driven games, at least on PCs from that time period.
posted by Fizz at 9:48 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed the "Door Problem" piece as a bit of explanation, although I suspect most of it will fall right out of my head and not make it all the way to long-term memory.

I'm mildly amused that while most of the descriptions make sense to me, the CEO one is, uh, "praise the people who made the door happen".
posted by inconstant at 10:38 AM on October 30, 2017


@Fizz: It's not just you; hunt-the-pixel is a common problem with graphical adventure games, similarly to guess-the-verb in parser-based text adventure games.
posted by inconstant at 10:40 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


One of the nicest UI improvements since I played adventure games as a kid was having a button that highlights every object on the screen that can be interacted with. It doesn't completely remove the unnecessary hurdles to puzzle solving, but it does help a lot and I'm glad the industry mostly came around to a point of view where a lot of the things that frustrated me and kept me from enjoying the game were problems the game itself could address rather than sticking to their guns and making the player into the problem.
posted by Copronymus at 10:57 AM on October 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


One of the nicest UI improvements since I played adventure games as a kid was having a button that highlights every object on the screen that can be interacted with. It doesn't completely remove the unnecessary hurdles to puzzle solving, but it does help a lot

Indeed.

When I'm playing Diablo 3 or Divinity: Original Sin 2, I can just hit the tab or alt key and all that shiny loot or whatever puzzle clue I need to acquire lights up on the screen and then I can go back to my adventuring. It's super helpful.
posted by Fizz at 11:04 AM on October 30, 2017


Also alleviates the stress of wondering if you missed the brown sword +5 on the brown floor.
posted by ersatz at 2:37 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Fizz: "Rogues beware. There are wizard's who have magic spy-glasses that watch you. Theft is not tolerated within the IKEA dungeon."

SCP-3008
posted by Chrysostom at 2:53 PM on October 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


Developers at Big Robot helpfully answered a question a few years ago about the nonfunctioning doors in Sir You Are Being Hunted.
posted by adoarns at 5:23 AM on October 31, 2017 [1 favorite]


You know, we need a Rule 34.5. If it exists, there is an SCP about it.
posted by Samizdata at 11:53 AM on October 31, 2017 [2 favorites]


FAVE VIDEO GAME DOORS:

1. The portals, from Portal. Not least because of what happens when they interact...

2. The basement door from P.T. What will be behind it this time?

3. That goofy bead curtain deep within the dreadfully tense Sniper level of The Last of Us. Perfect comic timing.

4. The magic doors to each level in Castle of Illusion. Nostalgia plays a big role here, but there was something so rewarding about finally beating one stage and getting the first glimpse of an entirely different one behind that smooth purple wood.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:23 AM on November 29, 2017


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