gameplay on locations / Habr

gameplay on locations / Habr

In fact, I expected much more from the project, Naughty Dog’s creation turned out to be a combination of all the experience they gained through previous developments. In this article, I would like to focus exclusively on the design of locations without touching on the plot of the game. The attitude towards it can be completely different: someone found it attractive, and someone did not like it. There are some points in the game that deserve attention in the context of design. In this article, I want to pay attention exclusively to the gameplay in the game, since many people have already touched on the topic of navigation in The Last of Us Part II.

Gameplay

There are several types of shelters in the game:

  • Shelters distinguished by their height – low, which forces the player to crouch, or high, which hides him at full height

  • Shelters that do not guarantee the player’s safety – grass, in which dogs can sense you very easily, other objects (transport, beds) under which you can hide, but human opponents will have the opportunity to find you. Such shelters allow/force to play quite aggressively.

  • Space as a separate shelter – water. In the game, you can find one of the locations where a flank attack is possible through swimming under water. To prevent this from causing an imbalance in the combat section, the character only has a certain amount of time when he can hold his breath.

Everything is fine with the battles in the game. During a battle with the enemy, it is always easy for the player to determine all the important elements: the target, the opponents and their shelters, possible ways of retreat or flank attacks. The front line is an area in which it is better for the player not to enter, otherwise it will lead to death. The direction of the front line determines the location as the focus of the battle, and the location of all shelters in space.

For example, in locations where the player is initially given the option of stealth passage, the exit from the space with enemies is often highlighted by red doors or large signs with the inscription “Exit”. So it is very easy for the player to navigate in space both during careful passage and during battle.

The game also has several other types of combat where the player has to defend himself. With the infected, such battles take place with a minimum of cover and a large number of escape routes, so as not to find yourself in a dead end. An example can be given here with Abby’s meeting with Joel and Tommy, who have to fend off hordes of the infected. In defensive sections with people, a bunker room is created with one or two shelters without the possibility of retreat or flank attack. A good example of such planning would be Abby’s defense with her friends in the store, who will have to defend themselves against enemies coming from all sides until allies arrive.

The game has a very rich map of opportunities for battle and passing through locations. Most often, there are 3-5 possible paths in one frame. This allows the player to quickly change the strategy during the battle, look for opportunities to maneuver against enemies, better control the situation in battle.

I liked that the developers have a rule of creating a shelter when entering another location. This allows when entering a new unexplored space to give the player an opportunity to assess the situation or prepare for battle.

I was a little confused by the design of the locations, which suggest both stealth passage and breakthrough with combat. Let’s figure out what exactly I mean. Most often, at the exits from locations where the player can go unnoticed for the most part, the developers place special barriers that, when interacting with them, create noise and force you to fight with the enemy. After the shooting, there is already an opportunity to escape from the room with the enemy. Here the player loses part of the ammunition, but will be able to replenish it in the future. But there are locations that can be easily run through, and the player will not get anything for it.

The designers place quite a few collectibles throughout the game. This forces the player to spend more often: use more grenades, shoot more often, so that in the future there will be an opportunity to pick up new cartridges and other things, and not leave them. Stealth, on the one hand, is encouraged. The player slipped unnoticed through all the opponents, kept all the equipment, but in fact he will be able to pick up what he needs in the future. Such locations that you can simply run through are in the game, albeit a small number. The developers should not have deviated from the formula of building locations from The Last of Us: Part I, which would have allowed to maintain the balance of items collected in the game.

But I would also like to note the arrangement of objects, which always lie neatly in boxes, near boxes or next to corpses, which does not cause any dissonance. I liked the marking of the location of the first-aid kit at a location that can be picked up in an ambulance.

Designers always provide information to the player about the presence of the opponent. Approaches are completely different. These can be scripted scenes where opponents are doing something or entering a location, dialogues between characters. This allows you to quickly orient yourself and escape from the enemy’s field of vision behind cover, prepare for a fight with them.

I liked the combat sections with stalkers the most, especially getting to know them. All rooms are built according to the principle to keep the player in constant tension. First, the player is shown the opponents themselves (Fig. 1), showing how they like cover. Enemies cannot be tracked with the help of vision mechanics. They will light up if they are too close to the player. The central room is decorated with a large number of shelters, which are not needed by the player, but by enemies who diligently sneak up and strike from behind (Fig. 2). Special attention should be paid to the T-shaped corridors (Fig. 3), which will force the player not to crawl, but to literally run to the exit. Moreover, the entire location is decorated with special pocket rooms, which are the paths of stalkers’ waste. The location itself is decorated in cold colors, most objects are covered in rust and blood.

Teaching

In order for the player to develop the habit of controlling the character, the developers at the beginning of the passage create locations in which you only need to move. For example, first there will be a game as Joel, where only the mechanics of movement on a horse are used. Later move for the character himself, Ellie, in Jackson.

All actions take place in safety first. This is also used to develop a habit of mechanics and character control. Any attempt to jump is first accompanied by a safe surface below. For example, when playing as Abby, you will have to often repeat various actions: somewhere you will have to crawl, crouch, squeeze, jump, and so on.

Training takes place in the “Ally does, player repeats” format. Such an approach will never raise the question of what exactly the animation will be, what needs to be done to go further. For example, learning to climb a rope takes place in the following way. The character of Dean, a friend of the main character, shows what will happen when interacting with the rope, how to use it. The player repeats after the secondary character and thereby understands how this mechanic works.

Sometimes it is necessary to restrict the player to a location so that he performs a certain action. This is how the player is introduced to the workbench in this game. A secondary character, upon entering the room, begins to restrict the passage. There is only one thing left for the player – interaction with the workbench. So he will get acquainted with pumping in the game and will allow him to go further. The object is highlighted due to thermal lighting.

Love Naughty Dog’s approach to learning how to fire a weapon, a method that has been carried over from Uncharted 4. Barrel handling is through Ellie playing snowballs with the kids in a safe and peaceful environment. Or archery is taught through a children’s toy and shooting from it for some time, which allows you to learn how to handle this weapon and quickly interact with it.

Another example of archery training occurs when playing as Ellie, who is attacked by an infected with a weapon. This helps the player not to miss an important item. It will be possible to leave the location only after selecting the item. When leaving the hangar, you can meet mannequins on your way, in which you can practice archery.

Navigation also takes place with the help of mannequins, as people are very quick to read human silhouettes, which draws attention to a fence that can be climbed over.

Stealth training and assassinations take place according to the formula of combat battles, where when entering enemy territory, the player immediately awaits shelter and an assessment of the situation inside the house. Immediately, a script is triggered, showing an infected person walking further along the corridor. He will stop at one point and not turn to the side of the player to give an opportunity to demonstrate the mechanics of a stealth kill.

Acquaintance with traps is also based on the principle of imagining the enemy and destroying it. So it will be clear to the player what will happen to him if he gets into a stretch.

I liked it the most when the player learns to shoot weapons at real opponents, namely infected ones. The developers at Naughty Dog love to create contrasts. One such contrast is the encounter with the first infected, where Abby is left alone without Owen. The weather suddenly changes to colder, the space through which the character moves is less visible. The location is getting colder. At first, the player will meet an ordinary single corpse, a whole mountain of corpses. There, Abby meets the infected, who survived the cold, and the first battle with a real opponent begins for the player, where the developers cut him off from previous locations, which allows him to focus all his attention on the battle. So the player learns how to use weapons against real enemies and melee attacks.

Result

I liked the first part, of course, much more. Despite the fact that the game is built almost entirely on the basis of past games with a sprinkle of small new gameplay opportunities, this does not mean that the design of the locations is bad. I highly recommend The Last of Us: Part II for analyzing not only the gameplay, but also the navigation of the game. Many interesting techniques are used here, which can rarely be found in games.

More interesting and useful content on game level design can be found here.

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