Hitting A Wall


This really shouldn’t be hard. But it does present some interesting design challenges.

Humans are utterly inexhaustible. Just look at any two year old and you’ll see a fount of energy unlike any other. And we should know - Greg’s got one at home. That energy is great when you can make use of it, but there are times that it works against you in game development.

Swinging a weapon in real life is exhausting. It’s got a weight and length to be accounted for. Some weapons can only be used in certain ways. It’s why swinging a pole arm is different from nunchucks. Just ask Marjo after she’s spent the weekend boffering. Her arm is sore, her shoulder doesn’t want to carry any weight. It’s taken a toll on her.

That toll doesn’t really occur in VR. The only thing with any weight is the controllers and they’re extremely light. So the only time you’re ever truly taxing your arms is when they’re raised to shoulder height or above. This is of course assuming you don’t have any ailment or impairment making the normal range of movement difficult.

The lack of something substantial in VR has seen players be able to exceed what even Valve, co-creators of the HTC Vive, anticipated as the limits of human movement. For a game like Beat Saber that meant the game wasn’t able to keep up with the players. For A Giant Problem it poses a different issue - namely superpowers.

Our game is about empowering the player. But even then there’s a limit on how powerful the player will be. If you’re all powerful then the game poses no challenge. If you’re not powerful enough then you’re never going to feel like a giant. And that’s a problem. Of course it’s a matter of game balance, but it’s a concern of game design.

For A Giant Problem we have to balance the difficulty of the game, against the design, and the indefatigability of our players. And there’s a pretty simple solution for that - weapons break. In shooters you have ammunition. In RPGs you have stamina. But if you’re swinging a building at an enemy in VR you have neither. That’s why we decided that anything you pick up as the player “breaks”.

Weapons, be they buildings or enemies, breaking works to do two things. One - it makes you feel powerful. Two - it places a realistic limitation on you. What breaking means for enemies, buildings and more we’ll discuss in a future post. For now, just be confident in the fact we’ve smashed through this game design wall with ease.