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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dead Zone and Apocalypse Rising: The Terrain Dilema

Don't get me wrong, Dead Zone and Apocalypse Rising are both great zombie survival games. The guns (especially ones on Dead Zone) feel really nice, the loot is interesting and refreshing, the tension from the atmosphere makes me jump when I see another player, but one thing is lackluster in both games. The map.

Now, the reason I wanted to write this article is due to Apocalypse Rising's announcement that a new map is coming so I wanted to make some issues apparent. So let's start with Apocalypse Rising's map, which I consider to be the worse of the two. If you load up the game right now and play for just a short, 15-minute session, you will notice two distinct "biomes," if you will: the cities, and the "there's nothing here worth your time" zones. Also, there's nothing really unique about any section of the map, no weather changes, no elevation changes, no style changes, nothing. The cities are all monotone too, no significant landmarks to tell you which city you are in and very little difference in density and height of buildings.

SO FLAT! Small hills help, but aren't enough
Next, let's look at Dead Zone's current map, I say "current" because there was a much better map before ZackZak decided to change it back for whatever reason, which was also the map I did the review on. This might seem odd at first, but the current map is better than Apocalypse Rising's map because it slightly restricts the player's movements through the use of impassable mountains. These days, people are looking for a lot of freedom in games, but a little bit of restriction helps create a more natural environment (you can't go everywhere in the real world, can you?).
Old image of Dead Zone I had left form the review. Note the hills and mountain range, so much  better!
There is one super duper important feature which is lacking in both maps, that is elevation and terrain differences. I saw Gusmanak posted on twitter an image of a radio tower along with a message which implies that the elevation problems will be solved, however, it won't be unless large amounts terrain gets elevation differences. Not to say adding a radio tower or a small hill is a bad thing or it's not an improvement, but it's just not enough to fully immerse a player.

To be honest, I'm not too impressed with the alpha version of the new map Gusmanak posted on his twitter. Sure it has some nice hills, sure it has a larger city, but the terrain still screams "BORING!" A mountain range right smack in the middle of the map which separates two sides of the map, or a canyon which houses a top secret military outpost could provide so much in terms of gameplay.

Alpha version of new map, note the flatness
(As a side note, since it strays from the point I'm trying to make, the number of small towns is way too high. They seem like fillers and can be replaced with terrain features. No one loots there past the first 5 minutes anyways.)

On top of this, the map still provides no flow. There are way too many roads and not enough restrictions which will force players to encounter each other more often in the wild. Reducing the number of roads and increasing the number of terrain features which block certain paths to cities will create way better flow. Being able to walk in a straight line to any city is boring and requires a larger map to elongate the travel time. But impassable terrain like a canyon or a wall (perhaps for quarantine reasons) will make the travel time longer and make the map feel larger than it really is. Non-flat terrain serves to accomplish 5 major things:

1. It improves uniqueness of a particular region, you will no longer have to guess which part of the map you spawn on. When you see a canyon or a mountain in the distance, you will immediately know where you are and what routes to take to get geared up.
2. It gives more "flow" to the map. Obviously, you can't fly over a chasm, so smart placement of different terrain elements can force chokepoints and dangerous areas to occur naturally.
3. It gives more options to the player in terms of PVP options. Currently, when you see a player in the open you want to kill, you both will engage in what I like to call "the dance of the derps" in which both of you fire rounds at each other, jump around, and pray to god they hit. With terrain features, you could, hide on a mountain and setup an ambush, snipe noobs in a city from a mountain, or shoot down at people in a canyon camping for loot.
4. It allows the fog to be pulled back. No one likes fog. For fog to be in the game to purposefully prevent you from seeing all the way to the other side of the map is really annoying. Terrain features will limit your vision naturally, not artificially. Fog still has to be there, it just won't be so "in your face."
5. Make the map feel larger than it is by making the player work around the terrain in order to get to their destination, thus, increasing travel time.

I really want the maps to provide more than just locations for spawning loot. I want to be able to use the terrain for more than just running in straight lines. Also, just bring the old map back ZackZak, it is much better.

TL;DR Mountains, canyons, and other terrain features will make maps of Apocalypse Rising and Dead Zone much more interesting. No one likes flat things.

15 comments:

  1. I completely understand the argument as to why more impeding terrain would be beneficial to the flow of the map. Deadzone capitalized this by making the majority of the map winding valleys.

    However, there's no way to "force" players from going over a kind of terrain without plopping in a large invisible wall. This is because Roblox characters can basically climb any slope that's obtuse. Whether you use the tumor hills or a triangle generator, you CAN NOT prevent players from going over the ridge of a mountain without unnaturally restricting them.

    I believe this is flawed. Nothing irritated me more than running into an invisible wall when I could easily walk over the pathetic hill that stood before me in Deadzone. It makes the player feel unnaturally confined. "No, you can't go over there, silly."

    I find that restricting players unnaturally is stupid and unnecessary. There doesn't have to be canyons or mountains to make a map "flow" well. In Apocalypse Rising, what keeps players close to eachother (resulting in engagements) is the loot itself. Exploring cities and unique structures will bring players together, and they know that. (Risk vs. reward right?) But if you want to avoid the potential deathmatch, there's not some ridiculous mountain range that forces you to stick to one path that gets you killed.

    You are free to choose your path in Apocalypse Rising. Your freedom of movement should be the death of you, not an impassable mountain range.

    Thanks,
    Gus

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Not impassable mountains, just any sort of mountain. It will play into the height element and allow players to snipe, ambush, etc.

      The point I was trying to make is that terrain will make each section of a map feel unique. If we took a look at DayZ for example, few people wonder in the mountains simply because there is not much there, however, the terrain can still be utilized. We have seen many videos on YouTube dealing with people camping in a hill and picking off survivors, and that can't be done without elevation differences.

      Something like mountains will more influence a player than restrict their movement. I agree that invisible walls and impassable hills are bad and immersion breaking. But even a perfectly passable mountain can bring more interesting gameplay. Players are still free to go wherever they like, but what you will most likely find, it that they will rarely venture into the mountains because it is much more barren and provides little to no loot.

      If I REALLY wanted to get to the town on the other side, I would scale the mountain, but if I wanted to gather as much loot as possible (what most people would do), then I would run around it, picking up towns in the process.

      Freedom in a game is cool. But it's not only about freedom here, it's about creating gameplay options and adding unique areas into the map.

      EDIT: fixed typo.

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    3. This gives me an idea. The slopes could have a velocity added to them, either manually or via script, which varies based on the slope. Past a certain point, they would no longer be climbable.

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  2. There should be some sort of weather system, and temperature. There should also be refillable canteens, large and small lakes. Also, if you go into water when it's really cold you should go through shock and die :3

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  3. Hmmm... Some questions.

    For first, how are DZ guns better? They are neither balanced or good looking. I prefer quality over number.
    For second, how can you know if "no one" likes fog? Me and some of my friends prefer climatic fog over huge stone walls on fields.
    For third, why do you think being jailed by invisible walls/huge blocks/void is better than freedom? You CAN go anywhere in real life if you work for it.Freedom is always better than restriction if it's properly done.

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    1. Recoil and animations. They don't look good, but they do feel good.

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    2. I don't think anyone wants to get their vision limited by fog. Things like perfectly passable mountains restrict your vision naturally.

      I don't like being jailed by huge walls. No one does, I'm talking about passable terrain here. That's one of the things I criticized about DZ. Complete freedom is fun, but getting a "hint, hint, nudge, nudge" from the game on where to go next is awesome. Passable terrain, like a mountain, creates a path of resistance. Most players will follow the path of least resistance, around the mountain, but some will climb it, gives option and choice to player.

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    3. Adding on top of the "freedom isn't necessarily good" thing, let's look at Planetside 2. There are bases and terrain to capture things, and players are allowed to go wherever they like, provided that they don't die, however, players are begging for more objectives, more guidance, and more of a metagame. They do this because they want the action to be more focused and want it to flow better, creating a better gameplay experience. Freedom is good, but unguided freedom is meh.

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    4. They want objectives, not walls to limit them.
      If Planetside 2 wouldn't have open world, it would quickly get forgotten.

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    5. Also, AR guns have recoil too, and they are still detailed.
      DZ animations are glitchy, they break about three times per minute. I prefer fully working, balanced game over broken game with loads of pointless features.

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    6. Again, I never said anything about impassable walls.

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  4. I completely agree with more interesting terrain. One day in apocalypse rising i would love to overlook the new kin from the concealment of a bush. Right now, the game play does not offer many options, and is too strait forward. But i do like the idea of the equal distribution of military spawns.

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  5. One thing that bugs me on AR, is the lack of variety when it comes to vehicles, I want to fly around the map in a rescue helicopter, helping as many people as possible and having the occasional incident when i get shot in the back by a passenger,
    i want to blast through a bandit group with a tank,
    i want to travel solo on a motorbike
    i want to re-create the walking dead by riding a horse,
    The point i'm getting at is MORE VEHICLES.

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  6. America's death zones hits If this is the state of our nation during relative peacetime and perceived prosperity, imagine what it’ll look like in the midst of financial, economic or political turmoil. Americans living east of the Mississippi River will likely experience the brunt of it. But anyone residing in and around any major U.S. city will, likewise, have a tough road ahead of them. So for want to know more about America's death zones hits being with us....

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