Enemies lurked all around. I knew I had to be quick and observant. I was all alone and I only had a few moments to place the bomb before the round ended. I ran forward, dodging the bullets whizzing past my head. I planted the bomb- 15 seconds till detonation. I was just about to breath a sigh of relief when things went blurry. Ahead of me stood a player, gun pointed at me and freshly fired. Luckily, the game kicked into “last stand mode,” and with only seconds left I used my sidearm to kill the player before they got to deactivate the bomb. Victory was ours!
Later that night I analyzed my proud accomplishment and questioned how I even managed to win. Then it hit me, if it wasn’t for that last phase between life and death, my team would have definitely lost. I did what I always do and questioned just why they put that in the game. True, my side of the story was fine and well since I had gained a win; but my comrades on the other side weren’t so lucky.
In the end, my search lead me to many “Noob Tubes”, Super moves, “Game breakers” and health regeneration mechanics. These mechanics, among many others, stick with the player. Depending on what end you’re on, add or take away from our experiences. Why are they so prominent and games, and how can we use them well?
Attract New Players
As players, we strive to learn all aspects of games we enjoy. We tend to become extremely skilled if we play long enough to understand the rules and how our actions affect the world around us. It practically becomes second nature, but before that point you have to start somewhere.
Catch Up mechanics are a great way to attract new players to your game. If you have ever played a modern fighting game, you will notice there is a bar at the bottom of the screen. To fill it, you generally have to take damage. Usually when this bar fills to capacity it will allow that player to perform a super move of sorts in order to even the odds. For fighting games these big moves are enough to entertain and compel someone continue playing until they become the player I mentioned above. Make sure when adding these mechanics that you allow the player to pull them off with ease or at least a fair amount of difficulty. If they can’t use it, it almost doesn’t exist to them.
These mechanics are not just limited to fighting games either. Max Payne uses Bullet Time which allows you to slow down time in order to get the most accurate shots. Even the WWE 2K series has momentum meters that allow you to perform devastating finishers, and if you have ever played an intense WWE 2K match, you know how useful they can be.
Keep Things Interesting
Even if everyone knows the rules of the game, the player who knows the game best will win 90% of the time. This will make the game boring for the other players and eventually might lead them to stop playing. Throwing a wrench in the works allows for close to if not equal opportunity for all players.
The Blue Shell in Mario Kart is one of the most infamous items in the gaming culture. If you happen to not know what this blue wrecking ball is, allow me to enlighten you. Players in first place are not allowed to gain the mythical blue shell. It is an item which can only be gotten by those in the latter half of racers. When a player uses the blue shell, it by passes all other cars and heads for the car in first place, knocking them over allowing other players to catch up. Either you hate the shell or you love it depending on your position in the race.
This type of mechanic allows for three things to happen. First, the player who is currently ahead of the race has to be aware of blue shells and hope no one obtains one. Second, the player in second must decide if they want to risk staying in first the entire race or if they will stay back and wait for the blue shell to nab the player in first. Finally, there is the player with the blue shell- they have to decide how they are going to catch up. Will they hold the shell until the perfect time or use it immediately and and hope for the best?
Find a Balance
If you do decide to put catch up mechanics in your game, be sure to balance them properly within your game. You want the players to use these mechanics but not abuse them. If players abuse the mechanics it could make your game unplayable to other players.
If Call of Duty allowed for one gun to be the definitive best, why would anyone want to use something different? If you notice players flocking to one strategy -make another one to counter that. Rock, paper, scissors to me is one of the best balanced games and is a great model to base your game around. After all, even games like Fire Emblem make use of the rock, paper, scissors formula.
Catch Up mechanics are part of the reasons some player come back to brutally difficult games. It is the silver lining in the dark cloud known as veteran gamers. It makes things interesting for veterans because it brings in more players for them to play against, keeping the game alive and fresh. If you know of some interesting Catch Up mechanics please be sure to post them below. As always have a great day and happy development!
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