Project inspiration: Left 4 Dead 2

For this blog post I will be discussing the fairground environment from Left 4 Dead 2. This environment can be seen in this video;

This is the level which inspired me to create a theme park horror level for my FMP. There are many reasons for this choice for example the placement of the assets within the level and the thought behind the levels design really comes to life within this environment. I also enjoy how the player can partake in some of the activities within the park allowing them to interact within the environment as if it was a real theme park. Finally, I really enjoy how the environment itself is alive with a lot of the equipment working and with lights, yet the player doesn’t question this despite the level being plagued by the infected and assets looking worn which would suggest this had been abandoned for some time.

There are five parts to this environment these are; The highway, Fairground, the coaster (Tunnel of love), the barns and finally the concert. Although I won’t dwell too much into these as my focus is on the fairground section of the environment, I find it really interesting how the environments flow so well in between each other. This is done by the player starting and finishing each part of the map in a safe house giving the player time to stock up on supplies ready to progress through the next level so that they can be rewarded their freedom. The game uses positive reinforcement within the level by rewarding the character for killing the zombies within the environment.

We know positive reinforcement as:

Do X ==> Y happens ==> Feel good ==> Do X more

So, if X is zombies and Y is points then the equation is simply this. If we kill a zombie and we collect points, we feel good about it so we end up killing more zombies. The player also has other positive reinforcements within the game such as a scoreboard at the end of each round so that the player can see how many kills/points they had received that turn. This can also motivate the player to play better the next turn, or make the player feel powerful knowing they had been so successful that turn.  In regards to negative reinforcement, if your player is killed then they must wait until they reappear on the map and one of their team mates free them. Due to this they won’t be collecting as many points within the level and their chance of being at the top of the scoreboard is less. Also, if the player dies a number of times then they are simply taken out of the game. If all the players don’t survive, then they must start again at the last safe house.

Within the fairground level, the player has the chance to play a shooting mini game. If the player reaches 750 points before the time runs out then they will receive a gnome. If the player manages to carry this gnome to the end of the final level then the player is rewarded an achievement for this and if the player is completing this on an Xbox then they unlock a t-shirt for their avatar to wear. There are multiple parts of this I will discuss on why having this mini game was such a successful idea.

Firstly, it draws away from the main quest and gives the player something different to do giving the level more replayability and also giving a spin to the environment by simply adding an extra challenge to the player. This would appeal to those who fit into the “achiever” category while the killing aspect within the game would be more towards the “killers” category. Also looking at Bartle’s test we can see there are “socializers” and “explorers”. This game level would appeal to both of these kind of people as the map offers the player a unique map to explore and learn more about the map to help their team mates, while the socializer would benefit from this map as they are able to join in games with other people who are playing this map through various game modes which L4D2 has to offer.

Secondly, adding a mini game gives an interactive value to the environment making it seem more real allowing the player to enter a state of flow as the environment isn’t restricting the player. It also gives the player a chance prove themselves by partaking in the mini game in hope to beat their friends score.

Finally, adding rewards for partaking in the small quests within the games environment is something that we do see often, although in L4D2 they keep them to a minimum and the player isn’t required to do them. This actually isn’t mentioned within the games dialog and the player tends to stumble across the mini game and is rewarded the gnome.

With the player working out that interacting with the shooting range they will be rewarded a prize, once they achieve the prize they feel more rewarded as it is something they did on their own with little help from the game. Although, the skills required to partake in this mini game are already embedded within the player due to similar games they may have played or real life experiences with those kind of games at carnivals so the game doesn’t have to teach these to the player as the player instinctively already knows what to do. The player decides to travel with the gnome rather than abandon their prize, in which the player adds an element of challenge as they are unable to fight while holding the gnome.

When the player completes the level with the gnome, they receive an achievement and an T-shirt for the players avatar. These allow the player to feel successful and gives the player the means to show their success to others through avatar clothing and visual achievements which can be displayed to other players. I will consider these different aspects when developing my environment in order to keep the player interacting with the level but also to find ways to keep the player rewarded once they have finished the environment.

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