Gamers, like any other large social gathering, often divide themselves into groups. One of the most basic and widespread divisions is that of gamers who play for fun and those who play to conquer challenges. These are very two separate and distinct groups, and both have different needs, but TheGameReviews’ staff who were present at this year’s Game Developers Conference had a chance to talk with the folks at D3 about how they are going to try and appeal to both with Dark Sector.
Hardcore gamers and casual gamers tend to have different goals for the length of the games they play: a racing game that can be played for just a few hours is a lot different than an RPG, packed full of achievements, which can last literally dozens of hours before ending. The length of time Dark Sector will last, therefore, is something that the D3 team is addressing. According to the interview which was held with Josh Austin, a producer for Dark Sector, the length of time runs from ten to eleven hours of playing, which is, according to the D3 representative, was like “running, head shooting the whole time.” It seems, therefore, that while the game is not a long gaming experience, it is a challenging and energetic experience that will satisfy both casual gamers with its relative shortness of playing time and hardcore gamers with the high level of activity within it.
The learning curve is an important issue, as hardcore gamers would just like to leap in with both feet without any guidance, or being shown how to play the game through so they know what to do when the time comes. The D3 group had to strike a balance with this on Dark Sector as well, which they accomplished by implementing a more intuitive tutorial system where if you didn’t make a move at a certain point, the game would tell you how. Therefore, if you do the right thing at the right time, the game will let you alone to do it, and if you hesitate, the game will give you a push in the right direction
Casual players like to enjoy the sights, talk to the people, and go hither and yon while hardcore gamers traditionally prefer to blaze along in a straight line to their destination as they leave their opponents to slowly deconstruct behind them. D3 carefully worked their way “through a lot of iterations with this game” to create a style of gameplay similar to Gears of War, where you know where you have to go but how you get there is entirely up to you. The reason for this is, according to Josh, that “the typical audience for this type of game doesn’t like to get frustrated with trying to figure out where to go,” which lead to D3 going with the system that they did. A previous idea involved giving their players “a little bit more free roam,” but it was discovered that the system “was kind of frustrating and the puzzles were just [annoying and] the intended audience didn’t like that level of thinking.”
The puzzle elements aren’t entirely gone, however, but they have been reworked to create a less aggravating experience for players of Dark Sector. According to Josh, what is required to complete the puzzles is to figure out “what you have and trying to strengthen the player as a player.” The mindset behind D3’s idea was described by Josh as “when the learning stops the fun stops,” Josh said, so D3 is “trying the best to show you that you are constantly learning little things” or “get some new ability.” At level 7, for instance, you acquire the frost ability, which means you can freeze enemies and they’re bodies shatter.
While most of the gameplay elements in Dark Sector are a combination between what hardcore and casual players want, there is still the issue of challenge, which was the next point in the interview TheGameReviews.com did with Josh. It was something that Josh said was “pushed on” during the Dark Sector development process. The Dark Sector team had worked to ensure that the game had “enemies like that that would run in while you’re being fired at so [you’re] not constantly in this gun fire western thing where you’re like hiding behind cover and jumping to another cover.” This was necessary as the Dark Sector team wanted “to try and stay [away] from just doing that because it gets boring after a while with the same encounter over and over again.”
The gameplay aspect of Dark Sector was another crucial point for the D3 team as that portion of the game was created so that “every encounter will play out a little differently” in terms of “how the enemies attack you. When it came to multiplayer, the first plan for Dark Sector with the D3 development team was roughly 75-85% single player which a lesser emphasis on multiplayer but according to Josh the multiplayer mode turned out to be so addictive that their Quality Assurance tester wouldn’t stop playing it. Josh went on to relate that they had to say to the QA that “no, you’re going to play the freaking game and give us all of it, not just multiplayer.“
Concerns abounded at D3, according to Josh, that the development team felt that “we were going to have crappy lackluster nothing. You know, but it turned out to be a lot better than we thought.” And from what we have played ourselves, it has been great. Look forward to more of our Dark Sector coverage, as we continue to cover the upcoming shooter.