Dark Void Devs Wary Of Jetpack Neglect

Illustration for article titled Dark Void Devs Wary Of Jetpack Neglect

Airtight Games still has time to wrestle with an apparently common problem: gamers not using all of their abilities in a game.


One of the themes of my day yesterday was the idea that gamers often ignore or under-utilize the abilities that games give them.

This is common. Or at least it seemed so yesterday.

My work day more or less began with a meeting with producers at Capcom. One of them, Shana Bryant, let me play some of the jetpack shooter Dark Void. Sometimes the game involves jacking UFOs and playing the game like it was like the Dark Void developers' previous work, Crimson Skies. Sometimes it plays like the a video game Rocketeer.

And sometimes it plays like Gears of War, as the player snaps their hero Will to cover and shoots through gun battles. That's when a bad habit kicks in among players testing the game. They're so used to navigating a firefight on foot from cover point to cover point like Gears' Marcus Fenix that they forget what's on Will's back. "We want to remind people that you have a hover pack," Bryant said. "Don't forget to use it."

That's the whole point, play-testers. Press the Y button to hover above your cover, then drift down behind the bad guys and shoot them in the back.

Bryant recognizes that the burden of jetpack encouragement is on the developers. They need to make players want to use that jetpack, maybe even need to use it instead of rolling and dashing from cover point to cover point. One of the reasons for players to put the hovering and flying options out of their mind was because of the problem our Brian Crecente discovered during a maverick play session in Monte Carlo — "Death by Touching." Will dies almost immediately if he even lightly brushes into walls and ceilings while jetpacking via the Y button. That problem is already being addressed so that players, in Bryant's words, no longer "associate the y button with the death button."


I left the Capcom demos unsure what to make of the Dark Void developers' conundrum. Yes, the game is early. Thankfully the team is aware of the issues. But isn't it a problem if play-testers are forgetting to use the differentiating maneuver in Dark Void's combat arsenal?

By the end of the day, however, I was reminded that players ignore or are unaware of elements of their games all the time. By midnight I had spoken to two friends who both had neglected to use the top-screen GPS feature in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, a feature that had felt essential to my play-through.


One of those friends also confessed to realizing after watching a YouTube video of Valkyria Chronicles that there was a whole layer of strategic commands and control that he was neglecting in that game.

This reminded me of reporter Dean Takahashi's infamous Mass Effect review in which Dean, who is a superb reporter, somehow missed the ability to level up his character.


Gamers forget their options it seems. So here's a reminder: if you're playing Dark Void later this year and the going on the ground gets tough, use your jetpack.



I and some others I have talked about this tend to hoard limited abilities and items for the "perfect" moment that never comes. I'm talking about things like the rocket launcher in RE4 or pretty much ALL of the weapons in Resistance: FOM besides the starting weapon. We're basically neglecting game features by doing this. It seems like some things developers put in games are just never useful or at least not so useful that you can't imagine that they wouldn't be more useful in a later encounter ... then the game ends. How can developers balance this better? No clue ... I think its just pack-rat psychology at work here.