We’re trying really hard to make an awesome and innovative game with Bulletstorm. There’s no shooter out there like it and I want to discuss the process of one of our most ground breaking features:
Exploding Red Barrels
I know, I know, it sounds craaaazy! However, tests have shown that they work and people “get the idea”. You shoot them, and they go boom! In fact, at first we tried something else…
It seems like it’s a game development curse. Pretty much every action game has red barrels that’ll explode if you shoot at them. One could easily argue it’s because of a lack of imagination on the developers side; to go with the tried and proven way. But as it turns out, it’s not that simple. We made a stab at trying something different, instead of going with the cliché. In the beginning we had green barrels, but people didn’t get it right away.
They got completely ignored by the players and no one guessed or assumed that they were explosive. Why not? Because they weren’t red. Everyone knows that only the red barrels are explosive. There’s a lot of stuff going on in Bulletstorm at the same time, so it’s vital for us that the player can quickly read the environment and act intuitively. This is especially true since you can leash and kick objects as well so they can be flying all over the place. There’s no time to analyze objects on a detail level, so the shape and color have to be enough. It became apparent for us that the most efficient way to communicate its purpose was to make it red.
“Just making it red” seems like a straightforward approach, but apparently it wasn’t as simple as I imagined. I’ve done some research on the process on how we reached the “final red barrel”-look. I’ve never had much to do with the barrels, so I had to ask around.
I asked Karolina, our Art Producer if I could get a picture of the old one and the new one. She sent me a picture with several different ones, so obviously I asked why and that’s when it all broke loose.
Karolina came to get me and brought me to the artists, whereas a group of three then discussed internally about what happened, how and why.
Above are the barrels she sent me. One would assume that the one to the right (number 4) is the one that was made, considering the circle and the checkbox? But nooo, guess which one finally got into the game?
You probably guessed wrong. None of them.
Number 4 was the intended barrel, the one they decided on. That change would only require a new texture (the “painting” on the 3D model). But then, sometime, somehow, someone decided to do a new 3D model as well. This would mean they made either Number 1 or 2, right? Wrong.
It ended up being in the shape of Number 1 and 2 but with the texture being a mix between them with the flame-logo from the first one and the window from the second one.
I’m glad I’m a game designer and not an artist when it comes to finding the best match of shape, logos and colors. For me “red cylinder” is enough. Regardless, the artsy people did a great job in the end, as now everyone expects the barrels to blow up and they do!
We tried not doing red barrels, but: The Customer is always right.