Over at MTV’s multplayer blog, they have an ongoing “debate” between Stephen Totilo and N’Gai Croal on various games. These exchanges tend to go all over the place, and Stephen touched on one aspect that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Maybe because it’s always right in front of us. Here is the relevant quote:

“One of the things I’ll grumble about with video games is how most locations in them are unoriginal, uninteresting and forgettable.”

I think he’s got something there. Not to say nothing is interesting in the way of architecture/level design. But even with boffo visuals, most locations in games tend to fade rapidly from memory.

I’m sitting here waiting to see if anything comes to mind about “memorable locations” from all the games I’ve played, and, well, nada. Zip. This space for rent.

Of course, we might think of the first games we played, but then that’s probably because they were the first, and so made a big impression. Beyond that, though, when you consider the matter, it’s true that most places in games are rather dull. Even the dungeons (not counting combats).

There’s a sameness to the outside world, however pretty it may look. You can see every leaf on the tree, every blade of grass, every flower petal, every pebble in the road. After awhile, you stop noticing that, because the outdoors is otherwise unchanging.

Dungeons are rarely better, and often worse. The same few templates, with some tweaks, seems to be par for the course. Most dungeons resemble each other so much, they blend together in the mind so that you can’t recall which came from what game later.

I think we could use more variety in level design. Especially when you consider that these are mainly fantasy games we’re playing, you’d expect the artwork, etc. to reflect that. Yet it rarely does.

I’ve included a link to the Totilo/Croal discussion, although this was just one point brought up. There’s a lot on Bioshock, and some of it can be considered spoilers. So, if you want to avoid that, don’t go much past the section dealing with this subject.

Location Design and more on MTV’s MP Blog