Stop Making Obstacles I Could Clearly Walk Over!

I was playing Fallout 76 with my friend the other night. We were running around in our oversized power armor with paint skins I’ll never admit how much I paid for, scavenging for scrap, and just trying to level up for some perk cards. I saw some feral ghouls on the road beneath us.

I went outside to test out the battle axe I had just crafted, when, just like Wile E. Coyote after seeing the Road Runner, I dashed right off the edge. I fell between a blown-out building and a destroyed semi, right into a concrete crevasse. Part of the crumbled building made a slope that lead out from my newfound hovel.

I walked forward to move out but found myself sliding down more and more. I tried to bunny hop my way up the hill, but to no avail. My friend was laughing the entire time. I managed to hop up a bit more only to glitch through the map and fall into a never ending void beneath the map. When I spawned on my friend, my junkbag was trapped under the map. Classic Fallout 76.

Luckily they’ve patched the endless falling glitch

Lots of games have invisible walls, it’s a massive gripe for us true hot-blood alpha male gamers that ruins our experience. Anytime I come across an invisible wall, I chuck my PC out the window and refuse to play it again. (Help, I’ve never finished a game and I’m several thousand dollars in debt buying new PC and paying for broken windows.)

I was showing my younger sister Darksiders 2, a favorite game of mine. In one of the early levels a collectable item is hidden behind a gate. My sister walked up to the gate and noticed an odd problem, even with Death’s board shoulders, his character model could easily fit between the bars.

Such an old meme, but fits well here

Being an intelligent problem solver, she dashed into the gate repeatedly, but wasn’t able to pass. An invisible barrier prevented her. The gate wasn’t that high and the ability to wall jump and double jump made her think she could scale over the gate. She tired for, well, let’s just say I stepped away for dinner and returned to her still attempting to solve this problem.

I’m not mad at the existence of the gate, I actually loved the puzzle that’s required to beat it. It’s the artistic design of the gate, the bars should have been thicker, or even placed closer together. It also should have been taller.

I know most people see a gate and think “I need to lower this somehow,” but some don’t. Some people may see an obstacle and try to overcome it. Even in Darksiders 2 there are puzzles that require you to enter a gated area so it can be lowered from the inside. The gate simply looked as if it was possible to pass.

I was exploring the Mojave wasteland the other night (look, Fallout 76 is fun with friends, but it put me in the mood to replay New Vegas again) and I thought about trying to get to Cesar’s camp early. I enjoy talking politics with him, learning about the legions history and discussing any medical problems he may have. When I’m done, I can surgically remove his tumor via shotgun.

However, I was met by many invisible walls blocking all paths until the game was ready for me to go. I understand that developers can’t predict every area a player will try to go, but I did feel a little removed from the game world because of it. The hill looked climbable, why couldn’t I?

Invisible walls in the Mojave almost makes you wish for nuclear winter

We all know there are tons of invisible boxes around objects in games, we just don’t want to be reminded of it. Nothing ruins exploration like walking off in a random direction only to discover an invisible wall blocking the way. We all know that games have to have limits, that the world/building/dungeon can’t keep going on forever, but we don’t want to be reminded of that fact. We want our games to simulate reality.

Now, I’m not asking for every game to give me a Mirrors Edge level of free running movement. I understand why Marcus Fenix, the half-man half-refrigerator, isn’t wall running and double jumping around a Brumak. Brick walls top land speed is barely over the average human walking speed.

I understand why my character in Dark Souls has 50 dexterity, can’t get over a small hump in the level geometry because Hidetaka Miyazaki designed Darkroot Garden to be both the most beautiful and yet geometrically tedious level in existence. I have lost many souls getting stuck on the crossing paths, if only I could climb those short ledges (or successfully kill that silver knight because I am bad at Dark Souls)

Okay, me wearing the heaviest armor in the game doesn’t help my point, but other characters in lighter armor should be able to climb up these little ledges.

While I would love games to have more movement options, not every game needs them. I’d love to have simple solutions like a button to press to climb the chest high wall, but that can take a lot of time making the animation, rigging different models to it, and even messing up the levels flow if it wasn’t intended.

This pointless rant isn’t actually about small walls we can’t get over, though it definitely is and I’m still upset I if I see a treasure chest, I have to run all over a level to just find some stairs to get over a small ledge, and walk all the way back to chest only had a couple coins and a health potion. This is all about being fully engrossed in a game, only for a small pointless thing take you out.

The true problem is that these things are immersion breaking. All of the mo-cap and photorealistic graphics in the world can instantly be ruined when the player can’t do something they feel fits within the game world. As gamers we understand a few of these problems, they happen. But when it keeps happening time and time again, it slowly chips away at the illusion. The illusion that were are exploring islands, slaying demons or solving mysteries, and isn’t that illusion the reason we play games anyway?

Josh Collier

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