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  • A Theory of Compression and Funneling

    - Luke McMillan

  • Funneling

    As seen in the above example, a funnel point is a point in the level design which is designed to empower the player, buy both creating a barrier against barrages from obscure approach vectors, and acting as a mechanism of crowd control for enemies. Funneling though is dependent though on two main variables; first a funnel point coincides with the primary axis and secondly, the length of the funnel point can affect whether it is strategically advantageous or not. Figure 5 and Figure 6 are good examples of these two uses.

    Figure 5

    In the case of Figure 5, the funnel point is quite short and this allows the player to have extended line of sight and ascertain whether or not it is safe for them to move through the funnel point. In this example, the funnel point prevents any barrages from hitting the player along the front, diagonal vectors and allows the player to manage the scenario more effectively, largely due to the greater line of sight.

    Figure 6

    In Figure 6, the player is more hesitant to move through the funnel point as it occupies so much of the screen and limits the player's line of sight (similar to the emotions associated with limited line of sight). This therefore is not a funnel, but rather another environment compression point. In both instances, designers will always notice that players 'dash' through all of these compression points, hence proving the notion that players will actively avoid being compressed where possible.

    Enemy Compression

    The use of enemies as an element of compression is slightly different to using environmental compression as in nearly all Shmups, the player can use their weapons to prematurely remove these compressive elements before they become too overwhelming. What this means from an RLD perspective is that the use of enemies as compression elements can be far more widespread and utilize more organic approach vectors. As the player is able to negate these compressive elements using their own firepower, it make the analysis of these barrages slightly problematic, however a good example can be seen in Table 2.

    Table 2

    Table 2 is another chronological depiction of compression taken from the game U.N. Squadron. In this example, we have enemies entering from above and below the player from the rear approach vector. These enemies then turn back around and face the player along their primary axis, making it easy for the player to negotiate. Table 2 is interesting in the way it demonstrates player psychology in relation to automatic scrolling games. You will find that in most instances, amateur players will always be forced up against left or bottom of screen in automatically scrolling horizontal and vertical games respectively. Very rarely in a vertical Shmup should enemies approach from the rear approach vectors and this is to do with the difficulty metric and this very relevant observation of player behavior. In the case of U.N. Squadron though, the player can sustain a number of hits before dying so this problem is somewhat avoided, however it should be used very sparingly. Back to the case at hand, Table 2 demonstrates how enemy compression can use a number of independently moving compression elements and still remain fair for the player -- keeping in mind of course that the player can always use their weapons to negate these compressive forces, so long as they are approaching along the primary axis.


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