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Nitpick: Invisible Walls

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Posted by: Simon Chun

Ever had a feeling where a greater force is at work when you're playing a video game? I'm not talking about a game out to get you or some divine controlling the machinations of your existence. What I'm talking about is a little annoyance called invisible walls. Now that I've made this clear, I 'm sure you understand exactly what I'm talking about. That feeling you get where you should be able to walk or run past a certain point but the game doesn't let you.

Sure there are obvious invisible walls that make complete sense such as preventing your imminent doom from a cliffdive but beyond that, there are few reasons that invisible walls should even exist. Of course, the type of invisible walls that I'm actually speaking of are explicit. There are two types of invisible walls to be precise: explicit and implicit. Explicit invisible walls are the ones you can definitely tell. For example if you're playing Tales of Graces f, there are areas of open fields that you just can't walk in even though you clearly can. On the other side of the coin are implicit invisible walls. These are natural environments that seamlessly blend in to prevent players from venturing out into prohibited areas.

There are walls? Just break them down!

Before I go into detail about explicit invisible walls I should lay out my thoughts on the implicit invisible walls. These walls are actually pretty cool despite being annoying after you realize while it's there. The reason they're cool is because they don't break immersion and actually enhances it as long as you don't notice that it's an invisible wall. Games such as Mass Effect 3 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution are particularly good at this. For the former your path is blocked with rubble or actual architectural elements that inhibit you from going beyond designated areas. In Deus Ex, corridors and other building layouts keep you confined and your movement quite limited.

Now at first, explicit invisible walls seem bad. After all, they just limit movement and don't allow you to explore any areas you so choose. Not particularly so. Earlier I mentioned that explicit invisible walls enhance immersion. Think of your time aboard the Normandy. You wouldn't want to be able to access every area and be able to do everything like exit the ship mid-flight right? It just doesn't make sense. Instead you have walls filled with technology that keeps the ship running. Rather than putting a wall there you can't see, there is one you can and it's there for good reason.

The invisible walls that really work to the game's detriment are the explicit ones. Tales of Graces f is absolutely criminal about this. Much of the world's exploration is done in large open fields. The hilarious thing is, almost half of the area that you can see are completely inaccessible. As you move the control stick forward to that vast plain you want to take a stroll in, “THUMP!” You're hit with an invisible wall. “Oy, what the heck is this?” I think to myself.

Tags: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Tales of Graces f, Deus Ex, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3

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