The Door Problem in Game Development

Hello! I’m Germán López, Game Designer, and today we’re going to talk about one of our favorite topics. We are going to talk about Level Design.

When you think about a game, many things come to your mind. The mechanics, the characters, the story if it happens. It is possible that we start to think things crazy, and all of this is a problem later. And the more of all these things there are, the more complicated it is to design the levels.

If the character can do three jumps, a dash, fire a rocket launcher on the ground to propel himself and has a teleporter, it’s too complicated to make a level that takes advantage of all that.

But imagine you discard all of the above ideas and make the most basic game in the world. A shooter.

Well, it doesn’t really matter, you’re going to have problems anyway. To this day, many game designers still have difficulties in making interesting levels in their games and that is often due to the problem of the door.

If you want to know more about this, you can check Andrew Yoder’s post, who did a wonderful analysis about this whole topic.

First of all, you design a first section for the level where the character is initially at point X and has to eliminate enemies in a room by going through a hallway and a door in between.

Level Design

What happens? Well, here’s what happens:

The Door Problem – Backtracking

This is a disaster. It’s a disaster because the fight that you originally planned to take place in the living room is going to end up taking place in the hallway.

Why does this happen? Well, mainly because the player has no incentive to enter that place. Let’s go deeper into this.

If we divide this level by dangerous areas and safe areas, we can see that the area where there are enemies is completely hostile, while the initial corridor gives us a tremendous advantage.

Safe and Dangerous Areas

The simplest solution to this case would be to simply add a wall in the room. That’s it, so simple.

Wall Solution

This wall greatly reverses the degree of danger in the room as we now have a cover. In addition, it gives interest to the room since you won’t see the enemies as soon as you enter, since they are on the other side of the wall, so when the combat starts, you will have moved a little further away from the corridor compared to the previous case.

The problem is that this is very simple, plus the player can get to do the Call of Duty zombie technique and go in circles around this wall. And like this… we’re not interested.

But don’t worry, there is a much more advanced solution than placing one wall… placing four.

Multiple Walls Solution

Let’s see, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye. First of all, we don’t delimit the safe area around a single wall, that’s obvious, but it also expands the doubt about where the dangers are in the scenario.

Player Vision

There is one thing that people really like now and that is verticality. Playing on the horizontal axis is all well and good, but it kind of feels a little primitive. And by this I don’t mean adding jumps, dashes and other things for the player. The player can keep moving normally, we have enough. What I mean is that the enemies take advantage of an environment with several layers of depth.

If instead of placing the enemies on the same terrain as the player, we place them on higher platforms, first of all we avoid the player taking advantage of circle strafing (the Call of Duty zombie pellet tactic), and we also avoid the possibility that the player can lure those enemies into the Thermopylae corridor.

Solution to Circle Strafing

An object of interest could also be added in areas of the room that entice the player to go inside. The Law of Risk-Reward.

Ammo Item

There are many ways to improve this, but of course, you have to work hard. And this is for one room, imagine when you have to make a complete level composed of 15 rooms.

But well, I hope this has made it a little clearer what is the problem of the door and why you have to be careful with this, because although there are many ways to solve it, it is very easy to make this design mistake.

I wish you good luck with your next projects, best wishes!