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Lessons From PAX AUS: The Rule of Cool

With the wild ride of PAX Aus 2016 behind me, it's time to start planning for the next stage of Firstborn's development. Before I do that, though, I thought it would be worthwhile to reflect on the lessons learned from my adventures at PAX and how those lessons will shape the future of Firstborn.

I'll be the first to admit that Firstborn's combat hangs on a fairly unusual premise. Taking out enemies exclusively by using the environment is markedly different to the combat systems a player is likely to be used to, and there can be a bit of a period of adjustment before things start making sense.

The best way I've found to ease the period of transition is to try to make the game world work exactly as a player imagines it should. A large part of the pleasure in Firstborn's combat comes from discovering cool little things within the game world that just feel right, and there's nothing more frustrating than trying to do something awesome that should work, only to discover that it doesn't.

This is a concept that draws heavily on the "Rule of Cool" as it applies to pen and paper roleplaying games. Essentially, in pen and paper games, the "Rule of Cool" states that if a player attempts to do something cool and ultimately plausible within the game world, the game rules should be made to accommodate that action.

As I ran playtests for the build I brought to PAX, it quickly became apparent that I had failed to follow the "Rule of Cool" in one particular, important case.

Take a look at the scenario above. Here, the Slaver faces off with a pair of Archers. If he grabs either Archer with his whip, he will pull that Archer into a lethal hazard. But what happens if he pulls the block behind the closer Archer instead? Well, let's find out...

Not so cool, right? I saw countless players make the same move, and quickly realized that this had to change. It just feels like the player should be able to use the block to slam the Archer into the pit.

I'll be implementing that very feature in the near future, and more importantly, I'll be trying to keep an eye out for other "Rule of Cool" cases as development continues.

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