Pacing

This is a little bit of a jump ahead in time from my last post, and is going to cover a topic that's a little more complex and onto professional design level. Lets talk about one of the most important design elements of any game, whether it be a simple arcade style game, or a narrative masterpiece. Can you guess what that is? Of course you can, it's in the title of this post! That one element is Pacing.

As Bob Ross once said "Put light against light - you have nothing. Put Dark against dark - you have nothing. It's the contrast of light and dark that each give each other meaning."

You might be asking "What's this have to do with video games?" so let me answer that by talking about movies.

Perhaps you found yourself watching the newest summer special effects blockbuster, be it transformers 8, or whatever it is, and you walk away feeling kind of bored. You might be confused as to why you were bored. I mean, the movie was awesome right? That one thing blew up, and then the robot smashed into the building, and some other exciting things happened, so why do you feel bored? one word, Pacing.

You see, explosions stop being exciting after we have seen the millionth one that nanosecond, and we get bored, and the same goes for jokes, scares, and jaw dropping visuals. When the excitement curve is constantly at a high point, we loose our frame of reference, and it just flat lines. Movies like The Matrix or Star Wars in comparison, have good action punctuated with moments of quiet, in order to make the moments of action stand out.

In game design it looks a little different, but it still fundamentally the same. While having pacing with the game's narrative, it's also important to pace your game-play. If your game is nothing but balls to the wall running, gunning, and testosterone fulled explosions from start to finish, it's going to get boring. You want there to be a curve, where the action is rising and falling. This doesn't have to apply to just AAA games. A great example is Hotline Miami. While the main game-play is a drug fulled murderous rampage filled with heart pounding action, and thumping techno music, you finish a level, and the game freezes. the music turns to something akin to the humming of a quiet refrigerator, and you walk lucidly back down the stairs back to your car before taking a break between levels to pick up a pizza and chill at home with your girlfriend that you have locked in the bathroom. The game then ramps up the tension, by giving you less of a break as the game moves on, and the faces of the people at the local laundry mat start to become distorted and twisted, as your character looses more of their sanity, and the game stampedes toward the finale.

Pacing is important. It's something that can ruin an otherwise good game, or make a mediocre game great. If you are developing an indie game, pacing can make or break you, and should not be overlooked.

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