Resident Evil 3: Killing Nemesis (Level Design and Movement)

November 3rd, 2017

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Having extensively researched Resident Evil: Code Veronica‘s level design last year, I set myself an extra challenge when recently completing Resident Evil 3. I decided to defeat Nemesis (the Terminator-esque monster who ruthlessly pursues the player) in all 11 encounters with him throughout the game. Although my playthrough was greatly lengthened by the pursuit, the experience helped me better understand classic Resident Evil movement and combat and why they’re perhaps not so fondly remembered.

Level Design

Resident Evil 3‘s interlinked city environments belong to the Resident Evil 2 style of level design. The player traverses each main area about two or three times before moving onto the next. Usually one of the backtracking paths will feature new enemies or situations to surprise players. By contrast, Resident Evil 1 takes place entirely within the a single interconnected environment and can therefore craft more folded and organic level design. Code Veronica draws from both styles and as such I think it probably would have been a better title to close the trilogy, at least in terms of level design variety.

Jill’s path through Racoon City runs through a series of laneways and buildings which wind around numerous roadblocks resulting from the city’s decay. Yet while authentic to the game’s overall theme of aftermath and destruction, the mishmash of loosely associated environments don’t lend themselves well to memorisation. In particular, the linked rings layout of Downtown don’t break down into manageable shapes.

Movement

The player can make Jill run by tilting the analogue stick forward. By then tilting the stick to one of the adjacent diagonal positions, Jill will turn whilst running. However, if the player tilts too far in one direction and the input registers as a tilt to the left or right, Jill will stop running and rotate on the spot. The analogue nature of the dual shock stick makes it difficult to identify the sweet spot between the diagonal and horizontal input selections. So I found that I would sometimes inadvertently stop Jill dead in her tracks, thus leaving her vulnerable to attacks. This problem usually occurred in the Nemesis battles, which require Jill to tightly circle the monster.

Resident Evil 3 features a quick dodge mechanic where the player can avoid attacks by aiming and firing their weapon as an enemy attacks. The unintuitive button configuration speaks for itself in that sometimes the player will attempt to attack, but will instead dodge, and vice versa. In this way, the game’s output betrays your own input. The timing needed to execute the quick dodge is also extremely tight (on hard mode). And even though I defeated Nemesis on every occasion, I could never intentionally perform a dodge. Sometimes the dodge animation will put Jill in a position where she will take damage or cannot avoid the subsequent attack. For all of the reasons, I found the mechanic to be rather unreliable.

The quick turn (another new mechanic) also has its own quirks. In order to have Jill turn 180 degrees and run in the opposite direction (which is usually what you want her to do after turning), the player must press square and tilt down on the analogue stick before then tilting up to initiate the run. For quickly fleeing from enemies, the input process is simply too complicated.

The transitions when moving between prerendered backdrops require the player constantly recalibrate their orientation, which in the midst of a fight can understandably lead to error.

Beating Nemesis

Doing a “kill Nemesis” run fundamentally changes the nature of the game. Nemesis takes a load of firepower to down, so players must set aside a major portion of their munitions for the task. Given your regular neighbourhood zombie also seeks to drain you of resources, saving ammo translates to avoiding zombies, which requires a good understanding of their placement, direction, avoidance strategies, and reset options (leaving and re-entering a room). So by focusing on Nemesis, you stress a different area of the game system.

Resident Evil 3 Open Encounter

In terms of confronting the monster itself, the trick is to run around him, turn, shoot, and repeat. You must always brush past his shorter left-arm, as his right-arm has much greater reach. You must also stay within a set distance away from him, otherwise you’ll prompt him to burst out into a sprint attack, which is much harder to avoid. If you can master this simple technique, then Nemesis isn’t all that difficult…

Resident Evil 3 Closed Encounter

…at least not in open environments. The first confrontation out the front of the police station provides a good amount of room to develop your technique. However, several of the subsequent scenarios take place in corridors, where you have much less wiggle room to navigate and effectively have to run into Nemesis to avoid him. Overall, I found that these confrontations tend to highlight the weaknesses in the movement mechanics, as mentioned earlier.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force Podcast Project (8+ hours of content!)

June 24th, 2017

Wireframe

Last year two friends and I played through Metroid Prime: Federation Force together. Overall, we invested about 80 hours into the game each, completing both the main campaign and Blast Ball on both difficulties and with all medals and unlocks. Needless to say, we enjoyed the game very much and being the savvy folk we are, we wanted to dig deeper. So over the past few months the three of us have been trading notes and partaking in a series of podcast discussions to better understand Federation Force‘s cooperative take on the Metroid Prime template. As you may have noticed from my screen name, I’m particularly fond of the Prime games. The original Metroid Prime changed my perception of the video game medium and remains a personal favourite. So I’m pleased to finally share this project with you.

Each podcast runs for about an hour in length, with hosting duties taken by yours truly. We generally start out by introducing the particular design element we wish to discuss, teasing our its nuances, and then working our way towards the higher order questions. The topics tend to follow in a sequence, so it’s probably best to start with the first podcast. However, the final podcast (a standalone recording on Blast Ball) includes our conclusion on Federation Force and isn’t a bad taster either. Unfortunately, our recording process for the first two podcasts meant that some of the audio wasn’t as clear as we would have liked. By the third episode though, everything is cleared up.

Episode 1: Core Mechanics

We discuss the player’s abilities and how they’re tuned to create clean gameplay and accentuate the spatial and timing dynamics. Understanding the role of space and time in Federation Force is essential for understanding the core moving/shooting gameplay.

Episode 2: Mission Variety

Federation Force was rightly praised for its mission variety. We identify the different types of missions and discuss how the mission types are arranged to create variation across the campaign.

Episode 3: Incursion

For the next three podcasts, we analyse our favourite missions starting with my pick, Incursion. This podcast focuses on the spatial arrangement of each room in conjunction with the nuances of the particular enemy sets.

Episode 4: Blender

Greg discusses Federation Force‘s “mine cart” level, Blender. We break down this unique level and how roles are created through the natural limitations of perspective and space.

Episode 5: Insurrection

Adrian’s favourite level, Insurrection, divides the crew into mech and mech-less players. We discuss how Next Level Games were apply to explore this gameplay concept through the differentiated catacombs of Bion.

Episode 6: Boss Battles

Federation Force‘s bosses are both generous in their number and variety. We break down each boss and analyse the gameplay challenges and play strategies we employed to secure victory.

Episode 7: MODS and Loadouts

MODS and Loadouts modify the core moving and shooting gameplay by changing the player’s viable options. We discuss the implications and share our favourite combinations and strategies.

Episode 8: Blast Ball

In our final podcast we dissect the sports side-game, Blast Ball and conclude by discussing Federation Force‘s place in the Metroid Prime series (sans Pinball).

I feel like we were able to have so many deep and constructive discussions because we really listened to each other, kept the conversation grounded, and chewed through our ideas collaboratively. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, I’ve include links to the other podcasts which I’ve recorded with Adrian and Greg as part of the VG Commune on the About page.

On a final note, I can’t help but feel that our completion of this project was quite timely. At E3 Nintendo announced the development of Metroid Prime 4. However, they didn’t reveal the studio developing the game. Personally, I suspect that Next Level Games (the developers of FF) are at the helm of Metroid Prime 4 (most likely partnering with Nintendo Japan and possibly with some oversight from Retro). My reasons for are as follows:

So, in saying all this, I think the podcasts provide a useful lens for considering how Next Level may develop Metroid Prime 4, if they are indeed working on this project. A tasty proposition in my books.

Racing Commentary Mini-Mix (Wave Race 64, Wipeout HD, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift)

April 9th, 2017

In finalising copy for the (eventual) release of the Adventures in Games Analysis bookazine, I decided to roll several articles on racing games into the one essay. Four months of semi-regular writing later, the essay has evolved into a side project of its own. I’m very happy with how the copy is shaping up and plan on releasing it as a separate piece of writing at some point in the future. The following three sets of comments were clipped from my original notes and I thought it appropriate to share them here.

Wave Race 64

Bumps Fog Clearing Lens Flare Tide 1 Tide 2 Tide 3

Wipeout HD

Wipeout Flip

MotorStorm Pacific Rift

I’m currently taking a break from writing the racing game essay, so expect to see more material up on the blog.

Additional Readings

Getting the Most from Speed Races in MotorStorm Pacific Rift – Playstation Blog

MotorStorm: Pacific Rift – Can You Beat Us? – Playstation Blog

Nintendo Magazine System – Wave Race 64 Maps (I couldn’t find any decent maps online, so I put them online myself)

VG Commune Episode 35: Dynamic Challenge (Wave Race 64)

VG Commune Episode 36: Optional Challenges (Wave Race 64)