Okay. We've all seen the
Man Murray review, we've all seen the
Twinkie thing. Crates in video games are getting a bum
Crates in videogames are
here to stay. Face it, they are. People are always going to
have storage spaces, they're always going to have boxes
they put stuff in. If you're looking for realism, try
walking around outside in the sunlight for a few minutes. We
don't play videogames for realism.
No, Crates in video games
actually do, and have, served a purpose. They exist in games
partly because designers want to put them in, and partly
because players expect - and even want - to see them in the
games. Face it; you would find something wrong with a Super
Mario game in which he couldn't jump up and cause coins to
magically spill out from a question box suspended in midair,
so why would you complain about crates/boxes and all sorts
of breakable items in first-person or third-person shooter
No, Crates serve a number of
purposes. To start with, look at what a "crate" represents.
It's a six-sided object with lots of empty space inside.
Think about that. For game designers trying to work with
shaders, lighting systems, bump maps, or anything else,
crates are wonderful. A crate is one of the few
constructs in their video game world that can be represented
by a mere six-sided cube. All that's left is crafting a
texture and bump scheme, shining a light on the box, and
seeing what happens. It's a basic building block for
learning how to use their tools; small wonder that after
spending tons of time practicing with their tools and making
what they feel is a beautifully rendered box, game designers
would want to throw a couple of
gross, or even a
great gross, into their game world.
Crates are also highly
useful for testing out a physics system. Again, they've got
six sides - tossed at various angles with their properties
and/or the game's properties adjusted correctly, and it's
pretty easy to compare them to a simple video of someone
throwing (for example) a cardboard box down a flight of
stairs. Objects like basketballs are decently hard to pull
off due to their spherical nature, but game designers can
create something sort-of-approaching reality by using crates
as a quickly generated test object. When we get to the point
where all objects will have self-deforming polygons to
approximate physical damage, you can bet that the first
thing the designers will do is draw up a create, insert a
gun, and shoot it repeatedly to see what happens.
But wait! It's not over yet.
For the level designer, crates are cheap and worthwhile. I
mean "crates" in a generic sense of "breakable objects that
dispense swag" here, of course. They can be used to block
hallways, provide cover (permanent or brief) from enemies,
or as a signal to the player to explore the immediate area.
In real life, a bunch of crates stacked against a wall is a
bunch of crates stacked against a wall. In a FPS video game,
a bunch of crates stacked against a wall is a big signpost
saying "smash these to find something." In games where
enemies do not drop ammunition, the presence of either (a)
ammunition lying everywhere or (b) crates with ammunition in
them is a necessary evil. Players must be supplied with
provisions, whether it's laying around on the floor and
stuffed into nooks and crannies like most adventure and
survival horror games do, or in a bunch of boxes like most
FPS titles do.
For players, finally,
despite the recent outcry against crates, players love them.
The more a game is a run-and-gun fragfest, the more the
players will like them. Why? Because it's about carnage.
Being handed a stack of crates, in which there may or may
not be anything to take, is the equivalent of being handed a
piñata and lacking a blindfold. Players will gleefully
shoot, attack, bludgeon, and smash every crate they come
across. Why will they do this? Because it's a game.
Especially in FPS titles, real life does not apply; smashing
things in order to carry extra provisions is perfectly
acceptable. Designers know this, they recognize that there's
a certain amount of glee in players smashing something and
getting a prize for doing so. It's so strong, and so
well-taught, that simply putting a crate on an "unreachable"
shelf or location in sight will cause players to quickly
exploit every option, cheat, and bug they can find just go
get to the crate and break it so that they can find out
The crate is here to stay,
because it's too useful to ignore. Even were a designer to
never put a "crate" into a game, they'd have to put
something in place to give the players their items. Be glad
your FPS games have crates, rather than floating blocks that
you have to jump at and hit with your head to open up.
Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
right here for everyone to see!