Video games often have a progression system in a variety of ways. However, there are a few things that are designed as obstacles of sorts for the players to overcome to move to the next content. Each obstacle can be ‘good’ game design or a terrible one, so let’s talk about it here.
There are at least three ways a game can slow down the progress of a player to ensure that they are prepared to take on the next challenge. It is quite common for several games to use those mechanisms as a way to prolong the experience of a game. So let’s take a look at some of the ways developers use to limit progress so that it is meaningful to both the players and creators.
Several games ranging from puzzles to arena games use the skill as a major factor to determine whether the player is ready to take on the next level of the game. For example, to progress to higher levels of matches in games like League of Legends, you have to ‘climb the ladder’, each opponent being better than the last for each victory you attain.
There could also be certain stages where it requires certain aspects of the game to be mastered before the player could continue. Tutorial bosses (Dark Souls anyone?) or specific puzzles are often the most blatant examples of a skill gate where it requires the player to utilise a certain aspect of the game in order to proceed.
I certainly believe this is the most viable ‘progression gate’ out of most options. It rewards players for effort and their ability to learn how a game works and use them to their advantage. However, online guides and the likes have made this gate a little too watered down at times.
This is typically used more on online games where players can only receive or access certain content in a period of time before they have to wait for the next established time to use again. For instance, in an RPG, you can only access a dungeon once and have to wait 24 hours before you can access it again.
This typical mechanic is useful for artificially slowing down progression, especially when it is to delay ‘power creep’ and not used in critical story areas. You’ll commonly see these kinds of progression gates on mobile games (Like King’s Raid), MMOs and other massive online games. It is generally attributed to content that provides powerful items and/or currency at the endgame (rarely before that).
I find that this is the type of gate more suited towards bonus areas of several video games. While it does reward players with powerful stuff, it is important to keep it checked to prevent players from blitzing through content.
This can be used in almost any game, especially if the game has some form of customisation (whether cosmetic or game-changing). This is perhaps the most rewarding yet most frustrating of the three gates in this article. Basically speaking, whenever a player does a certain action (e.g. defeat an enemy or open a ‘box) they have a chance to obtain certain items or succeed in certain values which allow them to progress in the game. RNG comes in many forms such as the notorious ‘critical hit rate’ or the loot box.
While it is a common mechanic to use in a number of games, it does have its own concerns on how it can affect the game overall. It does have its value, especially when dealing with things like the ‘super rare ultra loot that drops at 0.1%’.
Personally, this is perhaps the most polarizing as it can be the most gratifying when it is overcome, yet the most demotivating when it ends in failure. Developers often had to walk a tight line to figure out what is fair yet rewarding when it comes to RNG.
Each of those mechanics that acts as a gate to progression has their own place in video games. It can be what decides whether we enjoy the game overall, or simply despise it because of how it is handled. If the developers carefully implement it to their games, it could essentially make or break a game.
Where there any frustrating or rewarding times when you overcame them?