Hidden Game Mechanics: Game Developers Playing Mind Games

Hidden Game Mechanics: Game Developers Playing Mind Games by  1875 views
Have you ever thought about the way gaming environment reacts on what you do? Like, when you play FPS you usually miss a couple of first bullets. They serve as a warning, you’re about to get shot. Do you think it all happens by accident? Nope. And we’d like to reveal a few hidden game mechanics.



There’s (and it still lives) a huge thread on Twitter where game devs shared secrets: all the mind games their products play with gamers. A lot of interesting stuff popped up, we’re gonna resume the most interesting facts we’ve found. Get ready:

  • Assassin's Creed and Doom: your last health point has more hit points, so you feel like you’re the real survivor.
  • Serious Sam: bullets are 1m thick when testing enemies, and 0m when testing the world. So you can shoot near a corner, but hit enemy easily.
  • Surgeon Simulator: if you dial your real phone number in the game, it calls you. SPOOKS!
  • Firewatch: a player not responding to dialogue prompt is a noted choice. The game reacts to non-response, and it helps create a feeling that ignoring someone has social consequence and the other person is "real".
  • Alien Isolation: The Xenomorph has two brains one that always knows where you are and gives hints to the second that controls the body.
  • Far Cry 4: deliberately turns down the accuracy and damage of NPCs the closer they are. Still think you’re savage and fearless? :)

  • F.E.A.R: AI dialogue is selected by the NPC doing an action, then it tells another NPC to say it. That’s a good way to build a social environment around the gamer.
  • Left 4 Dead 2: AI chooses to attack the player that is out of group and that didn’t get his pile of claws (that makes you stick together to lessen the damage). It also analyses how complicated is the situation around you, and whether you go solo or in a group, and calculates the time that you need to heal. At that moment you get some spare time to “patch yourself up”.
  • Halo 2: the game helps players feel like they have influence over battle by forcing grunt NPCs to panic if elites are killed in proximity. Same thing in any GTA game, once you take out the gun people get anxious.
  • Arkham Asylum: the thugs maintain your sneakiness by not-turning around on 180’.
  • Bioshock Infinite: Elizabeth provides whatever you need at the current moment. Out of ammo? New gun! Nearly dead? Take a first-aid kit! (when I started playing Bioshock it was a big surprise for me, I couldn’t understand HOW she gets everything I need!)

  • Civilization Beyond Earth: picks you an enemy with an opposite ideology, to incite conflict.
  • Hi-Octane: all the vehicles have SAME stats. My life is a lie :( 
  • Bioshock 2: the first Big Sister Fight will always end when you have a few health left, no matter how good you were at the fight.
  • GTA San Andreas: when you and Catalina rob a bank and you keep bank employees at gunpoint, you’ll have to shoot.
  • System Shock: your last bullet does double damage, a similar trick to the last bit of health thing when trying to defeat the boss.
  • BioShock: the first shots from an enemy against you always missed, so you could quickly get yourself together and fire back.
  • Fable 2: if the dog companion is stuck navigating and gets far enough from the player, it'll respawn off camera running to you.

  • LUFTRAUSERS: first few enemies deliberately miss you to give you the feeling of being really good at dodging. (Actually, this got implemented in a lot of games.)
  • Halo 2: during the tutorial, the game asks a player to look up. Their input determined whether y-axis would be inverted. (Genius! Also Portal 2 and Infamous do that trick.)
  • Half Life 1: if you face more than two enemies, only two would actually attack. The rest would run to random locations and get busy with other stuff.
  • Platformers: some of these implement the “coyote time” thing. When you’re standing at the edge point of a platform you can still jump!

  • The Suikoden: the world map is made to not frustrate players. If you walk in a straight line, fewer enemies will appear, as they clearly have a destination. If players zig-zag around, more enemies will attack, to help them grind.
  • Devil May Cry: off screen enemies slow down or stop their attack patterns, to avoid hits from blind spots and to allow players to fight larger numbers. (not only DMC has this secret feature)
  • Pac-Man: hidden ghosts mechanics. The Red ghost follows you, the Pink one tries to go to space 4 tiles in front of you, the Cyan one follows Pac-Man, turns around when close. Easy-peasy!


Hope these game hacks will help you understand the gaming better. Some of them were so unexpected and mind blowing that I still can’t believe in them. So great game developers care about us!
Maybe you know something interesting about gaming mechanics that wasn’t mentioned here? Let us know in comments!
Tags:  Fable 2