I’ve watched cookiemonger play Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune since we picked up a Playstation 3 earlier this week, and it got me thinking about platforming games. From what I’ve seen so far of Uncharted, it’s mostly a game with poor research and a mediocre narrative, and even its gun battles, locales, and set piece encounters aren’t terribly creative, but the game really shines in its polish.

I mean, I rag on this game constantly, but it looks and plays really well.

So, as I watched CM play through a couple platforming sections, I realized they were no different than the platforming sections of earlier titles, like the Legacy of Kain or Crash Bandicoot games. Run, jump, swing, climb, crawl, smash, glide, shimmy, rappel, … the actions are the same, no matter the characters, no matter the obstacles.

Now, right at the same time, CM is playing through Resonance of Fate, which has a really interesting (-looking) battle system that has the characters hurling themselves across the battlefield with guns a-blazing. Of course, there’s almost no cover to duck behind, and the characters stand around like idiots while the monsters shoot ’em up on their turns. I mean, they could at least pretend to dodge.

I mentioned to her how Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons was trying to accomplish the cinematic effect of jumping/platforming puzzles with its Skill Challenges like what you see in Uncharted, and the dynamic movement of Resonance of Fate battles. That got me thinking about how, if monsters could be “standardized,” how movement-based puzzles might be standardized … eh, in a fashion.

Well, that’s what got me thinking about how walls should work. And then a bit of advice I gave someone a few years back about incorporating “facing rules” in tabletop roleplaying (“don’t”) came back, and I realized that one of the problems that walls create within the game is “line of sight.” Now, line of sight is a staple in strategy and roleplaying games, because it determines whether or not two or more creatures can see each other. Say they’re hiding from each other, or invisible.

Yeah, forget that.

Honestly, line of sight rules cause huge, stupid arguments all the time. “Do I have cover? I should have cover, I’m behind this tea tray. That should give me a bonus to defense.” That’s one stupid point. Then you have, “What do you mean he’s behind a wall, I have XYZ BLAH-DE-BLAH and I can see his reflection in a mirror and BLAH BLAH I should be able to hit him.” Whine, whine, whine and complain.

Barriers came in at this point. Barriers are this idea of static, who-claims-cover-from-whom type affairs. They go on the field and anyone who wants to take the action to grab cover (let’s say a Move action, for now), can “gain cover.” Facing doesn’t matter. You have cover whether someone is on your side of the wall or the other.

Then, you can argue walls being made of different things, and walls possibly being destroyed by powers that effect the terrain. Different barriers can have different powers, and yadda yadda. But then I kind of realized that the whole “Difficult Terrain” angle was missing, and I tried to think of how it might still apply, somehow.

Portal 2 came to mind at that point. I remembered the energy bridges the players could manipulate and project over pits in order to reach new areas. It got me thinking about planes and voids. Generally speaking, a fight could occur almost anywhere, as long as you have at least two parties. Adding a plane gives the fight a setting.

You could honestly start with planes or barriers, with the former presenting certain terrain options, and the latter providing basic cover to whomever claims it. A void, then, would be your equivalent of the bottomless pit (or another more reasonable type of terrain). You could then add “features” and “elements” which define more of the powers and abilities of a given environment.

Obviously, still working out the kinks, but it’s the most promising thing yet, and it builds on my previous terrain concepts. So, there’s work to be done, but the planes look promising. I’m using my new scale and scope system for them, too.