Throughout gaming history, we’ve seen PvP in games like Doom, Halo, PUBG, and more. PVP has evolved and included the battle royale style, arenas, capture the flag, and other various modes. One key feature I want to focus on today is the Hide and Seek aspect.
Having mentioned Battle Royale games, one of the great things about these games is being on a large scale map. But it’s not just Battle Royal games, we can see this in other MMO games like Ark:Surival Evolved or 7 Days to Die.
In these games, they usually have a more hardcore approach on death. This can result in item loss, equipment loss, experience loss, acquired pet loss, or a complete loss of the match (if playing matched based games).
The interesting thing about these games is Hide and Seek. Stealth and ambushing is a huge factor. But as a designer, how can we utilize this?
Your map size should be selectable and/or be focused on the population you expect for each map.
From my experience, here are some examples of games that utilize the hide and seek pvp and what they’ve done well and not so well. Please keep in mind that I’m only focusing on the Hide and Seek feature, which includes scalability, that form of pvp, and detection.
Project Zomboid — HUGE map but the population is usually low. This is cool when you’re playing with your friends or even online PvE. But there is also a PVP option in this game. I’ve jumped into a number of servers and played with a small group, what we’ve seen is that the map is so huge that you could play an entire day in real life and might not even see anyone else in one of the higher populated pvp allowed servers.
This is an example of how player population is not matching map scale. But also the Hide and Seek factor is too high in this. There is no indication where other players are. Now in a game like this, it would be unfair to have a radar and pinpoint players. But a system that displays a general populace in each town or region would help players congregate to an area.
7 Days to Die — I think this game has been in alpha longer than any other game on PC. While it has large customizable maps, map generators, and a vast array of server settings, we find ourselves exploring and rarely seeing other players. This is another game that focuses more on PvE, but has a PvP option and a large following for custom PvP servers. It is also another game that features huge biomes and cities but is designed for lower population servers. The unique thing about this game is the ability to dig, make underground bases, and to really hide your stuff the world.
The player hotspots are usually located at Trader areas. However, each town may have one or more trader. This creates a rarity in finding people and many players unfortunately resort to cheats. Again a system that displays a general populace in each town or region would help players congregate to an area.
Hunt:Showdown — This game is a match-based game that targets a population of 12 players. The maps is still large. The unique thing about this game is the PvE goal. Each team’s main goal is to find and kill the boss of the map, the boss drops two bounty items, then the team must try and extract/leave the map with those bounty items. The game begins by having players find clues as to where the boss is. However, once the boss is killed, there is a timer for how long it is being “banished”, during this time, all players are alerted to the general POI (point of interest) where the boss has been killed.
These devs designed a huge map with a small population, but unlike my other examples, the PvE goal is direct and it forces players into conflict. It also allows for a variety of play styles from charging in, ambushing, and team communication. It also incorporates VOIP and other very audio intensive sound based alerting.
These are only a couple examples and there are many games out there. But from these examples, what can we learn?
The game map should be designed with a variety of hiding spots, including nooks, crannies, and obstacles that provide cover. Balancing open areas with areas rich in hiding spots creates a dynamic gameplay experience.
Consider the map size and complexity to ensure that players have ample opportunities to hide, while seekers have enough space to explore and search for hiders. I mentioned before, moderation and balance are always key. You don’t want to over-do the hiding spots nor do you want to create something too open.
Players may have abilities that aid them in remaining hidden, such as temporary invisibility, distraction tools, or the ability to mimic inanimate objects. Alternatively, players could have skills that help them detect hiders, such as a sonar ability, enhanced tracking skills, or area-of-effect reveals. I personally believe a regional population detection or a general detection is best, as it allows the players to remain hidden, not revealing their pinpoint location, but also let’s others know someone is in the general area.
Implement a countdown timer that gives players a limit on their goals. This could determine the time before the match ends, it could be a periodic location revealer, it could be a grace period to allow a team to hide and another team to seek, it could be a circle of death that encloses in. This depends on your game.
Aim for balanced gameplay where players have a fair chance of winning. Adjust character abilities, map design, and game mechanics to ensure no side has an overwhelming advantage, avoid pay to win monetization strategies.
Consider including a rotation system if your game incorporates player classes, seekers/hiders, or monsters.
Ranked games can focus on how experienced a player is. You really really want to avoid putting new players in a game with other who have hundreds of hours into the game. I read a study about the unfair matchmaking in games like Fortnite where a very small percentage of players would consistently win because they were always matched randomly. If you’re utilizing a rank system, you can have your servers attempt to isolate those a set of ranks to a game. You can even make this more “elastic” by having it try to rank with your rank, then those close to your rank, then those further, etc, until the match is full. Even having a setting where players can choose the rank range from their current rank would help in fair play.
To dive further into a Ranking System, this doesn’t necessarily need to be based on hours played. This should be based on a kill/death ratio or games won vs loss, other statistics such as accuracy, headshots, and team assists could be a factor as well. But you want to focus more on the skill rank rather than just getting people to join together. In my opinion, Rocket League does a good job with their ranking system. You can climb the ranks with each win and lose ranks with losses. Each game type has a separate rank system as well, such as 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, etc.
Use visual and audio cues as indicators like footsteps or audio clues like whispers can create suspense and excitement.
Employ contrasting color schemes or outlines for players to make them stand out when tagged or spotted by others.
Offer chat or voice communication options for players to strategize with their team or engage in playful banter during the game. This could include a VOIP, team chat, a global or local player based typing chat also.
Encourage social play by allowing players to form parties or join teams with friends.
Using the UI icons, map, and other indicators to assist in player locations. Again, I enjoy Hunt:Showdown’s system as they reveal a general area and not the precise opponent location.
By considering these design elements, PvP can become an exciting and enjoyable game mode that promotes teamwork, creativity, and thrilling moments of discovery and evasion.