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Abilitease: A game design technique you need to know about!

Hello my dear begets! I hope you are well in the corner of the world you are reading me. Let me start by telling you that I am juggling with all the personal projects that I have, which led me to read my Trello about the game design that I have been doing for 2 years.

And yes, in those two years, months went by sometimes in which I did practically nothing, then furious advances, then furious pauses ... anyway. The important thing, as I always tell you, is to have everything organized so that it is easy to resume and not to lose that "inertia" that we had been bringing with work. I think this is what frustrates those who want to dedicate themselves to developing video games independently, since sometimes life knocks on the door and you have to keep the Game Dev hat for a while to attend to other things, without meaning this is all over! 

The thing is, all this led me to frequently visit again the forums and other means by which I am informed about the industry, which is generally Gamasutra and Reddit. And there I entered an interesting debate about a technique that I knew but not by name: Abilitease! 

This ingenious word game in English comes from Abilities and Tease. Yes, every time you played a game in which as soon as you started you had all the powers and you were OP af, just to suffer a twist in the story at the end of that tutorial and start the first level like the crappiest version of the character ... every time that happened, this technique was used. 

To cite a few examples: Prototype, Darksiders, some Metroids, Star Wars Force Unleashed ... that kind of games use it a lot and it's something I understand as a developer, but I hate as a player. 

Why is the Abilitease technique used?

You generally want to show the player that what he/she is experiencing in these tutorial stages with everything unlocked is just the tip of the iceberg. You want to attract him/her using as bait the hidden potential that his character has and lead him/her to want to unlock all that. 

The rays thrown from your character's butt are The Light at night, and you are a fucking moth who wants more of that. The idea of showing this at the beginning, the possibilities of opening the game once you are advanced, is good and usually works very well in sandboxes in which we are an OP being who has just fallen in disgrace and needs to recover his skills. 
Of course, you need a number of factors in the mix to make it a good idea. You can't get this anywhere because you can ruin the game. You need to have an extensive game, with a system of balanced skills that can gradually unravel without breaking the balance of the world and always offering an entertaining challenge to the player. 

It also has to be something that you can tease without needing too much explanation of how they work at the mechanical level. Imagine if you start the prologue with 20 prompts that explain an extremely complex mechanic ... so that they take it away from you at the beginning of the game and then you have to spend 20 hours to recover it ... well, it is not good business for anyone and the player surely never will buy anything else you've done again. 

Why I hate this as a player?

As I said before, I hate this technique, beyond understanding why it is attractive and why its implementation can help with the development you want the player to have in your creation. But when I wear the gamer shirt, it rustle my jimmies a lot to have this taste of something that will be taken from me shortly.

It's like they give you a little piece of the best cake to tell you "Did you like it? Well, but now you're going to have to work 100 hours to get the rest!" I feel that I am doomed to play with something "incomplete" for most of the time and they just scrubbed that fact to my face.

I also don't feel like investing in that prologue if I know that I will get everything I have. It is a "well ... fuck it. Let's move quickly through this because I want to start the game to get to have again what I did not pay attention at the beginning." This often leads me to miss important details that give me guidelines on what the game is about, what can I expect and whether it is worth it or not the work that lies ahead.


Today we've dedicated a few paragraphs to this technique and call it by its name. I am sure that you already faced it in some game, possibly in the era of Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, since I saw that its use is much less widespread in the current generation. They maybe have realized that most hate it? 

Now ... if you are developers and have a Metroidvania in your hands, maybe you should ask yourself if that prologue with all the unlocked powers is a good idea or not! It may be, it may not ... do surveys, ask in groups of gaming about the opinion of the players, since trends tend to change from year to year.

What do you think? Is it something you like in games? Did you know the term Abilitease? Leave your comments below!
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