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Player Gating in Level Design


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Hi everyone, 

I've been looking into gating through level design a bit more deeply, but have come across some differing interpretations between "hard gates" and "soft gates". I wanted to ask how you would define both "hard gates" and "soft gates" to see what the general consensus was here?


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I haven't heard the term hard/soft gating, but I would assume it refers to stopping a player form going somewhere -- in that sense, a hard gate would be, literally, a gate I couldn't get past whereas a soft gate might be allowing the player to go somewhere physically (like San Francisco in GTA San Andreas or a high-level area in The Division) but not giving them much chance to stay alive while there (an instant 5-star Wanted rating or high-level one-shot-killer Dudes).


At least on linear, single-player action games I've worked on, we typically front-gate players to stop them from skipping an encounter by Running Past All the Dudes, and back-gate players from going back in a level so we can drop previous sections from memory and start loading the next area.

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@Helder Pinto I'm talking in relation to single player games and gating in terms of blocking off exits to different areas of a level, whether temporarily of permanently. Mostly FPS and third person action/adventure genres, but gating is applicable to others.

@Alf-Life Yeah they're both terms in relation to gating, where you are using methods of restricting the players movement through the level. What you call back gating gating I've heard referred to as hard gates. I've also read hard gates as being what you call front gates, where an absolute condition (such as killing all the enemies) must be met before it is unlocked and the player is allowed to progress. I've also seen soft gates described as small challenges that influence the player's pace through the level, for example some destructible objects that can be easily cleared with a weapon the player has. Plus I've read similar to your example as a soft gate, where the player might encounter enemies of a higher difficulty that they aren't quite ready to take on yet.

I'm not saying any of those aren't valid under those categories, I was just wondering if there was a common definition in anyone's experience?


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Searching with Google I just found this definition applied to F2P games


so sounds like depending on the genre/game type you can have it differently. But in general, I think the terms quite univocally suggest a perceivable system in place to prevent progression (hard) vs a system that makes the player think he's just not good enough/character isn't equipped yet/etc.

Is explained well here I think:


Put in basic terms: a hard-gate is an obstacle that requires the player go do something else before they can progress. A soft-gate is an obstacle that encourages the player to go do something else before they can progress.

Are you writing some kind of essay?

Edited by blackdog
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It's a term I too just recently heard about.

Funny how that goes, even though this wording is probably very old, if you haven't read a game design book you would never know about it.

But the influx of game designers the last few years, many from different game dev schools and other communities made terms like these everyday talk and forced people like me to learn to use few words instead of "It's kinda difficult getting there, cause after a while it gets so difficult so you kinda need to grind in another area first" to describe something, in this case a soft gate.

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