As game designer Jennifer Scheurle was prepared to speak at the 2018 Game Develoeprs Conference, she asked her Twitter followers for examples of “brilliant mechanics in games that are hidden from the player to get across a certain feeling.” There were hundreds of replies, many from the game developers themselves, and the insight was fascinating. The original thread is a lot of fun to read through, but here are some of my favorites:

Charlie Butler:

Not sure if it was mentioned, but the tutorial in Halo 2 asked player to look up. Their input determined whether y-axis would be inverted.

Matt Cox:

In Scribblenauts, we used synonyms liberally to spawn the same object, but that object kept the name you spelled, making it seem unique!

Ms. Scheurle:

Assassin’s Creed and Doom value the last bit of health as more hit points than the rest of it to encourage a feeling of JUST surviving.

Paul Hellquist:

In Bioshock if you would have taken your last pt of dmg you instead were invuln for abt 1-2 sec so you get more “barely survived” moments.

Ken Levine:

First shots from an enemy against you in BioShock always missed…that was the design, think it got fully implemented. No “out of blue!”

Matt Ditton:

In Jak and Dexter the player would “for no reason” trip and fall to give enough time to load the next section off disc. […] In the era of open world and “no load screens” you needed to stop the player going too fast. Disc load time was a nightmare.

Tom Forsyth:

HL1 [Half-Life 1] - if facing more than two enemies, only two would actually attack. The rest would run to random locations and bark lies e.g. “flanking”

And finally, James Parker:

Most (good) platform games allow you a small window after you run off the edge of a platform to initiate a jump

If only Wile E. Coyote had such luck.

Some of these might leave you feeling like Dorothy when Oz is revealed, but I love seeing how and when a developer might deploy a cheat on the player’s behalf. And, although I enjoyed reading through the various game mechanics, some of the best replies were from players who never realized what was happening.