Counterpoint: Functional Blind Spots
Friday, March 27, 2009 at 11:04PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Advance Wars, Chess, Counterpoint, Emergence, Geometry Wars, Mega Man, Misc Design & Theory, Perfect Dark, Super Mario Bros., Super Smash Brothers, Zelda

A functional blind spot is a space in a video game relative to the player that is difficult to interact with due to a combination of the player's mechanics/abilities and the level design (arrangement of level/enemy elements). A functional blind spot is very different from a perspective blind spot. Perspective blind spots are created from a lack of a clear view of a situation. Due to the nature of 3D, viewing a 3D environment or object from any fixed perspective creates perspective blind spots. This is an inherent quality of 3D spaces that we're all used to. However, a functional blind spot has nothing to do with perspective and everything to do with design. In fact, functional blind spots usually occur when the player has a complete view of a game space.

When enemies are designed to create contrary motion within functional blind spots, the result are usually pretty similar. Functional blind spot enemies are always annoying, tricky, and/or dangerous. For these enemies, it's not that they do a lot of damage or attack in great numbers. Simply existing in these awkward, almost non interactive spaces is enough to make players feel like they're powerless thus creating a high amounts of tension. The best part of designing such enemies is that what makes them more unique and threatening than normal enemies is the dynamics of space whether 2D side scrolling, top down, or 3D.

Functional Blind Spots matter most when used to design enemy or level elements for the purpose of creating contrary motion and tension. In other words, functional blind spots are designed around the player character, shaped through stage design, and accented using enemy design. In this way, recognizing and understanding an example of a functional blind spot requires a thorough understanding of a gameplay scenario based on several design layers. This in itself makes functional blind spots an advance subject under counterpoint.

The best way to understand functional blind spots is through examples.


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