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i love them when people put them in. i'm not very creative when it comes to making my own though. 
still looking for DopeFish.
I must make a model for it. 
They're a sadly lost art it seems. :( HL2's the most recent FPS I can remember having them and they weren't really very secret tbh! 
yeah, things like secrets tend to be left out as games move more towards efficiency. :(
when a game does have them, they seem even more special. :) 
Are you rustling a big bag of numfuck threads to start? But I'm a hopeless games nerd so.

Secrets are alive and well, they now fall under the umbrella of 'achievements' - because those are worth $$$.

Q1 secrets don't exist anymore, really. Valve is the last company to do those in HL2 and Portal2. Longer play time per level has taken that side out of modern games design I think.

Now secrets are justified before a committee. The best one I ever heard was 'but how will the player know they're there?' 
i liked the secret rooms in rage. no way i would have found them on my own, but wicked stuff. and all the little things in the game, its like they had a lot of fun adding them.

sadly no secret levels though. :( 
I Love Secrets 
I'm not very good at finding them though :/

It's great when a map has a nice balance of secrets of different difficulty levels. Kind of pisses me off when I can see some secret item but can't figure out how to get it at all.

Also, in Quake, if you are going to put in a quad secret, make sure there is a nice quad run directly after it because nothing sucks more than finding the quad after already killing everything. It's also annoying when there is a route choice after a quad and one direction has no enemies along it.

ijed: Do modern games really have longer playtime per level? I don't think I finished many levels in Quake 1 *that* quickly the first time I played them. I suspect even E1M1 took 10 minutes, and some of the more complex levels took closer to 30 or 1hr (probably the first time I played the dismal oubliette).

The main reason for lack of secrets is because it costs money to put them in, and since only some people will find them the developers put the money into other things instead. Making even a nice secret in Quake 1 doesn't ever really take more than an hour for one developer - which is obviously not a substantial cost in development time or money. I think many devs are still quite passionate about slipping in little secrets in the last few months of dev time if they can, but now games cost 10s of millions of dollars to make they can't be so cavalier about it must ask permission.

Also, with Quake 1 you don't have lame "realistic" player movement, so it's easier to have secrets that require jumping around, whilst games like CoD focus more on aiming, shooting and guiding the player through linear levels or between waypoints in more open levels and usually so scripted that having some area the player might wander off to in order to hunt secrets would totally break the immersion.

Achievements seem to have replaced the traditional secret, and are more like little challenges. When I was trying to make a Q2 level I wanted to have achievement like challenges in the level where there would be a bunch of stimpacks or armour plates that you would have to collect, but which involved performing a trick jump to get them all. Never got further than an idea though. 
I Like Secrets 
i used to suck at making them too hard for people.
personally i like secrets that are moderately easy to find, i mean when they're not screaming into your face, but i can notice them w/o pixelhunting.
i like the feeling of epxloration secrets give, they're some additional dimension of freedom on the level.
for me, fps is mainly exploration, so when i find a secret it gives me that warm feeling inside: i can explore more and if i'm lucky i can find proper easter egg! ;) 
There are still 'secret' areas in modern games, just not as pronounced as in Quake and other old games - meaning both acutal secret rooms as well as a counter or message. Usually secret means putting items behind objects, corners, or on top of things so they are not immediately visible, but can be found when looking around more carefully. I like to think this is because modern gamers (trololol console players) don't have the same mindset as back then and focus more on rushing through the level or following stong hints (mission objectives, npcs, you know).

Still, I'm always happy if there's stuff off the main route in new games. Like in Skyrim, there are often items placed in a farily Quakish way for explorative players to find. Sometimes even extra areas that require jumping or staking stuff to reach something high above. I even once found a secret lever that would open a hidden room with a chest.

You could also say that stuff in crates, HL style is a sort of secret, too. Or in Doom 3 where you can sometimes find items or even audio logs when crawling through vents or behind pipes etc. 
Exploration is much harder and a pain in the ass if your FOV is 40 and your movement speed is "realistic".

I prefer secrets that count. I.e. as a game element, not an element of the game world (eg stashes in STALKER). 
Quake Secrets 
A few examples for extraordinary secrets - that enhance the play experience rather than only host items: the metal areas (+corresponding monsters) in Biff's Fort Ratsack, the base part (main mission objective) in Vondur's Adamantine Cruelty, and of course Kell's Red777 with its 18 or so secrets that have some nice interconnectivity going on.

I think, in general, the best secrets are those which you can see from the outside and need to figure out a way to get in. Remember the soul sphere in Doom's E1M3, for example. Or the grenade secret in mappi. Of course the means to get to such secret areas should be reasonable. An obvious puzzle (=not necessarly easy to solve, but easily recognizable as such and as the one to unlock the particular secret), an entrance that requires jumping or climbing, or logical thinking in the sense of "the entrance must be on that wall so I have to search this or that room".

There's also the possiblity of having secrets that open by themselves at some point, or those that are triggered from the other side of the map. I think this should be avoided unless there's a good reason to do it and to explain it. Most players will probably not get the idea. An example for this would be the secret exit in Travail.

While sophisticated secrets are good, ideally a map should have a good balance between easy and hard secrets. Easy secrets being semi-obvious buttons and shootable doors/wall panels with misaligned or different texture, and also items placed outside the players view, behind crates, corners etc. They may not be hard to find, but it's still rewarding.

Which items to put in secrets depends on the context. Usually it's either powerups or weapons that are otherwise unavailable or only appear at a later point. Simple ammo and health secrets seem underused these days.

However, secrets don't have to be restricted to items. It's also possible to have secrets with entirely progressional value. For example, a secret that opens a shortcut to a later area, or allows you to disable a trap in a corridor ahead. Or something that allows the player to approach a fight in a different way, for instance from a higher point (sniper position). Perhaps an area that only serves the purpose of giving some more background information on the story of the map or the environment (like the Ratman's dens in the Portal games).

I also think it's very cool if secrets fit into a map seamlessly and connect areas. Outside areas are often good for this. 
Pure exploration areas is something I really try to push for at work but it's difficult when levels take so much effort to complete and get running on consoles. Extra areas are extra memory and they are generally the easiest thing to cut when push comes to shove because they aren't integral to the story or the scripting. That's the reality, I guess... 
I guess I love game worlds with a bit of 'adventure' thrown in, like Legend of Zelda, Metroid, or the Akrham Asylum/City games, where there are secrets all over the place. Maybe it's just me, but I can't seem to get enough of those games. They're just linear enough that progression is kept to a quick pace so that I don't get lost or bored, but each area is packed with secrets to keep me there for a good amount of time looking for those secrets.

I'm not sure I like just the secrets you can see, but hinting at secrets nearby is great. The Arkham games did this extremely well - 'there's a secret around he somewhere, find it.' 
Exactly, modern games' extra square meter of playable surface cost alot... So developer must invent cheap ways of making some extra area without touching interest of entire pack of people responsible for the content. Hence modern games lack that factor of randomness in exploration. Depends on game/engine of course. But general trend is there's not much deviations from main rails. 
I a ... thing ... is that finding that last secret in a huge map is pretty intimidating. e.g. e2m1rq :-) 
A Modern/consolized Game With A Good Bit Of Exploration And Secrets: 
Secrets are a reward for the player. You think outside the box, you deviate from the linear route, you solve an optional puzzle, you take a risk, you do something different - a secret is the game's way of acknowledging that and giving you a reward for it.

My limited exposure to achievements leads me to believe that they're actually the exact opposite; they're a reward for not doing the things that a secret rewards, but not doing it in style. 
What About Snow Globes/bobble Heads In Fallout New Vegas/3? 
mh: I think it depends. There are some achievements (thinking Steam games here, even though some other games have them, too) that require you to do what you describe for secrets, and one could say they're also flagged with a notification similiar to "You found a secret area". But those are exceptions. The bobbleheads in FO3 reward exploration, but they aren't really hidden. And usually the 'thinking out of the box' aspect is not so much a built-in feature, but more of an afterthought, it seems. 
I wrote down five principles when working on rubicon 2, and tried to use them to evaluate how good my secrets were:

1. a glimpse of something inacessible to taunt the player (encourages players to search the area)

2. access point needs to be something that is discoverable by observation alone (otherwise it's just luck)

3. item needs to be useful based on location

4. part of the reward should be a new space to explore or a new perspective on a known space

5. red herring (e.g. people can't resist shooting grates) 
Another good point that someone mentioned above -- make sure the difficulty varies so most people will at least find one or two of your secrets.

I also think you don't want to unbalance the gameplay too much, giving items that make the player too powerful. One good way to give a meaningful item that doesn't break the challenge too much is to give a weapon early, which the player will get later in normal progression. Another one is to give a weapon that isn't in the level, but keep the ammo very restricted (like the GL in rub2m2 -- you never get any more grenades, so you have to choose when to use the 5 that you start with.) I feel that one of the good ideas in Quoth is that they have items like the Trinity and the Cross of Protection which are less overpowered than the quad and pent, so you don't have to worry as much about using them in a secret area. 
and to elaborate on #3 above, this doesn't just mean making sure the quad is near a bunch of dudes. Also, make sure you give players items they can actually pick up -- like don't put a yellow armor in a level after the player has had access to a red armor, because they might have so much armor left they can't grab the YA. Same for ammo, make sure it's an ammo type they can't be already full on. 
Re: Post 20 
I agree with all of those principles. Most secrets don't follow #1 (ie you can't see the secret before you access it, often it's just a closet), but this principle goes back to doom, with the supersphere (my god I'm forgetting its proper name) in doom e1m3.

I think the idea of giving weapons early is a good reward. Re: #3, I always tried to do Ring of Shadows secrets in a way that lets the player check out the situation and set up ambushes on monsters rather than the other way around (as in Masque). Ring of Shadows is a great item and has tons of potential. 
That's the best post I'v read here. Should put it in the header post instead of that herp-derping. 
I'll herp-derp you, you insolent oik.

This is func_, people here don't need to be spoonfed into a discussion, just a tiny kickstart and hey presto lots of interesting views. 
I Love Secrets 
I don't consider a level finished unless I know where all the secrets are. Some of my thoughts on secrets:

- Although less realistic - I do like seeing a secret counter right away so I know how many are there and how many I've found. I like getting told when I found a secret. BTW, this is why I like ZDooM - no more guessing at the exit.

- I think anyone with adequate movement skills should be able to get all secrets. The need for movement skills well beyond my ability took away my motivation to find all secrets in Painkiller.

- I like a variety of secrets in a level - anything from straight nook and cranny exploration, to door with slight texture shift to series of buttons to find pent then dive into lava etc. In my SBE level and in my Travail maps, I tried to provide a variety of secrets that I would have enjoyed finding myself.

Great discusion. Clearly there are many who would not like to see secrets go away. I was hooked on them from Wolf3D. 
I hide all my secrets above the water, but make sure Shambler is highly tempted with the water areas.

I like secrets a lot, they are a lot of fun, but I honestly don't really have a knack for balancing around them. Quake's items feel so limited when you think of a cool place to put a secret, but you've already given so much cool stuff to the player already.

I personally like mixes of observation, obscure, and cliche secrets, because I feel like overall, you want to appeal to both a sense of rewarding exploration, but meeting player's own expectations of where secrets should be. A couple of the secrets in scampsp1 came out from watching czg play the first beta, and adding secrets where he looked for them but hadn't found any! 
I Like 
Big secrets, ones with monsters and traps in.

Having the reward as more gameplay is completely valid, and linking secrets together by runes (for example) is fun too, especially because you can use them to unlock even more play. 
I will make all my secrets traps from now on.

Actually agree though re gameplay. What I prefer are cool exploratory bits, with or without gameplay but leading to a vantage which shows connectivity of level, or puts you in an area previously glimpsed but inaccessible or is just really cool looking.
I'm thinking red 777, obviously, and Adamantine Cruelty as well is a great example. And the second level included with QUoth, where the hammer is out in the courtyard, on those floaty rocks. 
Just going to restate how much I hate maps that put rocket launchers or lightning guns etc in secrets and either never give them to you or otherwise give them in the last fucking room.

Which extends to the fact that I find it fairly boring that most Quake maps, being single maps or tiny sets, leave it until right at the end of the map to give you heavier weapons. Means every map follows the same slow build up of fire-power and monster strength :( 
well, the slow build up is the point though... difficulty is supposed to ramp up with stronger monsters. it's not really fun if you just give the player the RL + 50 rockets right at the start. cause either you follow normal monster progression and the player wipes the floor with grunts or knights or you start off with strong monsters and have no where to go when you want to escalate. 
Yeah, I mean ... handing you the power weapons right at the start removes a lot of choice and interesting gameplay. I mean, why wouldn't you use the rocket launcher or lightning gun if you had it? There are only a handful of cases where you wouldn't. 
Well Doom maps seem to manage it, limit ammo somewhat, start the map off with easier monster placement/lighter traps, use larger numbers of small monsters, although it seems Quake players are more against larger groups where this would be suitable (big packs of Knights and Scrags are awesome fun with the RL imo).

I think it's a bit weak just saying it's the only way to pace a level. We all know you'll spend 80% of the map with SSG/NG shooting knights and ogres, and toward the end we'll get a few shamblers and vores, and one final battle that is way harder than all the rest of the map, because it has to end that way. 
My Axe For My Honnour 
I don't think it worthy killing knights with a grenadelauncher.
There was a time I only fight them with my axe.

What secrets remain if you start full armed?

Plain to me to start with a thunderbold, just don't give ammu so the range is five.
And only search for enforcers to replenish that. 
In stock Quake, you get powerful weapons quite early and there's usually a suplus of ammo, especially rockets. But it's more a matter of multi-map play (episodes), whereas custom maps single instances, so they use slow weapon progression to make the map last longer and be more challenging - although it does tend to get old. No reason not to give RL and LG early on and limit their use by ammo placement (making them special weapons for the right situations), or layout-specific things like tight corridors or water areas.

Depends on the map of course. In general, I wish maps with many (hell) knights and ogres would give GL or RL earlier, because working one's way through hordes of knights with the SSG gets boring in no time. Regardless of secret. 
I'm Fine 
With giving the player powerful guns early, as long as it makes things more fun.

Slogging through tons of grunts with SSG and nails does get boring.

High or low power weapon gameplay can both be done badly, saying that one is inherently better than the other is like saying there is only one correct gameplay, which everyone should copy to the letter.

I had RL Vs knights working well one time, since it was in compact areas with lots of sharp turns - got hairy pretty quickly.

I love base maps that give you the GL Vs grunts as well - its not the easiest weapon to use and is also open to splatting groups if used right, making it a very satisfying skill test.

It's probably just me, but I think the slow build up thing is getting over used. 
Quoth Maps With Early PG 
Are the bomb. 
Something I Never Seen In Quake 
secrets getting harder on harder difficulties. With movement based secrets (jumpy things this would be pretty easy. Multiple button secrets you could be that you have to shoot only 4 "red herring grates" on easy wich are realy straight forward to spot, and on higher skills you would need start to go look for those other herrings wich might be placed a bit more obscure. Or some multiple buttons wich need to be shot/pushed within a certain time else they reset and lower the reset time or make it harder to get them at higher skills 
The Problem With That 
is that secrets are already only appreciated (or actively looked for) by a subset of your audience, so any extra work put in to individually balance them for subsets of that subset, seems a little bit extravagant to say the least. 
combat skill != secret hunting skill 
i am aware czg did a similar thing with his easy skill secret noise so feel free to ignore my (probably crap) opinions. 
kinn: it depends what secrets though.

it can be argued that czg's method makes easy skill easier by increasing the amount of secrets players find.

otoh, if your secrets are mainly exploratory ones, then giving them away on easy makes less sense. 
I used to think +1 health or armour items in Doom were stupid, but actually now I think if you're going to have secrets, they are great as a simple generic reward. They're pretty crap amounts of health, but always usable because they go over the base cap. 
yes, same here. i used to think they were useless as well.
but they're nice to just put everywhere. for the exact same reason i thought they sucked-- they don't severely impact gameplay but can still add up if you find enough of them. i'd say they are devalued a bit when you are below health though. 
I Think... 
... many secrets in map are cool, and having different difficulty levels of finding them is also good. The more finding a secret is, the more the reward should be.
Additionally, I think that having encapsulated secrets (a secret place, located in another secret place) is a kind of bitch I tend to like: I have seen that too less. 
I Like Secrets 
They add to the replay value of the map, and give an incentive to really *look* at every part of the mappers work. I think I generally prefer if they _don't_ make too much difference to the gameplay, although stuff like armour is always nice -- it makes things a bit more relaxed, without really changing what is possible or not.

On the flip side, in big mega maps they can be a bit intimidating in the "so I've found 8 of 9 secrets, so somewhere in this 400 monster map there is a nook I haven't found..." sort of way. 
I Wonder... 
...if it's possible to dynamically change the contents of secret areas according to how of many of them have been found up to that point? To have nothing in them at start and to spawn items when the player finds them, and reward them by their secret count? I don't have the technical knowledge but it might be an interesting concept. 
A less strange, but similar idea, would be to have all the secrets contain a single rune (I chose "rune" arbitrarily; it could be any other custom collectible) and then in areas that get high traffic or are easy to revisit, you could have obvious "rune gates", that only open if you have "x" runes, and behind them lies some sort of goodie that's better depending on your runecount.

The advantage of this is that you're not limited to just items as "goodies", the rune gate could lead to a shortcut, or secret level or whatever. Also you can tease the player by letting him see what's behind the gate. It can also be made as granular as you want with lots of runes scattered all over the map, in secret and not-so-secret places (have a 10-rune gate, 20-rune gate, 50-rune gate etc...)

Also, I'm doing this in one of my maps. 
never tell people your secret design plans beforehand Kinny! 
But Does That Apply 
if it's all part of an elaborate bait/switch?


Srsly though, the idea's no different to that used in a million other games that let you access goodies after you've collected a certain amount of crap.

My original plan was to make the runes persist across all levels, and you can revisit earlier levels to get into doors that were too high level the previous time around. I've kinda abandoned that idea really because the amount of cocking about required to make a proper "persistant level states across an episode" system is disproportionately high considering all we're trying to achieve is basically just some stupid collectible item gimmick. 
You Could 
(this is id1 with no mods) have a bunch of switches hidden in the level that modify the item in a secret. by moving the items about on funcs. The item in place in the secret is upgraded depending on the number of switches pressed, then when the player is finally ready to collect the item they press a final switch and commit to that item. When the final switch is pressed, the other switches are all killed (maybe the items can be killed directly, but I never tried) so the player can't get multiple items.

You could even do something evil like give the player a rotten health if they find a bad switch (or get them all as punishment for being too good.) I can imagine using this before as a regular level puzzle that is announced to the player at the start of the level and treated as a challenge. "PRESS THIS BUTTON ONLY WHEN YOU ARE READY!"

I'm not exactly sure how the thing that moves the items about would work though... Could just kill the old item and drop new items from above I guess. 
"using this before a boss encounter" 
I guess you could have the floor where the items appear be illusionary and have multiple lifts underneath that bring up items. When the next switch is triggered the current lift and items are killed and the next brought up. You could also have a door that comes down over the items to hide the switch, so that it looks like some kind of magic trick. That would be kind of cool I reckon. Might work nice in an Egyptian themed level or similar.

The items and switch to commit to those items could be in front of a door to the final encounter. If you press the switch when you start the level, you get no items and have to tackle the encounter with sg, 25 shells and your axe :) 
Uhh, Than 
While complicated setups are certainly cool, you could also put the whole set of possible items in the secret area and killtarget all but one depending on the player's actions. Saves you the trouble of messing around with doors and illusionaries.

At least this is how the items are changed depending on game mode in the mappis. 
Yeah, but I was suggesting it would be cool if the player could see the item they would get if they press the switch to commit. They might see the foreboding door in front of them and think "hmm, this isn't enough". 
I doubt any player would understand what was going on ;) 
I'd love to see the new than Egypt map. 
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