Over the last month, since I got my Wii U, I have been hooked onto Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart has been a series which took the overly used racing genre and put a Mario spin on it with power-ups that can help you attack as well as defend yourself against other racers. Mario Kart is the pioneer of the “kart series” and was first released as Super Mario Kart on the SNES. One common aspect of Mario Kart since it’s inception are the use of environmental hazards incorporated in conjunction with the attacks made by other racers. So you better concentrate a LOT during these races!
Environmental hazards are a very useful of game design for players in order to encourage them to learn from their mistakes. For example, at the end of each lap of Rainbow Road, we have two Thwwomps alternately falling down which hurt the player when it falls down on the car. We have also have a leading ramp over a pit of nothingness which gives the player three options to choose while driving. The player in his first lap will learn the pattern of the Thwwomps and that the player should have a high speed before approaching the ramp to cross the pit. Over the course of the next two laps, the player will learn and then master the pattern and use the pit to his advantage by hurting other racers at his point.
In the Bowser’s Castle map, we have an active volcano in the distance which is erupting in the first lap. This visual indicator is excellent use of feedback as well as indirect control. In the second and third lap, we see chunks of rock and lava crashing onto the race track every time the volcano spurts a bit of it into the air. The first lap programs the player into noticing and later avoiding the volcano and the projectile it spurts out.
Another very good of environmental hazards as a way of setting up the interest curve to it’s peak In the final lap is through the use of music in each individual map. The music speeds up and becomes pulsating with the player realizing that it’s do or die. Rosalina’s Ice World is yet another excellent map where environmental hazards teach the player how to drive in different conditions. The first turn in Mount Wario has a descending cliff with many players falling into it because of the skidding the snow causes. The player either himself falling or seeing other people falling realizes that the snow causes skidding in this level, so he must drift cautiously. This is another excellent use of visual feedback and game design to produce indirect control over the player and teach the player the rules in the game.
These are three classic examples among many of Mario Kart teaching it's players to drive and learn the maps design through the design of environmental hazards.