I remember when I first realised that the Covenant plasma pistol wasn’t as useless as it seemed.
In the Halo games, when charged, a plasma pistol can short out Wraith tanks and leave them vulnerable.
I was out of ammo and there was nothing around me. In my frustration and expecting to be dead soon, I picked up a plasma pistol, overcharged it and fired.
I couldn’t believe the outcome.
The tank defenceless, I destroyed it up close. After countless deaths to this tank's predecessors, it was a glorious moment.
In the real world...
Today I read an article about an interview with Peter Molyneux of Lionhead fame (Black and White and Fable) at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase in which he complained about a lack of discovery in today’s games.
It reminded me of something I’d read in Stephen P. Anderson’s Seductive Interaction Design. He was commenting about how the human brain is aroused by the unexpected. Obviously you have to be careful of this, you should not make a system that relies on hidden gestures or features to operate successfully, but you can include easter eggs that make people go ‘oooohh’ when discovered. We could also reward this discovery.
A case in point: try turning Skype’s font to Comic Sans and see if you notice anything different in the UI.
The Plasma Pistol
Nowhere was it written that firing the weakest gun in the game, at one of the strongest bad guys would yield such an advantage to the player. I discovered it on my own and I no longer have to be scared of Wraith tanks.
The joy was in the discovery. As Ben refers to it: a delicious gesture.