Posted November 24, 2016 by Paul Roux in News

Five ‘major keys’ of video games


I’ve been following DJ Khaled on that newfangled SnapChat app and I will admit that his superficial introspection is somewhat entertaining. His talk of “securing the bag” and going against those who do not want you to succeed is at times a little cheesy, but it does do the job of getting people motivated. It seems that memes can do a lot more to motivate people than traditional motivational speeches and I’m not sure what to make of that. I guess it’s a sign of the times and I’d be lying if I don’t look to Shia LaBeouf when I need to get myself motivated, but getting the people going is not what I’m here to talk about today.

DJ Khaled’s philosophies are made up of “Major Keys” that form the foundations of his journey success. These keys have been revealed to his followers and have provided incredible grounding for his meme empire. While it would be nice to go in to these keys and have a little bit of a motivational session, I have no idea how to put it as elegantly as the great Khaled, so instead I’d like to talk about a couple of Major Keys in gaming that are essential to our success. Some of these are literal keys while others may be a little more abstract, but they are all important.

So come, ride with me on the journey of more gaming success.

Boss Keys

I think this one was a little obvious but hey, you can’t overlook the fundamentals. Boss keys are a hallmark of the Zelda games and are rather useful in letting the player know how they’re progressing through the current dungeon. You know that when you find the dungeon’s boss key, and hear the iconic jingle, that you best prepare yourself to test your skills.

This item is a hallmark of the series and is something that it recognisable by even those who are not all that familiar with the game. They’re interesting from a design perspective as it is essentially the game giving the player a license to fight the boss. This lets them know that they should now be familiar enough with the mechanics that have been introduced to appropriately test their skills. Boss keys have managed to stand the test of time and are still relevant to the series as the day they were introduced, which is definitely a hallmark of success.

Key Blades

I’m going to reveal a bit of my ignorance here but I’ve never actually played a Kingdom Hearts game. The Square Enix and Disney crossover series is something I’ve always wanted to get in to but unfortunately haven’t been able to play. Thankfully, with everything coming to the PS4 in the coming months, I’ll be able to dive right into this crazy series. That being said, the keyblades of Kingdom Hearts are incredibly interesting in that they have a very simple basis for their design, but have developed over the years to create some rather intricate objects.

I have no idea how the concept of a keyblade came up, but I imagine that someone was looking at their house keys lying on a table and thought “But what if I could fight people with these?”. The interesting thing to note about the keyblades is that while they seem to have an incredibly simple origin, an entire universe has been created around them. I like to think that they represent that even some of the simplest ideas, when given a little bit of focus, are able to become incredible monoliths of entertainment. Kingdom Hearts could have always been an easy cash-in on the source materials, but instead it has been nurtured to have its own identity and a pretty successful one at that.

Key Cards

DOOM’s key cards are probably the most traditional keys on this list. To get them you just have to explore the level, fighting demons along the way so that you can get the required key card to progress. There’s not really much else to these other than the fact that they’re easily recognisable. I guess they can fall under the “Iconic” label without being infamous.

I can’t say I’ve ever found them all that frustrating even though they easily could have been. Locking your progression behind a treasure hunt sounds awful but the early DOOM titles managed to add to the experience. Having keys somehow made it less linear and more natural feeling levels that players had to explore to progress. Without the detours needed to find these keys, DOOMs levels would have probably been a bit too straightforward to be enjoyable. As much as DOOM is about the mindless violence, it did have interesting and enjoyable levels which of course lead to the success of the game.

Key Frames

See mom, I did study for my exams. So this one isn’t exactly something that is immediately apparent when playing games, but that doesn’t make them any less important. We all like smooth animations right? While we may not want to admit it, choppy animations do put us off games and might be the reason we don’t experience some interesting games.

But what exactly is a key frame? It’s an incredibly simple concept, essentially to ensure that animations are able to make smooth transitions. By identifying specific frames, we are able to make sure that we are able to animate characters in such a way that feels natural and is pleasing visually. Say, for example, you were climbing a ladder and were knocked off – if you went from a climbing animation straight to falling that would look awful. In order to prevent that, specific frames need to be reached before the transition is made. While this is a bit of an intricate process and can cause animators to pull out their hair, a well produced final product will always be seen as a success and can only lead to further success in the rest of the game.

CD Keys

We live in a digital age and thus access to our games has reduced to strings of characters. I don’t remember the last time I bought a PC game and didn’t have to enter a CD key to be able to use it, but I guess that just comes with the times. The process of playing new games is now: go home, enter disc, enter key, wait for download and, finally – play. Provided you didn’t get to skip the first three steps by just buying digitally.

Some see this as a hindrance and their concerns are definitely valid. Putting your faith in digital distribution is terrifying and we’ve seen it fail miserably at times but there are also some useful pros to the whole situation. It’s quite simple to now distribute keys and the acceptance of this practice has lead to it being a lot easier for developers to distribute their games. I know that if digital distribution hadn’t been widely accepted we wouldn’t have seen things like the Humble Bundle. While Humble Bundles are terrible for backlogs, they have enabled us to experience games we may never have heard of before receiving keys for, which has directly lead to the success of some indie developers.

And there you have it, five major keys that are quite prominent in gaming. Some of these have been quite obvious while others have been a bit more abstract, but all in all they’ve been important in gaming. There are definitely many keys that I’ve overlooked but if you know of any that need to be spoken about, why not let us know in the comments below? The journey to gaming success is one we can all take, but it is something we all have to take together.

Paul Roux