We Don’t Shoot Green Things Enough

We Don’t Shoot Green Things Enough

Exploding red barrels are a video game cliche. The people making the video game Bulletstorm wanted exploding barrels in their game, but they dreamed to make their barrels green. Then they woke up.

Well, before they woke up, they put green barrels in their game. And they tested their game on real human beings. Here’s what happened, as recounted on the official blog of Bulletstorm development studio People Can Fly:

In the beginning we had green barrels, but people didn’t get it right away.

They got completely ignored by the players and no one guessed or assumed that they were explosive. Why not? Because they weren’t red. Everyone knows that only the red barrels are explosive. There’s a lot of stuff going on in Bulletstorm at the same time, so it’s vital for us that the player can quickly read the environment and act intuitively. This is especially true since you can leash and kick objects as well so they can be flying all over the place. There’s no time to analyse objects on a detail level, so the shape and colour have to be enough. It became apparent for us that the most efficient way to communicate its purpose was to make it red.

“Just making it red” seems like a straightforward approach…

See? We are the problem. We shoot red barrels with vigor, while letting green barrels stand intact. The excellent post on this subject goes on to explain just how People Can Fly settled on the proper barrel shape for their Bulletstorm barrels.

Read all about it. And, next time you see something green in the game, shoot it. You will then no longer be part of the problem.

We had to use Red Barrels [People Can Fly blog]


  • That was one advantage that borderlands had. Red, green, blue, yellow – EVERY barrel was explosive (or radioactive or electric or acidic…)

  • This makes me chuckle. It kinda reminds me of people who get all snooty about the game industry catering to n00bs or dumbing things down, but then will also complain bitterly if a game is stagnating or not offering enough originality.

    I feel sorry for devs in that regard as sometimes they can just never do anything right, according to a certain section of the fanbase. Try and change things up; gamer”z” don’t like it or don’t get it. Keep things the same; gamer”z” feel cheated of their money (whether or not they paid for the damn game or not.).

    Not always the case, obviously. However the situation just makes me think of that kind of behaviour a little bit.

  • I’m amazed people didn’t stop to shoot the barrels. I trust no barrel and treat them all with suspicion. I’ve been known to try every barrel in the early levels of a game to see if they blow up or if anything else blows up.

  • Red, Green, Rainbow-coloured. It’s doesn’t matter.

    Being different for the sake of being different is not creative.

    Why do they even need to be barrells…?

  • Games are about learning the mechanics anyway… surely if it was said in the earlier levels that explosive berrels are green… people would learn to shoot the green ones.

  • There are a fair few games that don’t have red barrels, Doom being the first that pops to mind. Borderlands had heaps of different colours, and I had no probs finding them. It just depends on whats going on, if its a hectic game, then I might just miss other coloured barrels but I’d never miss a red one. But even so, it wouldn’t take long to figure it out

  • I would assume that it would also be easy to believe that the people playing would have basic reading comprehension and maybe even add a quick tiny-ass cutscene where the camera zooms in on a green barrel and some text says: “These are explosive, shoot them to make them explode.”

  • Well the thing is this. Regardless how imaginative a team of devs want to be, and no matter how much they wish to break the mould, alot of the time having a fun game means sacrificing those ideas, or even realism in a game.
    People don’t understand that making a game fun and making a game realistic are two different things entirely.

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