They've got a term on the Call of Duty: Big Red One team here at Treyarch...a term that's starting to spread...and the term is "cowbell".
It comes from this famous SNL skit. And I love it...because I used to be a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan. I've seen them play live a half dozen times...have all their albums...my AIM logo is their symbol, the upside down question mark with the lines coming out of it - a broken ankh? Who knows. Anyhow, scary big fan.
But I was talking about the Call of Duty team. "This level needs more cowbell," they'll say.
And what do they mean by that?
In a word - explosions. But more than just explosions. They mean seeing your buddy get capped right in front of you. They mean a plane gets shot down overhead and plummets straight at you, trailing smoke. They mean stuff catching fire. They mean the building collapses around you.
I like to think *Half-Life* invented the videogame equivalent of cowbell. But they probably didn't call it that.
The COD team's cowbell is a little more expensive than the musical kind.
So supposing we were to redefine "cowbell" to mean "little changes to your game that make a huge difference?" Examples might include narrowing the field-of-view so you get a closer look at the action - the Ninja Gaiden trick. Or the way God of War narrows the field of view when you do a finishing move. Or atmospheric rendering effects. Or the motion blur when you're going really fast in *Spider-Man 2*. Or changing your squad AI so that your teammates are usually in front of you instead of following you - Brett Douville claims that made a huge difference to *Republic Commando* with very little coding.
What sorts of cowbell have you guys put in your games?