Design Focus - Lockpicking

How many different ways are there to design a game mechanic based on lockpicking?

When you're simulating a real world activity in a video game there are a lot of considerations to weigh up. Are you designing a full simulation or a fun minigame? What is the essential essence of the activity you're replicating? What does the player believe that it involves? How realistic and complex do you make it? Is it still enjoyable for the player? How do you design it to include a variety of different levels of challenge?

Lockpicking is an intriguing case study for all of these questions, as it's something that many players will have done in a game, even if they're unlikely to have ever picked a lock in real life. Most players probably only have a sketchy understanding of what actual lockpicking involves then, so it's probably more important to design something that conveys the feel of lockpicking, rather than a fully accurate representation. Unless you're designing an entire game of lockpicking simulations, your goal is most likely to design an abstraction of lockpicking, which highlights a few key actions of the activity and reorganises them into something fun and challenging.

I think this is what makes the first Museum of Mechanics by Dim Bulb Games such an interesting prospect then. In this interactive museum, you're able to play recreations of the lockpicking minigames from a variety of games, including The Elder Scrolls, Deus Ex and Thief. Playing them all side by side it's fascinating to see the different answers the developers found to the questions above.

The museum is available to play for free here