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Obstructive Foreground

"Note we are in one of those many games where the devs thought 'Yay, cool, I'll put stuff on the foreground, it looks so pretty!' Okay, listen to me, devs: no, putting things in the foreground that block your view isn't cool, it's stupid. When showing the movie Fantasia, you won't splash a spectator's face in the middle of the screen."

You're walking down the streets of crime. Thugs and hooligans lurk on every corner, ready to ambush you with baseball bats, lead pipes, and broken bottles, but they are no match for your kung fu skillz. Just as long as you make sure not to end up fighting behind a sign, lamp post, or billboard.

A form of Fake Difficulty, an obstructive foreground occurs in a video game when foreground elements make the player character difficult, or sometimes even impossible, to see in a normal manner. Common in older games that did not have 3D camera angles and instead added foreground sprites for aesthetic effect, the presence of these things can be downright annoying when your character seems unable to strike the guy who's 3 feet away from them because a tree that's 30 feet away is in the view of the puppet master's monitor.

Most modern emulators have the ability to remove obstructive foregrounds. Newer games often avert this entirely while retaining foreground elements by fading out the obstruction when they think it's in the way.

Note that in some cases, Obstructive Foreground is done deliberately. Classy implementations of this will allow the player to overcome such obstructions either by minding their own placement, or by watching predictable obstacles before they are obscured and judging their position accordingly. Lesser implementations force a player to fight an enemy that has unpredictable patterns behind an opaque wall which generally devolves to simple Button Mashing.

Compare Behind the Black.


Examples:

  • Played straight in Super Metroid, which contains hidden passages completely obscured by, say, a wall. Most of these passages subvert this trope by vanishing under scrutiny when Samus uses the X-ray visor, while others do not.
    • Subverted in Metroid: Zero Mission, in which hidden passages like the ones seen in Super Metroid turn translucent when Samus walks into them.
      • You do have to find them first, however. Power Bombs can help by making them momentarily visible.
  • Used subtly in Streets of Rage 2 and 3. Although not particularly obstructive, it can cause some problems when you're being clobbered behind a pillar in the subway.
    • In fact, both games use this feature to hide rare items. The first level in the second game had a 1UP right in the start and the first level in the 3rd game had a 1UP and a Gold bar hidden in the start as well. The fight against Sheva in the bad ending path had several health items hidden in the foreground sprites of the crowd.
  • Golden Axe also gives players hell with this trope. Especially in the duel mode.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog 1 does this with metal girders in the Starlight Zone, and with plant leaves in Angel Island Zone.
  • Ristar does this in the first level as part of gameplay. The second enemy you encounter is an easily dispatched rabbit enemy. This weak enemy still manages to catch many first-timers off-guard enough to forfeit a star. Why? Because the rabbit spawns behind a bush. Ristar, from his perspective, should be able to see, but the player certainly can't.
  • Mortal Kombat 3 has a temple stage with animated candles in the foreground. They don't block the view, much, but they can be distracting at times.
  • Arguably the best one-handed weapon in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - indeed, arguably the most powerful weapon of any kind in Skyrim - has a unique downside: It's enormous. Equipping it blocks a full third of your vision. Have fun.
  • Sometimes appears in the Katamari Damacy games. While usually there's meant to be a cutaway graphic that surrounds your katamari when you're behind something big, it doesn't always work...
  • Inverted just as annoyingly in Messiah where the camera is always between you and the closest obstruction behind you, which can mean lining up for difficult jumps when all you can see is your character's backside.
  • The Forest of Illusion in Super Mario World
  • Shows up in Super Smash Bros. Brawl with the Nintendogs and Mr. Resetti "Assist Trophies", who are there solely to take up screen space. Gods help you if you're on a small stage, or worse, a moving one.
  • Mario Kart DS and Wii have the Blooper item which squirts ink on opponents' screens, obstructing their view. Since CPU opponents don't have to look at a screen, they will swerve back and forth instead.
    • Oddly, it creates a case of "The Humans Are All Cheating Bastards" due to the touch screen map in the Nintendo DS edition. The human player can remember level structures and traps (besides using the second screen to see weapons and traps from all over the level) while the computer doesn't know better are swerves left and right while slowing down.
  • It is not uncommon in many platformers to be unable to notice secret passages that can be entered by simply walking into the wall. To the character, these openings should be entirely visible directly in front of them.
  • La-Mulana has it in a few locations.
  • So does Gish when trying to get to some secrets.
  • In Commander Keen Episode I, you could walk through pipes but not see through them. They were perfect for hiding Gargs.
  • Level 9 of Battletoads has too many view-obstructing tubes you have to fight enemies around.
  • One of the many things that made the SNES version of Batman Forever completely awful was the foreground in levels (such as the columns in the bank level from the AVGN run) making it difficult to see what the hell you were doing.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy has a couple of trees at the beginning of the Cart segment. Thankfully, they're not used to make the game harder.
  • Freaking Air Man's stage in Mega Man 2. No, I can defeat Air Man, I just can't defeat the clouds blocking enemies and their attacks around halfway through the stage.
  • Intentionally used in Battle City and Tank Force with tree tiles which makes it harder to see what's underneath them.
  • Used in one stage of the second NES Ninja Gaiden, to infuriating effect.
  • Several dungeons in the Valkyrie Profile series will have obstructions in the foreground that will block your view of chests and things. While the second game always puts a prompt on screen to open a chest, the previous game does no such thing, meaning you can walk right by chests without ever even knowing they're there.
  • Not too much of a problem, usually, in Castle Crashers until you get to the final boss which darkens the screen, making the, usually clear, black-tinged rocks completely solid so you cannot see a damn thing when he is near the bottom of the screen.
  • Low-lying foreground terrain can occasionally obscure items or traps in Odin Sphere, but fortunately enemies are always tall enough to be easily seen.
  • Sacred 2 has a fixed top-down camera angle, but fades out tree canopies and ceilings so you can see what you're doing without zooming in.
  • Happens from time to time in Gothic 2. Sometimes you will be unable to see what's happening in combat because there is a tree or other scenery between the camera and your character.
  • Torchlight has characters and enemies obstructed by 'foreground' very often but shows obstructed portions of all interactive objects as translucent color-coded versions of themselves through the foreground instead of removing it. Unfortunately non-interactive objects with hit boxes (read: obstacles) aren't given this effect so annoying situations still happen occasionally.
  • Aladdin (Virgin Games) made annoying use of this.
  • Of all games World of Warcraft did fall prone to this with the release of the Firelands raid. Even with the movable camera, one boss in particular (Lord Ryolith) is so huge and massive that it's borderline impossible to target the small adds the ranged have to kill when he is in the way. Oh, and he WILL be in the way, because he aimlessly wanders around his platform and can only be directed in certain limits.
    • Also, in World of Warcraft, partway into the main questline of Jade Forest, the Horde version of the "sniper" quest is particularly annoying because you zoom in on the Jinyu village. Said village is underneath trees with large amounts of hanging vines with large leaves which obstructs the view of the things you're supposed to shoot to save the friendly NPC from the enemies. The Alliance version of this quest does not suffer from this particular annoyance; there are no similar obstructions near the Hozen village.
  • This is one of the suggested uses of the canvas feature of the Super Game Boy, in its accompanying Players Guide.
  • Hammerfight runs into this if you try to fight too close to the top of the screen.
  • TowerClimb can have creatures totally obscured by bushes, witches, or whatever else is in the foreground. Seeing as this is a Nintendo Hard action platformer where you're a One-Hit-Point Wonder, this is Fake Difficulty of the highest order.
  • Averted in Fallout and Fallout 2, which fade any obstructive graphics out in a circle around the player's position.
  • In Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Chun Li's stage has a table in the foreground, and it is possible for the player to crouch behind it to partially cover themselves. This strategy was actually used by the high-level Japanese player Nuki during the finals of Evo 2008.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures has a clever example in the beginning of the third level. The foreground obstructs your view of certain platforms, but there is a rising and falling pool of reflective lava, which you can use to see your reflection and cross the platforms safely. Just be careful not to fall in the lava, or you'll instantly lose a life.
  • In The Legendary Axe, the foreground gets in the way in many of the levels.
  • A Jurassic Park game had "doors" (clear areas between bushes) that players could use to get from one screen to another. Doors are identified by a blue arrow on the ground. Problem being, the very first of these arrows (before the player is made aware of their existence) is entirely blocked by a bush in the foreground. Yes, the interface element is blocked by a bush.
  • In The Adventures of Lomax, in The Wild West world there are clouds of smoke(?) that act like this, possibly deliberately.

Non-Video Game examples
  • Some networks, when covering hockey, have noticed that the view of the puck is obstructed by the near boards from the TV camera's point of view, and rectify it by showing the puck "through" the boards using CGI (and, presumably another camera that can track the puck's movements there). YMMV on whether this is necessary.

Trial-and-Error GameplayFake DifficultyThe Computer Is A Lying Bastard
Streets of RageImageSource/Video GamesTake Over the City

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