[WIP] Lockpicking simulation (bare concept)

Hello. One thing i have noticed in general gaming is that you very rarely see a lock picking mechanism that even come’s close to real lock picking or even try’s to even aim for something that at least look’s somewhat realistic. Most commonly you see the helicopter pick mini-game where the pick spin’s around the lock and somehow open’s it. The most ridicules thing i have seen so far was a mini-game where you use a hair needle as a tension wrench and “pick” the lock by spinning a Screwdriver. There are also better examples such as the lockpicking in Skyrim or the lockpick min-igame by Flakky.…ug/lockpicking

You could argue that IRL lock picking has no X-Ray footage you can work with but that’s not very important.
The big issue with all lockpicking mechanic’s so far is their scale ability. All concept’s for lockpicking work as a small stop that work’s fine if you want to give the player a tiny challange before he can open this chest or the door, but when it come’s ti multiplayer Environments these mini games reach their limit’s very quickly. This is why MP games have to rely on digital lock’s with password’s instead of actual lock picking.

The task: Design a lock picking mechanic that
A: Feature’s realistic in depth mechanic’s
B: Offer’s enough variable’s to be balanced for competitive multiplayer scenarios
C: Is not exploitable by simple tool’s such as auto-clicker.
D: Is fun to use

For this purpose i have watched dozens of lock picking tutorial’s and even more video’s on lock picking itself. I have even bought my own lock pick set i have already picked some lock’s with. You know this moment when you close the door behind you and notice that your key is still inside? Yep. Not an issue anymore.

Let’s go to the concept. To give a better understanding to this i will also talk a bit about RL lockpicking and explain how this can be simulated with game mechanic’s.

The concept consist’s of 8 element’s
1. Control’s
2. Tool’s
3. Pin’s
4. Lock’s
5. Binding order
6. Tension balance
7. Feedback monitor
8. Input and balance

1. Control’s

A & D = Balance left and right

Mouse forward = Move lockpcik forward

Mouse backward = Move lockpick backward

Middle mouse = Push lockpick up and down

Q = Turn lockpick left

E = Turn lockpick right

2. Tool’s

The first barrier to pick a lock is to choose the right tool’s. If you google for lockpick’s there are actually tons of different lockpicks. Most of them are used in very specific situation’s that also have a lot to do with the kind of key way you are dealing with. The key way is not covered by this concept because it wouldn’t actually add anything in terms of hardness or excitement, so i have cooked them down to the more common picks, as you can see in the picture below.

First we have the standard hook. The standard hook is the most commonly used hook and unlock’s about 80% of all lock’s. Since i am going for the other 20% this concept will also cover a few other pick’s. Ingame this pick would be used for long pins only. More to this later.

The medium pick is also a very common pick wich is a bit longer then the standard pick and therefore can reach higher inside of the lock. Ingame this pick would be used on short pin’s only. As you might guess, picking a lock would require you to sometimes change the pick during picking.

The small diamond hook is also a commonly used lockpick. Im getting a bit creative here but i would say that this pick is required to pick long pin’s like the standard hook, side pins as well as dimple lock’s that are essentially side pin only lock’s.

The Bogota is very common but actually not a pick. This is a raking tool and similar to what a bump key does, this power tool can set multiple pin’s at once. A lock without any protection would be opened by this in one swipe, but this is why this concept also cover’s special pin’s like spool’s or cut away pin’s. As ingame mechanic, this tool would set all normal pin’s at once and set all security pin’s into a false set.

Last but not least we have the tension wrench. Choosing the correct tension wrench is very important but for this concept i will cook it down because, as i say’d before, this concept does not cover different key way design’s. As an ingame mechanic the lower tension wrench is the normal tension wrench while the tension wrench high will give the picker a 10% lowered tension sensitivity.

3. Pin’s

Inside lock’s you can find multiple kind’s of pin’s. The most commonly used one’s are the standard pin’s. The height of a pin is defined by the length of the key pin as well as the length of the spring. To not turn this into an actual physic’s based simulation i will further speak about short and long pin’s. For this concept it is functional if all pin’s come in two different height’s.

Standard pin short
Has no safety addition’s. Can be picked with a standard hook medium or raked with a Bogota.

Standard pin long
Also has no safety features and requires a standard hook or a diamond to pick. Can also be raked open with a Bogota.

Serrated pin’s with cut’s in them that will cause a false set. False set’s are very important for security and picking order wich will be covered later. One serrated pin can have between 1 and 4 cutaway’s. For this concept it mean’s that one serrated pin can cause up to 4 time’s a false set.

Spool pin’s are pin’s with a single big cutout in the middle. The way they work is that they will give you a false set and in addition counter rotation, wich will raise the chance of loosing the other pin’s. As a game mechanic there are multiple way’s to takle this. The simplest one is a false set as described further down plus an RNG effect that will make you loose all pin’s by chance. Having an RNG effect is lazy balancing but might be the best to have just in case the other mechanic’s combined don’t make it safe enough and still fun to play.

4. Lock’s

With all mechanic’s in place, this concept can cover three different types of lock’s. Dimple lock’s where the key is inserted flat, normal tumbler lock’s as everyone has them on his front door as well as wafer lock’s you find in bike chain’s or in padlock’s.

Dimple lock’s have only side pin’s and would require the diamond to pick. They can hold simple as well as security pin’s.

Tumbler lock’s are the same but can have both the normal pin’s as well as side pin’s where you also need a diamond.

Wafer lock’s have techniquely no pin’s inside but work the same was as a Tumbler lock with standard pin’s. They are considered low security because they can be raked open very quickly. In a game … it depend’s. Does the player start with all tool’s or is the Bogota a very special and hard to get item. In this case a wafer lock could be considered a normal safety lock because it has up to 14 pin’s in different row’s wich might take a lot of concentration.

5. Binding order

Every lock has it’s own binding order, wich mean’s that you have to set the pin’s in a specific order. This order is determined by the type of pin inside the lock and come’s naturally with the number of false set’s inside the pin. Each pin can only be set once. The player can not set the same pin twice in a row. As an easy example let’s take a lock with 2 pin’s inside. The pin in the back has one false gate while the pin in the front has 2 false gates.
The player start’s his picking attempt in the back. This lead’s to the following:
False gate in back
False gate in front
Picked back
False gate in front

Attempt failed. There are no option’s left since the pin in the front need’s to be picked once more but has been picked last so there are no option’s left. On the next attempt he start’s in the front wich result’s in a success.

Here comes an issue of mathematical nature. What if there are 2 pin’s, one with one false gate and one with 3?
It should be impossible to pick this lock. This is why the pin randomizer (each lock need’s to have different pin’s) has to consider that the total number of attempt’s has to (at least) equal the number of total attempt’s to the pin with the highest amount of attempt’s. Otherwise it would generate lock’s that are unpickable.

Another influence to the picking order are Spool pin’s. Since each spool pin gives a possibility that the pick attempt fails, the player want’s to figure out wich one of the pin’s might be a spool pin and start with these first. Depending on if there is a visual feedback for this (Cylinder turn’s a tiny bit further then on other pin’s) the player can either figure it out this way or perhaps after a failed attempt.

6. Tension balance

The amount of tension you apply on the cylinder can be quite important and sometimes you need to play with it to set a pin’s. If the tension is to loose you can loose set pin’s and if it’s too high your pick could break. Here is another main difference between reality and gaming lockpicking. It is true that a pick can break, but even as unskilled picker you don’t need half a backpack filled with lockpick’s. In many games picking a lock come’s down to material cost instead of skill wich is actually not how it work’s.

All of the above is covered with the tension balance-ometer. It work’s exactly how you would expect. There is a needle or an arrow on this meter that constantly move’s and you need to keep it in the middle. The green area is the optimal tension. A pin can only set if the arrow is in the green area so the player would need to time correctly with the arrow being in the green and the pin being raised to the shear line. This is when a click should give the signal that the pin is in a set or false set position.

The moving speed of the needle should get faster over time. This raises the pressure to pick the lock. Whoever has played any skater game in his life should be familiar with this concept. Now the thing is that player’s should be able to decide weither or not they break the pick or get out of it and try again. With the less side resembling less pressure, if the arrow goes too far to the left all progress will be lost. If it goes too far to the right (more pressure) it will break the lockpick.

7. Feedback monitor

The feedback monitor is an alternative to the X-Ray view in the lock’s internals. It is meant to be a visual representation of what you can feel when inserting a lockpick inside a lock. It is basically a front view of a cuttet lock that allow’s to see what happen’s inside. Other then most lockpicking games there is no side view. Players can only see one segment at a time. Also this part is meant as a tutorial to learn this system. Harder modes shouldn’t have an x-ray and players need to rely on hearing and how the Cylinder behaves. (I know the image look’s very bad. I could do it much better but im more focused on the general understanding).

From left to right


Sort of an last minute addition and not necessary. Over setting a pin mean’s that you have pushed the key pin above the shear line. As an in game mechanic, you would raise the pin until it click’s but overset the pin by continue pushing. This would lead to an overset (failed attempt) and the player would have to reset the lock / start from scratch.

In the depiction, the arrow resembles where your pick is. If you pull the lockpick back and you can not feel the driver pin following the tip of your lockpick, you have overset the pin.

Click line (set)

Line between cylinder and casing.

Half way and false set

“Half way” is what it say’s, you have pushed “the drop” half way to the top, nothing to say about.
The false set is where it get’s interesting. Security pin’s and spool’s will give you a false set. You hear a clicking noise but the pin is not actually above shear line. To replicate picking order, the player would now have to move on and pick a different pin before he can go back.

Resting position

Standard position with and unset pin as well as a set one. The difference between both is the pick resistance. Pick resistance is covered down below. On a set pin the residence is much lower (key pin is less heavy).

In between pin’s

Another optional thing. The position between two pin’s.

8. Input and balance

I am no coder but i will try my best to describe what technical input’s the concept need’s for scale ability and balance going thru this tutorial in a logical order. This is also where the “magic” happen’s compared to other lockpicking games that doesn’t have many option’s to scale the toughness of the game to make it work in a Multiplayer Environment.

  1. Pin’s
    In this section developer’s can edit or create new pin’s.
    Pin1 / Length / Type / Cut’s / Success rate (%)
    (Pin name / Short or Long / Standard, Serrated or Spool / Number of cut’s

The number of cut’s option is only be used for serrated pin’s and has a max of 4 cut’s, wich determines how many false gate’s this pin has.
The Success rate (%) option is only be used for Spool pin’s and determines how big or low the chance is that picking this pin AFTER the false gate (value comes into play when picking this pin the second time) will result into a failed attempt.


Side pin option.
This part is optional because it would make the coding part more complicated and would require control input’s that allow the player to turn the pick inside the lock.

  1. Tool’s
    In this section developer’s can edit or create new tool’s.
    Each tool need’s to have a “choose” option where the pin’s from the pin section are displayed. One’s a pin is choosen it would be listed next to the tool and another “choose” option would pop up. At least this is how i imagine it but nvm. Let’s say we have a long standard hook as tool (including input option’s for graphic, 3d model etc.). Next to this hook all short type pin’s should be listed wich are the types that can be picked with this hook. By editing this section developers can choose if they want to have a single hook for everything or multiple tool’s for specific task’s.

  2. Lock types
    In this section developers can edit and create new lock’s.
    Again, it need’s options for visual presentation / texture / 3d model etc.
    Number of total pin’s (Between 3 and 7)
    Standard pin’s (Yes/No)
    Serrated pin’s (Yes/No)
    Spool pin’s (Yes/No)

3.1 Tension balance (Extra lock option’s to determine the difficulty of a lock type)
Again as described. Think of it as the balance-minigame pretty much every Skater game has when making stunt’s.

Starting speed in %
Determines how fast the needle move’s to begin with.

Max Speed in %
Determines the max speed of the needle

Time increase in … %? I guess
Determines how fast the speed should increase over time

Randomizer in %
This option is important so player’s can not use simple script’s that auto press the balance key’s but shouldn’t be over done. Here it need’s some kind of amplitude that slightly changes the speed of the needle.

“Kind of” optional for tension balance.
The balance-o-meter also need’s an option that determines how big the red area is.
Depending on what you are going with it need’s seperate input’s for left and right or one input for bother sides in %.
The idea is that one side resembles “too loose” where the picker would loose the pin’s but not destroy the pick.
The other end would be “too tight” wich would result into a broken pick. It would be a nice touch to have this but the overall concept also work’s without it.
Determining the overall size of the red/yellow/green area should have option’s though.

Difficulty (Optional coding)
Determines if the overall pin-selection by generating the lock is on the lower or the higher end of difficulty (more or less security pins with more or less cut’s in them). I can imagine there are easier way’s to Archive the goal of randomness but that’s up to more i don’t know.

Other option’s for difficulty
Visual feedback Yes/No
Determines if the player can see inside the lock by default. This option is useful to create training lock’s where players can learn the mechanic’s.

Visual Feedback upon success Yes/No
This option determines if the player’s can see the inside of a lock after they have successfully picked it.
Again for training but can also be used as standard for more easier picking so the player can see what is inside instead of having to remember it to find a good picking order.

Tool sound feedback Yes/No (+choose sound file option)
Determines if a sound file is played if the player uses the wrong tool for a pin.

I haven’t thought of how the visual feedback for this could look like if visual feedback if off (Wich mean’s players can only see the outside of a lock). Guess this need a slightly different animation. Speaking of wich. Overall style, animation’s etc. is not considered by this tutorial.

Thank’s for reading, hope you liked it and maybe one day this concept comes true.
I can imagine that this concept is quite complex, but that’s kind of the point.
Should you have any question’s, request’s or suggestion’s, i am all ear’s.