One of the interesting problems that we as designers face is how to speak to our players. Interestingly enough, players want to know what to do without being told how to do it. Game Designers face the challenge of inventing a language to speak to players on a level that they may not even notice. Uncharted tells its players where they can move to through very defined ledges, coloured distinctively with paint or harsh textures.
By introducing a visual language for players to follow, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune doesn’t need to rely on verbal or interface-based solutions to tell the player where to go. Instead, all of the navigation is diegetic, and the player is able to move naturally throughout the world.
In Triage, our players needed an intuitive way to know how long a patient had remaining, but it wasn’t as simple as expected. Triage has a very specific colour scheme restriction, which meant that we couldn’t use exclusive colours to indicate urgency. We started by using a 3D Text object in a Scene. Attached to the top of a gurney, it counted down the seconds that a patient had remaining. The limitations with 3D Text were that there was no way to scale it like a WorldSpace UI, and we didn’t have time the figure out a solution. Because Triage’s camera setup was very distant from the gurneys, the text itself was quite small and difficult to read, and if a player had gurney pandemonium, they couldn’t read anything.
It was at this stage that we had planned on indicating to the player which room that a patient needed go using 3D Text as well. We planned on having the 3D Text become visible when the player moused over a gurney. Naturally, this implementation had the same issues as the timer system – it was too hard to read at a glance, and amongst the cluster of other UI elements, it was unreadable. It had to be simpler.
Our second attempt at rectifying the timer was to use a different UI setup – a pie-chart like timer that decreased over time. I thought that this solution was genius, because it was a seemingly natural way to indicate the time that a patient had remaining, and it helped us create a pie-chart motif with our UI, and we used it for the game timer. The only trouble, was that it interfered with our coloured spotlight solution to tell the player where a gurney needed to go. Like I said, we had a restricted colour scheme, and with four distinct places for patients to go, we couldn’t reserve four colours just for placement info. We could only use lighting to indicate where to go
Our third and final attempt (and the one I want to improve upon) was a simple spotlight that pulsed when a patient was nearing expiry. This solution did mean that we had a natural feedback mechanism that worked to our limitations, but I much preferred the pie-chart method. Plus, unless the light is pulsing there is no way to know how long a patient has remaining. Due to time constraints we kept this system in the game.
With more time, I’d like to change our colour scheme to suit the four extra rooms. With five colours (not including shades of grey) I’d like to keep the scrub green and introduce four pastel colours to match each of the rooms. I can set up a pie-chart countdown timer and use the colours to more naturally inform the players of where to go. This way, I can avoid the problems that coloured lighting introduces, such as being overpowered by stronger light sources, or blending into a different colour.
Alternatively (or additionally) , I could utilise some post-processing visual techniques to more starkly indicate to players where a patient needs to go. There’s a Selective Colouring shader which can let me isolate the appropriate colour for the right room, grey-scaling the others. This is another natural way to inform the player of where to go, and relates to how the human eye loses colour perception when the brain is deprived of oxygen. Less subtly, we can change the material of each gurney to directly match a room. Keeping everything separately coloured is a scatterbrained approach, but it does mean that the player can see where every patient needs to go at once.