The Redesign of the User Interface
After my analysis assignment, I had a very clear idea of the steps I would have took to make Don’t Blink’s interface clearer and more diegetic. This was indeed my main goal.
(Don’t) Blink is a mechanics based short game I created alone for Game A Week. It is a small metaphor that aims to represent a night-time paranoid experience, in a, of-course, naïf and light way.
Since the metaphor is not clear, and as a result many people didn’t find it understandable, I thought that contextualizing the representation would have been beneficial.
That’s why I added an intro screen that tells about the situation the game represents, not breaking the metaphor too much.
I decided to dub it, since I also researched on accessibility, and wall of texts might not be easily read by anyone. Even though I got very aware of other, more effective, applicable solutions, due to time contraints, I could only insert this tiny proof of concept.
After the game starts, three things are noticible: the eye-shaped sprite, the immediate feedback of pressing the spacebar, and the words on the digital clock ‘survive the night’.
First thing first: the eye sprite is something I decided to keep from last version. It is a meta representation that I decided I didn’t want to get rid of, as I also couldn’t find a more diegetic representation.
Secondly, the fear counter feedback. In the first version, this representation of the fear mechanic was a bar, which was very far from the diegesis I wanted to aim for. Thus, I decided to get rid of it, and substitute its visualization with a camera overlay. It is a meta representation, as it a non-realistic, non-spatial element that, although, exists in the dimension of the player’s view.
The overlay gets a higher alpha value the longer the spacebar is pressed.
Thirdly, I decided to reinforce the goal of the game inside the in-game dimension, and that was possible thanks to the decision I took about representing Game States through the digital clock.
The clock also represents the in-game time: as the game lasts 60 seconds, each 10 seconds, it goes up of one hour, going from 1 am to 6 am. As during the first ten games of the game monsters are not spawning, this time frame is also used to convey the goal and let the player observe the environment, getting to know the situation they are thrown in.
In the previous version, the Winning Screen was a non-spatial, non-diegetic simple screen. I decided to keep the Winning Screen in the game dimension: when the player wins, the camera moves to the clock and shows the words ‘you survived’. Plus, the directional light is animated to show the sun rising, and the ‘Good Morning’ song from Singing in the Rain starts, as it is part of the radio alarm.
On the other hand, if the player dies, caught by a monster or because they exceeded in fear, the same situation will occur, but the clock will say ‘game over’, the lamp lights will go red, the camera overlay will stay and the music will become a creepy radio static noise.
The choice of saying ‘game over’, instead of sticking with the same form of ‘you survived’ (thus, ‘you died’) comes from the research I made from the card ‘game over screen’. It is indeed something very common and universally known, and I also, personally think that is easier for the player to recognize the fact that game over means they didn’t play the game optimally, so they are probably more likely to try again.
Let’s talk about the monster behavior. As I pointed out in my last presentation, I was already aware that this problem was trickier than the others. Despite my research, I didn’t come up with an ideal way to convey information about the monster behavior. When planning my assignment, I decided to stick to the thesis that the game didn’t need a learning curve. During my research, though, I found myself wondering: ‘is there really a game that doesn’t require any kind of learning?’ My answer is no. There is a little layer of complexity in every game, as games are not universal dimension where the same set of rules is applied. My personal taste as a designer is also to leave space for the player to understand the game’s metaphor as they will. Perhabs, this is not the case, as I observed that pro-active interference from the player’s experience makes it very unlikely for them to understand the metaphor the way I intended it, especially in University environment, where we are all so used to analyze games under a quite more philosophical eye. The people I saw playtesting (Don’t) Blink, like my sister and my friends, or the people who uploaded Let’s-Plays on Youtube, don’t seem to have problems with that. I can assume this is because they are prirotizing the experience of ‘trying to win the game’, rather than the metaphor.
When I stumbled across this awareness, that assuming a learning curve for the game it is actually fine, I accepted that the representation of the game systems didn’t have to flatten that curve. That’s why I chose to have a Lerping function in the emission of the monster’s eyes: the closer the monster gets from attacking, the redder its eyes get.
To conclude, I would like to focus on the metaphor matter. I am very aware that this game’s metaphor seems counter-intuitive. I agree, but I also think that the experience that I wanted to represent, is coming through. The meeting point of my paranoid, yet adult, fear and typical children logic is what I wanted, and, as a developer, I tend to prioritize the strenght of the metaphor, rather than its complete relatability. Players can find their personal way to connect with it, and to compare it with their experience with fear, rational or not.
After all, there’s no rationality, nor logic, when it comes with fear.
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