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Montee

Calling Tim Schafer!!

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I'm not sure if this has any chance of working and getting to Tim at all, but I'll try. Seen as I can't seem to find any other way.

So, could you, almighty Tim Of Legend, help a young hatchling games designer out. I'm a current Masters student at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK.

I was wondering if you could share some of your glorious knowledge about the ways you guide player using environments within your games to help my research.

I'm currently researching ways a games environment can guide or become game play. This is also with research into the psychology of design and how we humans among Legends understand environments in the real world. I want to find out if this can be used to help or push (my preferred method ;) ) players into looking at the game environment for help/instruction rather than relying on on- screen instruction manuals.

And if this gets to you thank you for taking your time to help me.

Thank you

Montee

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Are you talking about sign posting? I think some of Valve's commentary tracks in Half-Life 2 and Portal 2 go into detail about some of the details they add. I think it's fairly similar across the board: the use of lighting (a bright light down coming from an alley would indicate you should go that way), placing large amounts of interesting detail in an otherwise sparse environment to attract a player, etc. You can also use sign posting to add 'secrets' to a game. Add a very obvious sign post (perhaps an open door and a lit up building on an otherwise abandoned street) and a dark alley the player passes on the way. Most players will skip the alley, but why not hide some something there to reward the curious?

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Yes, the commentary track on the original Portal is also a REALLY good resource for this. They go into a lot of detail about how they put visual cues into the environment to aid in teaching the player, and when they gradually start taking that stuff away, and how it changes when the types of environment change halfway through, and so forth. Really useful resource, I'd say.

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I'm researching all means of guidance really, that involves a games environment.

My research has been into the ways game environments have been used. So looking at the use of them as a mechanic (becoming game-play) and guidance (leading game-play). I trying to get some research about the ways/techniques that practitioners (developers/designers in the industry) use/or have tried to guide players with an environment. My main research has been about aesthetics but I'm slightly veering towards design and its psychology.

I will however look into these videos that from Valve they seem quite interesting. Thank you :)

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Developers Play: Defender's Quest:

They talk quite a bit about how the setting influenced game mechanics and vice versa.

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Thanks,

I watched through it but wasn't really much to do with what I am researching. They have purposely used a huge amount of UI to show what the player needs to do. Completely opposite of what I'm doing actually. They have looked at ways of making thinks easier for a player by plonking more stuff in front of them, which often makes games more confusing. But saying that its mainly because of the genre of the game.

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Obviously not a legendary game designer, but since I'm here some thoughts.

Perhaps everything I learned about level design I learned at Disneyland is more your thing.

Also why separate aesthetics and other kinds of design? if a level is laid out badly it's frustrating, if the player can't tell what something is or it's visually unclear no matter how well laid out stuff is. Rather than asking established designers to agree with your thesis go play some games and then write about ones that do it well ( or badly) , watch other people play some games see where they get confused ...then go onto industry sites like GDC, Gamasutra and look for post postmortems from the designers. If you want to look into design in the real world doesn't your university run an architecture degree? go look at the course materials or ask one of the lecturers about environment design and crowd flow.

It sounds like you already have an idea of the answers to your questions yourself! sit down figure out why that is , then write down any doubts you have and look into those. There you have some leads.

Also play some video games Double Fine, Nintendo, Valve, Fullbright ( I agree about the Valve stuff but don't just load up a let's play buy Portal 2 and play it with commentary). Good luck!

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@ KestralPi & Welp - I watch played through the commentary for Portal and Half Life 2 and there was quite a few thinks I could use in my research so thank you :).

@Azure - I have already done a lot of research on the matter but part of my Masters degree is about disseminating my research/knowledge and building on it through connections in the games industry as well as others. I am in the middle of contacting several designers (game and otherwise) for feedback on the subject. I have also done experiments on some of the things I have researched looking at this subject. Mainly watching on them play to see how they react and look at the environment but also to experiment with some of my ideas in making the environment the main mechanic. I have posted a few of these on my blog where I have also looked at some games also, but I'm a bit backlogged on stuff and haven't posted them all. -_-

The reason I'm separating the different sides is to get an understanding of what within this specific area (Environments) help guide players and how I can build on it and possibly make it easier or adapter it in a way that works better. Obviously, Level design is a big part of guidance but at the same time you could argue that its more towards game pacing and structure. I'm an Environment Artist by practice (with some background in design), so I'm doing this research to help me to become better in my field, and my personal reason for pushing towards Environments rather than any other area.

Just as a note - I'm not just look for Games Designers, if there is anyone that has anything they see from games they play that frustrates them or you think has been done well in ways that seem similar, in fact if your from a field that might use methods that might be transferable. PLEASE let me know because that would be great and anything could help :).

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Ah sounds neat, if you've done all this work already I hope you're briefly explaining that when you contact folks from your first post it seemed like you were just starting out! But if you have time I'd still watch that Disneyland presentation I think you'd find some ideas in there that are very useful :)

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