Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Get Rid of the Dang Arrows

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 13 Nov 2012 12:00
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But it seems like in a lot of open world games these days I'd instantly know whether or not that Welsh dresser was worth taking time out for because there'd be a dirty great big icon hovering over it, and a certain amount of the magic of discovery to be had is lost. I mean, look at Assassin's Creed 3, without wishing to spoil anything I might say in a review of it, there's not a single slightly significant thing in that game that doesn't sport a massive indicator on the minimap, so everything in between the icons is so much faff that you needn't even glance at.

Just a thought, but surely putting a big arrow over something to make sure the player looks at it should be saved for the last resort, after you've done everything else you can to make it noticeable with a striking appearance or contrasting colors or laying out the surroundings appropriately. I think of Team Fortress 2. There needed to be a way for teammates to identify friendly spies disguised as the enemy. At first the developers tried sticking big floaty indicators over their heads, but it didn't naturally convey the intended meaning. So instead, to their own team, spies appear to be wearing incredibly obvious cardboard masks, which is both more indicative and funnier. The elegant approach is infinitely superior.

And there's something faintly annoying about HUD markers, too. It's a bit pestery, really. It's like a little buzzing fly crawling on your spectacles. I can sort of see what was rubbing up against Peter Molyneux with the latter Fable games when he was messing around with a little sparkly trail instead of a minimap, but surely that's also leading the player by the nose, and doing it with a river of Lucky Charms is somehow even less natural.

It seems like having to be on the hunt and searching and understanding the environment for yourself used to be something that was just in videogames without the developers having to consciously put it in, like hunting for keys in early first person shooters. In the same way, human beings are born with legs without the mother having to consciously will them on throughout the course of the pregnancy. But now the mothers are taking no-leg pills and the midwife is waiting at the end of the bed with a hacksaw because they're afraid the child might spend too much time walking around and not getting the intended life experience. If you see what I mean.

You're working on a triple-A game, your artists have (hopefully) put a lot of work into making a very lovely world rich in detail and discovery. If you want your player to appreciate all that, what you do not do is put a massive fucking vibrating beacon on the far side of it. No, you hand them a map, and a compass, and you tell them to follow this road east as far as the big tree then take a left and keep walking 'til they see the windmill. Because if they're anything like me in my boy scout orienteering days, they will then spend the next six hours fully appreciating the entire surrounding eight square miles.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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