1. Lesson 50: Navigation

      written by Ray Benefield
      Another week another lesson. Things are starting to pick back up a little bit. I'm back into programming our card game Aggro and I've been getting a little more active in the community. I've also starting playing Halo again. I'm testing a new gametype that some of the more competitive players may enjoy. It takes tons of team tactics and planning as well as DMR skill. You guys might enjoy it. I'll be testing it all week for the most part so let me know if you are interested in helping test it. For now I'm off to go PvP some more in Dark Souls. Enjoy the lesson and don't forget to subscribe via email, RSS feed, twitter, facebook, or youtube through the sidebar on the right. Oh and btw our son Lucas, born on Bungie Day '11, is 4 months today. :)

      As designers we look at things from a different perspective than the player. And as a result we see and consider things that they don’t. Not only that but we also tend to forget to think about things from the player’s perspective. Sure we see the whole map in its entirety, but the first time a player jumps on the map he won’t know where everything is like you do. So one thing to consider is how our players navigate the worlds that we give them.

      Discrete Navigation

      When playing games a lot of the time players will have standalone utilities to navigate your world. Things like radar, mini-maps, waypoints, etc. that players use to help them find what they are looking for. Most of the time you have little control over these discrete tools, but they need to be taken into the account to help design your map. Put yourself in the player’s shoes. If it is your first time on a map and you see an enemy on the radar, what is the first thing you would do? Individual playstyle will typically dictate this, but you can still assume some common scenarios. Some players may go directly to the enemy. Other players may go slightly around the enemy. And some other players may even run away from the enemy. Same goes for waypoints or a landmark on a map. Understanding how players utilize and react to discrete navigation utilities can help you design your map and understand how players move to help improve the way you use path manipulation on your creations.

      Immersed Navigation

      Players don’t just use standalone tools though. If your GPS breaks and you have no discrete tools at your disposal, what do you do when you get lost? You use your environment to help guide you to your destination. Whether it be signs, roads, moss on a tree, hills, etc. you find some way to gain orientation. Think about how your players use their surroundings to get to where they want to go. In a lot of games height can be a significant advantage so players may gravitate naturally towards higher ground; ramps, stairs, ladders, etc. can all be a point of interest for them. Lighting could be a big deal and players could be drawn closer to brighter or darker areas of the map depending on playstyle and objective. Color contrast could play a huge role with players going to areas that are colored differently because they may be significant areas. Players could use the most interesting ways to navigate so take the time to ask yourself how you navigate and study how others navigate their environments.

      Be the player

      One of the most difficult things for us to do as designers is to be the player and play your map as a player. Players don’t know every nook and cranny of your map and as a result they may make different decisions than you expect them to. Build for the first impression and remember that knowledge is power and we use that knowledge to decide how to move forward. Knowing how players navigate your map with no prior knowledge can make a huge difference in improving it. If you know there are ramps up to higher ground, how do you encourage players to explore what’s underground? Do you use light to compensate? Do you use eye catching and incentives to draw them in? That is entirely up to you, and part of what makes them YOUR creation.


      Schnitzel said...

      I think the "immersed navigation" bit is the big deal here. Every player should be able to tell where they are at all times, even without a radar.
      As for the "be the player" bit.... I like the acronym, KISS (keep is simple stupid). It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to get around a map.

      Nice post.