Mind Reading

If your game allows the player to select a simulated character—usually done by clicking the character with the mouse—you can offer another useful analytical tool: mind reading. To let the player know what's on that individual's mind, pop up an icon or even a whole dialog box showing the character's internal state: current goal, degree of happiness, or whatever data might be useful to the player. This lets the player get a quick, rough sense of how the people feel without having to turn to a chart or a graph.




Another tool commonly found in CMSs is the advisor: a game character who pops up from time to time and gives the player advice (see Figure 18.3). Because prob­lems are often local to one area of the map, the player might be looking at another area when trouble occurs and not see it until it grows severe. By creating an advi­sor, you can warn the player of problem conditions wherever they occur. You might also consider including a screen button or menu item that moves the camera to the location of the most recently reported problem.

In addition to warning of emergencies, an advisor can give the player information about the general state of the game: "The people need more food," or "Prices are too high." This lets the player know of global problems without requiring her to consult the analytical tools.

To design an advisor, define both the local and the global problems that you think are important to let the player know about and then set the threshold levels at which the advisor will pop up. If the advisor will interrupt the player or say some­thing aloud, don't set these thresholds too low, or the constant interruptions will become irritating. You should also make it possible for the player to turn off the advisor or to consult it only when he wants to. Playing without the advisor adds an extra challenge to the game.

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