FUNDAMENTALS OF GAME DESIGN, SECOND EDITION

Player-Centric Interface Design

Подпись: TERMINOLOGY ISSUES The term button is unfortunately overloaded, because it sometimes refers to a button on an input device that the player can physically press and at other times it refers to a visual element on the screen that the player can click with the mouse. In order to disambiguate the two, this chapter always refers to physical buttons on an input device as controller buttons and those on the screen, activated by the mouse, as screen buttons. Keys refers to keys on a computer keyboard. The term key is interchangeable with controller button because they both transmit the same type of data. Menus and screen buttons appear on the screen as visual elements, but clicking them with the mouse sends a message to the internals of the game, which makes them control elements as well. Furthermore, the appearance of a screen button may change in response to a click, making it a mechanism for giving information as well as for exercising control. Your experience with computers should allow you to tell from context what these terms refer to when you encounter them in this text. ь <

A game's user interface plays a more complex role than does the UI of most other kinds of programs. Most computer programs are tools, so their interfaces allow the user to enter and create data, to control processes, and to see the results. A video game, on the other hand, exists to entertain and, although its user interface must be easy to learn and use, it doesn't tell the player everything that's happening inside the game, nor does it give the player maximum control over the game. It mediates between the internals and the player, creating an experience for the player that feels to him like gameplay and storytelling.

The player-centric approach taught in this book applies to user interface design, as it does to all aspects of designing a game. Therefore, the discussion is tightly focused on what the player needs to play the game well and how to create as smooth and enjoyable an experience as possible.

About Innovation

Although innovation is a good thing in almost all aspects of game design—theme, game worlds, storytelling, art, sound, and of course gameplay—do not innovate unnecessarily when designing a new interface. This is especially true of button assignments on controllers and keyboards. Over the years, most genres have evolved a practical set of feedback elements and control mechanisms suited to their gameplay. Learn the standard techniques by playing other games in your chosen genre and adopt whichever of them is appropriate for your game. Pay special atten­tion to games that are widely admired as the best of their kind. Their UI probably helped them secure that reputation.

If a standard exists, use it—or as much of it as works with your game. If you force the player to learn an unfamiliar UI when a perfectly good one already exists, you will frus­trate him and he will dislike the game no matter what other good qualities it has.

If you do choose to offer a new user interface for a familiar problem, build a tutorial level and playtest it thoroughly with both novice and experienced players. If test­ing shows that your new system is not a substantial improvement over the traditional approach, go back to what works. Also be sure to allow the player to customize the interface in case he doesn't like it. The section "Allowing for Customization" addresses this further near the end of this chapter.

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