Regarding Interfaces

I was going to do a blog post on the pitfalls of building assets for an ISOMETRIC game-but through a ton of testing this weekend I didn’t get around to actually creating any graphics…so that post will come a little later!

Plus side, the game is now 100% working from the time you board The Groomlake to the time you get to the train station (17 minutes of game time on a pure critical path run through*). I suppose without knowing exactly what happens in between those two screens, that doesn’t mean much-but trust me when I say its a really cool mini-milestone.

*ie, not having to figure out the puzzles, or explore the environment

THE QUESTION…

I was reading THIS THREAD over at the AGS forums, and saw that there are quite a few developers who are really trying to change the way that adventure games play as a genre. Ill be honest, after I finished the thread I started to quetion the interface design in STASIS. Am I playing it safe? Being ‘boring’ with my interface?

THE ANSWER….

And then I went through another playthough of the game…and decided NO.

The ‘old school’ interface of graphical adventure games really is perfect for…well…adventure games. Now while some AG’s do a cross genre thing, where they try to bring in action sequences, or interface designs that stray away from the classic LOOK AT, MOVE, USE, TALK TO design, honestly I think that, for me at least, designing a new way for the player to interact with the game seems a little like reinventing the wheel.  Now while I know that the advantage of being ‘indie’ is that you can take chances, and try out different things. But from the outset, I wanted to make an adventure game. When I think back to the early adventure games, I dont remember the really cool interfaces…I just remember shoving a banana up the exhaust of an android, talking to Murry, the haunted demon skull, or wearing an american flag shaped like a tentacle. The interface shouldn’t be something that shouts out LOOK HOW CLEVER I AM! It should just ‘be’.

In STASIS, I have really tried to keep the interface in the game as simple as possible. All of your commands are on screen ALL the time. The circular cursor always has SCAN, MOVE, and INTERACT. I hope that this encourages players to scan, and interact with EVERYTHING they can see, or touch.

The INVENTORY is accessible with just moving your mouse over the HSD in the corner. You don’t even have to click! And thats it. Combining objects is as simple as clicking and dragging them over each other. Accessing the menu is a mouse click away, and with auto saves every new screen, I’m hoping to minimize the player ever needing to access the menu.

I am fully confident that anyone, from veterans, to new comers to the genre will be able to get RIGHT into STASIS from the minute the opening screens petrified skeletons and floaty dust particles greets them.

In keeping with an interface that I KNOW works…in keeping with an interface that is simple to use, yet allows very complex interactions, I know that I can concentrate on THE most important aspect of an adventure game. The adventure.

  • David

    I would agree with you on this one. For me, it’s been the complexity and level of thought that went into the world I interact with – not the way I interact with it – in adventures that impresses me and stays with me most. That said, I think small deviations from the adventure norm can still improve the player’s experience. You were right on in saying that adding new modes of interaction is kind of like reinventing the wheel, but then again, there’s no reason for adventures to be limited in the type of experiences they can give the player. For example, I enjoyed the combat system in Gemini Rue. It fit the context of the game and allowed the player to get deeper into the experience.

  • Chris B

    I have yet to play Gemeni Rue (shame on me!), but I know what you mean with having some deviations from the Adventure Game ‘norm’ being a good thing.
    I know that quite a few people complained about the combat parts in GR, but I thought it was commendable that they were added. It was an addition that obviously served the story, and fits in well with the noir detective plot. Gun fights, and those stories go hand in hand.
    Ive tried to vary the game play in STASIS, with having certain tools at your disposal. The XRay Goggles were an attempt at that, that failed miserably, but gave birth to the SCHEMATIC view ( http://www.stasisgame.com/keep-it-simple-stupid/ ), and I’m playing around with the idea of adding in some ‘reflex’ based puzzles-although they certainly wont be of the button masher variety.

    What I’m looking at is more along the lines of finding interesting ways to use the ‘MOVE, SCAN, INTERACT’ aspects of the standard interface, in the puzzles. I think the trick to to make all interactions feel…natural.