One of my major design goals in Symbiote is to streamline the learning and remembering experience. Here are some techniques I'm using to work towards this goal
In order to understand the challenge of reaching this goal, take into consideration these factors...
• Resource management is a core element of the game. It's crucial that players know exactly what item they're looking at, and places it can be used
• There are a lot of these items
• My own research has shown that games similar to Symbiote tend to attract a very diverse audience. This means that not everyone playing may speak English
• The way the game plays is significantly different than how most FPSs and TPSs play. I need to make the transition a comfortable one
One graphical solution that takes all of these points into account, is the use of pictograms. For an excellent explaination of the benefits of using this type of communication, here's a great resource I came across:
Even people who are illiterate can recognize a familiar shape and take meaning out of it. All that's required is to have eyes, and the ability to remember something you've seen before. By symbolically representing every important item and concept in the game world, I can break the language barrier, and in turn create my own language.
I have drawn out a large quantity of symbols, and am at the point where I have to think how to best present them to players. Here are a few examples:
These symbols outside of their natural habitat (the game) aren't as effective as they are when you're in the game seeing what they represent. Here are some elements they all make use of:
• COLOR: The particular shade of blue you see represents what I call "The Team". They are all the real people playing the game. It's present on everything relating to YOU as a member of The Team. We're accustomed to seeing 'team colors' in sports, the military, video games, and in country flags. It units groups of people as one unit
• SHAPE: Circle, Square, Triangle. These basic containing elements tell you what KIND of object is being represented. This ensures that if you miss one 'visual message' that you have another to work from. Circle = Object, Square = Place, Triangle = Warning
• COLOR 2: Once you've learned what kind of object is being talked about, you then look at the contained element to know WHAT is being talked about. This object also has a color. In the primary featured level of Symbiote there are 4 businesses, each with their own symbol and color. By an object being green, players will make the connection that it's associated with the farm. This, of course, requires that players have visited the Farm before hand to witness the plentiful use of green
• SHAPE 2: Finally we get to the most specific symbol. What is it? Is it the farm? Is it a farm worker? Is it the tools at the farm? Is it a machine that requires an item found on the farm?
If you're curious, here's a break down of all the information gained from the symbols from left to right:
1. a member of my team
2. cooking equipment that belongs to the kitchen
3. the farm area
4. something very important involving my stomach! (hunger)
5. a machine that converts a bowl and dough into bread, all of which belongs to the kitchen