Signposting in games
What is signposting in games? signposting is a thing that designers do to help the player know where to go and what to do, to prevent the player getting lost or confused about what to do and where to go, if this happens the player is likely to quit playing. A designer can do this through many different forms within a game. it must be noted that a game won’t just have one of these forms within a game, they will use a combination of signposting elements to help direct the player. So, what kind of signposting is there?
The first kind is navigation based tools e.g. things like arrows, waypoints and lines. These are more brutal based signposting in that its telling the player directly what to do and where to go, taking away an element of player control as they are more likely to just follow the path rather than explore. However, there are times where this can be used correctly, some examples would be with left for dead.
This arrow that is located around the environment helps to lead players to their next safe house without feeling like its hand holding and it feels appropriate for the environment, other survivors are painting arrows for future survivors to follow. Other example would be with games like Skyrim which are large in scale, so they use waypoints to help direct the player, preventing them from getting turned around and completely lost within the game.
The next kind is artistic composition, now this is a better form of guiding the player as it is form more natural in its design. So, what does artistic composition in tale? The first part of it we will look at is colour. As humans, bright colours cache our attention more than bland colours, we use this in game by making important parts of the environment standout from the rest. colour can also be used to worn the player of what might come, like using dark and red colours to worn the player of enemies. Another part is light, contrasting areas inspirer interest. You may be running around brightly lit field and see a very dark cave in the distance. Because the lighting is polar opposites of one another your eye is drawn to it. and like colour lighting can be used to tell the player what they can expect next.
We also shape the environment itself to help guild the players eye and in turn guild the player. We do this by being able to hide lines within are environment as other objects or the floor. Our brain picks up on these and form use a path.
In this image, can be seen some of these lines. First, there are the lines created by the builds on the left and right, steering the player to walk forward. Up ahead can be seen a path leading to the gate, this to make lines, it funnels the player to the top of the hill. The camera also plays a part in this too, as the player walks down this path it puts the environment in prospective allowing the player to be able to see and interpreting these lines, rather than being looked from a side on angle, unable to see all the lines within the environment, aka only being able to see part of the image.
We also use focal points of the environment to help draw player towards them and it also gives the player an understanding of where they are from scene to scene. We call these weenies.
Journey is an excellent example of this. From the beginning of the game the player can see a tall mountain with a bright light shining from it. the player will immediately start to move towards it. throughout the game the player can see the mountain (apart from time to time like when they move through a building), a constant reminder of their goal and as the mountain comes closer and closer it helps to fill the player with a feeling of progress.
Sound can also be used to guild the player and inform them of what is to come. An example could be that someone is calling for help and you the player moves towards the sounds. Another form maybe that the player hears a loud roar, telling them what they might come across.
The last main form of signposting is NPC characters. Now these can come in many forms, the first one may be that like a quest giver which gives a player an objective, where to go and what to expect on their journey. Another form would be something like if the player was being chased down a street with other people in that street, these NPC may start to run as well and go down a path, the player is likely to follow as human we like move around in a group. One last form would be enemies; enemies can be used to help steer the player in a direction. For example, in a game where the player is defenceless the player will want to move away from them, like a sheep dog hording sheep. Now if the player can defend themselves and want to have some form of combat then they will move towards the enemies, most gamers at some point have said ‘there are enemies, I must be going the right way’.
As we have seen game designers have a wide range of tools they can use to direct and inform the player, however with most tools you’re going to need more than just the one, also just because you have the tool doesn’t mean you should always use it and finally just because one tool might be easier doesn’t mean it’s the best. What tools you use changes on what you want and the type of game you are trying to make.