Thursday, September 10, 2009

Subjective Space

Expanding on what was written at the Artful Gamer on the subject, I wanted to bring up the difficulty of manipulating a player's perception of a spatial environment. It's a bit of a ramble, as I'm just now getting back into the hang of this writing thing.

The first thing that comes to mind is how effective straight up text can be at describing a scene. Right now I'm writing an Interactive Fiction, and it's very apparent how a game needs to balance pacing and information in order to give the player the best experience. In such a personal medium like Interactive Fiction, the player automatically fills in a lot of holes with their own imagination. At least for me, this is akin to how pixelated graphics can still portray emotion and style. They only represent spatial positioning in the game, and allow for the player's subjective description to stay on the surface of their thoughts.

Generally when something interesting is happening, there's a lot involved with it. Hearing a muffled 'whomph' come from outside can be somewhat alarming, but not as alarming as witnessing the van exploding with your own eyes. The fireball, the shrapnel, the bystanders being knocked back – these details all add to the severity of the scene. If we add more detail like limbs, car alarms, and a visual overlay of concussive feedback the situation turns towards distaste and even annoyance. It may be an extreme example, but I believe it illustrates the kind of balancing I'm referring to.

'Efficiently detailed.' That's the phrase. Underwhelmed vs Overloaded.

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