A large exclamation mark above a character’s head, as seen in World of warcraft : Not that long ago, this was almost the only type of strategy used to get the player’s attention in order to give them clues as to what to do. Today, it is possible to use more subtle methods that are perfectly integrated into the game’s narrative framework. This is the research field of Erwan Davisseau, professor of semiology applied to 3D creation at the University. of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT).
The researcher studies third-person 3D action-adventure games such as Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia. “These games are linear. This means that even if we feel like we can do whatever we want in large spaces where there are fifty or so enemies, we always end up having to go through a small corridor that leads us to the next step, ”he explains.
To guide the player, several strategies have emerged in recent years. For example, we will leave in the shade the entrance to a corridor that we cannot explore. Or, to get the player to climb a cliff, we will draw whitish lines on the top of the stones where the character can grab onto, a bit like signs of wear.
“While the games have become greatly complex with the presence of many details, these strategies which exploit in particular light and saturation, make it possible to capture the player’s attention and provide him with indications on what is expected of him , explains Erwan Davisseau. Thanks to clues integrated into the visual narration, there is no need to use double language, such as icons placed over the images to guide the player. “
Building a language
Erwan Davisseau, who has worked for more than 10 years in the video game industry, explains that these methods have developed naturally. “Initially, the developers didn’t know how to tell players where to go, so they were testing,” he explains. Then when the trick worked, they kept it and other franchises took it over and vice versa. ”
These strategies are now used in a transversal way in all the games of the genre, even if they have never really been listed or studied. “Paying attention to these details is part of the habits of players now and it’s a visual language that has been consolidating since 2015,” says Davisseau. These strategies can even be found in children’s games. They are part of video game culture. ”
But, it’s no coincidence that the recipe works. “These sometimes extremely realistic games are copies of our world, which allows the player to act intuitively,” says Davisseau. I think that one day, all the objects integrated in the games, which are also often part of our daily lives, will be interactive. ” Like what reality still exceeds fiction, but perhaps not for long!
Opening image of the article: Splinter Cell Blacklist / Ubisoft