Game Development Reference
We can also go quieter. The ammo count could disappear if the player
does not fire or reload for 10 seconds. It could be hidden on a menu. It
could be hidden deep in a series of submenus, or on the developer's web-
site, or in a configuration file. No game displays ammo count this way, but
some display other types of very low-visibility data like this.
The strength of visual hierarchies is that they automatically and in-
stantly deliver the information needed by players across the skill range. The
learning player can begin processing the next piece of data the moment
his skill level allows him to do so. By never overwhelming players, a visual
hierarchy avoids driving them off as they learn. By never denying them
information or coddling them, it never slows down their learning.
Every designer has had this painful experience: we create a new graphic,
sequence, or sound to communicate some critical piece of information.
We get some new tech to drive it, and the art comes out great. We demo it
to important people and everyone agrees that it is awesome.
Then we playtest it, and most of our players miss it completely. They
are looking the wrong way, their mind is occupied on an unrelated chal-
lenge, they're answering their cellphone, or they're busy drunkenly shout-
ing at a friend because this game is being played at a party.
In a film, everything that matters is on the screen. If you skip a
minute of the film, you wouldn't blame the filmmaker when you come
back and don't understand the plot. A reader who flips past 10 pages of a
novel doesn't blame the author for the rest of the topic being confusing. In
games, though, players can be looking anywhere, doing anything, inside
the game and out. They can look away from important events, or get dis-
tracted. And they'll blame us if they miss something.
The obvious solution is to force people to notice critical content. But
forcing the camera to look a certain way, interrupting play with dialog
boxes, and other forced-observation mechanics shatter flow and immer-
sion. We've solved one problem by causing many others.
A better solution is to simply accept that players will miss important
signals. Then, instead of forcing them to absorb the one signal we have, we
send that signal several times. Redundancy means that even if the player
misses half of the content in the game (a fairly reasonable ratio), he still
gets enough to understand the critical parts.
The simplest form of redundancy is homogenous redundancy .
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