Designing Systems: Visioning what is to become!

Hello  and welcome to this weeks second post about system design. Today we will be talking about vision in games and how it can be used outside of shooting and stealth gameplay. The basics of having a vision system in a game is that the player need to either not be detected or detect certain things through it but we as humans use vision for so much more. We use it to acknowledge our surroundings and who is around at any specific time, we use it to subconciously tell who we want to respond to what we are saying right now and here. We also use it to judge if something is safe or not and change of what is visualised can create distress, fear and hope.

There is alot of ground that has not been covered in games when it comes to vision. Many games use vision to empower or enhance the experience. Many use it as their core mechanics or as a side mechanic in their game, just to show people that they have it. But the true genius with vision is that it directly influences any kind of interaction in a game, which leads to it dictating pretty much any of our choices in our games. Huge things attract attention and people tend to work their way towards those and to hide something important to a player isn’t really to hide it. It’s to put it in a place where they will search, but not as an instinctive first go to place (a pair of scissors would most likely be found in a drawer or in the kitchen, but putting em in the bathroom would still make sense as there is nail clippers.

So what is a vision system? Is it a system that lets the player see specific things or for NPCs to notice that a player is acting? Is it the game changing how you visualize it? A vision system would for me be a system that implements all of this, a game that smartly uses the screen and all elements of colour and light to create truly marvelous experiences for the player, by all of these above.

So let’s take a few examples from other games using visual systems. Firstly we have The Classroom, it’s a flash game that uses Fields of view (FoV) to create an element of stealth in their game. Look it up and play it and you will feel like you are sneaking. This isn’t because you are actually doing any hiding. You are just avoiding someone that is searching for you. What this means is that you don’t have a vision system in place for the players while the NPCs are using the vision given to them to find you. The same is true for numerous games, Deus Ex, Thief, Stolen etc etc. These games do although implement a player vision system too. The player got limited knowledge on where guards are and cameras are located. Which means that the player needs to be scouting out where enemies and cameras are (Either through bumrushing through a level and just attracting everyones attention) or stealthing around and looking up all the things.

The Classroom ( Example Picture from The Classroom.)

Now that we have gone through the enemy vision system and hunt system. We can start looking at emotionally capturing vision systems. Systems that change and create illboding omens based purely on vision alone. Two games that does this really well is Fatal Frame (Project Zero/Zero in EU) and Outlast. It changes what you can see during dramatic gameplay such as fighting or exploring unknown areas, to create a new kind of emotion in the player (Both are fear in this case) and this can be an extremely powerful tool if used correctly. What the system really does is that it limits a player in certain aspects, forcing them into wasting time picking something up, to be able to perform a task that changes the visualisation of the game.

Fatal_Frame_III_camera_gameplay fatal-frame-1-miku-scary-himoru-mansion-hallway-ps2-xbox (Example of Fatal Frame and how big the camera change is.)

But what about social attributes to vision? is there anything that can be done there, to create a more intricate vision system that lets a player see and interact with his world through more then just a screen? (This is a little bit philosophical, as the player needs a screen to play a video game) But when are we at a point, that 1st person, 3rd person or god view isn’t good enough anymore? When do we need to start experimenting with this.

I actually have an idea about a 1st person to 2nd person view (Viewing through the eyes of those that you are interacting with) but this is far from finished at the moment. What I want to talk about right now is, how can we use what we have, to create new and interesting design. How do we create another persons vision, how do we portray it in our games. It’s usually just a blank screen with just WHAT we see, not HOW we see it. This is really important because many people can see a situation as calm, while other feel it is terrifying. For an example many people get nervous when they are about to speak infront of people, others get terrified while another bunch of people revel in it.

How should we symbolize this in game, it’s a feeling we have inside, but doesn’t this feeling change how we see something? When you are depressed nothing seems as bright as when you are happy and when you are happy it is easier to find hope.

To create a system that works around this, I want to go back to a previous system, The MOO (https://designbynight.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/designing-systems-the-moo-and-building-up-the-personalities/) The system would work around a players personality, to create the most appropriate response to the vision of the player. A character with high morale would most likely be highly nauseated and quickly become scared by someone murdering another person infront of them in cold blood. This would lead to the persons vision becoming focused upon the danger (the murderer), possible escape routes from said danger (open door in the background) while the rest would be slightly blurry, creating a feeling of focus.

Later when the person (Hopefully) Have escaped, the person starts feeling ill, this would make the camera only focus on what is appearently in focus for the players eye (Tunnel Vision) and make the head nod slightly. This would change how a player reacts to a situation, by “simply” changing the camera mode. When the player later gets back upp from being nauseated he gets back up on his feet, but it all ends up with him feeling depressed. This doesn’t change anything about what the player is actually seeing on the screen. But it would dim the lights, remove extremely “warm and fuzzy” colours and greying out the and highlighting bad things.

To do this more then using a personality system. The player would need to use a “emotion” system that would decide, depending on what personality the character has, why certain events trigger certain emotions and how they trigger them.

To wrap it up, Vision systems are very strong systems that can be used to woo the player and lead the player through the game but right now, we are mostly using it for very action oriented aspects of it (combat, stealth and fear) but not to enhance upon any feeling we are having. By using the camera, lightning and events, we could in theory and by calculating the player characters personality get feedback to put into a system that would change how a player interprets a game.
My next topic will most likely be an emotion system and a social interaction system. Stay tuned and happy hunting!

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