Gameplay Premises Part 2 – Spell Context

In part 1 I have introduced the main driving mechanics of WD.

Before moving on how the spells are gained I wanted to talk a bit about how a spell can take several forms depending on context.

When spells are cast their exact effect may change depending on the context. Again I will use the Ice spell as my example case.

When your character casts Ice several things can happen:

Snow cooling fire into obsidian

Snow cooling fire into obsidian (image by Ben Edwards)

  1. If you cast on an object he will be frozen for a number of rounds.
  2. If you cast it on the solid ground it will be turned into slippery ice.
  3. If you cast it on lava it will be solidified and enable characters to step on it without damage.
  4. If you cast it on a wall of fire it will be dissolved
  5. etc…

The idea, again, is to give a lot of choices within a very simple framework.

From a design and development point of view, however, this is far from simple. I am not actually speaking about writing that kind of game logic, but I am speaking about how the user will interact with the game. In specific one of the design goals I have set for WD is to keep the number of clicks to give a command to a minimum (this is actually a codified design principle that companies have to follow when deploying informative systems worldwide, the ISO EN 11064-5).

Of course the main design principle behind this kind of interaction is the principle of least astonishment, but interaction can mean different things for different people.

For example i like tooltips: they are easy to make and usually difficult to misunderstand. If, when you have Ice selected, you move the mouse pointer over an enemy a tooltip can be displayed with the text “Freeze enemy” and when you move it on the ground “Turn ground to slippery ice” (notice the use of the word “slippery”, this should immediately tell something to the player about the dynamic of the spell). Unfortunately tooltips are obtrusive of the game experience and may annoy the player.

Another option is to “show” the effect like with an onion skin, a transparent animation. But depending on the specific effect it can be hard to convey exactly what the effect will be.

What do you think? Do you have a preferred way for a game to give you information about the gameplay? Do you perhaps find this kind of approach “offending” like some sort of hand-holding?

Thanks for reading.

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