Guiding with a Soft Touch

Directing players in non-linear levels without UI

  • Mark Tempini


Research has demonstrated the difficulty in achieving a balance with User Interfaces(UI) in games. Almost all large, nonlinear levels rely on UI practices outside level design in order to guide players. The use of nondiegetic UI can lower player immersion and the use of diegetic navigational UI is extremely difficult to design well. Few attempts have been made todesign a large open world level that can be easily navigated without the use of some form of navigational UI, since research shows that the absence of UI can create a much better play experience. Many developers of linear single player games have begun to use embedded techniques, ranging from lighting and colour to motion and audio, to guide players through levels. However, these attempts have not been made in large nonlinear games.

This article explores the reliance of navigational UIin large nonlinear 3D levels by creating a 3D level using techniques such as light, colour, and architecture to guide players along an ideal path. By using an iterative development cycle with high amounts of internal testing throughout development, multiple navigational techniques were implemented. The level was tested for its effectiveness in guiding players at separate stages in development and updated based on the results before a final evaluation.

Results evidenced that players can be guided through large nonlinear levels as the designer intended without any UI and indicated that play style influenced how users move through spaces.


August 26, 2019