Jul 06

03:36:05 p.m.

by Mattias

Building Better Boundaries

Whenever somebody plays Sling Ming we try to figure out what they’re having difficulties with. It never ever goes as smooth as you hope it would! As a game designer you must be able to re-evaluate your assumptions based on real world feedback. It’s probably your number one ability. Or perhaps second – being creative is somewhat important as well.

One comment we’ve heard several times is:
Why can’t I move this thing over there?

The ”things” that you move around are called Nav Points (short for navigation points). They’re attached to the wall behind them and can be moved across it, but you cannot move them past the boundary of the wall. In our minds that seems perfectly reasonable – if you moved them off the wall they would float in mid-air. That just makes no sense, right?

It seems that players don’t agree with us. Or rather, they don’t understand that Nav Points are attached to the back wall and the wall limits how the Nav Points can be moved. Given that the back wall in platform games is seldom more than decoration, it’s no surprise that players find it confusing when we do things differently.

Now, we could of course add a tutorial text which explains this concept, but we absolutely hate tutorial texts and will do our utmost to avoid them! A game should show, not tell.

Contemplating our dilemma, we reduced it to these simple facts:

Problem: Players don’t understand that Nav Points are attached to the back wall.
Solution: Highlight the wall behind a Nav Point when it’s moved.

Problem: Players don’t understand that Nav Points are limited by boundaries.
Solution: Highlight the wall boundary whenever a Nav Point is moved past it.

The reasoning is on a kindergarten level but it shows the power of stating your problem in simple terms. If you do, the solution often seems obvious.

In the video above you can see footage of Sling Ming with and without the wall and boundary highlighting. We’ve tried to keep the effect subtle since we want to keep a mechanical feel rather than going full on sci-fi.

Is this an improvement or did we waste a week’s effort? We’d be happy to hear your thoughts!

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