Visual Clarity VS Pretty Graphics - GGG Dev Log #7
Visual clarity is incredibly important when designing any high intensity game like this, you want the player to be able to quickly read the room and understand what they are up against and how to deal with it. If you are building your visual design entirely focused on visual clarity, you are going to have a good time making your game readable... but if you are like me, then you are also stubborn... you want your game to also have that nice high fidelity look to it and in the process have made striking the balance between your game looking nice and playing well a lot harder.
If you are like me, you have also made the mistake of making a game built around an incredibly busy visual style involving conveyors and hundreds of objects on screen. Oh boy.
Today I'll be going over some ways I've tried to strike a balance between the graphics and the clarity. This is not the type of game where I want things to sneak up on the player, every moment of the game should feel like they can process what they see and make a next move.
I may also go over some ways I'd like to further improve the game's clarity in the future.
A good place to start is color selection, for the most part we follow the common practice of making blues and greens relate to the "safe" objects, while reds and purples mean "unsafe".
I tried to make this color coding consistent throughout everything, along with some other visual themes such as dangerous objects generally having a harsher/sharper look to them.
This is yet another place where we can point out improvements made since the demo, as some of the dangerous objects from the demo didn't quite follow this color coding. Examples include both the bullet and plasma obstacles having distinctly blue tones mixed into their color patterns, and probably most notably the electric gates used a soft blue compared to their current red look.
Besides that, in general I feel like the red colors of the obstacles are far more notable than before, making them stand out in the arena better even when Dark Mode is enabled.
Speaking of the lighting effects, that's where a huge amount of the debate in my head between visual fidelity and clarity comes from. The majority of the assets in the game end up being metal-based, so even with a lot of fine tuning to make everything look good and decently diverse in how it reflects light, there's still a layer of trying to ensure the core gameplay elements of the obstacles vs the conveyors stand out between each other.
Even now, if it turns out I haven't made a decent enough compromise in this regard I may find myself going back and adjusting the conveyor visuals more, I think the boxes and turrets and especially the plasma obstacles all stand out decently, but they also all notably reflect back the environment's lighting so there are some minor issues of the colors blending together a bit if it weren't for the red color coding I leaned into for a lot of the obstacles.
When I'm unsure about what compromises I need to make for visual clarity, there is a sure-fire option that can help - customization options! For the conveyors there are two options I can include, some visual variants that are less noisy, and maybe some kind of color customization?
Similar to color customization, I'm also hoping to eventually add some color-shifting options.
I'm not sure yet what exact values the player will be able to adjust, but this will be something I will be very willing to take feedback on from the community as these tools benefit both players
trying to play better but more importantly also color blind players whose quality of life while playing might depend more heavily on these options.
At the very least eventually adding a dropdown of presets would be nice.
We'll see how this visual clarity balance improves as development continues, there's plenty more aspects of it that could be gone over such as particles and smoke potentially blocking gameplay elements and even meta layers like whether distractions are part of the gameplay... but at a certain point this could easily just turn into me just listing stuff I'm happy about with how I tried to both make the game look good and feel good.
Main takeaway is that it's all about picking certain elements to stand out strong against other features of the visuals, and when in doubt provide options to players for visuals that just feel like a bit of a hard sell to assume everyone's going to be okay with.
Hopefully I can remember to continue applying these standards throughout continued development. And of course in later games as well.