Me and Henning Sundell have together decided to make an UX analysis of the game Deceit (2017) by Baseline.
Deceit's Key Characteristics
Reliant on social gameplay
Immersive and highly intense
The Big Problem
After spending months playing Deceit, me and Henning have noticed and discussed a big problem in the design.
Due to the high intensity, new players rarely have a chance to read the many non-diegetic (HUD) elements that describe tooltips, objectives, timers, and more.
Sometimes even regular players have a problem with keeping up with objectives such as navigating the levels, keeping track of timers, and using items.
Our Focus: The Escape Phase
We chose to lay our focus on what we call the escape phase. This is the gameplay moment when the players must progress to a different part of the level before dying to a toxic gas. We quickly noticed that a lot of new players die during this phase.
The objectives in the escape phase are unclear. New players do not only seem to have problems realizing that they must escape, they also struggle with finding the exits.
As seen in the image, the player follows a spatial waypoint that points to where the exits are located. The game wants you to know where they are, but the design fails. The problem is that the very dark levels feel like mazes.
Even if the waypoint points forward, the exit may be in a room that requires the player to walk around in a circle through several other rooms to reach it. We understood that this is how most of the players get confused and die.
3D Path of Light
We believe that a diegetic path of light could solve many parts of the problem.
The path more clearly shows that the game has moved on to the escape phase.
The path more precisely shows the direction towards the exits.
The light directs the player focus to what is most important (escaping), surrounding elements become less distracting.
We want to replace the timer with a darkness that gradually turns both the environment and the HUD darker over time (but still keeping the objective opaque) until the player either escapes or dies from staying in the area for too long.
As the environment gets darker, the path of light gets brighter. The darkness also includes whispering voices that encourage the player to escape. Like the darkness, the voices increase in volume and become more chaotic as time runs out.
More clearly shows danger and that time is running out.
This feature would help with directing the player focus towards the path of light.
Replaces the timer in the HUD to once again direct focus and prevent cognitive overload.
Before (click to enlarge)
After (click to enlarge)
Before coming up with our solutions, we decided to create an artefact where we split different UI elements into diegetic, meta, and spatial. By doing so, we noticed that the game had very little diegetic and meta UI. Most of the UI was non-diegetic.
As seen below, the suggested solutions fill those gaps and contributes to a more even spread.
Understanding Types of UI
In-world representation of UI, characters within the game world would be able to see and reflect over the information.
Example: In-game time displayed on a character's wristwatch.
The opposite of diegetic UI. This type of UI is only visible and audible to players in the real world.
Example: HUD elements such as tooltips and progress bars.
The UI is represented inside the 3D-space but is not part of the game world.
Example: Character outlines/highlights.
Meta representations may exist within the game world but does not need to be represented spatially.
Example: Blood splatter on the screen when damaged.