[Game Dev. Journal]“Within” Visual Design: How to Draw Players Full Attention to the Game?

As the first game of Silver Lining Studio, “Within” features a narrative-driven game with dark fairy-tale atmospheres. For the making of our game development journals, we hope we can share our experience on developing “Within” with other game developing aficionados, so there goes a series of “Within” themed articles on Medium.

The focus of this article falls on the choices we faced during visual design stage.

Related Articles:

[Game Dev. Journal] Game Concept of Within : Set off on a Magnificent Dark Adventure

A Faceless Protagonist

One of the early decisions we made is to adapt a “faceless” protagonist. Since we’ve decided not to present the story with conversations, texts and any kind of literation, the decision of a protagonist without verbal communication naturally falls into place. In addition to the former reason, we hope that with players progress through the stages, their emotions would be triggered by the plot implied within the scene. Therefore, the design of facial expressions was removed from Emma. With players’ focuses falls on the details and clues given out from the scenes, players would throw themselves into the plot and unveil the storylines with given clues.

The protagonist, Emma

Once the concept of story presentation has formed, it benefits us to make further decisions easier. For example, the way we decided to present the story let us no longer have to organize Emma’s facial expression animation collection. Meanwhile, we would have to make sure having less close-up shots of Emma’s face and focus more on the relation between Emma and other objects within the scenes. Finally, we arrange some objects that would change and animations that would play on as time goes by in the game.

Objects that would change and animations that would play on as time goes by in the game.

How to Guide Players’ Focus with Scene Display?

Most of the narrative games available take advantages on character conversations and literal narratives as an aid to present the plot. “Within” focuses on how to guide the players attention and let the players immerse into the story. After a few weeks of trial run, we categorized some critical elements that we worked on. These 3 critical elements are namely, lighting guiding, object movement, and close-up shot.

What we call “lighting guiding” refers to the design of lighting of every scene. Some lighting is designed to stand out from the overall scene on purpose, so that it could draw players attention. When we would like players to put their attention on a certain direction or any crucial object, we guide their attention with lighting design. By properly adding flicker or light shaking into the scene, players’ attention move to where we hope it would go.

As Emma passes through the hallway, the track lights are off one after another.

As we all know, “object movement” refers to the object animation within each scene, such as moving objects or collapsing construction. Some objects would have interactions with Emma in order to draw players’ attention.

Eyeballs rolling, as if they are watching Emma’s every step.

And finally, “close-up shot,” or so we call “zoom in,” refers to enlarging the size of a certain object within the scene. By the camera zooms in and make certain object larger than it used to be, like a giant painting, players would somehow start thinking about the meaning of the object.

The large painting appears when Emma climbing down the ladder symbolizes the relationship between Emma and her mother.

The Importance of Color Planning: Making Significant Distinction

We want to present the overall scene and objects of the game with oil paint smearing style. Therefore, there would be many different layers of color coexist in each scene, especially in the indoor scenes. The indoor scenes is filled with human artifacts, and as the amount of the human artifacts increase, the color signals of the scene increases, too. In such a color distribution condition, the scene would seem like a mess without a plan and arrangement. Among all the object identification elements, we consider “topography” and “interactive objects” to be our main focuses. For example, in the bedroom scene, as shown in the gameplay screenshot below, the movable cage was colored even more vividly than all the other objects in the scene. Therefore, players would notice that there might be something with the cage.

In the presentation of “brightness,” an available passage would be the brightest among all the other objects at the bottom of the scene, which formed an invisible signpost for players to know their ways. On the contrary, for those little details or objects we hope players would find out by themselves, they would be hidden away with similar brightness management technique.

Actually, in addition to the overall art presentation of the scenes, there are still other conditions to fulfill, such as to design a gap which the character could leap through or a stage available to climb on. These details also require further planning and arranging. That would be another story. We’ll share regarding details in our later development journals.

Finally, we’d like to invite you to try out our Beta version! We highly look forward to receiving your feedback! To download the game, please check out the URL below!

Google Play Store : https://silvrlin.pse.is/KRZD4
Official Website:https://thegamewithin.co



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