Thursday, October 21, 2010
One fun element of a game design is to throw a dash of innovation and unique style on the HUD - namely, the life bar. It's a crucial staple of the most popular genres and it's seen a fair amount of development over the years.
Life bars come in all forms and varieties, no doubt, from standard red bars, to percentage based stats, to screw-you-this-is-one-hit-death-so-we-don't-need-a-bar, to the most modern FPSs where this no health bar, but rather a "realistic" indicator of failing health (like a blurring screen, or signs of blood).
Like most game elements though, you walk a line. Innovate too far and risk adding a confusing element that puts players off, but play it safe with something too standard and you fail to impress or evolve.
The former of those two dilemmas becomes especially dangerous in the world of XBLIG. It seems almost twice as dangerous to risk confusing players and a steep learning curve can result in a quick diss and toss. But I am one of those people that believes failing to add polish and innovation to an indie game project nearly defeats the purpose and excitement of traveling this path in the first place.
Hence, you see the end result of what some might consider overthinking our health bar system. The goal of course being to offer something familiar and easy to learn, but not too standard and ignorable. And from a gameplay perspective, we wanted something that builds off our favorite action RPGs, but maintains the effectiveness of time-proven methods.
The life bar above holds 11 life orbs. Take a hit, lose an orb in counterclockwise order. Should you lose the big orb in the middle (which will pulse when it's the only one left) and you're eating dirt. The other key is that you will not start with 11, but players will quickly be aware that 11 is possible. The empty slots suggest that players have some work to do in order to build up Maya's physical resilience.
The other advantage to this design is that it's unobtrusive. It's medallion shape fits nicely in a corner and has very little unused space. Sometimes full screen HUD systems end up going overboard in my opinion and we wanted to avoid block a screen full of 3D graphics that went spent so much time on. :)
So there she is. What would you like to say to her?