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Posts Tagged ‘Dead Space’

Going HUDless for Immersion

Posted by Nick Dinicola on July 7, 2009

The traditional heads-up display is more and more being treated as an unwanted intrusion on the gameplay experience. Players need the information displayed, but the HUD can sometimes be distracting. Many developers try to do away with it, hoping that will make their game more immersive, and different games take different routes with different results.

Far Cry 2 and Uncharted: Drakes’s Fortune have traditional HUDs, but try to hide them as much as possible. In both games the HUD only appears in certain situations, and then fades out of sight when it’s not needed. Far Cry 2 shows the typical health and ammo, but the health meter only shows up when the player is hurt or uses a syrette to heal, while the ammo only appears when a gun is running low and must be reloaded soon. Uncharted takes things a step further by removing any health meter, instead the bright colors of the forest fade each time Drake is hurt until the screen is black and white, and then the color returns as his health automatically regenerates. The ammo appears whenever the player shoots.

Fading a HUD into and out of view depending on the situation is a fitting compromise for these two games. A HUD, no matter how small it is, attracts the eye, so by removing it until it’s necessary the player is more likely to notice the details in the environments. Since both games have impressive environments, it’s only natural that the player be encouraged as much as possible to admire it, and not spend the game looking at a mini map, health meter, or ammo counter. But this technique doesn’t solve the problem of immersion. The character can’t see the information in the HUD so there’s a clear disconnect between us and them. We can see things they can’t. Even if the information in the HUD is limited to only things the character would know, presenting it in a floating, immovable menu still creates that disconnect.

Read the rest at PopMatters.


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Dead Space

Posted by Nick Dinicola on February 6, 2009

When I first started playing Dead Space, I thought it was a really good Resident Evil 4 clone. It had the same run-and-gun style gameplay, and the close, over-the-shoulder camera only invited more comparison. But after playing the demo for Resident Evil 5, and after finally beating Dead Space, I realized just how different Dead Space actually is. There are a lot of similarities between the two franchises, that’s true, but since most of those similarities are immediately obvious, they leave a strong first impression and overshadow the major differences that can only really be understood through play. Dead Space is not a clone, it’s an innovative evolution of the 3rd person shooter, and I don’t think its gotten as much respect for this evolution as it deserves. And no, I’m not talking about the ability to walk and shoot at the same time. I’m talking about the idea of “strategic dismemberment.”

Strategic Dismemberment is all about shooting off the limbs of enemies in order it put them at a disadvantage: Cut of their legs and they can’t walk, cut off their arms and they can’t punch, etc. etc. etc. Most shooter games implement this idea in the form of headshots: One shot to the head, and the enemy is dead. Since headshots are a nearly universal one-hit kill for enemies, we’re encouraged to aim carefully for that tricky shot and are rewarded greatly for pulling it off, but they’re not necessary. The instant kill is just a bonus, we can easily play though most shooters without ever getting a headshot on any enemy. And that is where Dead Space differs from other shooter games: It has made aim an integral part of the gameplay. Waiting for that perfect shot isn’t just a way to quickly take down an enemy, it’s an absolute requirement for survival. Read the rest of this entry »

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