“Game Feel”: The Impression Of Danger
Another common feature of video games: Danger/challenge/adversity/opposition. But how can this be conveyed in a game?
What is danger?
The exposure or vulnerability to harm or risk. Simply put, it’s something often better to avoid in order to get the best outcome.
But games, especially video games, are not reality and generally pose no actual danger to players.
How can danger be conveyed inside a video game?
Like weight, danger can be expressed in video games in a number of obvious and less-obvious ways.
There are a lot of things that can be put into games that we already associate with danger, including:
- Sharp objects (knives, spikes, blades, etc.)
- Weapons (guns, more advanced weaponry, etc.)
- Red, the color of blood.
- Opponents larger than ourselves (generally denotes more strength/ability to do harm.)
- Unstable environment (cracked ground, badly-supported bridges, partially-destroyed buildings, etc.)
- Flashing lights/quickly-changing scenery (Our brains have more trouble analyzing the situation when things change too fast.)
- Lack of control (When we lack any control of a situation, we feel anxious.)
A Unity Implementation:
In a recent 2D platformer mini-prototype, I was tasked with creating a “dangerous spike hazard” for the player to try and navigate around.
First, I wanted to try and add some static visual indicators suggesting that the area should be avoided.
- Blood splattered on the wall and ground, indicating past harm has happened to other creatures at this location.
- Cracked ground, indicating that something is different/broken/faulty/degraded about this area.
- The spikes themselves, dyed red with blood, indicating their danger.
Next, I decided to add some natural/passive movement, since I wanted the player to know this was dangerous on first sight, not once they’d already stepped on it.
The movement of the spikes suggests that if you were to put any exposed skin over them, they would puncture it and deal damage.
Finally, I wanted something to happen when the player was foolish enough to actually touch them.
- The screen flashes red, indicating the sudden effect of a hazard.
- The screen shakes, indicating a sudden change in the environment or player.
- Blood particles spray from the player, indicating (no prizes for guessing) a loss of blood and damage to the body.
- Text appears above the player in red, reading “-25”, suggesting a negative effect, or a loss of something. In the context of games and this situation, it can pretty reliably be assumed to be health that was lost.
In actuality, there is no damage or death mechanic in this game so far, and touching these spikes has no actual impact on the player’s game.
But the players don’t know that.
Even after standing there for 5 minutes and being pretty sure that you can’t die, you cant rule out the possibility that you just have a really high health value. If the numbers weren’t there, it would be easier to confirm safety. But the numbers suggest a real and factual value that is being deducted on each hit.
I mean, who’s to say that I’m telling the truth about there being no death? And if you only have 1 chance to beat this game, are you really going to test it and take the risk? ;)