Lines of Communication
Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 8:00PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Clean Design, Final Fantasy, StarCraft

Communication is a tricky issue for video games. Being interactive systems that use visuals to communicate the majority of information to the player, video games can most easily be cluttered or cleaned up with visuals. Games like Pong are very simple. You can see both paddles and the ball on the screen at all times. The score and the sound effects are particularly minimal as well. For the average player, nothing happens in Pong that goes unnoticed. Anything more complicated than Pong, and player attention is split between different elements forced to dance back and forth to keep up. The harder you focus on staying alive or achieving the next objective, the more your mind will develop a sort of tunnel vision inevitably filtering out possibly important information. 

For most real time games, there's too much going on in the game to think/talk about everything as it happens. If you've ever listened to the commentary of a Smash Brothers, Street Fighter, Halo, Modern Warfare, or StarCraft match you know that there's no way the commentators can even cover 1/10th of the action because the games move so fast or have so much going on at once. This issue of information overload is exacerbated in 3D games. Fortunately, designers have implemented features that swing the advantage back in our favor in the battle of information warfare.

The following is a list of highly communicative visual elements.

Even in this busy battle scene, the lines of communication are clear.


Of course, HUDs are naturally designed to communicate key pieces of information. From the "X" mark in the locations where allies are killed in FPSs, life bars, to mini maps, HUDs typically make playing games easier. As far as mini maps go, my favorites are the maps in Zelda Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and Mario Kart DS.  Click here for more on DS maps. 

Update on Monday, May 10, 2010 at 6:23PM by Registered CommenterRichard Terrell (KirbyKid)

For three more excellent examples...



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