Today I presented what I have done so far in the budget crisis game. I’ve been working on the interface, mostly, because I had a cool idea for how to manage the inventory, and that worked so well that it spun out into a philosophy for the entire user interface. Two of the main things I am interested in are making games that people who do not play video games will appreciate, and designing games from scratch, as opposed to creating minor genetic evolutions of existing games and calling it “innovation”. Because of these, I have no particular need for the established canon of interaction that precedes me, unless it serves my purposes.
To the first end, in the effort of making the game interface as accessible as possible, I decided to couch it in physical metaphors. Instead of displaying the inventory as a grid of icons representing different objects, I gave the player a view into their backpack, and made the mouse control their hand. When they move the hand over the object, the hand opens as if they were about to grab it, and when they click to drag it their hand closes around the object. Their other hand then moves away from holding the backpack to anticipate grabbing, and using, the object.
I really like this way of having the entire arm visible as you’re using it- it creates a super tactile response as you’re swinging your arm around and picking up items, it feels less abstracted than a cursor, less macabre than a disembodied hand, and looks hilarious. I initially had a caricatured head, eyes or mouth wide open, with an accepting hand, come in from the right to show represent the act of reading or eating (there used to be sodas in the backpack as well), but it seemed too much like the heads belonged to someone else, and that you were giving the item away.
I liked the arm so much that I decided to use it as much as I could. The only place I can’t use it at the moment is as you’re walking around the campus, and if I can think of a better way of showing that part of the game that would allow for physical metaphors I will definitely switch to it.
If I am going to use existing game tropes at all I intend to have them to fit in with the vision of the game, intellectually and practically. I am going to be taking elements from the survival horror genre for this game, but I have no desire to make a survival horror game, that is, I don’t want to make a game about zombies or rogue A.Is or creepy little girl draculas. Hopefully what I will end up with is a game that is about surviving, and is about fear, but that isn’t a survival horror game. I want to pluck the baby up out of the bathwater, as it were.
The Source So Far (.zip)