For those of you who actually read this blog (Yeah, I wish), you might not be familiar with Hero, the following are a number of observations on how the game, which is currently in beta version 0.8; could be improved/changed.

http://www.spellofplay.com/games/hero

Bug (Class C): If you click on a storekeeper in Pale Village and as you start walking towards the shopkeep you then click somewhere else, the player character will walk to the second place but then immediately start walking to the storekeeper. This can be a bit confusing until you let the player character finish walking towards the storekeep, not a major bug though.

Other suggestions:

Items with usage requirements should list that requirement in text (Similar to how a potion lists how much it will heal by), if the requirement isn’t met, then that piece of text should be coloured red.

If you click the ‘Go to exit’ button whilst in the shop interface screen, that screen should close (The player character will start walking towards the exit, but shop screen stays open). Speaking of the go to exit feature, it seems a bit odd the way the player character will reach one of the region walls that allows exit to the map screen and then walk along it for a bit, maybe put a check after each move to see if the region edge has been reached yet?

I think for the shop keepers items, it might be better to show the items for sale in a list form with item picture on the left and item name to the right. Anything sold to the shopkeeper can just be popped onto the end of the list. At the moment, I have to mouse over each item to see the specifics of what it is, which is an ease of use issue. It does admittedly add the complication of needing to be able to sort items by type though.

I think it’d be nice if the inventory screen had a space at the bottom for items that are on the ground (Preferably the square underneath the player and the 8 neighbouring squares), for instance, if I’ve been killed and I’m going in to retrieve my equipment from a hostile location, I’d like to be able to walk up, pick up just the weapon and try and finish the monster off before picking everything else up.

Might be nice to have the ability to make camp in order to regain health without going all the way back to civilisation. The amount of time (And therefor the chance of an ambush by wolves or something) would be influenced by the first aid skill.

You should replace “Dungeon cleared” with “Area cleared” so the phrase is correct wherever it might be needed.

And for completeness (I’m sure this is already on the to-do list), sidescrolling should work even though the mouse cursor is also hovering over buttons.

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Peripheral Vision

August 20, 2009

Update 4th October 2009: Just a quick mention that I’ve spotted a small flaw in this since I posted it, I’d overlooked the fact that the first person view does actually tend to have a little bit of curvature around the sides of the viewpoint, none-the-less I still hold to my viewpoint that those curved sides could have their reach extended to create the affect described below…

In  First Person Shooters, the players viewpoint does not take into account the peripheral view range of a typical human, who can normally see left/right across a range of more than 180 degrees.

As such, any game which involves situational awareness but locks itself into the first person viewpoint encounters a limitation that forces the player to consistently look around, when in actuality a normal human should not need to do this to the same extent.

Often, this limitation will be corrected for by including a mini map in the game, which represents some limited information on the environment and the relative positions of the player and any opponents and allies in a location. This is insufficient to account for the limited viewpoint problem because really its more of a solution for a different problem, that of aiding teamwork or assessing the number of enemies on a 2d flat plane instead of a full 3d view of events in the players current location (Alternatively you could use 3rd person view, however this is an aesthetic choice that not all players will be comfortable with).

Additionally, you can often end up with a situation where the player focuses on the minimap more than the actual on screen 3D events or alternatively, in an information overload situation, where the player is having to watch the minimap, the main 3D view, the health information, a toolbar, and so on; all at the same time – The minimap could be the straw that breaks the camels back.

Imagine, instead that the left and right-most 10% of the screen is actually split up into 5 instances of rendered view. At these segments, each segment that is further from straight ahead (0 degrees) is an additional 20 degrees from the forward view. The result would be 11 instances of the rendered view, with the central 80% looking straight ahead whilst the left and right edges of the screen would wrap around to simulate the peripheral vision of the player character.

Usage

A system such as this would be useful in reducing the necessity of a tactical minimap whilst still giving the player a wide view of events happening in game.

Alternatively, this might be particularly effective in a horror game where the monsters have a curious habit of attacking the player from the sides (Even when they run towards the player from behind), giving the player a (Small) chance to go through a sequence of sight, fright & reaction rather than just suddenly getting hit by an attack without even having a chance to respond to it (This may have been why I disliked Doom 3 so much, for example).

Potential Issues

Whilst some games have successfully implemented multiple views on a single screen simultaeneously, its pretty rare, no doubt because of the difficulty of running multiple instances of the 3d renderer together. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been done on the scale of running 11 instances of a 3D renderer at the same time. Indeed, there is some question as to whether a setup like this would run at all without taxing older graphics cards beyond breaking point, some version of the concept may have been prototyped elsewhere and abandoned as unfeaseable (Though it may have been some time ago).

There are potential usage issues, a view setup such as this may be nauseating to some users and testing would be necessary to ensure this is not the case. On the other hand, if the system does create merely a sense of unease then this might make the concept even more well suited to a horror game.

The actual implementation itself could prove to be awkward as each segment of the wrap around effect would need to link to eachother perfectly, though there is the possibility that a single line of grey pixels could fake the interior edges of a helmet with glass/perspex visor to reduce the potential impact of that problem.

Lastly, there is some question as to how well the system would react to different screen resolutions and the interchange thereof.

None-the-less, if this were to be implemented, especially for a horror game, it could set a new benchmark for first person shooting.