In game Computers.

When I first played DOOM 3, the thing that really stuck out to me was how each computer you interacted with had a somewhat unique feel to it. Its amazing how that small detail fleshed out the world so much for me. I actually got excited when looking at a new computer system, because it had this sense of ‘reality’ about it.

It was also something that really took me out of FALLOUT 3. I understand WHY they needed a generic interface for the computers in the game, but I cant help but think if they did 5 or 6 different ones, and mixed them up, it would have added another dimension of reality over everything.

When approaching the design of the computer screens, I originally was going to use a modified version of the dialog engine for all of the computer screens. Now while this is perfect for things like reading logs, and very basic systems, it really did come off as a bit generic for the more complex computer systems. I think that when you are doing something quite ‘puzzle specific’, there should be a more custom computer system in place.

This is where the fun part comes in-and its something that can very easily lead into ‘over design’. You see a lot of over design on computer systems in movies. Lots of rotating 3D cubes, and flashing bits. Now on a movie, that is ok, because you, as the viewer, don’t need to understand HOW to use that system, you just have to understand WHAT THE RESULTS ARE. That is why they have big ‘UPLOADING VIRUS’ bars, and large red flashing ‘ERROR’ notices. On STASIS I have gone through great lengths to have the interface be as simple as possible. That is why Ive implemented things like the ‘pie’ cursor (so your options are always visible), and things like context sensitive ‘one click’ interaction. Now to throw that all away in the ‘in game’ computer systems would be very counter productive. BUT I don’t want the computers to appear that they have been designed for use by trained apes. Its a very fine line to tread, but the main thing that ran through my decisions was to keep everything GROUNDED IN REALITY.

When going on a new ‘design venture’, my first stop is always google. I searched for as many interfaces as I could find. Everything from the LCARS systems in Star Trek, so Anakins pod racer in Star Wars. But I found myself constantly drawn to interfaces that are used in reality. Stock exchange computers, Linux command prompts, CAD software. Using those as my inspiration base, I began to draw up the computer systems in the game.

The first complex systems encountered are in the engineering sections of the ship. These systems were designed to look as complex as possible, but still keeping them very basic for the player to use. Now that I have a ‘design template’ for the look and feel of the systems in the game, designing additional screens is quite a fast process. Each screen is completely unique, and I think it really adds to the feel of the game to see screens like this in the game.

There is a very fine line to tread between ‘utilitarian’, and ‘boring’, but I think that I have struck a nice balance on the designs. Now not EVERY computer will have a unique system. I have already set up the systems for creating the basic computer screens, and it would honestly be a staggering amount of time, as well as graphics and memory to do that. That said, I will have as much variation as is possible.

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Next blog entry, I will go into some detail on my method of writing the story of STASIS, from building the world, to designing the characters.

Have a good week guys!

-Chris