Goodbye old and busted hello new hotness. The user interface has undergone loads of iteration and the results are fabulous. Kite is a shooter currently burdened with more than your average number of resources to keep track of. There are in fact five resources that need to be readily identified and measured in a lightning fast and seamless fashion.
Is that too much for people? So far yes, it has been. As an example I’ve had one in ten play testers utilize bullet time which uses the blue “Jam” bar. It’s a core mechanic to be used whenever one is required to dodge quickly or aim as accurately as possible. Feedback falls into three categories: a) too hard to keep track of the extra resource, b) not useful enough or c) too hard to hit the shift key while also hitting space for turbo, moving with WASD, etc.
I’ve set out to solve (a) and put some effort into (b) but ultimately one of the main goals with Kite is to have a player feel like their finger dexterity levels up along with their character and overcome (c) on their own. Kite has been designed to test and hone skills common in other popular games (two glaring examples are World of Warcraft and League of Legends). Things like keybinds, weapon switching, cooldown management and character builds are present in the vast majority of modern games . A huge part of Kite’s mechanics are driven by the philosophy that the player should be pushed to become more and more adept at these same skills that tie all of their favorite games together.
Testers saying that (b) hitting shift at the same time as space is too hard actually makes me happy. It confirms my theory that most gamers haven’t really tapped into their key pressing abilities and that gives me the big target I had hoped for. If Kite is accessible without uber micro, but guides the player to success by slowly layering on complexity and forcing the player to master each layer to progress until they do have the skills, players will have been breaking down barriers and overcoming personal bests right up to the finish line. That is as close to cut and dried fun as it gets and finding the fun is what good game design is all about. The cherry on top is that theoretically they will be better at learning and playing a wide variety of other games too.
With that in mind, a designer’s most powerful tool for assisting and guiding players within a complex experience is the user interface. Persistent throughout all content, the UI can make or break a game. At it’s core, a user interface should provide information and tools that assist the player’s ability to learn and get better at whatever skills the game is focused on, while game design should strive to make everything else easy or automatic.
A good example of this would be having enemy respawn timers visible to the player instead of making them try and keep track mentally. Several games have sparked debates over this, but in the end I feel that literally offloading processing power from your brain to the computer in order to focus your ticker on the core game skills is excellent game design. Yes memorizing periods of time is a core skill in many games, but it has to leave room for gameplay.
Kite’s user interface features a minimalist aesthetic, after all the bigger the UI, the smaller the gameplay view becomes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of shit going on. Leaving us at my answer to a) “It’s too hard to keep track of all the resources”:There will be a unique visual presentation for each resource.
As an example the player’s shield strength is now represented by the little lights surrounding the main info panel. Although it’s not an earth shattering invention it really gets the shield concept across because it surrounds your vitals and without any bars or numbers you can easily tell how much is left. Another bonus is that when the shield is full and all the lights are on it really feels ‘complete’. From a design perspective, going this direction really opened new options to explore for the health, jam(bullet time), energy and ammo bars.
Removing the shield bar also confirmed that fewer bars are in fact better. Players were now having a much easier time keeping track of each resource and were in fact using bullet time more! It’s not a perfect solution but it is a start in the right direction. Next on the chopping block is the jam bar which will be represented by a clock like pie chart indicating your jam level. This bar conversion will continue until there is maybe just one or two actual bars left. Hopefully I can pull it off without them all clashing :]
Another reason players are jamming more is because it’s visually more appealing and you now have a ton to burn through. What makes it more appealing you say?! SPARKLES SON! That’s right, a pretty trail of sparkles is left in your wake as you cruise around in bullet time. They even get darker as you consume jam, adding another visual to play off of. That’s the kind of two-in-one payoff a designer strives for with everything.
Next time I’ll get to the improvements I’ve made to your ability cooldown visualizations (the little dials you can see bellow the resource bars) and weapon control scheme.