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Interface Project and usability

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Hi, I am currently enrolled in a game programming degree program.  For my interface class, we have a project where we come up with a game concept, then design a mockup interface for it.  For this phase of the project, we were asked to share some of our interface ideas, particularly those dealing with usability, and get some input from the community at large.

For my game, I came up with a 3rd person stealth-based action RPG featuring a vampire that uses a computer (i.e., keyboard and mouse) control scheme.  I tried to keep it familiar by using many of the staples for movement: WASD for directions, Shift for sprinting, Space for jumping, etc.  I didn't see any point in trying to reinvent a control scheme that has been successful for so many games over the years.  It also reduces the learning curve for the game if the player can simply sit down and start walking around.

The game has a modern urban setting and will involve a certain amount of gameplay indoors.  This creates an issue for monitoring the day/night cycle.  I didn't want to have a constant onscreen display of the time but I wanted it accessible.  I decided on a "digital watch" the vampire wears, accessible by the Tab button.  This allows players the opportunity to check what time it is but only if they are not in the middle of a fight or some other high tension situation.  The main reason I liked this idea is it allows the player the chance to forget that morning is coming and could make for some interesting gameplay when the player realizes they need to drop everything right now and run like mad to find shelter, disregarding any attempt to not look like a vampire trying to find a place to hide.

For most of the action controls, I tried to keep it to a one button, one function scheme.  For console titles and games with lots of options such as MMOs, I understand the use of context-sensitive keys.  However, the keyboard has plenty of keys that are close at hand and most games should be able to limit the amout of context overlap in the control scheme.  I think this helps keep newer players from getting confused or, worse yet, frustrated because the game doesn't respond in the way they expect.

I think i'm going to cut myself off there.  If anybody has any wisdom to share, don't be shy.  Just try to keep criticisms constructive.  Thanks.


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