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Alternatives for a 1-up icon?

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This is something absurdly simply that I didn't think I'd be running into as a problem.

 

So I'm making a 2D platformer, and I'm trying to figure out what a 1-up should look like.

 

The most common thought is to simply use the hero's head.  However, my hero is wearing a full suit of armor, so a head is just going to be a helmet.  And if you see a helmet laying around in a level, your first thought is that it is a helmet, and picking it up with give you a helmet, not a life.

 

Now realistically, no one's going to be confused for long.  But I still want that instant recognition, you know?

 

The next best thing I can think of is to have an icon that simply says "1up," but I'm not too big of a fan of that idea.  It's... cheap an unimaginative.

 

So, I'm trying to think of a few other good ideas.  What's a good design I can use for an extra life?

 

My game is using a fantasy/castle/medieval theme, but generic icons work fine.

Edited by Marscaleb

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It's going to depend a lot on what other elements are already going to be in your game that you wouldn't want confused with a 1up.

Heart
Star
Fairy
Shield
Life Potion
A coin (a reference to a credit for an arcade game)
Some symbol associated with your game's god of life (if you have one).

TechnoGoth suggested a soul and you mentioned a helmet. So building on that, how about a helmet that's kinda ghostly pale and maybe glows a bit?

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Hearts, stars and horseshoes, clovers and blue moons!

Pots of gold and rainbows, and me red balloons!

 

(Sorry, it was too easy.)

 

These are some pretty good ideas.

A fairy sounds really fun, actually.  It could fly away after a moment, making it really challenging to get.  I don't think it would work very well for this game, but I'm going to remember that one.

 

I'm still open to other ideas!

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Picking up a helmet would make me think I'm getting armor points (like ye olde Doom games).

 

You could just have a small floating, "Extra Life!" block of text that the player picks up.

 

What icon are you using to display the number of lives the player currently has?

If you show a helmet icon next the the current lives counter, use that same icon. Maybe have the icon have a +1 written on the icon.

 

And like Sean says, make sure you inform the player that he gained a life.

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The next best thing I can think of is to have an icon that simply says "1up," but I'm not too big of a fan of that idea.  It's... cheap an unimaginative. 
So, I'm trying to think of a few other good ideas.  
What's a good design I can use for an extra life?

 
I have always hated "1UP." It may have made sense, in the early 1980s, on arcade machines when it was time for player 2 to hand over the controls to player 1, but it never made sense otherwise.  
It ought to have been "P1" and never "1UP." So now it means an extra life pickup, does it? That term is not very clear either, IMO.
I approve of the above suggestions for hearts or life potions. You could also use a row of knights - pick up a knight icon on the ground, and it visibly slides to the end of the row.

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A mini version(icon) of your entire characters body, but have it a green color with it increasingly flashing faster and faster until it dissappears if they dont get it in time.

 

You now have 3 aspects telling the player not only is this icon good, you better get it asap.

Edited by Kinitex

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Perhaps invoke some known symbolism, like the Phoenix. Myth and lore are full of things that have died and arisen again. Outside of Jesus, the Phoenix is probably the most well-known, at least for Western audiences. That's why the return-to-life item in Final Fantasy is the Phoenix Down (sometimes Fenix Down, depending on the platform).

 

If there's similar mythology in your game world, you could apply the same principle. Either with something that came back from death, or perhaps something associated with immortality or supernatural healing. Maybe there's a snake or lizard that lives for 1000 years, and its scales can heal the dead, or a long-lived tree whose bark/fruit has the same effect. 

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I think the 1up should make sense for the story of your game, at least that's how I would do it.

Ever wonder why Sonic collects rings, or why Mario collects coins? (I'm just wondering myself).

I know Ratchet collects bolts and nuts.

Perhaps these collected items should represent their story counterpart.

Another example is the original Resident a Evil. You had to collect herbs for health, and you could mix them to increase various aspects of your health. Resident Evil had a neat inventory system.

Perhaps this kind of consideration doesn't happen in a lot if games, but it could add a lot of value to your game.

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It does depend a lot on the in fiction reason you're giving the player lives in the first place and how you're representing lives to the player. You could do the Diablo standby and have the number of lives in a red jar (which could also represent health if need be), the player could pick up extra jars to increase the number (and red orbs or drops of liquid for health). 

 

A "life" should be the risk the player takes, Diablo used red to indicate blood, since the player was either spilling or having their blood spilled. Coins are often used to indicate wealth. Since you have a knight you could explore something more obscure like honor and use crowns or castles to represent the realm the knight protects.

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So long as there is consistency between your HUD (and how you represent life there, with a quantity "X" or something similar) and how you depict it in-game, anything can make sense. As people die they will correlate this information.

 

Mario had mushrooms, which were definitely not in-line with the theme, and this is an almost universally recognized symbol of life (green shrooms).

 

General pointers:

- If you have a life bar, or any color code attached to your life system in any way, be sure to use that color as your primary for whatever icon you end up with.

- If there is any thing that serves the role of a health "pick-up", be sure to make it drastically different, or much bigger at least (possibly use different colors, red and green are the norm but sometimes blue works too).

 

 

Given your theme, a few suggestions:

- Cross (assuming you're playing the good guy)

- Skull (assuming you're playing the bad guy)

- Sparkles: The reasoning is that you have a knight in shining armor, and you use sparkles to make it "shine" (brands the game around the idea that your character can only operate when he shines, and that his deaths are not deaths, but merely sparkles wearing off: what good hero in his own right would be worth the name if his armor doesn't shine???).

 

Depends on what tone you'd like for your game to have though.

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