A consistent problem in Particulars has been helping the player locate the particle they control. You’ll be playing the game, moving some particles around, and then BOOM!, there’s an explosion, BAM!, there’s another, and three seconds later you realise that your eye is tracking a particle that you aren’t controlling.
This becomes especially problematic in the last two chapters of the game. With both the electromagnetic and strong forces turned on, particles can no longer be on their own, and neither is the player: you’re usually part of a group of two or three. If you then change your type (as allowed for by the weak force), it can get quite easy to lose yourself in the noise.
Part of the problem is that the player particle isn’t just a blank player avatar, but a particle which has the same properties as many of the other particles on screen. It’s really important that the player particle look like the other particles of the same type, while also looking distinctive enough to be visible.
Another part of the problem is the sheer amount of stuff on the other particles. In particular, the old decay timers for larger particles (which were, essentially, rings around the particles) made it quite difficult to use rings to differentiate the player (because every second particle has rings as well).
So recently, to help with the problem, we removed the decay rings. We’re working on a new way to represent decay, which is still a work in progress, but it’s making a pretty big difference in finding the player (whose data ring really stands out nicely).
That’s just the latest prong in a four-prong attack against player’s getting lost. The other three prongs are:
- Making the player particle’s ‘iris’ (one of the bits that moves when you do) a special ‘player colour’ (green in the first half, purple in the second)
- Having a really faint fuzzy ring of the same colour surround the player particle, to help locate the general area quickly.
- Turning down the brightness and/or saturation of everywhere else to highlight the player, and doing this more in levels which cause more confusion.
We’re still tuning all of this as we get closer to getting the game done, and think that together, these strategies will help you all to play the game smoothly and easily. We’d love to hear your thoughts though, as well as any levels that you’ve found particularly* troublesome.
*So using ‘particularly’ to talk about Particulars has, for me at least, transcended the pun and just become normal again, which is quite nice. Apologies if it grates for anyone else.