dahemac

Disorientation.

Recommended Posts

99 Percent Invisible recently had an episode called The Worst Video Game Ever. It was about the game that killed Atari, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. At about the 18:45 mark they begin explaining, “ET commits the ultimate video game sin, to disorient the user. And you have to understand the difference between frustration and disorientation. Frustration in a video game is essential. A video game must frustrate a user. But you should never disorient them.”

In The Long Dark frustration is managing your resources, planning, battling the elements, and surviving the things that will hunt you. And all that is glorious.

Disorientation is being in the room opposite the bottom of the stairs in the Riken at Desolation Point and not being able to tell which way is which, or up, or down. Not being able to look toward and find the lighted end of the boat interior because you are either looking at the floor or the ceiling in the vantablack darkness and cannot tell. Disorientation is being in a building with many windows on a moonlit night or even after sunrise and no one has added backlighting on the window interiors. You could be facing a window a few feet away and have no idea of your orientation despite the brightness on the other side of the panes.

It is also disorienting getting stuck on some small protrusion or obstacle or edge that is inexplicable from a gameplay standpoint. I once tried to retreat along a dock I had been walking on at the Fishing Camp on Coastal Highway. I became stuck on what was broadly a flat surface because there was an edge. It was very disorienting to be trying to walk forward with nothing happening, to wiggle the mouse and weave side to side to just try and move forward, where I had just come from, and just remaining stuck like a 1967 Dalek. This was more disorienting a few seconds later when, with a clear path to a building, plenty of time, and no way to move forward, I got mauled by the bear.

The Long Dark is a wonderful gaming experience. But there are times when you just cannot tell what you are doing, where you are, or which way you are even looking. There are times when you cannot act because the geometry of an edge less than the height of your foot is in effect an invisible wall. And these are not the best, most delightful part of the game. The interface should allow the player to die from their own stupidity, but not to die, or not to be unable to do much of anything, because they cannot tell what is going on.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, dahemac said:

Disorientation is being in the room opposite the bottom of the stairs in the Riken at Desolation Point and not being able to tell which way is which, or up, or down. Not being able to look toward and find the lighted end of the boat interior because you are either looking at the floor or the ceiling in the vantablack darkness and cannot tell. Disorientation is being in a building with many windows on a moonlit night or even after sunrise and no one has added backlighting on the window interiors. You could be facing a window a few feet away and have no idea of your orientation despite the brightness on the other side of the panes.

I too find this very frustrating, especially early in a run, when you may not have a light source or want to burn a match to get yourself unstuck. Even if I can't see, I should know if I'm staring at the floor or ceiling!

Less annoying but still sometimes surprising is when I find I've walked up a steep slope without realizing it because the camera was tilted up.

One way to handle this would be to add an attitude indicator to the "Quick Stats" screen. It could be as simple as an arrow that gets longer when the camera is pointed straight up and smaller when the camera is near horizontal. (And points down when the camera is pointing down, obv.) That would allow the player to orient the camera even in the dark.

Other things I'd like to see on the quick stats screen: how much weight I'm carrying and my current limit, and the "feels like" temperature. These are accessible via other screens, but it would be very nice to have a way to quickly glance at them.

  • Upvote 1
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While there are plenty of places, mines, caves, where pitch vantablack is the right choice. Most interiors should have some detail as long as we are near dawn or the moon is up. This is true in Quonset Gas Station and the BR Maintenance Shed, but more or less so in various locations, and somehow not in Bleak Inlet Cannery Workshop. There, despite lots of large windows, on a brightly lit moonlit night the interior is just not rendered at all. But yes, you should never have no idea which way you are looking, up or down. If I was solving this I would add a toggleable artificial horizon.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I completely agree with you. Obviously I want to be able to either jump, vault, or step over objects, but if none of those happen honestly I would want objects we cannot step over to be bright pink so I actually know where I can or cannot go. Most of the time it's only annoying, but I've been attacked by wolves/bears a number of times because I am heading in what appears to be a clear direction but then get stuck and have to turn around to fight the animal because I cannot lift my feet more than a few cm. If I had known there was a twig in the way I never would have gone the way I did. I find this sort of thing to be frustrating in a bad way.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/30/2020 at 7:01 AM, dahemac said:

99 Percent Invisible recently had an episode called The Worst Video Game Ever. It was about the game that killed Atari, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. At about the 18:45 mark they begin explaining, “ET commits the ultimate video game sin, to disorient the user. And you have to understand the difference between frustration and disorientation. Frustration in a video game is essential. A video game must frustrate a user. But you should never disorient them.”

In The Long Dark frustration is managing your resources, planning, battling the elements, and surviving the things that will hunt you. And all that is glorious.

Disorientation is being in the room opposite the bottom of the stairs in the Riken at Desolation Point and not being able to tell which way is which, or up, or down. Not being able to look toward and find the lighted end of the boat interior because you are either looking at the floor or the ceiling in the vantablack darkness and cannot tell. Disorientation is being in a building with many windows on a moonlit night or even after sunrise and no one has added backlighting on the window interiors. You could be facing a window a few feet away and have no idea of your orientation despite the brightness on the other side of the panes.

It is also disorienting getting stuck on some small protrusion or obstacle or edge that is inexplicable from a gameplay standpoint. I once tried to retreat along a dock I had been walking on at the Fishing Camp on Coastal Highway. I became stuck on what was broadly a flat surface because there was an edge. It was very disorienting to be trying to walk forward with nothing happening, to wiggle the mouse and weave side to side to just try and move forward, where I had just come from, and just remaining stuck like a 1967 Dalek. This was more disorienting a few seconds later when, with a clear path to a building, plenty of time, and no way to move forward, I got mauled by the bear.

The Long Dark is a wonderful gaming experience. But there are times when you just cannot tell what you are doing, where you are, or which way you are even looking. There are times when you cannot act because the geometry of an edge less than the height of your foot is in effect an invisible wall. And these are not the best, most delightful part of the game. The interface should allow the player to die from their own stupidity, but not to die, or not to be unable to do much of anything, because they cannot tell what is going on.

Good points, although it's hard to imagine how a game should simulate your orientation in the dark. Obviously, the simulation is optics/acoustics, but cannot emulate your sense of gravity. Here's a little workaround: Drop an item, right-klick it (you should be able to find it on the floor even in the dark, especially if it's big, eg the bedroll) and move it around without placing it. It's green or red 'copy' will show you what your surroundings look like. You will easily find your way. Take care to 'place' it when you have found your way out, otherwise it will return into the darkness where you originally dropped it.

About getting stuck on edges: These are being ironed out with every update. You should report them as you encounter them. I'm not going into the 'why is there no jumping over obstacles' topic, as that has been amply discussed elsewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Hotzn said:

…it's hard to imagine how a game should simulate your orientation in the dark.

This is partly a map design problem and partly an interface problem.

While the inside of mines, for instance, are reasonably vantablack, the inside of the Cannery Workshop should be bright enough to see or orient yourself under most circumstances. Most interior lighting should be at least dim low light at its darkest and rendered orientably except in the depths of the blackest moonless nights. Certainly, from the inside, windows and skylights should be backlit if the lighting outside is bright enough to see. Not rendering even the windows on a moonlit night or when it is nearly dawn is bad design. But it is absurd that even ⸘AFTER‽ dawn you can be looking straight up at the skylights in the Cannery Workshop and see nothing.

As for the interface, since you are deprived of any queues other than sight, when in pitch blackness, the interface should include an element to compensate. This could be a faint togglable artificial horizon, but I am sure we could come up with other solutions.

It is not “challenging” game design to be bumbling around in the Riken without being able to orient on the light at the other end of the room because you are looking at the floor and have no way of knowing. That is just irritating.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Rikken boat is nice example of disorienting. But I take it. It is boat which is not sitting upright.

For me was the biggest issue Pleasant Valley. I was drawing map and I was not able to use it. First year or so of playing I was like "what the heck?" and went from the area ASAP. After that I discovered the forum and wiki and found the friking map is 90° rotated. Lucky it is now fixed.

Other than these two I am comfy.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now