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LEVEL DESIGN SUBCONSCIOUSLY GUIDI NG THE PLAYER ABSTRACT

This report focuses on solving the problem many players can experience in games; becoming frustrated when they do not know where to go or how to get to their goal. Disorientation and feeling lost, as well as a lack of sense of direction are proven problems which bring about negative psychological effects upon the player. Guiding methods were researched in real and virtual environments, such as landmarks and lighting. Four template levels were then designed and implemented for an experiment with twenty test subjects. These levels involved using no guiding methods, just lights, just landmarks and both lighting and landmarks. From this experiment, the template without guiding methods took players the longest to complete and was considered by play testers to be most frustrating, which negatively affected their enjoyment. In comparison, the frustration felt within the other templates did not negatively affect their enjoyment. The experiment results show that the lack of guiding methods in template 1 (no guiding methods) had a significant impact on players frustration and enjoyment, thus proving that a lack of orientation can cause negative psychological effects. These results also show that players took less time to complete templates 2 (lights), 3 (landmarks) and 4 (lights and landmarks), because the guiding methods used within the level design helped to assist players through the environment efficiently.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

This project was initially devised due to the common problem many players experience when they play a video game; becoming frustrated when they do not know which direction to travel in order to advance through a level. Guiding techniques are often poorly used when subconsciously guiding the player or providing direction towards a goal. This problem is seen just as often in the real world as the virtual world, as Arthur [1992], an expert in the field of Wayfinding1 states: people tend to feel disorientated when they cannot situate themselves within a spatial representation...and cannot develop a plan to reach their destination. Even Bechtel [2002], who has studied and analysed Environmental Psychology for many years, makes clear how being unsure of where you are located or how to get to a goal can prove stressful and frustrating, leading to negative psychological effects. The purpose of this project is to solve the problem described above by creating an experiment which measures frustration and the time it takes playtesters to complete custom levels within a game. The scope of the project itself will cover an extensive range of factors; an investigation into real life navigation as well as navigation in virtual environments will be created in order to understand good guiding methods. Also, this project will research experimental design for the experiment itself in order for an efficient set of playtests to be conducted. The subject area analysed in this report comprises of many common aspects within life, including day-to-day activities such as making travelling to a new location, or venturing through an unknown area in order to get to a destination. Psychological and architectural factors are covered in order to delve into the guiding methods used to help direct people. Level design and game design will also be researched in order to create an effective experiment to solve this problem.

Wayfinding Encompasses all of the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place. 2

LANDMARKS AND DESTINATIONS IN REAL LIFE

The visibility of a destination helps people traverse towards that destination because they can orientate themselves in relation to their goal [Paydar, 2010]. In an article based on path choice and walking behaviour, whilst aiming to reach a destination it was stated sense of progression is a quality... which helps them (People) have a fine navigation towards their destination. Sense of progression can be produced by a strong destination point, especially when it is visible along the route, a gradient [Paydar, 2010]. Interestingly though, destination points and landmarks can be one and the same thing. Paul Arthur [Arthur, 1992] says Anchor points (landmarks) can be distinctive physical features or destination zones. This means landmarks can actually act as destination points as well as a decorative feature of the environment. Acting as a landscape feature, landmarks serve particularly well in guiding people in the right direction and ensuring space is memorable. In times of urgency, landmarks become vital. Salmi [2005], who has a PhD in wayfinding, discusses how landmarks are important during evacuation and how they can provide useful and accessible building information. This tells us that even in emergencies, landmarks can serve as a vital tool in directing people out of a building. They also beautify the environment and provide people with something to notice as they move in one direction and something to remember as they make their way back [Gifford, 1987, p.g. 431]. Just like entrances, landmarks need to be distinctively unique in order to stand out within the environment. Properties such as shape, size and colour are important characteristics in order to contrast with the surroundings and become significantly identifiable [Salmi, 2005]. For example, the Eiffel Tower in Paris serves as an iconic landmark and destination, allowing tourists to use the structure as a point to move in the direction of and orientate their position in relation to. Landmarks are perceived differently for each person and what may stand out as a landmark to one individual may not to another [Gifford, 1987]. But the more unusual and distinctive the landmark is, the more likely it is to serve as a feature which is quickly identifiable and recognizable [Arthur, 1992].

LANDMARKS IN VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS

Just as landmarks serve as tools for people to orientate themselves within an environment and can be used as a destination point in real life, virtual environments also use landmarks for the same reasons. In Half-Life 2 [Valve, 2004], the player is presented with a significant landmark when they first lay eyes on a citadel that towers over the city, serving as a destination point for the player throughout the game and as a feature by which the player can orientate themselves around when playing through a level [McBride-Charpentier, 2008]. Jesse Schell [2008], a former member of Disney, notes how landmarks help players find where they are going, and also make the space interesting to look at. Landmarks are what players remember and what they talk about. The shape, size and appearance of a landmark also help the player identify the object as a landmark and not as just another feature of the environment. Taking this into account, the player will feel comfortable in the knowledge that they are on the right track when progressing through a level in the game [Co, 2006]. Phil [Co, 2006] who has a degree in architecture and works as a level designer for Valve [1996] makes a valid point in stating how landmarks, also known as set pieces, ensure players can use to keep from getting lost or going in circles. But more importantly, in relation to the purpose of this project he notes how levels often contain several landmarks for the player to progress from one to another [Co, 2006]. It is understandable how so many games use landmarks to help the player feel a sense of progression throughout a level as well as stay on track with where they are going.
LIGHTS IN REAL LIFE

Lighting is another important guiding technique. Not only does it serve to illuminate a particular aspect of the environment, such as a sign, but it also serves particularly well in highlighting a point on a path to help guide a person in the right direction [Salmi, 2005]. Patricia states lighting can be a very effective way to reinforce wayfinding, especially during emergency exiting [Salmi, 2005]. Just like landmarks, lighting is equally important in ensuring safety during an emergency, allowing people to quickly evacuate a facility safely by acknowledging the lights which draw them to an exit.

Using a real life example, ships and boats at sea are constantly guided back to land by light beacons [Boatus, 2010]. In the dark, the lights provide huge contrast to the surrounding environment, allowing ships to easily find their way back to land using the light as a guiding tool. From large to small distances, light beacons highlight the way back efficiently. Even in Libraries, lights are used to highlight signs and guide people to their destination. [Beneicke, 2003]
LIGHTS IN VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS

In virtual environments, lights serve as efficient tools in guiding the player to a spot along a path. Randy Lundeen [2009], a level designer who works for Valve, states: from watching many play tests, we found players instinctively moved towards well-lit areas. Simplifying the lighting helped the gameplay (the player is drawn to the warm glow down the street, and not distracted by unnecessary light sources). The developer has used a light source within an unlit area to attract the players attention. This further reinforces the fact that lights provide huge contrast to the surrounding environment, a point picked up from the investigation into lights in real life that made for more efficient wayfinding. Joshua Nuernberger [2009] discusses how an easy way to direct the players eyes to a certain spot is by using lighting cues to contrast with the rest of the background. In his games, Nuernberger uses lighting to direct the player to points in his levels that would otherwise be ambiguous and hard for players to identify where to go. In Resident Evil 4 [Production Studio 4, 2005], torches highlight entrances of progression through an environment and ensure the player does not disorientate themselves within the world. In Left 4 Dead [Valve, 2008], car headlamps and lights are constantly illuminating points along a path where the player needs to advance.

IMPLEMENTATION

As part of the project experiment, four template levels were designed and implemented within the Left 4 Dead Authoring Tools Hammer Editor. This experiment took 20 subjects and split them up into groups of 5. Each group played 1 of 4 templates; one of which does not incorporate any guiding methods. The other three use lights, landmarks or both lights and landmarks combined to guide the subjects through the template. The playtest was timed and a questionnaire was provided in order to measure the frustration of the individual when playing through the template level.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS

From the experiment conducted, Template 1 (without guiding methods) took players the longest to complete and created the most frustration and least enjoyment. Every playtester for this template felt the frustration negatively affected their enjoyment. Four of the five play testers observed that feeling lost and disorientated negatively affected their enjoyment. Contrarily, in comparison to the other three templates which included lights and landmarks as guiding methods, 14 of the 15 playtesters felt the frustration did not negatively affect their enjoyment and 12 of the 15 also felt that being lost did not negatively affect their enjoyment, even though in some cases the amount of frustration felt was on par with template 1. This finding clearly shows that the lack of guiding methods in template 1 had a significant impact on all areas, most importantly on the two factors measured in the experiment; time and frustration. The initial problem within the project was how a lack of direction can cause negative psychological affects, which these experimental results directly conclude. If players felt overly disorientated, did not know where they were or how to get somewhere, they felt adverse affects which decreased their enjoyment of the experience. The fact templates 2, 3 and 4 took less time to complete also shows the guiding methods assisted the players through the environment efficiently.

Each play tester felt a degree of frustration when playing the game. This is backed up by the knowledge that regression, fixation and/or aggression were felt by each and every player and are all signs of behaviour caused by frustration. Still, as explained above, whats most striking about the results is the fact a very small proportion of the subjects who played the templates with guiding methods did not feel this frustration negatively affected their enjoyment, which brings about an unexpected occurrence; That frustration is not always a negative state. In each template, area 1 took the longest to complete and lead to most players feeling frustrated, lost or disorientated. This area was the most open ended, non linear environment in the game and presented a 360 degree open expanse which may have overwhelmed the player with the sheer amount of possible direction. Additional care should be taken when creating similar environments to this and the design of guiding techniques should also be used cautiously.
REFERENCES

1. Arthur, P & Passini, R (1992) Wayfinding People, Signs and Architecture 2. B. Bechtel, R. Churchman, A (2002) Handbook of Environmental Psychology 3. Beneicke, A (2003) Wayfinding in Signage in Library Design Available online at http://librisdesign.org/docs/WayfindingSignage.pdf Accessed online 19/10/2010. 4. Boatus (?) Nav Aid basics Available online at http://www.boatus.org/onlinecourse/reviewpages/boatusf/project/info5d.htm Accessed online 12/10/2010. 5. Co,P. (2006) level design for games 6. Gifford, R (1987) Environmental Psychology Principles and Practice 7. Lundeen, R. (2009). L4D Art Direction, Part 2: Stylized Darkness, Available online at http://www.l4d.com/blog/post.php?id=2129 Accessed online 7/10/2010. 8. McBride-Charpentier, M. (2008). How Designers Turn Heads, Available online at http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MichelMcBrideCharpentier/20080709/818/How_D esigners_Turn_Heads.php Accessed online 8/10/2010. 9. Nuernberger, J. (2009). Visually Directing the Player, Available online at http://hardydev.com/2009/11/18/visually-directing-the-player/ Accessed online 7/10/2010.

10. Paydar, M & Ramazeni, S (2010). The Effects of Sense of Progression and Cognitive Distance on Path Choice and Walking Behaviour While Aiming to Reach Destination, Available online at http://www.scipub.org/fulltext/ajeas/ajeas33509515.pdf Accessed online 12/10/2010. 11. Production studio 4 (2005) Resident Evil 4 12. Salmi, P (2005) Wayfinding Design: Hidden Barriers to Universal Access Available online at http://www.informedesign.org/_news/aug_v05r-p.pdf Accessed online 14/10/2010. 13. Schell, J. (2008) The Art of Games Design 14. Valve (2004) half life 2 15. Valve(2008) left 4 dead