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Darkness Revealed Update 39 - An Emotional Bond with Games

Hello, everyone! How's it going?

It's been a while since our last game update. You might have noticed, but the past weeks we were really focused on some marketing and branding tasks. We updated the look on all our social medias, sections of our site and released a new reel featuring a lot of our past games. We also did some long due work on a About Us page! It has a bit of who we are, what we did and what we're doing. Check it out!

All right, so let's get back to what we're really here for! It's a funny thing, when we think about the design of mood, atmosphere and feeling, usually the things that come to mind are environments and music. Have you ever considered how certain interface elements have a huge impact on how you feel about a game?

Today, we'll talk about a mood/design overhaul that has been going on in the game, and believe it or not, it all starts on the File Select screen.

An Emotional Decision

We don't think that a game only begins when you're controlling your avatar for the first time. It starts the moment you boot up the application, or even before that. Call us crazy, but we like to take an immense level of care with everything that happens immediately after you start up the game!

Who among you is old enough to remember the awe of the 16-bits era? One of the greatest things of that time was how connected and attached you felt to a game. The experience of following a game's news through magazines, not quite knowing what to expect, then going to a store and buying or renting a physical copy, and finally unpacking and playing it for the first time! The mystery and sense of wonder of having an entire world fitting into a cartridge was the sort of thing that made us want to become game developers!

We feel that a lot of that magic is lost nowadays, and we'd like to recover a bit of it. 
Be warned: Much of what we'll show here will seem insanely subtle and small, but yeah, we do believe they make a lot of difference!

The first thing is our new boot up screen, shown above. That's the first thing players see. That small animation is all about the mood, and it's also a great way to hide a necessary loading screen :)

It's YOUR game, not ours

Another important design decision in that direction is how we represent your save file. We see it as an important opportunity to further connect the player to the game. While opening a game, just selecting "Start" and having the game transparently autosave your progress for you is efficient and functional, we thought it didn't fit our style. Consider how different it feels to have your very own save slot! You get to create your own little space in the game by picking a save slot to call yours and adding your name to it, and then watching it get filled with little icons representing items you collected, bosses you faced, etc. The Legend of Zelda games do this very well!

There's also something about your save file being represented as a little rectangle that is 'stored' in some screen in the game. It gives your save a sense of physicality, as something that really exists and is there waiting for you to nurture it. It invites you to invest time on it. And it rewards you by showing treasures, items and coins representing how far you've come. This creates an emotional bond that, for us, is part of the magic. 

Designing a Save Slot

You've seen this screen before. It's our previous save slot screen. It was pretty and functional, but we wanted something more connected to the game's concept. As Dave's sole connection to the surface is a radio, we thought so should be the player's connection with the game. For the next attempt, old phones and military radios were used as inspiration.

This iteration was sketchy, kinda empty and a bit too much "in your face", but it helped us nail down some important concepts. The idea of a vintage radio / phone really felt in place, and the radio clock inspired display gave just the right level of abstraction to the information being displayed.

We then created a much improved version, taking heavy inspiration from naval computers and command centers. It was meant to look like an information panel, as if you were monitoring Dave's progress through naval instruments.

That's it for today guys! Hope you liked how we approached the redesign of our file select screen. In the next update, we'll still talk about this subject, but focusing on save points and how we intend to make the player's journey a bit more personal.

Got any questions, suggestions or opinions? We'd love to hear! We are always hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, so feel free to say hello. Or, if you want to receive these updates complete and before everyone else, sign up for our Golden Chest

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