In this dev diary, I will be breaking down a level from the game Half-Life 2 and the techniques that they used within that level to direct the player into going the right way without there being any waypoints or arrows. The level that I will be looking at is the first level in the game because it’s a great starting point where the developers to teach the player how the rest of the game will operate.
The main focus that I will be breaking down is how the developers use of lighting is a major factor in directing the play and the teaching method in which the player is taught subconsciously to follow the light.
Learning about the light from the get-go.
(Ignore the flying robot)
After you leave the train you are given two options, one is to go left and the other way is to go right. If you look right it is a construction wall that stops your progress but if you look left you see a long corridor made by the trains with a projector screen at the end. The projector screen is admitting a slight blueish light from the bottom of it because it’s the only way that the player can go that progresses the game, the player will go that way. This is the first time the player sees this blue light and consciously the player wouldn’t think much about it or why it’s there but unconsciously the devs are teaching the player that this light is good and by seeing it from the beginning gives the player familiarity to it.
This is the next time that you see the blue light. To someone that is just looking at the picture, they would probably think that it just looks likes a high tech computer that has blue lighting, but I believe the devs choose this specifically during this time because it’s the time in which you are introduced to your first allies within the game. By linking the colour that is surrounding your ally and you learn you have to get to him for the mission, it teaches the play that this colour is good and you should follow it.
This is right after you meet with your allies, you are forced to quickly escape down into this hole of sorts and there is only one way that you could possibly go, through the door. If you look on top of the door you see the light shining right in front showing that you need to go through the door. By having this area and by not giving the player a choice on where to go, you start to get them to unconsciously recognise that, this light blue light represents, “the way out” and that I should follow it because it allows me to advance through the game.
This is where the developers finally use their design and use of light in an open area where the player can explore multiple routes but will most likely follow the light blue light (which is the way to go) due to being psychological taught that it is the way you should go without even been told with words or waypoints. If you follow the pictures in order you see how one picture leads to the next and how they used the blue light to direct the player.
Overall this is a great level design when you break it down to fundamentals, the designers of this level realised that they wanted to make a game where the player feels like they are exploring the world making the decisions on where they go but in the background are being unconsciously been shown the way that the designers want them to go.