I would like to explore an idea and a particular line of thinking. “What if the player were deaf?” By the player I don’t mean you or me but the actual character in the game. Real deaf gamers must have a hard enough time of it, without the playing character being deaf a well! You might not think there is any difference, but I do. Anyway, on with the idea….
Back to the question: “What if the player were deaf?”. I suppose the obvious answer is subtitles and that is a legitimate solution and has been used in movies for almost a hundred years. It’s even used in gaming for language translation. What I am talking about is more than simply replacing sound with text, I’m thinking about building the whole mod around the one concept. Allow me to explain…
I was thinking about the deaf/subtitles thing when I started to watch an episode of Scrubs from season 6. In the episode a women is walking in the park
The player starts as a regular rebel in a Half-Life 2 mod. The mod starts suddenly with the player being thrown in the air as a grenade explodes near him. He lands about 20 feet away from his comrades and is quickly separated from them. For a few seconds his hearing is distorted but quickly returns to normal…or so he thinks!
Being in a very hectic firefight the player (you) won’t have time to worry about that because you will have your hands full just surviving. Eventually you win through and you will need to make your way back to the rebel base in your area. Level one is complete and gives the player a feeling of adrenaline, coupled with ensuring the player believes this is just another HL2 mod.
Entry into the base is via an intermediate level and is designed to be a puzzling solving section, which allows the player into the base.
The third level starts with the player walking past a rebel guard who is attached to some contraption what will trigger the alarm if he is attacked. Beyond him, is a long narrow corridor. The base has been designed with defense in mid. The ceiling of the corridor is rigged with explosives to allow the rebels to block that line of attack. After passing the guard, who simply grunts, the player walks along the corridor and begins to hear indistinct voices on his way to the main communal area.
As he walks into the main area the few rebels around crowd around to congratulate him on his return (It later turns out he is the only surviver from his battle group).
This encounter with the group should be as dramatic as possible and the addition of slow building music should aid this feeling. I would hope that the player suspects something is up but not be able to guess.
As the rebels start to speak with the player it’s immediately clear something is very, very wrong. Everybody is speaking complete and utter gibberish. AL other sounds are fine but the words are unrecognizable. Something in the character’s brain must have been damaged when he was thrown from his position bu the grenade.
The rebels sound as if they are speaking in a foreign language. It is quickly apparent to the rebels that something is wrong. They decide to try written text and fortunately the player can read and understand it.
The rebels are about to make a major push forward and the player is considered a vital part of the attack and as such can’t be left out. From this point forward the player has to use his visual awareness and observational skills to ensure he knows what is required of him.
The above is of course only the background and starting sequence. Now comes the real challenge.
Screen text in this case is unrealistic, so what other possibilities are left? Below are a few ideas along with a brief description of each one.
What I am really thinking about hear is body movement. A rebel fighter simply points in a particular direction and maybe has a facial expression that says “GO!”. This technique is obviously flawed because it requires the player to be looking in the correct direction at the time. I suppose that the player could be forced to look at the required spot but I don’t believe taking control away from the player is a good thing. HL1 and 2 has a history of allow the player freedom of movement that probably shouldn’t be broken.
There’s probably a happy medium but the time and effort required to get the face and body movements perfect are probably better spent in other ways.
The use of posters and signs depends on the type of communication required. Valve managed to use it for helping the player with directions but maybe that’s all. If you need to give directions to a point that would be fine but to tell a story I doubt it. Of course it really depends on the time and effort you put into the signs I suppose.
I just happened to be looking at a few posted to my screen and thought “Why not?” Other rebels could leave clues or tips for the player. It would be as much about finding the notes as getting the information!
Things like this have been used in many games, so it’s not exactly a new idea. If they are left on desks or pinned to a wall then they fit the theme of the game without spoiling the immersion. Others prefer an inventory system where you can collect and review messages collected
Doom 3 used this idea to great effect allow the reader to via emails, videos etc. Could this be a feature of a newly upgraded HEV suit? It could easily fit onto the sleeve area. Of course he could hear the voices on the video but you would ensure that the videos were created specially for that situation.
Well, there you have a few ideas. I think I had a few more but have lost my notepad and am really not sure where it is, so I decided to post anyway. IF I find it and it has more ideas I’ll post them as a comment.
So, let’s hear your thoughts and ideas for giving information to the player.