Less is More
At first glance, some people might think that our game is missing several features that players have come to expect in modern video games. As standard as these elements are, we believe that leaving them out actually adds to the gaming experience.
Map/Minimap - You won’t find a miniature map hovering in the corner of your screen in ToA: Exile, nor can you press a key to bring up a screen that displays where you have already explored and where you are currently standing. By removing these tools from the players, we force them to really look at the world around them to determine their location. The sun, moon, and stars all move through the sky, allowing the player to orient themselves to the cardinal directions. Landmarks become vital for longer expeditions from base camp; choose poorly and a player will quickly find themselves lost. Even getting lost can be its own adventure, as the player explores their surroundings and searches for what is familiar again.
HUD - Though not eliminated completely, we’ve done our best to reduce the Heads-Up Display to the very minimum possible; only the most important information remains on the screen. Whenever possible, we’ve chosen to relay information to the player using audio and screen effects instead of bars or icons. We believe that this makes for a more immersive gaming experience as the player receives multiple forms of feedback and they don’t need to change their focus to monitor their stats.
Global Chat and Whispers - There aren’t any global chat channels or private whispers in ToA: Exile. Instead, players are given area-based chat functions to communicate. The default speaking option has a range of about 10 ft, while the /shout (/s) easily doubles that. Using /whisper is best for those standing next to you, but anyone within a few feet will overhear your conversation. While we do understand that friends and cooperative groups will will use VOIP to communicate outside the game, we felt that the feeling of isolation that comes with being alone helped to deepen the player’s immersion.
Enemy Information - Many games spoon-feed the player information about the difficulty of the enemies they encounter, such as with levels, colors, and skulls. This meta-game knowledge prevents the player from learning through their own unique experiences in the world and breaks immersion.
Character Names - A character’s name does not appear over their head by default in ToA: Exile. In fact, the name of every character is hidden from other players unless they choose to utilize the “/intro” command to introduce themselves. Even then, they can lie about who they are if they so choose. Players can also choose to overwrite the name given and rename a character to whatever they wish. This can be handy to help you remember the guy who shot you with an arrow then jacked your goods, the next time you happen to run into him. Hiding the names adds another layer of distrust with strangers, and it also serves the purpose of preventing a name plate from revealing a hidden character. Which brings us to our last “missing” feature.
Invisible Stealth - Long the staple of rogues, assassins, and snipers, the full-transparent invisible stealth won’t be found in ToA: Exile. Instead players will need to camouflage themselves in colors that blend in with their surroundings and take advantage of both shadow and visual obstruction to hide themselves from both their prey and anything who would make prey of them!
Do you think leaving these features out of the game will positively or negatively impact the play experience? What other game elements take away from immersion for you when present? Share your thoughts with us in the forums at http://trialsofascension.com/forum/threads/less-is-more.10537.