Beauty vs. Utilitarianism (New Screens+Demo)

We’ve been on Greenlight for a few days now, and the results have been mostly positive. Thank you to everybody who contributed thus far! We’re far from being the most noticed game on the site, but hopefully things will build since we got in so early… especially on release!

Till then, we’ve been working to meet some of our most common criticisms, namely that the game lacks polish in areas like the menus. You can check it out in the now-updated demo and screenshots. While tweaking the menus, I found that there’s an interesting trade-off between the game’s pure functionality and its apparent prettiness.

One of the first things I changed was the omnipresent HUD, replacing the blocky, texted buttons with more rounded, pictorial ones. It definitely looks nice, although now if you wanted to find the MAP…

It takes just a liiiiiiiiittle bit longer than it used to:

Changes like that can be pretty small, but I think it’s important to be aware of them as a designer. Now I’m wondering if I should even keep the HUD at an omnipresent hover, and instead have it windowshade down only when you move your mouse to the top of the screen… (this, to me, seems like crazy talk right now!)

Another change made is apparent right when the game starts up. It used to be that there was a quick credits overlay, and then it smoothly animated into a file select screen. But that’s pretty much not how any game does it, and for a good reason; I think for most people that’s just a little too quick. We added an actual title screen:

(Check out the awesome title logo Rockythechao put together!)

Now, the startup feels more evenly paced, with eye candy et al. There’s something sort of unidentifiable but very comforting about having a nice title screen to greet you.

A lot of these little decisions that I’m overturning now are inherited from Phanta’s parent game, Dubloon. Dubloon was far from being the most polished thing on the surface of the Earth, but it was built from the ground-up with a very directed obsession with total utilitarianism. Why stop things with a title screen when you can just have the file select! Why have big menus that pause the game when you can just have them always be visible and make your selections in realtime?

These are the sorts of concessions that have to be made to make the game feel more polished, though, at the end of the day. Chalk it up to the differences between the free and commercial game world, which I’m still finding my footing in.

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