Community Discussion: Blog by shaxam1029 | The ABC's of Game Design: C is for Conveyance (Clark of the Clinja)Destructoid
The ABC's of Game Design: C is for Conveyance (Clark of the Clinja) - Destructoid


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Hi, I'm Shaxam.

Or maybe I'm Max, or Anan; depends on where and when you're from.

Videogames are pretty neat, my favorites are:(in no particular order)

Skyward Sword
Final Fantasy VI
Mother 3
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Thief 2
Doom 2
Twilight Princess

I also like writing about videogames, more specifically about game design.

ABC's of Game ________:
A is for
B is for
C is for Conveyance
D is for
E is for
F is for
G is for
H is for
I is for
J is for
K is for
L is for
M is for
N is for
O is for
P is for
Q is for
R is for Risk
S is for
T is for
U is for
V is for
W is for
X is for
Y is for
Z is for
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“What do I do?” 

Words uttered by pretty much every kid to have ever held a controller in his or her hand. Don’t lie. I know the phrase has crossed your mind and perhaps passed your lips at least one point in your life. Be it a tricky boss battle, a seemingly directionless world, or perhaps just a convoluted inventory system that won’t tell you how to equip that new tool you just acquired, gamers have been asking videogames what to do since the conception of the medium. And for decades, game developers have been asking themselves just how they should answer that question.

Conveyance is… tricky, to say the least. Unlike most other mediums, those experiencing a videogame are playing an active role. The player needs to be engaged, and have at least an inkling of what he or she is doing in order to progress through the game. Simple… right? If all players needed to be engaged was information on what to do next, devs could just stuff their games full of textboxes and annoying side characters, telling you exactly where to go next, what to do next, and how to do it. 

Except not really. You see, because videogames rely heavily on player interaction, the player needs to contribute something of his or her own to an experience. Gamers need to have just enough information to assess situations. How they deal with situations however, in my opinion, should be mostly left to them.

I’m sure we’ve all seen Egoraptor’s video dissecting Megaman X’s opening sequence; exposing the subtlety at which the Super Nintendo classic tells the player pretty much everything they need to know about the game in a relatively short period of time, but I want to approach the subject from a slightly different angle. The beauty of videogames is that they’re extremely versatile, there’s no one way to do something. Conveyance being the topic of focus for today, we’re going to be looking at a game that does a great job of informing the player, while leaving just enough for him or her to figure out on their own.

Mark of the Ninja is a game that should be familiar to fans of the stealth genre. Originally released in late-2012, this sneak’emup was lauded as being a return to pure, unadulterated, stealth. If you’re not familiar with the genre, a robust and well featured feedback system is absolutely imperative if you want your game to be good. And thankfully, Mark of the Ninja has one of the most well-communicated and elegant feedback systems I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. It does a fantastic job at conveying the two things you need to keep in mind during play; sound and light. If something is illuminated it’ll be colored as expected. In the shadows however, things are outlined in gray and filled with black. It’s so simple, yet extremely effective, and manages to inform the players whether or not they’re detected. Sound, on the other hand, is communicated by rings that radiate from the sounds’ origin. These even appear when you’re about to place a trap, or shatter a light, informing you just how much noise your action will make. It all works extremely well, thanks to a rather sharp contrast between the rings and the environment.

Enemy movement patterns, an aspect of stealth that many games fail to communicate effectively, are very much apparent after a few moments of observation in Mark of the Ninja. The fact that the game’s 2D makes patterns in general a lot more apparent and predictable, which I feel is appropriate in a genre all about exploiting patterns.

The fact that almost everything you need seems to be conveyed in an effective and clean matter may seem like it negates the need for any player thought or problem solving, but Mark of the Ninja makes sure that the information that it gives players only serve as a tool for making choices and executing plans. See, the game tells you the things you need so you can get to the fun stuff without having to wade through bullshit. The levels in MOTN are expertly crafted so that each encounter has a myriad of different solutions that you need to find and execute by yourself with the tools provided for you. This is compounded by the items, costumes, and moves you gain throughout the game that open up the possibility for even more solutions for avoiding or obliterating obstacles.

To sum up just why Mark of the Ninja is such a fantastic example of conveyance done right in a game; the information it gives you is communicated cleanly and effectively, and only serves as a tool for you to make your own choices, of which there are many.
Of course, this isn’t the only way to do conveyance “right” in a game. In reality there is no one “right” way to do something when it comes to crafting an experience, but it’s still an example that I think devs need to keep in mind when struggling with communicating ideas to players.
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