During the mechanics theme of Zombie Appocalypse, I want to go deeper into the health status of the player and add a second and third status bar. These status bars will represent different things. The first status bar (green) represents the players health. When his health level reaches 0, the player is dead and the game restarts. The second status bar (green) represents the players energy level. This slowly drains when the player is walking around and replenishes rather quickly when he is standing still. The last status bar (red) represents the players sanity. Sanity drains when the player encounters zombies or hears sounds (footsteps, zombie screams etc.) and replenishes when this condition ends (when the sounds die out, the zombies are no longer in view or the player has killed them etc.). The entire theme mechanics will be built around these three player statuses.
What went well?
Designing and implementing the status bars was quite simple. I had a complete image of what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to achieve it. I wanted to connect the player stats to the rest of the game in such a way that not only the stats update when the game state updates but the entire game and game experience update when the players stats update as well (this, of course, made room for at least one feedback loop so that was a nice additional advantage of this approach). Secondly, the three player stats should amplify one another. For example, if the player is hurt by a zombie while low on energy, he should receive relatively more damage than when his energy level is full.
What went wrong?
After spending a lot of energy in getting the balance just right between the different player stats and got this working the way I wanted them to work, I play-tested the effect they had to see if they transferred my message. Sadly, they did not. The players did not know what the three values represented and were surprised that their avatar started moving slower after some time or that they suddenly died after being bit by a zombie. I had to put more time and effort in transmitting the message rather than the message itself, which took a lot of time I wish I could spend on better balancing the feedback loops.
As stated in the paragraph 'What went wrong?', the players didn't really know what was going on with the three status bars that were seemingly raising and falling at random intervals. I heard lots of “Why did I just die there?” and “”Why is my character so slow?”. The link between the status bars that I spent much time designing and the actual game only existed in data and wasn't made apparent to the player. I didn't have time to really fix this but I have come up with a way to do so on paper (that I would like to implement later, when this assignment is over). Like all great games, the way to make something apparent is not by using lots of text. On the contrary: big texts should be avoided at all cost. The way I want to implement the knowledge of what every component does is to add a story line.