Ghostly Avatars

Reading Melmoth’s thought of the day of avatars that lose color as they lose health (instead of having health bars), I wondered what alternative option would be available for colorblind players. Systems that work poorly for the colorblind are shockingly common in video games, despite the perception of a male-majority playerbase and the prevalence of at least red-green colorblindness in men. I suppose that relatively few artists and graphic designers are colorblind, so concerns about the visuals surface later in the process.

An alternative would be having characters fade away as they run low on health. Set avatar opacity to their hit point percentage. This fits the lore of a potential game by postulating that the characters are more like einherjar than living beings, which makes more sense than most lore anyway: we are immortal warriors who train ourselves for the great battle at the end, dying daily but arising to continue the fight. In this case, the characters are souls who fade away as their connection to the mortal coil is severed. Characters become increasingly wispy as their connection to the world becomes tenuous.

This would have the effect of making healing much harder at low health, as you just stopped seeing people. Did Bob move or is he dead? This is especially so if you take away tab-based targeting. I like the potential effects of this combined with healing as an area-effect ability, so you would see fading souls frantically flocking to the aura of a spirit healer. It feels like a classic image of the hungry or hopeful dead.

This would also create the interesting PvP option of intentionally running around at low health. Will you accept the risk of being one-shot for near-invisibility?

: Zubon

13 thoughts on “Ghostly Avatars”

  1. I like Left 4 Dead’s coloured outlines to indicate health. Green when healthy, red when not, yellow in-between (purple showing that you’ve been barfed on).

    It would be easy to switch to a blue-yellow option for people who have red-green colour blindness.

  2. My first thought was: “Hmm, interesting concept.”

    My second thought was: “AoE the spirit healer for instant carnage! Mwahaha.”

  3. Would open up interesting abilities for some to see the dead better but less of the real world and such.

    @Melf_Himself another option would be to have dashed outlines. The more solid the outline the greater the health.

  4. I’m an artist in the game industry, and I always remind myself to check that my art is colorblind friendly. I didn’t start out that way, but I credit Puzzle Pirates for waking me up. They do fantastic things for colorblind players, even allowing specific player-created tile sets to compensate. Everything they do works not only for red-green colorblindness but also even full colorblindness.

    It’s something that I try to remind other artists and designers of when I can. Whenever a design feature is only distinguishable via color, I ask about it. Maybe there aren’t many colorblind players, but if we can solve the issue simply and easily, let’s do it.

    It helps that I work with a colorblind programmer, too. I can double check things with him.

    This is also why profile and shape are hugely important in the concept art phase. Game elements need to be readable at a glance as easily as possible, and if the only difference is color, I consider it a failure.

  5. This is especially so if you take away tab-based targeting.

    I’m guessing here that you have never played a healing class. Taking away tab-based or keybound targeting is a nightmare, period. Go take off the key-based targeting on your healer and try to deal with everybody’s damage during a boss fight using AoE heals and mouseclicks and get back to me. I’ll have a hot toddy and a box of tissues waiting; you’ll need it.

    More seriously, while I sort of like the concept, making things harder to see is a bad idea from a design standpoint, and may have unintended consequences. (That assassin you’re trying to chase down? As you hurt him he gets HARDER TO SEE. Handy, for him.)

    1. Mythago, welcome to the site. If you care to peruse the archives, I am primarily a player of support classes. Actually, using AoE heals without targeting players has been the easiest, most effective healing I have ever done: try City of Heroes as a Kinetics or Dark Defender, for example.

      And yes, that assassin case you mentioned is explicitly mentioned as an intended consequence in the original post.

      1. Then I stand corrected.

        But unless a game is going to rely exclusively on AoE heals – which brings up a whole nest of other issues, like agro management, LoS, mana cost, game balance and attack range – removing keyboard selection of teammates would be a nightmare.

        I’m also not sure why you’d want to make it harder to heal low-health players.

        1. You seem to be picturing something like taking WoW and removing keyboard selection, rather than taking one of the many games without keyboard selection and adding to it.

          On the variety of reasons that fading avatars could be a bad idea, I’m placing questions about “tab to select” very low on the list.

  6. I’m a bit confused now because your original post mentioned ‘making it harder to heal’ and shifting to AoE heals as a benefit of avatar fading. I also like the ‘hungry ghost’ image but don’t think the tradeoff in support-class players’ blood pressure levels is worth it.

    I’m picturing most of the MMOs I’ve played where party members can be selected via keyboard (not necessary the tab key) and am visualizing trying to do this with mouse click only.

    1. As in mouse-click on people? I’d picture more of a PBAE, a healing aura, or a cone effect. Think more of an FPS effect.

      Targeting a particular target the way we do is a strange artifact of RPGs. It is inherited from the old pen-and-paper system in which you designated your target. It was the only way to indicate “I stab him.” That remains convenient, but we have modern computers that can show what is in front of you. You can just stab. You can just fire a beam of healing light.

      1. The whole crowding around healers is not good. Who is the most damaged player? The tank. Who is the character the mob is next to? The tank. What do many mobs loooooove to do? Aoes. What tank is going to bring a mob into AOE range of the healers? A bad one.

        If you want to make healing AOE I guess that could work, but that would make healing boring as heck. Most games harshly penalize AOE healing with incredible hate and mp costs to prevent it for that reason. Lowered visibility would just make it more annoying, not any more fun.

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