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The Complexity of Simplicity
Published 2 years ago
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Communicating Through a Visual Language
 
 
We are a three-man team based out of mid-Ohio. We grew up playing video games at each other’s houses, exploring abandoned buildings in the nearby countryside and creating fun science-type projects like potato cannons and a forge to melt down and remold aluminum. Those early interests developed into a desire to continue with bigger and better creations.  In 2014, we decided to focus on game development and began production on our current game “The Pedestrian.” Daniel is the artist, Jed is the programmer and Joel is the designer and mediator.
Our First Game
The Pedestrian is a 2.5D side-scrolling puzzle platformer. It is, in essence, a build-your-own-solution game with a unique art style centered on the public sign system, e.g., male and female bathroom symbols, elevator symbols, etc. The player traverses from sign to sign, not only laterally, but also in depth. You can also rearrange and reconnect the signs to overcome an obstacle in your path. With this ability you are able to explore the surroundings during the adventure.
Design Codes
One of the challenges in creating a game was figuring out how to make it interesting and unique. With that in mind, we have resolved to maintain a high level of integrity and semi-realism in our visual design.
In making “The Pedestrian” we looked to the public sign system for inspiration. What we found was a code of simplicity and clarity. All the symbols in signs are an artist’s simplest rendition of a place or object. A deer crossing sign is simply a deer. A bathroom sign is merely a depiction of a person. Keeping with these codes really became core to all of our game design decisions. Keep the gameplay and visuals as simple and pleasing to the eye as we can.
Another restriction is color. Public signs are only black, white, yellow, green or blue. So, to maintain a level of realism, we wanted to limit the signs to match this color palate. These codes, however, only apply to what is actually in the sign. In the background we could have gray walls in the factory, pink flowers beside the road or a purple car driving down the street.
We also committed to not using text for information or direction. Basically, everything must be said with visuals. In a textless game, we had to get creative with how we communicate to the player in all the standard interfaces that are expected of a game, e.g., menus, user interfaces and tutorials. Since GUIs are not immersive, we created a way for our background design to display all this information. All of the menus in the game are either on a background computer monitor, an old TV or a wall mounted display. All the options menu items are displayed as recognizable symbols. This helps us to remove unnecessary clutter from the player’s screen and maintain a level of simplicity.
To preserve our simplistic code, we also avoided those pesky loading screens. The gameplay is fluid from start to finish, where the player cannot see when one puzzle ends and another begins. We want you to get the sense of being on a journey, one that organically transfers from area to area and puzzle to puzzle, thus keeping you immersed in the experience.
Why Signs?
The importance of pedestrian signs are often overlooked, yet they are essential to society. They help direct us to where we need to go and warn us of potential dangers. All without saying a word! The public sign system has inspired us to really challenge ourselves in terms of design. Like a pedestrian sign, we hope to cross the barriers of language and location to bring a puzzle game that all ages and cultures can enjoy, based on the universal icon of The Pedestrian.
The Pedestrian is set to release in the Summer of 2016. It will be available on Steam, for both Mac and PC.
Check out our Website for updates at http://skookum-arts.com
Follow our Twitter for dev updates https://twitter.com/SkookumArts
Made With Unity Page http://madewith.unity.com/games/pedestrian
JL
Jed Lackey
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