Color and Shadows in Games

By: Matt Lopez (Level Designer), Tyler Houston (Level Designer), Ataberk Uran (Level Designer)

Game References

This includes anything from mechanics, art and narrative and this list will be updated as more game are played or are discovered.

  • Shadows are shields defeated by lights and fire
  • Dark Palette
  • Shadows decrease speed and can kill you if in it for too long
  • Perspective and palettes shift depending if you consume the drug
  • Levels are played completely in the dark, but the player is aided by night vision goggles.
    • Multiplayer modes also have a night vision mode as of 11/1/19
  • A 2D stealth platformer in which the player has to traverse levels and assassinate enemies in their path.
    • Made by Klei entertainment
  • An older 3D platformer in which players play as a paint blob bringing color back to the city.
    • Enemies and oppressed denizens are in greyscale
    • The more color the player brings back via contact with structures, denizens.
    • Water resets color palette
    • Unclear direction of what bringing color does besides life and joy.
  • Both are stealth games that utilize shadows and night time to affect player presence and visuals.
  • Missions are usually easier to finish at night as the cover of night conceals the players form better than the sunlight
  • Night missions are harder due to less sun being produced
    • Pea shooters, sunflowers and usual units take a backseat to let fungi units shine.
      • Fungi cost less resources, but usually have a stipulation that prevents them from being as good as their day counterparts
  • Lightsaber color determines NPC force alignment and depending on player’s playthrough affects who is their enemy.
  • Characters that are rivals or playable skaters have more detail, but are more saturated with color
  • Enemies or authority figure are greyscale and have to be tagged (spray paint) to eliminate them.

Summary and Findings

            This initial conclusion summary is based off of 11/4/19 research information. After playing a variety of titles of several genres, color and shadows are integral to design and player ability in their respective games. We Happy Few utilizes subdued colors when the player is off of the Joy, drug akin to soma in George Orwell’s 1984, and then livens those colors when they are. It also affects the world around them as it hides the harsh realities of the world around them. For example, in the opening section, the main character attends an in-office party to bash a pinata, but instead the pinata was a large rat. Due to the Joy the player was on, he saw the rat as a pinata, but as the dosage wore off, the gruesome scene appeared.

            In regards to how this could influence or relate to The Shadow Pervades, the player is a dog that is trying to bring hope back into a dismal, sorrowful world. In a way they are the “joy” of the game and as they complete things, the world, according to Allen Turner, should reflect that. How it will be done is yet to be officially decided, however, the ideas going around the design table such as leaving the damage behind but having a new form of life growing over it such as flowers or a small litter of animals. Furthermore, bringing color back to muted spaces is an easy tell for players to know that their actions mean something. It creates a sort of psychology of the world reacting to you and that is what many open world games do to make the player’s efforts feel validated.

            In regards to shadows, many games use shadow as a passive mechanic/quality that enhances or derails the main mechanics of the game. In relation to enhancements, I use the term to describe buffs to the player. For example, in the stealth games listed above, being one with the shadows allows the player to sneak around the environment easier as enemies cannot see through the dark. Shadows are also perceived to be a designation of a tainted spirit or evil. In games like Super Smash Bros, Alan Wake and Kingdom Hearts, enemies that are enveloped in shadows or made of shadows determines that they are enemies for the player to fight.

            Moving on to shadows within The Shadow Pervades and how we could utilize it, I feel that the environments the player traverses through could show signs of decay the closer they get to the epicenter of the sorrow that is engulfing the city space. As the player clears areas or quests, we could utilize the particle effects that Will and Scott are working on to convey the expelling of the sorrow. Perhaps we could do an event in which that stuff occurs when the player visits the area post-activity to show change in the process which would add on to the feeling of validation explained earlier. Also, in regards to combat, if there will be a system in place, we can utilize the shadowed look of characters to designate them as enemies. Furthermore, if we use shadows in a stealth context, we can create fight or flight scenarios in which the player can avoid conflict by sneaking in the shadows.

            All in all, there is a lot of mechanical and conceptual things we can do with shadows and color, as things get finalized expect updates and more games to be added to this Document. In analogy form, Sorrow is to shadows as Hope is to colors. Playing with light fixtures and settings also comes into play if the studio decides to add more meat to the shadow mechanic.

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