Player Navigation in BioShock
BioShock (2K Games, 2007) uses numerous ways to guide the player though the game without directly telling them. The game uses great utilisation of environmental cues and clever level design. For example, in the first sequence of the game the player survives a plane crash into the ocean and first thing they see when they surface is a large tower silhouetted by the moon behind it. It’s easy to see that the tower is a point of interest just by how cinematic it appears to be. However there is a wall of fire stopping the player from moving directly to the tower, instead they must move around the flames left by the crash. What is interesting is that if the player moves in the wrong direction the fire will expand and block their path, thus narrowing their possible routes and directional choice.
Another interesting design choice is the red carpet which leads the player in the right direction. In some of the hallways have multiple directions the player can go but finding the right one to progress can be difficult. However sometimes there is a red carpet which leads to the next area of the game. The red contrasts heavily with the overall dark color scheme of the game, making it more clear/visible to the player. This is a very subtle directional cue that can be overlooked easily but the player is subconsciously lead by.
Another element which aids player navigation is lighting. BioShock uses a lot of lighting techniques to show points of interest and to show the direction the player should take. The game features a dark and gloomy colour scheme so whenever there is a bright light source it is very hard to miss. Lights illuminate hallways to lead the player in the direction of the next area in order for them to progress. Lighting is also used to get the players attention to show or lead them to an object or item which is related to the narrative or a collectable item which can be picked up.
The game also uses objects in the game environment to lead the player in the correct direction. For example, in the first combat sequence just after you obtain the wrench there is a bright neon pink sign of a hand which points up the stairs in the direction the player should go. This is a very clever way to lead the player without directly telling the where to go. It also makes the player more aware of their environment in case there are more hints.
All in all BioShock has an interesting way of directing the player without breaking game flow and player engagement. The game uses amazing use of lighting, world design and environment cues to lead the player through the game while creating the illusion of an open world. These techniques are a great way to lead the player without breaking their game flow and attention by using too obvious with signs or using invisible walls.
– Amber Jobbitt