In LexyMUD, I use a fairly simple (read: lazy) technique to indicate what direction a character is facing: I rotate their icon in intervals of 45 degrees. Okay, so it's kind of obvious. The twist, for those of you who haven't seen LexyMUD, is that most of the icons are drawn from the front... what you see if a character is facing south in one of the Final Fantasy-style games. This results in a perspective that at first strikes many gamers' eyes as being skewed. One tester even went so far as to say, "Oh, I guess your icons aren't finished yet." Others, though, seemed to like it... one noted that it was a very intuitive way of figuring out where you're facing, and that if a bunch of characters got together in a huddle, anyone looking at the screen would immediately know what was going on. Although the rotation scheme was born of frustration and laziness, I tend to agree. It is simple, but its very simplicity is beautiful. I'd like to know what others think, though.

Before anyone jumps in and says, "No way, I need realism and detail," I'd like to point out a few things. For one, ANY time you can see a character's face in an overhead or bird's eye view, something is wrong. For the FF four-direction icon perspectives to hold true, you would have to be standing to the south of the hero, but you're viewing the map around the hero as if from above. In Zelda, you again view Link as if you're standing to his south, but you see the map and some (but not all) of the monsters as if looking down from above. Your mind is able to sort through these contradictory images (it is, after all, actually looking at a 2D screen... any perspective you see is only there because you're forcing it to be there), and you are able to enjoy the game.

There will always be people, I know, that will say, "Give me realism. Give me detail. If you don't have 87 frames of animation and 360 individually rendered degrees of rotation, you shouldn't even bother making a game because I won't be able to accept it as real." These people, in my mind, shouldn't be playing RPGs, where the biggest prerequisite is -imagination-. On the other extreme, it's been noted elsewhere on this forum that having any graphics at all limits the imagination. I don't think that's true... I think graphics allow us to limit our imagination ourselves, and we, being basically lazy creatures (laziness started this thread, after all), take advantage of that. On some levels, I think simple, iconic graphics give players more opportunity to jump into the game and imagine themselves there, because they, not me the designer, are the ones painting the textures on the walls.

What does everyone else think, re: perspectives, graphics, and/or imagination?
When I first saw someone facing north in LexyMud, I thought he was dead. (He was upside down, for you deprived people who haven't tried LexyMud yet.) It took a little getting used to, but once I did, I liked the perspective. It makes it easier to tell where your character is facing when you go to the small icon mode. (I use small icons when I am more interested in chatting than staring at my lovely icon.)At any rate, I liked it. :)

At the moment, Darke Dungeon uses varying colors of smiley faces for mob icons. I'll spruce them up some before I release the game of course, but they serve the purpose for now. Maybe I'll use Lexy's rotation method. It's very easy to use for smileys. ;) (Heh, and Lexy though she was lazy!)

Most of the people clamouring for animated icons are the same people that use other people's icons in their own game. I believe if you aren't willing to spend hours on end to make your own "87 frames of animation and 360 individually rendered degrees of rotation", you shouldn't come down on other people who take their time and produce original work.

Imagination comes first and foremost in my book.
Well, it depends on what kind of game you're making. Console RPGs, for instance, are more or less interactive movies--if your imagination is filling in too many of the blanks, the game designers aren't doing their jobs right. For an interactive, online, multiplayer RPG/MUD, however, I do have to agree somewhat. The IDEAL graphics model in my mind would be one that would actually represent visually what you imagine your character and anything else players have direct control over as, but this would require tremendously massive amounts of talent and effort and would result in your game's graphic files alone taking up more disk space than the combined computer output of France. Hence, basic icons, supplemented by text description and imagination, seem to be a pretty good solution.

P.S. I stopped by lexyMUD the other day when you announced the new larger, outlined icons, and when facing north my character (thief) looked exactly the same as when facing south. I couldn't tell if this was an oversight or a hint that you were eventually going to be moving to standard console type "semi-overhead" graphics (where north would differ from south by the side of the head shown), but I'm guessing now from your post that it was the former.
What does everyone else think, re: perspectives, graphics, and/or imagination?

Depends. I had a nice screenshot of Haven that I was going to show you, but I can't find it on my HD.

The whole of the game is isometric, and I plan on adding lots of graphics, including several different icon states for different amounts of items that can be grouped together (like money).

But that's something I plan in the future. I really believe that if someone isn't playing your game with an open mind, then they aren't playing your game.

In fact, I plan on controlling Haven's population; if they disrupt the environment, their IP and key will be removed.

(Hmm, I should make up a IP-ban/keyban library. That might be welcome with other people.)
On 5/26/01 10:05 am LexyBitch wrote:
In LexyMUD, I use a fairly simple (read: lazy) technique to indicate what direction a character is facing: I rotate their icon in intervals of 45 degrees.

I find it annoying. All questions of glitz aside, it doesn't map to any game model I'm used to and just makes me feel like things are screwed up.

Humans process data in a certain way...seeing human figures in those rotations to each other forces one to assume that some are laying down. The player might be able to unlearn that, but it's disconcerting.
In response to Deadron
All questions of glitz aside, it doesn't map to any game model I'm used to and just makes me feel like things are screwed up.

I don't think I've ever seen anything like it before either, but I liked it a lot. After about the first minute I didn't find it disconcerting at all and grew to like it more and more.

Well, even if Lexy succumbs to peer pressure and changes the icons, you can still expect to see this style in some other game sooner or later, because I'll steal it...
In response to Deadron
It's been proven (more or less) that training yourself to process data in new ways can increase your intelligence. Build neurons--play LexyMUD!
In response to Deadron
I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm not going to let it bother me too much. When you're looking down on someone and seeing their face and the front of their body, it's natural to assume that they're lying down no matter which way they're facing... it's not a huge leap to go from accepting facing upwards as "south" to go from facing upwards being any direction.

Look at it this way. I could just make everyone facing "south" no matter what their direction is. That's hardly any lazier, right? And... bonus... since it's natural to see someone facing a different direction in my model as laying down or dead, I could use the rotations for dead bodies. But, that would be just as silly and no less arbitrary than my graphics model, or any overhead graphics model that shows you anything but the tops of people's heads, their shoulders, and an occassional glimpse of their arms and feet.

I was extremely confused the first time I saw The Legend of Zelda up close... I had never seen a video game that didn't use side view or a true overhead perspective (space shooters, mostly.) I assumed the little guy was somehow climbing the wall or flying. It didn't take me very long to figure out what was going on, though, and now that unnatural point of view seems natural to me. I've played lots of games since then that used the same perspective, or one quite similar... and it's because (not in spite) of these experiences that I was able to adjust almost immediately to the LexyMUD perspective, which truth be told, began as placeholders for the character icons that I hadn't made side and back views yet, saw what was going on and said, "Hey... this works."