Quitting in TRAUMA

No, I’m not quitting TRAUMA. On the contrary, I just added another feature I kept postponing for way too long. It is now possible to quit a level before completing it. You know, in case you get stuck for example. It was another tricky interface design problem, too. I’m still not 100% sure about my solution.

As you may already know, the entire in-game interface in TRAUMA works with mouse gestures. There is no GUI to speak of, no buttons or menus. The main disadvantage of mouse gestures is that the functions they can trigger are invisible to users. This means that users don’t know how to trigger a function unless the program teaches the gesture somehow. And even then, gestures are easily forgotten unless they users have plenty of opportunities to practice them.

This is OK if the gestures are tied in to puzzles. But the problem is that some functions aren’t meant to be puzzles. Quitting a level is certainly one of such functions. Players will probably want to use it when they get stuck. It should be very easy to execute this function at all times, even when a player doesn’t really understand the gesture interface yet.

This basically disqualifies using a gesture to quit the level. It would be difficult to teach the gesture. Users may not be able to remember and/or trigger it when they need to. On the other extreme, users might trigger it by accident, which would be equally catastrophic.

So I decided to go with a traditional button to quit a level in TRAUMA. Fortunately, I already had a piece of GUI in place that could be combined with this function. When players find certain collectibles in the game, an row of icons slides in from the top of the screen and informs them on their progress. I decided to add a quit button in the upper right corner of that row. I also added a function that would made the row slide in whenever the mouse cursor moves to the top of the screen. Finally I added a special level quit mouse gesture after all and made the quit button look like the mouse gesture.

Quitting in TRAUMA

The row if icons slides in from the top when the you move the mouse to the top of the screen.

This solves a lot of problems. It allows players to check on the progress of the collectibles at all times, which wasn’t possible earlier. It adds the quit button but it’s not constantly in view so it can’t be clicked by accident and doesn’t distract from the visuals. Because the row of icons slides in automatically when players find collectibles, the chance that they miss the button is very slim. The quit button is in the upper-right corner anyway – a popular interface convention. Finally, because the button looks like the quit gesture, it will teach to players the quit gesture and they may chose to use it instead. The gesture looks like a X which should be easy to remember and associate with quitting.

But wait, wasn’t I also concerned that players might trigger the quit gesture by accident? Well, that’s why the quit gesture is special. Until now, all gestures in the game had to be done with one stroke. You would keep the mouse button pressed until the gesture was done. The quit gesture has to be done with two strokes. Players need to draw the first diagonal line, release the mouse button and then quickly draw the second diagonal line. The chance for triggering the gesture accidentally is minimal.

As I’ve said, I’m still not 100% sure about this solution. The thing that concerns me the most is that the collectibles are now a little bit over-exposed. It’s supposed to be sub-quest. Players might now confuse it with the main game objective. I’m also not perfectly happy about mixing icons with buttons and not differentiating visually what is click-able and what is not. Of course there are mouse-over effects but those aren’t obvious on first sight. But I was playing with the idea of making the other icons click-able as well. It could be an alternative way of traveling trough the levels.

In any case, that function is certainly something I will need to playtest thoroughly. Until then, you can help me out by telling me what you think?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

6 responses to “Quitting in TRAUMA”

  1. sirleto

    your solution is good. do not overthink.

    accidentially triggering? yeah … well you can still ask a messagebox “do you really want to?”

    because i currently work on touchscreen driven phone, i would recommend you to test for further ports of trauma towards iphone/android/ipad/etc. what happens if peoples finger stick on the surface and “jump” when trying to do the symbol in one stroke.

    what happens when i can’t complete a symbol in one stroke? have to start over? it would be nice if the symbol will also be recognised if i jumpily click the mouse on/off/on/off (or have my finger jumping on the sticky touch surface while trying to do the gesture)

    1. Krystian Majewski

      accidentially triggering? yeah … well you can still ask a messagebox “do you really want to?”

      That’s exactly what I want to avoid.

  2. Adam Vogel

    I would still be worried about the accidental triggering of a gesture that causes loss of progress. Also for the collectible menu button, are you at all concerned with it being mistaken as a close “x” button? Maybe just clarify the text to say “quit level”.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Quitting a level won’t cause the loss of a progress. Except from collectibles, you collect no items. Even those are auto-saved immediately. The only thing you lose is the position you navigated to and a a little time. It’s inconvenient but not destructive. But I will take it seriously and change it if I see somebody trigger it automatically in user tests.

      As for mistaking it for the “x” button, I’m not sure what the problem would be with mistaking it with the “x” button. Both have quite similar effects anyway. If you want trigger one of them, triggering the other instead works too. Maybe I misunderstood, could you elaborate? I’m hesitant using the word “level”. It sounds too game-ish.

      1. Adam Vogel

        I was thinking it might be mistaken as the close button for collectibles overlay. Depending on how long the overlay shows for, players might want to get it off of their screen faster and see the “x” in the top right corner as the action to close the overlay. I don’t thing this is a huge issue since you’ve distinguished it in size and color from usual close buttons, along with the words “quit.” Considering the rest of your GUI, your current solution seems like the best way, but it might be something to keep an eye out for during user tests.

        1. Krystian Majewski

          Of course! I forgot! Yes, that is a genuine concern as well. Thanks for reminding me. Looks like I might need to spell it out after all.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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