TRAUMA Polaroid Dilemma

I just created a to-do list with all the final changes to the game. There is one thing some people have commented on which I don’t really have a good solution for.

In the game, players find Polaroid photos. There are 9 in every level and they are somewhat of a collectible. Some of them tell a little bit of the story. Some of them give hints on how to find certain secrets. Some simply tell the players how to navigate.


A first-time player finds their first Polaroid. It teaches them a gesture on how to zoom out.

The problem is that because the game is non-linear players often find Polaroids with redundant information. For example, each of the 4 level contains the same 3 Polaroids with navigation gestures. This is because players may chose any of the 4 levels as their first level and I want to make sure they always have the opportunity to learn the gestures. But once a player learns the gestures, they will encounter the same hints in the remaining 3 levels. Likewise with the hints. There is a good chance that players may find hints on how to find secrets they have already found.

Some beta testers suggested that it feels a bit underwhelming and repetitive and I can understand why. However I’m not sure if there is anything I can do about it. I was considering dynamically switching out the content of Polaroids depending on what the players already discovered. Sadly, this is out of the question now because I would need to generate so much more content. But even then, it doesn’t really seem like a good solution to me. With collectibles, I find it important to be able to properly identify individual items. Otherwise, it is very difficult to receive hints from websites and other players.

What do you think? Do you think there is anything else I could have done or still can do?

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.

10 responses to “TRAUMA Polaroid Dilemma”

  1. Clayton Hughes

    I’d think just removing the other instances of the repeated Polaroids would be fine once the first is found, especially if they’re not hidden in particularly hard-to-find spots.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Yeah but then the number of collectibles would be changing.

  2. Nick LaLone

    Couldn’t you place the redundant photos at the feet or where the feet would be at the start of each dream with them automatically added to the gallery or photo area? In this way, people who didn’t remember could click on them and hear what they had to say while experienced players wouldn’t have to.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      That means the collectibles would be in different places depending which level you play first.

  3. Matt

    Not sure about the hint photos, but could you have the duplicate navigation photos already unlocked at the start? Say you finish the first level (not level one but the first to be played) and find every photo. When you start the next level it checks what you’ve found in the other levels and gives you the duplicates. It’s like remembering something you already know instead of finding something you’ve already found.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      That it doesn’t solve the issue. “Collected” Polaroids don’t disappear. So players would still stumble over Polaroids which contain information they already know.

  4. Blegh

    I don’t know if this would be feasible, but a tutorial sort of video or something that wouldn’t be as intuitive as the rest of the game. Or you could make a help dialogue from the menu so that the adventurous players could just go out in the game and try and figure stuff out for themselves, while cautious players are allowed to read up. I haven’t played the game, so I don’t really know if any of these suggestions are usable.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      I will have a help/tutorial section at my website. But I don’t want to solely depend on it. I think teaching players how to play the game works best WHILE they are actually playing the game.

      But I will probably try to disassociate collectibles from game help in my future games.

  5. Isa

    maybe u can make each level’s navigation polariods slightly diffrent? they still giv same instructions but maybe with diffrent backgrounds maybe pictures or notes(polariod) abt the story line to help piece diffrent views (or somethin like that?) soo ppl will feel compelled to find it even tho its same instructions throughout the levels? and still hav 9 collectibles! OMG!!! lol

    btw, the screenshots of the game looks amazing. hope to see it come out soon :) (Y) all the best!

  6. Christian Lerche

    Is it not possible to eliminate the collectibles once you’ve found one of them?
    Like, when you pick up one movement polaroid, the other three ceases to exist.
    And (being off-topic) when can I get my hands on this? It’s like I have huge amounts of munchies in a bakery store, but the Danishes are locked up and all there is to eat is freaking bread.
    Hope it’ll be out soon.


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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