Windows to the Soul

As the title suggests, this post is about eyes, specifically the role they play in conveying emotional states.  You see, reBERth is a story-driven game centered around Mel, a woman who barely escapes the destruction of her homeworld and begins a quest to save the rest of the galaxy.  A key element in any such story-driven experience is the emotional arc.

Each level of reBERth will tell its own portion of the story and feature its own emotional arc.  Much of this will be expressed through the music of a level.  But reBERth is a game that combines music and visual experiences wherever possible, enabling each sense to reinforce the other.  This is where eyes come in.

We’re not talking about the players eyes: we’re talking about Mel’s eyes.  As the pilot of the eponymous spaceship reBERth and the game’s hero, the emotional arc is really her arc.  We want you as the player to connect with her; to feel for her.  And the best way we know to do that visually is to show you her eyes.  It’s been shown that “[a] person’s face, especially their eyes, creates the most obvious and immediate cues that lead to the formation of impressions.”

One of our current milestone tasks is to hone in on a design for “Mel Reaction HUD.”  This is an early concept piece by our artist Jacques:

An early exploration of the Mel Reaction HUD

In this image, Jacques is exploring a couple of facial expressions and testing the impact of Mel’s visor on the readability of her emotions.  This particular concept attempts to portray Mel in a state of pained concern, in order to trigger empathy in the player (by eliciting a similar feeling).  As expected, the image on the right is far easier to read on an emotional level.

We’re really excited about the direction this HUD element is headed.  Even these concepts help add a sense of gravitas to the game — and they haven’t even made it into our white-box level yet!  We’re itching to see your reactions when this system is actively reinforcing (and reinforced by) the action on screen and the music in your ears!


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