Diegetic Design: A Start that Makes Sense

Something I’ve has been working on recently is how we start and finish levels in Unseen Diplomacy 2. We’re keen on keeping everything in world through the use of diegetic design.

In VR it’s important to keep players immersed. One excellent way of doing this is making sure game information, menus etc. are all based within the world and given some context to why they exist. Diegetic design is making sure everything has a in-game context – it’s having the ammo for your gun displayed on the gun itself, or your health represented with animations of your character struggling and gaining cuts and bruises.

When coming up with game UI it’s far too easy to have standard menus, with the usual point and click for the option that you want. The problem with these floating bits of UI is that they break any sense of immersion you may have had as they don’t fit into the virtual world. It’s only if you give them some real life equivalent e.g. they holographic interface which appears in a sci-fi game.

Unseen Diplomacy 1 started in that sci-fi world. We designed the game for a exhibition event where we were demoing it. The story was that we interviewed you for the job of being a spy, and was putting you through a simulation as part of that interview process. It was why it was a bit of an odd space with floating text and UI.

The best idea for UI that we got from Unseen Diplomacy 1 was the idea of shipping players in a box to start the level. It gives them context to why the screen went black, why they are suddenly somewhere new and how they must of got there. The box even adapts to your height – so if you get low to the ground, you get shipped in a tiny box!

We were not very elegant with the transition though! There’s no sound, nothing tells you what’s going on apart from our own voices while we are demoing (which obviously doesn’t work if we are not there with you).

And when you finish a level in Unseen Diplomacy 1, it just fades out. Not very in-world keeping at all!

Thinking about the beginning of Unseen Diplomacy 2 we have to assume that we are not there to introduce the context or tell players what’s going on. This means the starting area must work by itself to do that, to give you story, context, and inform you on how to begin. We’ll be redesigning the starting area from scratch.

We need to come up with ways of starting a level that do a much more elegant transition. But for each one we’re battling against these requirements;

  • Must fit in with the context and story of the world
  • Be easy to do, no matter your ability or size
  • Get you to position yourself in the right place in your play space
  • Not be too hard or take too long for us to create
  • Work in all sorts of levels

The same goes for the end of the level – this time we want a proper transition that makes you feel like a kick ass spy, rather than just fading out to black.

There’s plenty for us to get on with. We have some prototypes we want to do. What awesome spy entrances and exits have you seen in movies and TV shows? Let us know in our Discord and keep coming back for more blogs and updates!