5 January 2011

Affordance Design in Half-Life 2 - by Michel McBride-Charpentier

      Posted 01/02/11 07:43:00 pm  

Affordance, to put it simply, is the quality of an object that communicates a way to use it. It is more accurately called "perceived affordance," as the operation that an object communicates depends entirely on user goals, past experiences, and context. A videogame padlock, for example, has no intrinsic affordance—It may afford lockpicking in Thief, but shooting in Max Payne or Half-Life. Last year Matthew Gallant wrote a post about how the principles of affordance can be used effectively with physical game interfaces, but I'd like to take a quick look at how affordance applies to objects in a game world.

A significant part of game and level design is in fact affordance design. When playtesters react in completely unexpected ways, frustrating observers by not playing the game at all how was designed and expected, it is entirely the fault of ineffective affordance. No amount of theory and instinct will eliminate the need for playtests, but identifying the contexts and varieties of player history/experience required for an intended perceived affordance will make it more likely that players will "get" the game with fewer iterations of reactionary design.

Problem areas can be found by dividing affordance into three categories: Perceptible, hidden, and false. 

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