How much can and should a game take users by the hand? The Resident Evil 4 remake demo is currently sparking a fundamental debate

It is considered one of the greatest challenges in game design: games must somehow communicate to players which elements they are allowed (and expected) to interact with.

Now a discussion is flaring up on Twitter between thousands of users about how far a game should go in this respect. The bone of contention is yellow paint and tape in the new demo of the Resident Evil 4 remake.

  • What happened? The debate started with a simple (Tweet from the shooter account FPSthetics) on 11 March. The author simply states “This has to end” and posts four images from the new Resident Evil 4, showing objects marked in striking yellow that the player is supposed to interact with – for example, fragile wooden boxes containing ammunition.
  • What”s the problem? FPSthetics finds the garish markings excessive and disturbing. They would look inappropriate, especially since the conspicuous illumination of the objects together with the button insertion would already be completely sufficient to recognise them. The accusation: this kind of object design disturbs the immersion and has recently appeared more and more frequently in games, according to FPSthetics.
  • How does the network react? The tweet goes viral in no time, over 15 million accounts see it within just three days. Thousands and thousands of retweets and comments heatedly debate the pros and cons of such markings for interactive objects in games. Opinions differ greatly in some cases, as a survey by FPSthetics itself shows:

Of just over 50,000 votes cast, 74 per cent say such colour codes in games are a good thing, 26 per cent think this kind of marking is bad.

Heaps of developer feedback

The discussion quickly spilled over into industry circles: There are now dozens of posts from the developer scene commenting on FPSthetics” tweet.

Dillon Rogers, a lead developer behind Dusk and Gloomwood, writes: “I understand the frustration. But at the same time, it”s enormously difficult to show the player which objects are interactive and which are not – especially in scenes where there”s a lot going on. “

Graphic designer and programmer Ben Glous comments, “One of the biggest challenges of being a developer is making players see something you want them to notice.” While static objects used to look different from interactive ones, he says they fixed the problem in Resident Evil 4.

Chet Faliszek, who is widely respected for his work on Half-Life, Portal and Left 4 Dead, says dryly of the story, “Someone”s never been on a playtest under observation…” He alludes to the fact that without such markers, user guidance quickly becomes a disaster.

Many arguments and no simple solution

One reason why visual cues like the yellow tape in Resident Evil 4 are appearing more frequently these days could also be due to rising graphics quality, (argues tech and gaming journalist John Linneman).

“Increasing levels of realism, better lighting and more detail have made it harder to fully grasp the environment. Classic games with simpler visuals are much easier to read,” said Linneman.

(Half Life 2 used yellow stickers at the time to mark wooden boxes containing useful items. For many players to this day, a good compromise between readability and immersion).
(Half Life 2 used yellow stickers at the time to mark wooden boxes containing useful items. For many players to this day, a good compromise between readability and immersion).

Other users argue that similar elements have always existed in video games and have almost become clichés without anyone complaining about them. For example, red barrels that explode when fired upon.

Other users, on the other hand, feel patronised by all-too-obvious cues and criticise the yellow colour as “hand-holding”.

What is your opinion of graphic interaction displays? Do you prefer icons, colourful borders or colour codes like in Resident Evil 4 or red barrels? Or are you strictly against this kind of user guidance and prefer to figure everything out completely on your own? Write us in the comments!