Highlighting Interactable Objects

Lark

Active Adventurer
MSC Developer
MSR Developer
Lead MSR Developer
Dec 30, 2009
45
31
Oregon
Since I'm currently working on an outlining effect, I wanted to collect some thoughts, and possibly do a Poll.

Right now, I'm implementing a small highlight around Items in the world that the Player is currently looking at, when within range (~10m?). To improve user experience, I want to only do enough highlighting to be useful to the player, but not to be annoyingly cluttered/persistent or detract from the environment (Example: If in a dark cave, brightly highlighting any enemy, through a wall, and within 20 meters of the Player takes away from the setting IMO).

There are a few ways to implement highlights, but for a fantasy RPG, I don't think it would be appropriate to go full-blown CoD and highlight Players or Objectives 1km away behind buildings or a hill. So I put a few concepts down:

Objects: Usable Doors, Chests, Corpses, Switches, etc. These should always be highlighted when looking directly at them and in close range.

Items: Always highlight items while looking directly at them and in range. Or should items always be highlighted (or glow) when within range, even when not looking at them? Maybe a color indicating the rarity or type? (blue = ice mod, yellow = lightning mod, etc.) This might be particularly useful with small items, like Rings. Keep in mind Items will also be accompanied by a hover box with item details.

Objectives: Personally, I'm not a fan of leading the Player directly to Quest Objectives. I'd rather just have dialogue/hints related to a Quest recorded in Journal or something that can be referenced, but I know the norm lately is to use a HUD Compass with icons, a map/minimap hint, or just drawing a big bright icon (with distance) right on the HUD.

Players: Right now my idea is to have NO indicators on Players until low-ish on health, and then have a highlight that changes color based on current health, but does a floating, static Health bar just make more sense? Should I highlight friendly, visible Players in range or not? Maybe this is just a toggled option in Gameplay Settings. Maybe go Left 4 Dead-style and highlight Players (in the same Party) that are under attack, through walls, regardless of distance.

NPCs/Enemies: Never highlight. Maybe highlight when looking directly at them in close range (especially NPCs)? I'm also leaning toward mimicking MS:C in not displaying Health (and/or Mana) without equipping certain items.

Thoughts?
 
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zeus9860

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Blades of Urdual
Crusaders
The True Followers of the Lost
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Feb 28, 2008
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lolwut
I think highlighting should differ with each setting.

Something like this:
Interactable objects - 5m, and if close to the center of the screen, white highlight
Items (equipment and consumables) - 5m, up to X highlights (to avoid clutter), adjust highlight based in rarity drop by giving priority to the rare tiers? (eg: green for common, yellow for uncommon, orange for rare)
Objectives (only highlight quest items, doesn't mean this has to apply to all quests) - no distance defined, instead have a weak highlight marking the object you need to pick up, said highlight gets stronger if within 25m to the point it gets noticeable. The idea is to have some sort of indication of what you need to pick up during a quest the moment you get into the map that involves the quest, so if the objective is a mile away, we can barely see a tiny highlight at the distance. (eg: purple highlight for quest items)
NPCs/Enemies - NPCs should have an indicator on top of their heads that isn't too extreme indicating important info only (eg: quest related stuff, they have an apple on top of their heads clearly indicating "you should talk to me and bring an apple when doing so"), enemies should have a similiar approach, except limit it based on the players perspective in terms of current level vs enemy level. If the player is underleveled to take that specific enemy on, put a tiny skull on top of the enemy indicating you should GTFO as the fight will likely end up with you buried 6 feet under. These indicators should only be visible at close range when aiming at the enemy, to the point where the player can see the warning and move away in time.

But i do think that all highlighting should be somewhat adjustable, at least in terms of opacity. To the point where the player can adjust to a solid like state or have all of it invisible.
 

Jelly

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MSC Developer
RiP
Nov 25, 2005
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You are here --> X
Maybe a black highlight would be less intrusive and more subtle. A highdark, if you will.

If you're playing around with shaders some screenshots would definitely be fun. :D
 

Lark

Active Adventurer
MSC Developer
MSR Developer
Lead MSR Developer
Dec 30, 2009
45
31
Oregon
Maybe a black highlight would be less intrusive and more subtle. A highdark, if you will.

If you're playing around with shaders some screenshots would definitely be fun. :D
Screenshot and video attached.

From left to right:
- Axe is a 1 pixel thick white outline
- Hammer is a 2 pixel thick white outline
- Sword is a 1 pixel thick green outline
- Scythe is a 1 pixel thick Height-faded orange outline
- Mace is a 1 pixel thick gradiant outline, blue and orange.
- Shield is not outlined (it had a black outline, but I removed it)

As demonstrated in the video, I culled them at different distances. Thoughts?

My first thought: Objects should only be outlined when looking directly at them (and in range), and glow otherwise. I'll add a Glow effect next. Also, I think the outlines look too pixelated (especially with the brighter colors) so I think I might Blur the outlines a pixel or two on each side, and maybe add a depth fade for culling.

And I tried a black outline on a couple items, but you really couldn't see it almost at all.
 

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Jelly

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Nov 25, 2005
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Definitely liking the scythe outline the most, as it is the most subtle. Very cool idea with the height based fading. I think it'd be coolest for people to look mainly at the actual item and not the outline so that they can apreciate the artwork and small details. I think a thick white outline will maybe distract too much.

You could also make the outline the same color as the item texture, to make it more subtle. Might be too subtle though. Don't want that either.
 

Lark

Active Adventurer
MSC Developer
MSR Developer
Lead MSR Developer
Dec 30, 2009
45
31
Oregon
Definitely liking the scythe outline the most, as it is the most subtle. Very cool idea with the height based fading. I think it'd be coolest for people to look mainly at the actual item and not the outline so that they can apreciate the artwork and small details. I think a thick white outline will maybe distract too much.

You could also make the outline the same color as the item texture, to make it more subtle. Might be too subtle though. Don't want that either.
Thinking the same thing. If nothing else, I'll just reduce the alpha a bit, make it all more subtle.

I also forgot to turn antialiasing back on before I took that screenshot ☹
 
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