Thursday, 16 September 2010

Psychology of the Interior

Still waiting for the results of the survey to come through...

Within hours of sending the survey build out into the world, it found its way onto every imaginable free download site. Open up your google bar and type in Margrave: The Curse of the Severed Heart; then take your pick from six pages plus of torrents and blogs and so forth!
(Apparently, the game is: the third game in a ruler about an ominous heritage of family Margrejv.)

So, half the team are finishing off Severed Heart, and half have started on M4 (currently titled The Blacksmith's Daughter).
We've been having fascinating discussions about a curious phenomenon which I've blogged often about.
Watching the usability test videos, it's amazing to see the majority of players diving straight into the cottage - scurrying from the moonlit countryside, from the dark forest, and into the comfort of the cottage with its log fires and antique furnishings.
There's a security inside the cottage.
Similarly, four of the five testers did not once leave, or even attempt to leave, the cottage during their session.

I happened upon a fascinating essay written by Agnieszka Mlicka which I thoroughly recommend to you all, for its ramifications are pertinent to anyone who wishes to create a space.

For M4, I've created a derelict town - a town abandoned centuries ago, left to the designs of nature. In many scenes, an interior has become an exterior, with roofless towers and collapsed walls; in others, an exterior has the feel of an interior, with canopies of trees masking the sky and the evening sunlight.
So, I wondered, is there an intrisic set of components that might define a safe haven?
Would a player/reader feel as comfortable sat outside in a walled picnic garden as they would lounging on a sofa in a fire-lit parlour?
What's the difference between a prison cell and a home?

Agnieszka picks out the concepts of purpose and meaning, privacy and public identity, spaces for daydreaming (borrowed from Bachelard's The Poetics of Space), power and control, grids and curves, simplicity and complexity, light and dark, and all manner of other notions.

Another noteworthy find was Sally Augustin's article: Positive Design - Mimicking Nature.
Sally writes:

Humans feel comfortable in slightly darker spaces with slightly lower ceilings that look out over places with slightly higher ceilings that are more brightly lit …

Natural spaces entice us to move forward by conveying a sense of mystery about what’s ahead. In interior environments, a curving hallway motivates us to move on, as long as the environment generally feels safe. In an environment where people do not feel secure, that same curved hallway can seem ominous.

Time allowing, I'll return to some of these thoughts shortly.

In the meantime, I'll stick one of lovely Ben's concepts up for you to enjoy and consider. And do be sure to read through Agnieszka's essay! ;o)

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