Creating Game Settings with top-notch Graphics

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Image from Pirates: Tides of Fortune

From the outset, we have talked about the importance of graphics in gaming. What we are about to demonstrate in this article has less to do with the quality of in-game graphics, and more to do with the impact graphics have on player psychology.

Using Color Scale & Lighting to Set the Stage

In cinema, filters and color scale are widely used to identify the tone and genre of a film – they give it an individual identity.

Colors from popular TV-Shows

In the gaming world, this very color scale is what sets the tone for the action to follow. It deeply impacts the way we react to the game and resonates with our innermost emotions. The color scale is wholly dependent on the setting we are trying to create, in addition to the genre of the game and the storyline.

Color and emotions are intertwined, as is evident with how specific themes use color to strike a chord with the way we respond to the game. Consider for a moment the impact that certain color configurations have on our moods. Red evokes a feeling of angst, dread and tension – much the same as deep color variations of orange. The horror genre is peppered with these types of colors. Monsters, goblins, demons, and all sorts of other abominations often take on an eerie and unnerving glow in deep oranges and reds.

Variations of red


The color schemes depends on the setting

Yellow is a particularly interesting color in the gaming world, and is often indicative of foulness, infection and sickness. Consider the game Pathologic, which makes widespread use of the color yellow throughout its gritty scenes.

Yellow can indicate foulness, infection and sickness

Now, draw your attention to different shades of blue and how they affect your mood. Cloudy, murky, dusky blues are also unnerving. They instill a feeling of dread and foreboding, and are often used in thrillers. Your sphere of vision is limited when these shades are used, and the thought of the unknown lurking in the background is most unnerving.

Blue: Dread and foreboding

The colors instantly affects our mood

Throughout the evolution of films and games, our minds have associated certain graphics and colors with the stereotypes we have listed above. This has allowed game developers and filmmakers to set the mood by using graphics to maximum effect. The perfect setting can be created by blending the right colors together to create the ultimate gaming experience.

Here at Plarium, our strategy-based games have been put through rigorous testing to consider player perception and settings. Consider one of our most popular MMORPG games – Total Domination. This post-apocalyptic action thriller, reminiscent of Fallout, also has elements of science fiction throughout. The barren wasteland is brought to life in dismal shades of brown and orange. This creates a feeling of barrenness, desolation and ruin. Alongside that, Total Domination juxtaposes high-tech firepower, machinery and equipment into the game in order to strike the perfect balance.

The wasteland of Total Domination

Introducing Interface Style

Interface creation in modern times has tended from the highly complex to the comparatively simple. This is easily seen in the way in which games are developed today.

Plariums Interface Creation

Developing characters

A monster is born

When you're playing mobile games or social games, you will frequently be interacting with the user interface. If the UI fails to captivate your attention, it has failed in its primary purpose. Player retention is at the heart of all social and mobile games. The goal is always intricate detail when designing an immersive gaming interface. A careful balance has to be struck between pop-up windows and the continuity of flow.

Game designers are constantly juggling myriad elements to try and keep players entertained, engaged and wanting more. Each of the in-game elements must serve a specific purpose while retaining the loyalty of players, challenging players at every opportunity, and creating a sense of community.

The manner in which pop-up windows are showcased will allow game creators to emphasise specific details necessary for players to proceed through the game. The specific designs that are used for these pop-up windows also relay certain messages to players. Sharp corners and the use of blades, swords, axes, and other weapons portray aggression. These types of symbols and designs are ideally suited to battle-ready warrior games.

By contrast rounded features such as circular shapes, swirls, and twirls represent tranquillity, sophistication, elegance and relaxation. These are best suited to fantasy-themed games where elves, gnomes, princes and princesses roam through a fairy-tale kingdom.

The Plarium blockbuster MMO game Sparta: War of Empires utilizes design elements indicative of that period in history. These include flags, helmets, shields, swords, columns, and Greek letters.

Sparta: War of Empires

Certain player expectations are inherent in a typical color scale. For example Red signifies no and Green signifies yes. Other in-game possibilities are also represented by Red and Green such as defeat and victory, rejection or acceptance.

Red signifies no and Green signifies yes

Backgrounds & Locations

Setting typically refers to the scene of the game in the Western industry. Setting the scene is a vital component of the game as it determines whether or not the player is absorbed into the gaming world. Failure to create the ultimate immersive user interface will result in a mediocre or unappealing setting. Player attitudes and perceptions quickly sour when the backgrounds and locations of games do not meet their expectations.


Location is especially important when you're trying to create a certain feel for the player. Mass Effect players will instantly recognize the location in this picture – the SSV Normandy. The intricate details in the image reveal a level of personalization within the environment, allowing players to identify with the main character. During the 1990s, gaming developers were unable to specify locations by adding interactive elements in the game.

Today, anything is possible in the world of gaming and individualized locations, unique settings and a high degree of immersion are the norm. These elements resonate with players on an emotional level, and provide us with an in-depth perspective on who the main character is.

Creating the main character

By designing the background with attention to detail, players are drawn into the world of the characters they are interacting with in the game. The background design boosts the level of realism in the game and makes it that much more engaging to players.

The background design boosts the level of realism

Another aspect of social and mobile games that you will notice is that of marginalization. Simply put, this is the area of the screen that your attention is being drawn to. In Sparta: War of Empires, Plarium’s graphic designers upturned convention by moving away from traditional square concepts by expanding the area of interaction. Take a look at the image below which shows you how we have added curves and rounded features to the streets. The overall appearance of the scene is a 3D interactive milieu where the city is clearly divided up into multiple levels. The Player’s Polis is buttressed on the one side by the mountain and bordered on the other by the sea.

Sparta 3D interactive milieu

Another engaging element which we have implemented into our games is that of animated backgrounds. Take a look at our Soldiers Inc. MMO game that adds animation to the scene and creates the impression of ongoing activity within the gaming environment.

Soldiers Inc. game setting

Look at the structure, style, and color configurations of buildings and tenements in games. These form part of the location aspect of the game and it is this aspect that makes for an authentic setting. One such game – The Walking Dead –by TellTale Games is reflective of such rationale.

The background really sets the scene, and as you make your way through the game, it becomes apparent how the decrepit buildings and the abandoned feel of the place is conducive to the actual game. As the characters’ moods darken, the background takes on a similar ominous undertone and supports the devolving mood of the game.

On the flipside, locations that do not appear to gel with the setting of the game as part of the broader gaming universe are also there for a reason. These types of environments are incorporated for the purposes of plot twists and surprise elements in the game.

The Walking Dead

Take a look at the in-game background details below. You will notice that there appears to be a violation of the basic laws of physics. When this is done intentionally, it is done for satirical purposes. It would be foolhardy to violate the laws of physics for no apparent reason.

Violation of the basic laws of physics for satirical purposes

This brings us to another important component of setting the scene: authenticity. The degree to which game developers seek to create a genuine environment is an integral component of the overall setting. In the case of Sparta: War of Empires, the Hellenic sculptures, columns and statues are white – not painted like they were at the time they were made. Players identify with the white marble structures visible in the game, and would probably frown upon painted sculptures and statues that really existed at that time.

Authenticity is an important factor for success

From image to sketch

A character's appearance is the best possible way to arouse certain emotions in a player. A character who displays fear, dread or tension will instill certain emotions within players to make them want to help and assuage that character. The player projects an image of himself/herself onto the antagonist or protagonist in the game. We then act on our emotions accordingly. One of the ways that games try to shape our emotions, and therefore our actions is by way of banner advertisements. A damsel in distress is the perfect example of a game seeking a knight in shining armor!

A character's appearance is the best possible way to arouse emotions

The importance of text cannot be understated: Text helps to understand in-game assets such as defenses and weapons. In this vein, rigorous testing, development and matching needs to come into play to ensure that there is synergy between what the character is wearing and using and functionality issues. It should also gel with the overarching ideas in the game.

The importance of text cannot be understated

Throughout the development of locations, settings and environments, game developers can never take their fingers off the pulse of the target audience. A great example of catering to a specific audience is World of Tanks. This game has at its core an older generation of males who have a deep appreciation and interest in history. Authenticity and attention to detail are absolute requirements and historians may be required to add invaluable input.

The strategy-based MMO game by Plarium – Soldiers Inc. has been translated into seven languages. What is interesting about this game is that the combat weapons of each specific country are accurate. This sci-fi game takes place at a future time, in a fictional country, but players from real countries can identify with the weapons capabilities available in their home countries.

Soldiers Inc. - Translated to 7 languages

When a player first starts playing a game, in-depth analysis is not a priority. Rather, the player focuses on the combat system and the mechanics of the game. As the player advances through the game, context becomes important. All sorts of exploratory research, understanding and analysis then takes place. Players will seek out elements hidden within the graphics, tips, puzzles, etc. Within the game, a character's appearance will reflect emotions based on these new findings. This further adds to the level of engagement that players have with the character within the game setting.

Gaming - all about interaction

Gaming is all about interaction, immersion, and emotional connection. One way that gaming developers do this is by use of graphics. The ideal setting, background, location, and game milieu can be created with top-tier graphics.

Modern-day indie games make use of plot, music, and pictures to draw players into the fold. And the best part is they can do this with a negligible budget. In our next Plarium behind-the-scenes look into gameplay, we will analyze the impact of video effects and audio!