Deathloop and Dishonored developers reveal the effort they go to guide players without using that immersion-breaking yellow paint

(Image credit: Arkane)

Deathloop and Dishonored's developers aren't fans of yellow paint and, instead, use a variety of alternative methods to ensure that player doesn't get lost. 

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth's recently launched demo has once again sparked debate over developers' use of yellow paint. Sure, it serves its purpose, giving players a clear indication of what's useful and what's simply set dressing, but it can be immersion-breaking when these otherwise life-like worlds are splattered bright yellow as if someone dropped a paint bucket a couple hundred times.

Some might say it's a necessary evil, but that is certainly not the opinion of Deathloop director and Arkane Lyon head Dinga Bakaba. Discussing the topic on Twitter, Bakaba says that avoiding using paint marks is "a choice and an investment."

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The developer goes on to explain that alternative methods of telegraphing require "a lot of reactive work" after each playtest. "It's a constant dialog with the playtesters and requires prioritization, communication between disciplines, and a culture of sane, constructive, creative friction in service of the player to achieve it."

Bakaba also highlights a series of tweets by user Andrey Mironov, which explores the lengths level designers, environment artists, audio designers, and more go to to guide players without paint.

As Mironov points out, one of the ways this is subtly yet effectively done in Deathloop is by using arrows and text that draws the player in but that doesn't look out of place, as demonstrated in the below image of the Wonder Wheel ride in the amusement park.

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As further tweets showcase, the developer also relies on clever use of light. This can be a light in an otherwise dingy bunker to guide the player in the right direction or, for instance, a light on the keypad of a safe that lets the player know this object is worth their attention. Sounds, such as a sudden screen-shaking explosion, can also be used to subtly coax the player to where they need to go.

A YouTube video by Deathloop's campaign designer Dana Nightingale, titled "Great Level Design is a Studio-Wide Effort," also touches on the more subtle methods that can be used to guide the player. "Details tell a story," Nightingale explains. "You could have flies over a trash can next to a door to tip the player off that that house isn't abandoned and something fishy is going on in there."

Still, as Deathloop's level designer points out, Arkane didn't entirely avoid using paint in its ambitious FPS, though it did opt for a slightly less conspicuous color. "We had so much difficulties to indicate [Colt's apartment] to the player," Eveillé explains.

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The accompanying image shows red paint surrounding the window, which serves as the entrance. There's also a ramp leading up to said window, and in case it wasn't obvious enough, the huge spotlight pointed right at it is a dead giveaway. It's certainly not subtle, but amazingly, it still somehow manages to not look out of place within the weird and wonderful world of Blackreef.

So there you have it; yellow paint isn't necessary, but it does take a heck of a lot of work to avoid using it.

Check out our Marvel's Blade guide for everything we know about Arkane Lyon's next project.

Anne-Marie Ostler
Freelance Writer

Originally from Ireland, I moved to the UK in 2014 to pursue a Games Journalism and PR degree at Staffordshire University. Following that, I've freelanced for GamesMaster, Games TM, Official PlayStation Magazine and, more recently, Play and GamesRadar+. My love of gaming sprang from successfully defeating that first Goomba in Super Mario Bros on the NES. These days, PlayStation is my jam. When not gaming or writing, I can usually be found scouring the internet for anything Tomb Raider related to add to my out of control memorabilia collection.