Magnetism Pattern

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The Magnetism pattern teaches how to make it easier and less frustrating to do precise targeting.

Definition

Problem

In games there is often a need for being able to click a small figure, icon or even a single pixel very quickly. This can cause beginners, handicapped and, to some extent, everybody else to become frustrated instead of being entertained by the game. The problem is most common in 3D shoot 'em up games and in fast paced real time strategy games but occur in other genres as well.

Context

  1. Very precise targeting is required to do a frequently used action.

Solution

  1. Make the target easier to hit. This can be done by extending the hit boundaries for the target or by a "smart" technique such as the cursor snapping to close units in strategy game.
    It is very important that this feature is an user selectable option and not something that is imposed on the user, as advanced users may want the extra challenge.


Example Usages

Consider a real time strategy game where you are in control of a large amount of units, many of which are visible on the screen at the same time. The units are selected by clicking on them. Below is illustrated three different methods of computing if a unit has been selected.

Illustration of different ways of determining if a unit is picked
  • The pixel perfect approach is, although the most realistic, the most restrictive method. If you click a point a pixel left of the unit you won't select it, and even worse - if you click the area between his body and shield you won't select him either. Not really what you would want in the heat of battle.
  • The second approach has a rectangular hit box and enables the player to more easily select the unit.
  • The third method is using the magnetism pattern and can actually be done in a number of ways. You could have the mouse "snap" to nearby units, you could select the nearest unit or something similar. The selected method could then also apply to other actions such as the "move to" or "attack" actions, or when when using a lasso type selection to select multiple unit.


A usage of the magnetism pattern in a 3D first person shooter game could be the auto-aim option that many such games already feature. Players can then enable auto-aim if they are new to the game and need some help, and choose to disable the option when they feel they are ready to aim completely manually.