Players of Sekiro: Shadows die twice may remember the battle with General Tenzen Yamauchi a harrowing encounter against a named Samurai General. The truth star of this fight is not the General himself by the finely crafted courtyard that surrounds him. After a battle with a chained ogre, the player grapples into a narrow corridor up above. A scouting tool is found a small opening appears to our right.
2 - Affordance
Following the narrow corridor to continue scouting, we get a few more simple lead lines encouraging us to hug the rickety fence on the right. Fortunately, Sekiro has taught us tall grass’ affordance that it provides cover an the ability to sneak.
The tall grass leads us into the fence on our left. As we approach, we can observe the patrolling enemy and the stationary, but more importantly, a gap in the fence leads our eyes to discover a cliff ledge. Once again, when we see this white texture on the edge of the cliff and the affordance is clear we can hang and sneak closer to our target.
On the other side of the level leading past the sentry, we can see some more examples of Affordance. Once again, tall grass and a cliff edge are used to indicate a safe sneaking route. Additionally, a thick tree branch protrudes from the intersection of our leading lines. Sekiro has taught that a tree branch is a grapple point and an great perch to survey our surroundings. This path also now provides the player with a full route around the courtyard and an excellent opportunity to spot every enemy kill the sentry and form a plan of attack.
We can proceed with facing the mini-boss or…
move on towards the castle.
In the far back section of the level we find a broken bridge that leads us towards the castle off in the distance. A torch off in the distance uses lighting to clarify to the player this is an area we should head towards. An alternate path must be found. At first glance it may not appear obvious but the Tree Branch’s Affordance shows us there must be something below. We Look downward and and see a soft blue light indicating an idol is nearby. This sets our player on a new path.
1 -Overlook, Leading Lines, & Lighting
In this example, I believe the designers at From Software do an excellent job showing where each enemy is located however it is done in a manner that suggests it to the player allowing them to feel they discovered each enemy on their own. The scroll and torch circled in the example image is our first focus point. Good contrasts with the dark hallway, the bright light of the torch and the tall scroll stands out and takes advantage of the leading lines created by the broken wood. This scroll also happens to be the location of our mini-boss and quickly establishes a goal to our players.
Goal: Defeat General Yamauchi
With this discovery, the player's eye moves upward to enemy patrol behind him and then to the broken wall section above. This area is also complimented by a torch to ensure the player stays focused and sees the next enemy above.
In this small opening, we can see a tree branch. The branch leads up a bit further to the right and a very easy to miss enemy the sentry. This enemy is precisely placed to teach players a lesson about rushing and not properly scouting. At the start of this section, you obtain the Ninja Monocular which serves as a hint to scout.
With the sentry spotted the player must now figure out a way up and our final torch on the right side of the screen helps guide our eyes to another branch and a small ledge we can hang from. The player has two possible routes ahead of them continue scouting to the left, or move towards the sentry.
In this one image, we have a couple of great examples of leading lines and lighting to quickly allow us to orientate ourselves and discover all the enemies, in addition, each enemy is always placed near a red color-coded object. Tree leaves, torch, or banner. This subtle touch helps train our brain what to look for.
In Conclusion: Sekiro has a clear and consistent language in it’s level design. It provides us with immense challenge but that challenge is both fair and approachable thru it’s design. In the above examples we have covered the following.
Leading Lines - To reveal enemies and set objectives.
Lighting - To highlight key objects or focal points.
Color Coding Blue = Safe , Red = Danger
Affordance Clear understanding of objects usage through repetition and shape theory.
The above screenshots also contain of variety of other techniques such as signposting, bread crumbing, and Denial and Reward the later of which we can do an entire blog on. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next post.