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I'm making a post-apocalyptic text adventure in Unity. One of the gameplay features I've added is a quick time events on certain parts. Whether a part is a quick time event is defined inside the story json data like this:

  "PartName": {
    "text": "",
    "choices": {
    },
    "timer": { // if this key exists, the timer event will be triggered..
      "time": "10",
      "nextPart": "" //what part it goes to when the timer ends.
    },
    "background": "" //background of part
  },

When the timer runs out, you'll be forced into a part where the player dies or a unfavorable decision is made that will effect you later on in the game.

Here's a screenshot of a part that contains a quick time event:

Screenshot of a part with a quick time event

Notice anything? The timer is the circle(radial timer) in the right hand corner. My main problem is trying to make sure players know there's a quick time event happening. These will be rare occurrences since I don't want to over-do them(ex: a quick time event every couple of parts) so I feel like the average player will not know that there's a quick time event.

One way I've thought of addressing this issue is by stating what a quick time event looks like in the how-to-play section of my menu, but since that's "locked" away by a button (you have to click a button to get to the section), people may just skip it entirely since text adventures aren't really known for the most complex controls in gaming.

Other ways I've thought of addressing it:

  • Music cues

    • pros: I have complete control over what music I can put there

    • cons: Since some parts have a defined background music, it might not be noticed by the player

  • Background tints (changing color of background)

    • pros: Easily noticeable change and will be unique only to timed parts.
    • cons: Might look ugly or players may not notice the significance of why the background suddenly changed color
  • Large timer in the middle of the screen

    • pros: Easily noticeable and players will notice it's a timer
    • cons: May be obscured by a text and or look ugly.

So I need help either deciding which the best course of action will be to address the issue from the list above over

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just an unrelated heads-up: Keep in mind that different players have different reading speed. By expecting your players to be good at speed-reading, you might make it inaccessible to a considerable demographic. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Aug 14 '17 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's a text writing feature that can be skipped by clicking. It writes it out slowly and only starts the timer event when it's finished. Should help slow readers. \$\endgroup\$ – Ducktor Aug 14 '17 at 17:55
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There is really just one real solution to this conundrum: Playtest it! If players complain about not noticing they were making a decision under time-pressure, you need to find a solution. When they don't complain, everything is fine.

However, of the solutions you present, solutions one and two are unlikely to work because neither a musical cue nor a color change would give an intuitive indication how much time is left. The player would have to experience failure at least once to know how much long the danger music will play / how much redder the screen will become until they get a game-over. Having the player fail when they had no way of knowing how much time they had left during a timed challenge will be frustrating.

The circle indicator is far more intuitive in this regard. But the way it looks and is positioned on that screenshot it might be confused with a save-in-progress indicator. If playtesters complain about not noticing or misinterpreting it, consider placing it in a more prominent location. The gap between the introductory text and the answers seems like an obvious location. The two con's you mentioned are easily solvable by 1. using proper layouting to prevent it from obscuring anything and 2. redesigning it in a more aesthetically pleasing way. I personally find the decreasing progress bar which appears in some Telltale games quite nice (especially because it doesn't take much vertical space), but that's just a personal preference.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The game saves at every part that displays choices. It only saves a 3-4 lines of data so it doesn't really need any indicator since it's so fast. I'll try the test play solution, though. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – Ducktor Aug 14 '17 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ That your game saves too fast to need an indicator isn't the point. Players might think it's a save indicator . \$\endgroup\$ – jhocking Aug 14 '17 at 15:55
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I'm not familiar with Unity's text-adventure capabilities--is there a technical reason not to just use text for this, by adding an additional message every N seconds until they act or time runs out?

You quickly run into the bathroom of the shop and slam the door shut. Luckily, there's a lock; you flip the bolt into place just as the mutants start bashing on it...

The door creaks under the strain; it won't hold long...

Despite the thunderous pounding, you hear the unmistakable pop of wood splitting somewhere inside the doorjamb...

Splinters spray on the floor when something massive crashes into the door, nearly ripping the topmost hinge free...

A few frantic, grimy fingers appear in the gap next to the hinge and begin prying it open from top to bottom...

The first few mutants fall into the bathroom atop the door as the rest stampede in over their backs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Only "technical" limit I can think of is my data storage, which is JSON. It grows incredibly quick, only 4 parts and already nearing onto 400 lines and I don't want to really add too much text since it clogs up the JSON table and makes it harder to find stuff in the future. I'll take the idea into consideration though, thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – Ducktor Aug 15 '17 at 11:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another limit is the fact there's not a lot of space in the textbox for the part's description text, so if there's too much text it gets small and hard to read \$\endgroup\$ – Ducktor Aug 15 '17 at 11:31

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