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I'm working on a top down space sim where the ship fills most of the screen and has a fixed heading, i.e. the front of the ship is always at the top. However, there are stars in the background, so when you rotate the ship to a new heading, you get a circular spiral effect in the background, which is predictably somewhat nauseating (and probably an accessibility concern).

stars spiraling around ship

It might help if the ship rotated instead of everything else, but that's not the look and feel I'm going for.

I'm thinking of making the stars pretty dim, but fixed points of reference (e.g. nearby planets) would still be highly visible. Or...maybe the ship can only rotate very slowly, but that's going to impact gameplay.

Anyone have any suggestions? Or seen this addressed in other games?

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    \$\begingroup\$ From the top of my head - have all stars be of different birghtnesses. When rotating dim 80% of the darker ones. Leave 20% undimmed, if/so player can estimate the rotation looking at them. If you have other objects - dim all stars ) \$\endgroup\$
    – Kromster
    Jul 16, 2023 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or an option to deactivate the stars in the background fully if they are just a nice visual background and only point of interests stay (like planets/ sun/ moons that can be visited) \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibelas
    Jul 16, 2023 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ The stars are purely decorative, yeah. Eventually might add some more nebula-y backgrounds (like Homeworld), but for now just stars. \$\endgroup\$
    – Max
    Jul 18, 2023 at 14:31

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The best solution can be determined on how your game "feels" while playing it, but here's a few suggestions that you can consider:

Smooth Camera

Sure the ship needs to always point at the top, but the camera doesn't have to force that to happen. The ship could move/rotate at really big speeds, but the camera needs to be a bit easier on the eyes.

To do that, make the camera "follow" the position and orientation of the ship, so that for example when the ship moves and rotates, the camera will slowly follow the same motion in the next few seconds.

Contrast

Objects with high contrast (like bright white stars on a dark black background) are asking for the eye's attention. When they move erratically, while asking for attention, the eye could get more tired.

A solution could be to make the stars have less contrast (assuming they are just background), or even better, make the stars dimmer as the camera moves around, but have them high contrast once it's more stationary.

Accessibility

You mentioned an accessibility concern on your post, so I'll mention some extra info about it. To make things easier to see on the screen, there need to be multiple "hints" of something being there. A usual example is making an object have a color and a shape that's distinct.

I'm not sure how that can translate to your game, if stars all important (gameplay-wise) and there are different kind of stars, it helps to make each kind of star a different colour and shape. When choosing colours it's good to consider the Contrast section above.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, these are some good ideas. By "accessibility", I meant a couple different things. One as "more accessible to players"; some people just get a bit motion sick more easily when watching or playing games and I don't want to exclude them. Secondly, in the more literal accessibility sense, some players might have vestibular disorders and are similarly more prone to motion sickness. \$\endgroup\$
    – Max
    Jul 18, 2023 at 14:21

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