In a totally immersive, simulation-type role-playing game, the player should not look at bars or numbers to keep track of his or her stats, so another method of showing these stats is needed. For example, the player needs to know when to eat, because games (currently) cannot incite a real feeling of hunger. The player also needs to know if they are hurt, so they can take appropriate measures.

Somehow, these feelings must be represented visually or audibly. I'm not a fan of coloring and blurring the screen to show feelings like how most first-person shooters show that you have been shot. What are some ways to represent these feelings immersively?

  • \$\begingroup\$ smells are usually sort sort of coloured fog, temperatures can be highlighted with a colour change (subtly in many cases) hunger or thirst you could try some sort of "moan" or complaint from your character. \$\endgroup\$ – War Sep 3 '13 at 15:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ real hunger, like starvation you could wither away the physical appearance of the character maybe, also applies to thirst. \$\endgroup\$ – War Sep 3 '13 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ you could shiver / sweat a character for temperature issues, i've seen many games where they procedurally add some snow / ice to a persons head and shoulders in winter scenes. \$\endgroup\$ – War Sep 3 '13 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing that could be kind of cool is to display the characters faces on screen and show them doing some sort of action based on the environment. For example if a player is hot their face could sweat, if they are cold they could be shivering, if they smell something bad they might make a disgusted face, if they are hurt you can make it look like they are in pain, etc. In general I think that would be a pretty cool approach but it would require a lot of work. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Danger Johnson Sep 3 '13 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenjaminDangerJohnson That reminds me of how id Software games (Doom, Wolfenstein etc.) would show the character portrait in various states of bloodiness based on the current health. It's not exactly the most immersive thing if used by itself, but if the game allows you to see the character face at all (3rd person views, character sheet/inventory, reflections etc.), this would be a very good way to add depth to the other indicators. \$\endgroup\$ – Patrick M Sep 3 '13 at 20:09

The elements you can use to present emotions I can think of are:


  • character animations (walking upright, bowed or hobbling, arms near the body when cold)
  • especially facial expressions
  • textures or decals (injury, blood, scratches)
  • particles (sweat, blood)


  • player abilities (movement speed, jumps, reaction time, attack strength)
  • body reactions (dizziness, falling over)


  • reaction of NPCs (stare at player of avoid looking at him, making comments, disgust, pity)
  • of course level design (snow, vegetation and sun for temperature)
  • tone mapping of the whole scene (warm or cold colors for temperature, desaturated for fear)


  • ambient sounds (blizzard, howling wind for cold, dry/firey crackling sound for heat)
  • background music
  • bodily function sounds (ggrowling stomach for hunger, panting breath for exhaustion, chattering teeth for cold)
  • changes to voice of character (scratchy voice and often clear throat when thirsty, stutter or shiver voice in cold)
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I like these ideas quite a bit - especially the first set. THe original question doesn't mention first or third person, but if done in third person, there are many options for conveying condition. Walking with a limp, walking slower, etc. for health. Leaving a trail of blood drops. Picking up empty food containers on ground, shaking them and tossing because empty, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Holt Sep 3 '13 at 16:06

The answer by danijar already has some good ideas, but I have another one.

Unless you want to go for a silent protagonist, you could have the player-character monologue about feelings of discomfort. First just occasionally ("I could need a snack right now") and then more frequent and demanding ("Hunger! I'm starving! Food! Please!"). The player will feel obligated to fulfill the needs of the character just because the constant lamenting will become distracting (just like an empty stomach in real-life).

When you want to do this, it would be good to find a talented voice actor who is able to convey the desperation of the player-character well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Very direct approach, good idea! Sometimes simple is best. On the other hand, this might become annoying after some time, since there is only a given pool of sayings. \$\endgroup\$ – danijar Sep 3 '13 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @danijar That's the point: The player is punished for playing bad by neglecting the needs of the character. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/… \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Sep 3 '13 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Haha, but the punishment should not be done at the game's charge. \$\endgroup\$ – danijar Sep 3 '13 at 16:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Reinforcement and punishment, both negative and positive, are all important tools in game design to get the players to play the game the way you want them to play it. Positive punishment is a legitimate way to motivate the player. It only becomes detrimental to the game experience when you use it unfairly by making it impossible to avoid punishment (in this example, by making it too hard to acquire enough food for the player-character). \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Sep 3 '13 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alright that makes sense. I think I misunderstood you in my comment above. Your idea was not to punish the player by playing the repeating and thus often annoying phrases, was it? \$\endgroup\$ – danijar Sep 3 '13 at 16:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.