Our Final One- Button Design Challenge Winner

September 27, 2021 By Amy Green

We have loved witnessing the creative contributions of The Playability Initiative to the monthly one-button design challenges this past year. September was our final challenge, and we want to take a minute to offer our heartfelt thanks to everyone who entered the challenge. We have all learned a lot about considering the needs of our players and making video games an even more welcoming experience.

For the September challenge, we wanted to end with something truly difficult, something we hadn’t ever asked our community to take on: a platformer. Platformers are unique because navigation is a perpetual component of the mechanics. The challenge was to redesign Psychonauts 2 as a one-button game. But participants were allowed to base their design on the original Psychonauts if they preferred, as the mechanics between the two games are similar. 

We are thrilled to announce that Damien Fargeout was the winner of the September design challenge and the recipient of a $40 Steam Gift Card. Damien first entered our design challenge in May; he entered again in July and was an honorable mention both months. He entered again in September and won.

Here is Damien’s winning design, along with our judge’s commentary.

Psychonauts 2 One Button Gameplay

Psychonauts 2 Cover

The main pillars from the original game

Psychonauts 2 Original Interactions

A lot of interactions are thought from these pillars. Collectibles and secrets are scattered in all areas.

One Button Gameplay: opportunities and constraints

Can the game require press and hold? Answer: No press and hold. (Holding pressure on a button for specific lengths of time may be challenging for people who are using adaptive buttons/switches.)

Does pressing a screen count as a button? Answer: Yes, tapping on a screen can count as a button, so long as tapping the screen accomplishes the same thing no matter where you tap on the screen. No targeted tapping to accomplish different objectives (As this would essentially create unlimited buttons.)

Can the design utilize the joystick as well as one button? Answer: No, everything the player needs to do should be able to be accomplished with a single switch or button.

Can the design use a double-tap feature? Answer: No. Players who have low motor control may not be able to tap a button quickly enough a second time to have it register as a “double-tap” instead of as a second single tap. Design that relies on double-tap bars users with slower response times from ever choosing the “double-tap” option.

One-button solution

The movement of your character would be possible in different phases:

  • Came angle selection
  • Target location

Camera angle selection

From the default position of the camera, the camera will begin to move around the character to the right or to the left (preferences on speed and direction should be defined before the gameplay). The player will be able to stop it with a click when the camera has a good angle for him.

Psychonauts 2 Directional Arrows

Target Location

From this angle, a target will show the different locations possible between interactable point/interest points. A pointer will automatically run between points, and the player should select the one he/she wants with a click. 

If the target needs to take a bridge, invisible walls will keep the character from falling.

If the character hits a wall, he will stop. If he needs to jump (or double jump or triple jump), he’ll do it automatically.

Psychonauts 2 Directional Targeting

After selecting a point, the character will move around it. If, at any moment, the player wants to change the directions, he/she can stop the character with a click while he is in movement. The camera will start again from the camera selection etc.

Every location will have different icons to give a clue about what’s in it. If the location needs different points to be reached, the player will have to find out the first place to begin with and choose his/her path wisely until they reach the goal location.

Situational Gameplay

If, during a movement, the player guides the character toward an interactable object. The game will propose to interact with an icon lighted by his presence.

Psychonauts 2 Interactable Object

Enemies

When near an enemy, the character will auto-lock on it, and the more lethal and legit attack can be launched with a click.

For instance, if the enemy is invulnerable to shooting, the character will automatically fight with his fists. If the enemy is in the air, the character will shoot. A One-Shot Instant Kill option will be provided to avoid multiple clicks to kill an enemy.

Psychonauts 2 one-shot insta-kill target

If the environment shows that different solutions are possible to kill an enemy, the game will pause (when you click) and propose the different solutions to the player, as below:

Psychonauts 2 different kill solutions target

Here, you can use three strategies :

  • your Psi Blast to stay away from your enemy
  • your Melee attack despite the chances of the enemy to explode
  • Telekinesis to launch a wheelchair at the enemy

You can add dodging in these proposals so the player could dodge a shot on the perfect frame, for instance.

It’s on the player to choose one of these strategies by clicking at the right time. A selector will highlight each of them every five seconds. This preference can be changed in the options. 

The selector can run on action mapped on bumpers and triggers.

The player will have his/her own freedom to pick a solution and find out what happens, as the target location described above.

If the player wants another solution for the situation, he/she can open the weapon wheel. And a selector will run automatically between the different weapons available.

Psychonauts 2 Weapon Wheel

Mike from Numinous Games

When Mike Perrotto reviewed this design, he said, “I feel inspired to try out some of these ideas in a 3D platformer. I love the thought you’ve put into player decisions and making choices based on context as well. Being able to interact with things but not have to make quick and dexterity-based decisions is crucial when designing for accessibility.  Well done!”

Jonah

And Jonah Monaghan added, “This design smooths the varied mechanisms of Psychonauts 2 into a fluid one-button design. Camera control can be a forgotten element when designing one-button games. I appreciate that this design gives the player agency over the camera: a vital mechanism in a 3D platforming game. However, just as camera control is important for a 3D platforming game, so are interactions such as jumping. Perhaps, providing the player agency in their jumping times would allow the platforming mechanics to show themselves more. Despite this critique, the design ensures that other mechanisms such as combat can show their colors even in a one-button setting. An important thing I must applaud you on is that any ideas that may stretch outside of being accessible are clarified to be deemed by the user (such as dodging). Clarification such as this is a valuable tool when handing designs over to developers. Well done!”

While we are sad to say goodbye to the one-button challenges, we hope they have been a valuable experience for everyone who read about them and participated in them. We believe the fine work everyone shared showed by example how games can be inclusive while not compromising on fun. We are excited to begin sharing Painted Waters, our new one-button game, in October. We’d love to have the community’s feedback so we can make sure this game is as accessible as possible. To see all the community feedback posts that will begin in October, please join us in our Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ThePlayabilityInitiative