Flow optimization for Déjà Vu

- Game Design

Deja Vu Cover You are waking from a stupor that feels like a chronic headache after a week in Vegas.

Déjà Vu is a point n’ click game that was originally released in 1985 for Macintosh, in this post I’m going to talk about the NES version and how to optimize the player interaction with the interface.

Deja Vu Screenshot

The interface from Déjà Vu is composed by the following parts:

  1. The cursor that you move continuously through the game view and the map (2 and 5), and snaps to the options in the notepad and the verbs (3, 4, 6)
  2. The game view is where all the environment and dialogue appears, it’s where you directly interact with the environment and actors
  3. The notepad is where you have access to your inventory (items that you took) and to other information like street addresses
  4. The verbs
  5. The map that shows you in the form of blue squares the places where you can move to (to use the map you need to select the Move verb and click a square)
  6. The first option is to flip the pages of the notepad left and right, the second option is to apply objects (directly from the notepad) to yourself, the third option is to save your progress.

In general, Déjà Vu does a great job at creating a comfortable system for the player to interact with the interface, for example, if you press on something in the game view, it will automatically apply the most appropriate verb (at least in most cases.) And this is especially relevant for the NES version of the game, controlling a cursor with a directional pad is much less comfortable and efficient than with a mouse. Having said that, here are some little things that can be done to improve the flow:

  1. Depending on what you click, Déjà Vu will select the most appropriate verb, this doesn’t happen in the map, you NEED to select the Move verb in order to use the map
  2. If you want to use other verb other than the predefined one, you need to go to the verb section, select the verb and then click the item in the game view, a more viable option would be:
    1. You select the object in the game view
    2. The cursor snaps to the verb window, you select the verb and it gets applied to the object
    3. The cursor snaps back to the game view
      1. The issue with this, is that this will override the application of an appropriate verb pre-defined by the game, this can be fixed by snapping to the pre-defined appropriate verb when selecting the object in the game view, this way the player can quickly select the verb that they want, plus they can quickly double press the ‘A‘ button to interact with an appropriate pre-defined verb
    4. If you want to cancel the action, you can press ‘B‘, which is already the button used in Déjà Vu to deselect a verb Deja Vu Screenshot
  3. In a lot of cases, the pre-defined verb is Examine (Exam.), after this verb is used, that pre-defined verb could be replaced by the most useful after examining the object, for example, at the beginning of the game:
    1. When you click in the coat, you automatically examine it, you’re told: “You feel something in your pocket“
    2. Then, it makes sense for the pre-defined verb (Exam.) to be overridden by the verb Open

Those are some ways of flow optimization for point n’ click games in console versions.