Travelling south considered harmful (feedback)

I noticed a peculiarity in how I perceived the game. I found that I felt travelling south was more dangerous than travelling in other directions, while travelling east and west felt particularly safe. This was very weird: I found myself angling towards exploring the Reach horziontally and diagonally, rather than vertically. Whenever I travelled vertically, I felt on edge.

At some point I realized that the screen resolution and the HUD were causing this. Because I play on a standard 16:9 monitor, and the locomotive is centered on the screen, I can see more to the east and west when travelling. It means that when going north and south you have a higher chance of encountering a surprise threat right off the edge of the screen. And because the HUD is stickied to the bottom, there is very little space to the south of the locomotive, and therefore very little time to react if the threat appears at the bottom of the screen.

So gameplay-wise, it’s more safe to travel horizontally rather than vertically. Travelling south is especially dangerous. I don’t think this is by design, and I think this actually harms the experience a bit. It feels awkward and unfair to be punished for simply travelling south.

This effect is nicely described by Rami Ismail of Vlambeer. For Nuclear Throne, they actually decided to stick to 4:3 and introduce bars on the side of the screen to mitigate it.

A few solutions come to mind:

  1. Zoom out the camera a bit more, so that player has enough time to react anyway (I think this is why Sunless Sea didn’t suffer from this problem that much: it was slower and the view was zoomed out more).
  2. Introduce the bars on the side (though I realize people might be annoyed by this, but maybe if done via circular fog effect it will be less jarring?).
  3. Ignore the problem – maybe I’m among the very few who actually notice it.

Sunless Sea also had this weakness. If you were heading southward, the HUD kept you from seeing anything beyond your headlamp. Consequently, by the time you saw anything, it had seen you–no chance for avoiding or sneaking up on anything. Being surprised by a lorn-fluke the first time you head south from Fathomking’s Hold is not the most fun experience in gaming.