Colors in Video Games (Part 2)

Hello everyone,

I have previously provided information on Colors in Video Games and showed you examples. I have also discussed the psychological implications of these colors and how they can affect your players.

As I mentioned at the end of the previous article, I will now explain "How to Use Colors" in your games. So let's get started.

Ways of Using Color Palette

In the stage of selecting your color palette, determine 'for what purpose these colors will be used?' Generally, the colors you assign to your characters and environment can be mixed. However, choosing a general color that suits your purpose or the story of the game is essential.

After completing the process of selecting your color palette, you should adjust the contrasts and determine in which areas the 'color will be in the foreground.' Your goals here are generally 'to evoke a mood' and to convey 'what you want to communicate' to your players. Of course, these are part of the decision-making process.

So, what can be done using color palettes? Let's take a look at that now.

Mirror's Edge
"Mirror's Edge"

Showing Location, Direction, and Way

The most common use of colors and color palettes in video games is to "Showing Location, Direction, and Way". High amounts of brightness, darkness or shading used in certain areas will direct players towards the areas where colors are used.

You can look at the game "Mirror's Edge" which I have provided a visual of above. In Mirror's Edge, the paths that our main character will take, the areas where she will climb and the places where she will run are marked with red. Players can estimate the direction they need to go by looking around.

Another game in the visual, "Bioshock", can also be a great clue for you. As players know, in the Bioshock game, even if our character doesn't open the map, they can't get lost in some areas if they don't want to. This is because the game directs players towards where they need to go using environmental lighting and marker colors.

If warm colors are presented as a guide for players in a game where cool colors are used, or if cool colors are scattered between areas where warm colors are heavily used in a game, this will draw players' attention. Just like how people are attracted to light in the Bioshock game.

Remember that you can direct the player towards where they need to go most easily with colors. And when you guide the way with colors, know that you can also tell the story to the player.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
"The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt"

Safe Area and Sense of Exploration

In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Vampyr games, a gray or pale color is used to show stealth or exploration feature. This is a feature used in many games that involve exploration, navigation, or stealth.

It is important for your players to know where an item is located, how it is hidden, or what is happening in their surroundings in a game. Examining games where these features have been used before and understanding how these colors are presented in those games will give you clues.

The 'damage taking' effect, which has become somewhat famous with the Call of Duty game, is also used in many games. When players take a lot of damage, the screen turns red and gives the player a 'you are in danger!' warning. After the red color disappears from the screen, the player realizes they are safe.

With the color palettes you have, you can turn this situation to your advantage and present the most useful color to your players among dozens of colors to explain to them whether they are in danger, where they can hide, or what they need to do to explore.

The Saboteur Gameplay
"The Saboteur"
The Saboteur Gameplay 2
"The Saboteur"

Story and Character Development

Let's move on to the story and character development that I mentioned from the first section. In this topic, you will see that colors are not only related to details, directions, or techniques.

One of the most effective ways to make a story impressive is to use colors in general. "The Saboteur" game, which you see in the above visuals, is one of the best games that uses this.

In The Saboteur, environmental factors, directions, the path the character will follow, and even the universe move entirely according to colors. The places that our enemies, the Nazis, have taken over in the game appear entirely in black and white. Only the light emitted by bullets, explosions, the red ribbons on the Nazis' arms, and generally the red lighting in the surroundings are colorful.

The message being conveyed here is clear.

In The Saboteur, when you capture an area, the environment is completely colored. However, the colorful world comes with "Warm Colors."

In the previous section, we talked about warm colors and their effects. With the warm colors used in The Saboteur, the producers are trying to tell the player the following:

You can only understand the reasons behind the transformation of an area from a black-and-white atmosphere to warm tones and the development of the story through this game.

Rise of Nations
"Rise of Nations"

Indicators and Descriptors (Glyph)

Color descriptors, also known as glyphs, are one of the easiest applied methods for people developing strategy games.

"Glyph" means, in its literal sense;

Glyphs are used in games to differentiate characters, players, or environmental factors. In strategy games, glyph usage is primarily used for grouping or separating.

Game developers who want to use color palettes in a detailed way do not have to restrict this method only to strategy games. Glyph-style color palette works are also used in FPS games (such as Battlefield) and certain RPGs (such as Diablo).

You can also use glyph techniques to group, differentiate, or separate certain areas from others in your game. There are certain things to know about glyph techniques.

My article on Colors in Video Games (Part 2) ends here. In my next article, I will explain how to choose these colors, where to choose them from, methods of creating color palettes, and the programs you can use.

Author: Ahmet T. Mengeş

Science fiction and fantasy enthusiast. Game addict. Guardian of vampire mythology. Weird and equally arrogant. Amateur game developer. Very amateur.

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