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11 Sep 2014

Making Players Aware of the Secrets in Your Indie Game

We all love finding secrets in video games. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a secret passageway, a secret item, or a secret level, and once you find it? It makes you want to find even more secrets, doesn’t it? Secrets are awesome, but they’re also tricky. The value of secrets stem from players actually finding the secrets, and if they have no idea there are secrets in your game in the first place? There’s not really a point to them then, is there?

Thus, the trick is to find a balance between telling your players your indie game has secrets and not telling them anything at all. What’s the best way to do this? Take a look at some tips below – and thanks to the guys over at the subreddit GameDev for their awesome thread on how to do this. Very insightful stuff!


Show how many secrets they missed

One of the things I like about the latest Super Mario Bros. games is that they tell you when you missed a secret coin. That’s handy. Instead of giving you hints where the secret coins are, you are merely informed that, “hey, you missed a coin.” From there? You are enticed to restart the level and search for the coins you missed.

You too can implement this into your indie game. At the end of each level, simply tell the player they missed a secret. It’s as simple as that.


Break the fourth wall

If you are developing a witty game, use it to your advantage and have an NPC break the fourth wall by making the NPC tell the player directly that there is a secret somewhere in the area. The dialogue could be something as simple as, “hey, player! Did you know there’s a magical ocarina hidden somewhere in the mountain behind me?” This will alert the player that they should explore the mountain, and eventually, maybe they will find the secret item (or maybe not – after all, it’s a secret item).


Provide a hint somewhere in the level

Whenever I come across a scroll or a document in a game, I can’t help but read it. Even if it’s a sign pointing to a town straight ahead of me, it doesn’t matter: reading it is mandatory. I’ve come across a ton of secrets doing this, and it’s something you should consider as well. Reward your players for exploring and searching every crevice of your indie game. As we’ve stated already, finding secrets can be addictive, and once you’ve found one secret? You want to seek out and find others.


Hidden secrets are awesome, and if you have the opportunity, insert a few fun ones into your indie game. Your players will be pleased that you did. Have any comments, tips, or questions about making players aware of your indie game’s secrets? Let us know in the comments below!

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