Do you hate the "yellow paint on ledges" trick in games or does it have its place?

Lauren Morton

Staff member

Hey there PC gamers and welcome back to another week of Chat Log that's based on social media discoursing. We try not to spend our time debating on Twitter, but we can't help rehashing some of the usual topics among ourselves at least. Recently the conversation about "yellow paint" came up again thanks to Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. You know the stuff: when any climbable surface in a game has yellow paint slapped on it to make sure you can't miss it. The trick feels a little overdone at this point, so it's no wonder we all internally groan when we see it, but developers are often quick to jump in on these social media debates to explain why we can't do away with the yellow paint trick. So, whether you've entered the fray about all this on Twitter or not, tell us how you feel here.

Do you hate the "yellow paint" trick in games or does it have its place?​

We all acknowledge that using the environment to point players in the right direction is a really important part of level design, but does it always have to be yellow paint? Is this really any different from those years of FPS games where all explodable barrels were red? By the end, I think we talk ourselves into being anti yellow paint, if only because we think there should be a little more variety in how we handle climbing sections.
 
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I don't have particularly strong feelings on it, I definitely don't hate it. I get that it can clash with a game's aesthetic and seem totally incongruous in-world, but like you say it's just another bit of game-design shorthand, much like how all explodable barrels must be red.
I think there are easy solutions to the problem; more games implementing the option to outright disable it, or putting it on a timer (if a player is wondering in this room for more than x minutes, splash a bit of paint on that ledge up there). I know my wife has a real problem with it, she hates it - she found it particularly egregious in Resident Evil 4 remake 😂

I do recall a time in Mirror's Edge: Catalyst (I think...?) where I was messing around in the options and saw you could disable some of the colourful marking or the quest arrow or something, and thought "great, let's give this a go". Quickly realised in a fast-paced parkour game, I was very dependant on the game guiding me along - the level design alone struggled to convey exactly what was climbable and where to go, and additionally given that game has a bit of an open-world and you can come at rooftops from many directions, I feel it was an impossible task for the devs. In short, I think yellow paint still has its place.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
As an example of the paint being good or bad: Pre-reboot Tomb Raider would have been ruined by white paint. There's fighting in that game for sure, but it's mostly about finding your way through a level and discovering secrets. Rebooted Tomb Raider is far more action oriented. The climbing is linear stuff - you can't veer off the white paint trail to discover some secret area.

OK, this is nuts. I keep pausing the video to write something, then I continue it and you people say the same things! Even my little parenthetical note about Horizon: Zero Dawn using white paint instead of yellow when I used it as an example!?

Hehehe, the tell-me-what-to-look-at button at 34:55! That goes way, way back! And yeah, I end up pressing it a lot. (Clicking it on and off makes the interactable things flash, making them even more obvious, so I do that a lot. But I did it myself so it's totally not immersion breaking.... somehow.) If you didn't have it, though, we would be looking at every single thing to see if there's something in it.

Who does it well? Death Stranding! Push your little pinger button and you get a quick grid of colored dots telling you how dangerous it will be to walk on that spot. You can even see your old footprints if you've been there before. (And +1 for using x's, triangles, and dots so the colorblind aren't SOL.)

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P.S. @PCGMollie - your current pawns asked me to ask you if you were mad at them about something, and, if it's that whole "not attacking the goblins attacking you" incident, to tell you that they are really sorry.
 
I'm all for whatever-colour paint as a navigation clue—I'm generally in favor of making nav easier, unless maybe for platform or parkour games, where nav is a big part of the gameplay.

In large games in mountainous terrain, it gets old after the 100th unsuccessful attempt to jump on a ledge—especially as each time it might be because you mistimed it and that really is the way to go. When nav is not the point of the game, don't have it get in the way and become a tedious slog.

Same thing with doors. When 20-30% of doors open in a game to let you inside, and again nav is not the point, then please have a convention for openable doors—I vote blue, or a silver knob :)

Conversely, I sometimes love to try and find accidental routes up verticals. I found one the other day in Far Cry 5, in the Overwatch prepper stash quest. Since I despise grapple swinging, I looked for a back way up the mountain—and found it!

It can't be too difficult to make such hints optional, can it?
Options are a Good Thing!
 
Depends on the game. I don't mind having it in Far Cry or Dying Light, but I would hate it if they had that pointer in games like Dark Souls or Dragons Dogma. Fast-paced games with time limits make pointers like this an important navigational tool similar to what @steeleman21 mentioned with Mirror's Edge. However, developers have to implement it smartly and not make players feel like they are being handheld.
 
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PCGMollie

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Aug 14, 2023
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P.S. @PCGMollie - your current pawns asked me to ask you if you were mad at them about something, and, if it's that whole "not attacking the goblins attacking you" incident, to tell you that they are really sorry.
Tell them they're on thin ice and I won't hesitate to loiter near the edge of a very tall cliff if they carry on.
I think there are easy solutions to the problem; more games implementing the option to outright disable it, or putting it on a timer (if a player is wondering in this room for more than x minutes, splash a bit of paint on that ledge up there). I know my wife has a real problem with it, she hates it - she found it particularly egregious in Resident Evil 4 remake 😂
I do think ultimately it comes down to having the option for sure! Letting people turn the paint on and off would (hopefully) appease both sides. I think I'm the kind of person who appreciates the guidance the first time around but if I go back for another playthrough I'd be inclined to switch it off. That's what I did with the Runner Vision in Mirror's Edge!
It can't be too difficult to make such hints optional, can it?
Options are a Good Thing!
That's it, that's the thread. Wrap it up y'all. (I couldn't agree more, though some of my sternly hardcore friends would be inclined to say that we're wrong lol)


Also as a side note, just wanted to throw a quick happy first anniversary out to the podcast! Technically we hit a year a couple of weeks ago since we took a two-week break over December, but this is our 52nd episode! We appreciate you all for listening/watching/chatting with us each week. Huge shoutout to @Lauren Morton for being the brain that keeps this whole operation going, too. We wouldn't have an episode a week if it wasn't for her constant hard work!! Thanks for all you do, Lauren. 🖤
 
As an example of the paint being good or bad: Pre-reboot Tomb Raider would have been ruined by white paint. There's fighting in that game for sure, but it's mostly about finding your way through a level and discovering secrets. Rebooted Tomb Raider is far more action oriented. The climbing is linear stuff - you can't veer off the white paint trail to discover some secret area.

OK, this is nuts. I keep pausing the video to write something, then I continue it and you people say the same things! Even my little parenthetical note about Horizon: Zero Dawn using white paint instead of yellow when I used it as an example!?

Hehehe, the tell-me-what-to-look-at button at 34:55! That goes way, way back! And yeah, I end up pressing it a lot. (Clicking it on and off makes the interactable things flash, making them even more obvious, so I do that a lot. But I did it myself so it's totally not immersion breaking.... somehow.) If you didn't have it, though, we would be looking at every single thing to see if there's something in it.

Who does it well? Death Stranding! Push your little pinger button and you get a quick grid of colored dots telling you how dangerous it will be to walk on that spot. You can even see your old footprints if you've been there before. (And +1 for using x's, triangles, and dots so the colorblind aren't SOL.)

full


P.S. @PCGMollie - your current pawns asked me to ask you if you were mad at them about something, and, if it's that whole "not attacking the goblins attacking you" incident, to tell you that they are really sorry.
This game has me so intigued, I've had it installed for 2 years, but I never seem to find free 150hrs to play it in my schedule......
 
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McStabStab

Community Contributor
The yellow paint was very immersion killing in the RE4 remake. I've noticed the yellow ropes and ziplines in Horizon Zero Dawn, Dying Light, and in plenty of other games that have light platforming. It really didn't bother me until I was trying to put an end to Las Plagas and rescue the president's daughter and yellow paint was all over the place.

As @Zloth mentioned above, Death Stranding does it well with the terrain scanner. Elden Ring the guides happen naturally because of the community leaving messages on the ground, so hidden areas can be found by following the community's breadcrumbs, so-to-speak.
 

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