What is Tribal & Error?

Tribal & Error is a game about learning a language from cavemen and using that language to help them survive the ice age. Apart from this fictional language no written or spoken language features in the game. A big design challenge therefore was to create UI that communicated its function without text.

UI’s Causes & Effects unclear

Especially early on we noticed players frequently struggling to connect cause and effect with the various actions in the game. They often didn’t notice they’d acquired new words. Nor did they correlate receiving new words in their inventory with the ones they recorded from the cavemen.

Reflecting on the information we wanted to communicate we realized we were actually asking players to draw their attention to multiple places at the same time. In the hope of creating a more digestible package of information for players we decided to design the flow of where we drew the player’s eye. To accomplish this required three key changes.


  • Separating actions requiring the player’s attention and having them happen sequentially.
  • Determining the order of where and when we wanted to draw the player’s eye.
  • Using animation, color, shape etc to catch the player’s attention on a status change.