Let’s talk UI

As a game designer and developer it is important to understand how to immerse players into your game. Immersion comes in two main forms, the impersonal immersion and personal immersion. A good example for impersonal immersion is Super Mario, as players play the as the character role Mario who has his own personal personality, context and appearance. An example for personal immersion would be any sort of MMORPG(massive multi-player online role playing games) such as World of Warcraft, where players literally puts themselves into the fictional world through a character known as the avatar. In which they can portray all of their thoughts, appearance, emotions and behavior. The important difference between the two immersion type is that in personal immersion the character responds exactly how the player feel like responding to any situation. Through immersion it allows players to get involved with what the game is presenting. So Immersion is everything.

One of the easiest ways to break this immersion is through how the UI is designed for the game. A game can easily suffer and can be unbearable to play through too little information or too much, requiring unnecessary amounts of input for the players to cope with. The best UI to me is one that is instantaneously intuitive. What I mean by this is:

  1. Does this interface tell me what I need to know right now?
  2. Is the information getting displayed clearly?
  3. Can I use this interface without having to read instructions elsewhere?
  4. Are the things I can do on this screen obvious?
  5. Do I ever need to wait for the interface to load or play an animation?
  6. Are there any tedious or repetitive tasks that I can shorten (with a shortcut key, for example) or remove entirely?

A good UI should tell you what you need to know, and then fly away. Lets take a look at some examples of games with good UI and compare them with games with bad UI.

The Dead Space Series (good)

Dead Space is a well known franchise for those who enjoy the horror genre. The game is set in the distant future where the player is in control of an engineer who gets into all sorts of horrific journeys. Dead Space has a great UI design, a diegetic interface. All of the interface elements exists within the game world. The main noticeable interface is the Health bar system. Dead Space took a fairly traditional HUD system and has seamlessly made it a apart of the characters space suit. Since the game is played through a third person camera, the players are always seeing the back of the character. Players are easily able identify what needs to be known without interfering with the immersion between the player and the game. Its clean with no unnecessary clutter on the game screen and is intuitive.

u7rdj DeadSpace3Impressions

Far Cry 3 (bad)

Far Cry 3 is an open world first person shooter video game. The game is great fun as you are able to roam around freely within the beautiful island. However UI breaks the immersion of being a first person shooter. The menus take some time to load, its not really space efficient. Far cry’s HUD does not fly away once it has done its job, and almost creates a claustrophobic feeling for the player. The mini map for one is large and very opaque and takes up the bottom left of your screen. Then there is the objective reminder on top of the left once again large and opaque, it further disappoints the player by disappearing and reappearing. These interfaces are non-diegetic interfaces (not integrated within the game), and easily breaks the immersion between the player and the character. For a game like Far Cry immersion is important as it is a first person shooter.

FC3_UI_3

Non-diegetic interface isn’t a bad choice it just depends on how you use it, and sadly Far Cry 3 didn’t implement the interface too well. Games like World of Warcraft is a good example of non-diegetic interface use. It gives clear feedback for the player on what he needs to know without interfering with the game. Although it does get cloggy once the player has reached a certain level due to the character skills, it no longer becomes the UI’s fault but rather the game design. So when creating games, its good to do some research on which interface to use for your game!

Failure is the stair to Success

I have Failed in regards of creating a functional game within the first week. Throughout the first week I was able to create a game that barely had any objects within the environments apart from the default grey colored platforms, the level itself had no finishing condition and had to be manually exited, the character itself was a static image that was able to do certain actions such as move and jump. During the first week I have confronted some complications, these complications included

1. Programming language barrier.

– I had a change in mind as to which language I was going to program the game with. My first initial thought was to use JavaScript as it can be used for both web development and also game development within Unity or for Websites. However after a lot of researching and talking with the game developers that are using Unity, C# seemed to a better choice. This due to the fact that C# was more object oriented compared to JavaScript and Boo. So half way during the week I shifted towards working with C# rather than JavaScript which meant I had to convert all of my previously written code into C#, which took a fair bit of time.

2. Art

– Creating all the assets from scratch was not an easy task. I even tried to shortening down the load of art assets that were required and still seemed a fair bit.

I have taken on such an ambitious task for myself within the first week, in other words I have bitten off more than I can chew. However I see this Failure to be a positive thing, because I tried to take on a task that was out of my reach. If i had succeeded during this first week I have not pushed myself to my full limits. To me Success is just a measurement of what one has accomplished, whereas failure reveals the scope of one’s ambition and desire. Most importantly of all things, failure guides us along the path to greater future Success. In other words Failure in one endeavor can lead directly to Success elsewhere. 

Success Diagram

The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. 

 

Let’s talk Journey

journey-game-screenshot-1-b

An interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with other’s. Experience the wonder. Discover the journey.

This was an article that I wrote a while ago about the game “Journey”, created by thatgamecompany (http://thatgamecompany.com/) can be described into three words Lovely, Gorgeous and Wonderful.

Lovely

Journey is Lovely, as though you are playing within an artwork. Waking up in a desert with no idea who, where, or when you are. There lays a majestic mountain far away in the distance, and from its top shines a bright light. In Journey, your one goal is to get to that mountain, whilst overcoming its gorgeous sand dunes. Simply running, walking, jumping and gliding through journey’s world is a lovely experience itself.

Gorgeous

Journey is Gorgeous, a world with no explicit goals and no strict rules. Journey trusts the players. It treats them as a player, not just an audience. It trust them to explore the world without any time pressure and most of all it trusts them to find meaning in it without the need of any narrations. The game gives the players the objectives so subtlety to feel like you’re exploring on your own instinct. Journey respects the players will, without having massive sign posts pointing towards the finish line like most other games on the market.

Wonderful

Journey is Wonderful. The most wonderful part of Journey is having a different experience to others when playing the same game. Unlike most games Journey offers so much more to talk about. Journey has one of the most wonderful implementation of multiplayer. The moment you first see another anonymous person in Journey is truly magical. By stripping everything away, the game reminds us just how amazing it is that there’s another person in the game with you. By removing all identifying marks, reducing them to a simple avatar, and only allowing players to communicate using a single musical note, they have become even more interesting. Journey really creates a wonderful individual experience.

Flaws

The major flaw to journey was its length. Players were finishing the game within 2 to 3 hours although the game would have lost some of its charm if it were too much longer. The main draw of the game was to share an adventure with someone creating a journey experience. If the game were to drag on too much longer then the odds of losing your partner at some point would have been much greater.

Another minor flaw to journey was how the partner system worked. The partner system brings in an anonymous player into your game or vice versa automatically, in which you are giving no means to communicate but only one musical note. The partners once brought into your game will be with you until the partner wonders off too far or finishes a map ahead of you. This partner cannot do any physical harm to your character but can annoy a player who are trying to discover new areas of the map through the calling by bringing attention to the end of the map.

Conclusion

Journey is a touching experience. It showed me how games can be a medium of expression. Sorry about my long rant but I highly advice you guys to try out the game! 15 dollars spent well.