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!

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