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Reader Comments (45)

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:08PM pcgneurotic said

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Heh, the old days of single player RPGs were great for UIs - Eye of The Beholder, the early Elder Scrolls games, FTL's Dungeon Master games - they had far less buttons to offer you, and more space for decorative elements; vines and serpent-wrapped columns either side of your game window. That's one thing I liked abuot WoW's UI the first time I saw it - those little stone-looking gryphon creatures either end of the hotbat. Although after several years, I'd found an addon to disable them. Now what does that say?

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:09PM pcgneurotic said

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"hotbat", awesome. Modern UIs need more hotbats.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:23PM Seraphina Brennan said

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Entirely agreed. :3
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Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:11PM Controlled Chaos said

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Pretty well said, all in all. There really does need to be some new blood put into these things. Eventually, they're going to find out that carbon copying everyone who's doing well at the time isn't going to always work.

Maybe then we'll get even better (and more interesting) UIs,

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:12PM Morioch said

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I've been saying this to my friends forever. They used to think I was nuts to stress the UI so much, but after playing so many games over the years they have come around.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:36PM Tovrin said

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Dear Seraphina. I respectfully disagree with you. If anything (and I know people will mark me down for just this simple statement without reading my rationale) interfaces should be MORE like WoW. Please let me explain:

Firstly, any interface designers knows that simplicity and consistency is all. If people can look at as system (any system) and understand how to use it based on previous paradigms. An interface should be intuitive to novice users; they should never have to spend time to understand it. They should be able to use it right off the bat.

Secondly, interface design should have a comprehensive method of personisation. Personising a UI gives the user ownership. Look at anyones own PC and where they have taken the time to personise it and nine time out of ten, they will have a degree of pride in "Thier UI". The same applies to MMO's. Extensive personlisation through use of Addon lends a sense of ownership to the user. "Look at my UI. It can do this and that and this and that. Isn't it cool!" And that sense of pride in what they have make people even more satisfied with the game. And the community come up with a lot of cool ideas.

Regardless of what you think of WoW, you have to admit, Blizzard have done a LOT of smart things. They are the masters of polish, taking ideas and making them work.

Is there room for improvement? ABSOLUTELY!!! But for that I would be looking to ideas the UI development community (looking at WoW, WAR and hopefully soon LotRO) to come up or already have come up with. There are many great ideas what should be almost standard now (and some which have become standard, like quest helpers and so on).

Frankly, I'd rather game developers give you the basics and get on with squashing bugs and adding content. But essential to that is providing the tools for the fan community develop cool UI's ( .. though just be careful what parts of the interface API you open up).


Posted: Aug 12th 2010 8:37PM timthel0rd said

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In my opinion, very rarely will the stock ui that comes with the game be as good as the uis that players create. And I can almost guarantee that no stock ui will satisfy everyone, like the variety of custom ones available.

Opening the ui up to modders is pretty much the best way to give your players what they want.
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Posted: Aug 13th 2010 11:36AM M1sterLee said

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I was involved with UI design for several years, not for games but for the Internet. There are such things as usability and accessibility standards for the net which aren't laws as such but many clients were required to follow as many of the rules as possible and it was in the interests of all to follow the most basic ones.

One of the main rules was to do with familiarity. You don't want to have to re-learn how to use the Internet every time you go to a new website. Similarly you don't want to have to spend an age figuring out what is what with game UIs.

One of the things that always gets me when I hear or read comments about game UIs is that people seem to think Blizzard invented the game UI when they made WoW. Game UIs have had action bars, mini maps, portraits with health bars etc for many years before WoW was even thought of.

There are very good reasons for adopting a similar layout and familiar elements in a UI - it's so that people can understand quickly what they are doing. That's a good thing.

Style it any way you like, make it fit with the game (the Bioshock example is a good one) but familiarity is a very important part of usability in any UI and having standards for things is very useful.
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Posted: Aug 13th 2010 11:52AM FutureFoe said

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Just because it's good for your interface to function similarly doesn't mean you can't improve the art and function of it. As an example, pressing the C key could still bring up your character screen, but who says it has to just be a picture of your character surrounded by boxes for gear? I dunno, maybe it could swing the camera around in front of your character for a nice zoomed in look and mousing over parts of yourself would show what gear is equipped. But don't get hung up on this particular example (I just thought of it in 10 seconds). I'm just saying it can function similarly, so people know what keys to press to find information, but still be improved upon for added style.
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Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:47PM Nef said

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I do agree that there needs to be some innovation in UIs and we can learn from other games (Dead Space for instance) about integrating the UIs into the game worlds more. Part of the problem with that, however, is doing it and still giving the gamers everything they want.

I know that when I'm playing an MMO, if there are custom UI mods available, I run straight out and gather up a bunch of the mods to use. I like having every bit of data I want to see displayed clearly and easily and how/where I want it. (Such as HUDs, over head health bars, etc.) If all of this were integrated into the game it could be quite confusing to some (or many) newbies who really don't need that much information to get started. In that case a simple, recognizable interface is a good way to ease them into the world, get them used to their characters and used to what information they want/need/don't want to be displayed. They can then run off and get whatever mods, if any, that they want to build the interface they want to use.

Basically, the problem isn't that base UIs are the same, it's in how customizable they can be and how easily that can be accomplished. Putting more of the UI inside the game would (could) make it harder, if not impossible, to customize and tailor to your personal needs or wants. Making the UI elements do different things from 'tradition', however, is fine -- provided it's not overly complicated and non-practical.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:52PM Khorrax said

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I was just thinking lately just how much I dislike the LotRO UI. It's just so uninspired not necessarily in terms of layout, but general graphic design. Those blue and silver elements are simply dull. The choice of icons is rather poor too. Of course, there are games with far worse UIs, but this is one of the big names so I was expecting more.

As far as UI go, I like them to be as non-intrusive as possible. I don't like my screen filled with skillbars upon skillbars. Of course, it has a lot to do with the game itself. In most MMOs, where you have tons of skills, potions, food, consumables and other stuff ready to be used at any time, it kinda makes sense to put all those on hotbars. My problem is that I don't really play those games so I like my UI to be as clean as possible, and as small as possible too. I guess I'm too used to Guild Wars.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 7:06PM Tovrin said

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I couldn't agree more about LotRO's interface. They provided the "consistent and inutitive interface" part, which will help novices get into the game, but they really didn't provide any substancial level of customisation for their UI. You need both aspects to make a successful MMO UI ... otherwise people will struggle with the basic UI once they outgrow it.

Which is why I've been excited by the LUA implementation in LotRO. I can't wait for that to come in!!
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Posted: Aug 12th 2010 6:56PM Hurbster said

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I don't know anyone who uses the default Warcraft UI anyway.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 7:01PM (Unverified) said

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I'm pretty sure you will be able to fix the lotro UI pretty soon too.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 7:10PM mmark said

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I prefer the FFXI UI to the WoW-style UIs - the most important thing is huge and right in front of you, bam! chat window.

Really, what is the difference between an icon and a button with a word on it? Do the graphics on buttons really get you off after the 10,000th push or is the phrase not clean and simple enough for you to understand? Menu system rules.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 7:21PM (Unverified) said

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Sera's wrong for two reasons. First is that WoW doesn't have a great UI design, in fact, it's horrible. The problem is these companies copying the same bad interface design. Second, they should be more like WoW in that they should be using LUA and allowing completely customizable UI's so the player can have the UI they want, no the UI the company thinks they should get. If WoW didn't have it's customization, it wouldn't have been half the success it was.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 7:27PM Wild Colors said

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First thought: Wow, I hadn't realized how unique LOTRO was with its chat box defaulting to the *right* side of the screen! Way to go Turbine, I'll start thinking of you ask risk takers :P

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 7:37PM Gaugamela said

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This is actually a very important aspect of a game and usually underestimated by developers. However, i don't believe it to be the most crucial element to make a game shine. The most important elements are polish (low amount of bugs and perfectly functional mechanics) or else LotRO and DDO would've shutdown by now since they have hideous UIs and WAR would have been highly successful since the UIs in WAR were really cool since each career had a specific UI.

However, innovation in this aspect is very necessary as well as in the gameplay mechanics that hide under the UI. I really think the best answer to solve the issues of cluttered UIs as well as class balance and interaction with the game world is to limit the number of abilities that a player can choose to use in combat.
The prime example of this for me is Guild Wars since it limits the number of abilities a person can use.
This facilitates balancing the most successful choices, frees up a lot of space in the UI (since you don't need to have 30 different buttons to trigger different skills) and even allows the players to play more specifically and efficiently in ways they like if done correctly.
It's one of the reasons that i am interested in The Secret World actually. :)

And by freeing up space in the UI with skills it gives the possibility of facilitating the appearance of new ways to interact with the game world that go beyond killing mobs.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 8:10PM Faryon said

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I kindof like the default UI in AoC: It gives you what you need while keeping most of the screen free to actually watch the combat. The biggest flaw of that ui is the lack of built-in customization.

Posted: Aug 12th 2010 8:16PM DataShade said

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Every game should support end-user customizable UI. LUA is a great tool (like LichBane and ScytheNoire said) and if a developer doesn't want to include it, then they should certainly do something like it.

NWN's right-click radial menu was, I thought, exceptional - and intuitive, for me if maybe not everyone. Of course, BioShock and NWNwere single-player games with the luxury of pausing to re-do shortcuts.




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