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Other Your thoughts on the GUI (graphical user interface)

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by sotu1, 28 Nov 2012.

  1. sotu1

    sotu1 Ex-Modder

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    Hi guys,

    open ended thought starter: The GUI. Discuss.

    I think it's the most overlooked development over the last decade of gaming. It's evolved so much and even though I came from a generation where you didn't get hand held through the game's intro, I can't play any oldschool games without a decent set up and tutorial and end up ditching the game!
     
  2. Strudul

    Strudul ~

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    Are we talking about the menus, the HUD or what?
     
  3. Modsbywoz

    Modsbywoz Multimodder

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    Which GUI are we referring to? In game menu systems? Desktop environments? In game controls?
     
  4. sotu1

    sotu1 Ex-Modder

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    Haha good questions. I'm referring to in games specifically. The user interface and how we physically engage and interface with games.
     
  5. sotu1

    sotu1 Ex-Modder

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    Like I said, open ended. Chat about whatever you want.
     
  6. Gunsmith

    Gunsmith Maximum Win

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    for me the best UI i've used in a game has to have been the one used in Crysis

    sleek,smooth and responsive, ok it was a memory hog but it just felt right in both execution and design.
     
  7. Sloth

    Sloth #yolo #swag

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    This'll probably end us as a ramble so bear with me: The GUI and the controls are two things which must work together in a game. It's not easy to notice when done right and easy to not realize what's at fault when done wrong, the GUI is the display for what you're doing and want to do so it's only natural that it should work well with the actual controls themselves. This relationship of design aspects seems to have been lost in a world of "well it worked before" where a well laid out GUI from a different game is incorporated into a new one without much thought, or classic GUI features which are just deemed "the way it is" are used because they're the norm.

    What do I think makes for a good GUI? A few key features should be followed with few exception:
    -Screen real estate is maximized. This doesn't always mean being smaller, so long as high value areas are prioritized low value areas may be covered with GUI. The balance will vary depending on what amount of information needs to be shown. Keep in mind that this goes for HUD and menus, keep your HUD out of the way and if you can have menus and other pop-ups kept in areas where they likely won't block action.
    -Following off of the above, display any relevant information! If the information is something the player can be aware of (it's not hidden on purpose, such as ammo in hardcore BF3) it should have a place in the HUD, or at least a quick access menu. Devs can also get creative and mix traditional GUI aspects into the game, such as an aura around a character model showing a buff, but it's often best to still have a GUI icon as well. It seems fairly apparent but if you take a good look at most games you'll be able to find plenty of cases where basic information is unavailable at a glance. Example: games where your health bar fades away when not in use. Bothers me to no end. If it's well placed there should be no problem having it always present since in most games there is no information more valuable.
    -It should be customizable, as much as possible. This is probably my number one gripe, most games have so little input on the GUI, or at least the HUD. It's important because a) it's a fairly personal affair and b) if the devs mess something up at least the player can fix it. If mod support isn't allowed then provide some customization in game. Look at any mod database and you'll find hundreds of GUI mods, they exist for a reason!
    -The GUI should reflect the controls. Fairly simple and most games are good at this, but every once in awhile it goes bad. Most common example is something like Assassin's Creed. The four face buttons do different things, the HUD shows you this in the same diamond shape layout. Immediate relation of controls to HUD. Where does it get done wrong? Menus are the first that come to mind and console ports are often the reason. Example: Skyrim (and really most TES games) menus. (FFXIV came to mind first but that's less relatable for most people) They work pretty well... for a controller or a keyboard. Not so much for a mouse. Both games take what works for consoles and don't care to modify it for PC because "it worked so well before!" without realizing just why it worked.

    A few HUD specific rambles:
    -Your health bar doesn't have to be in a corner. Upper left is tradition, it works because corners are traditionally low value space, but health is high value information! You can place it in higher value areas because players will need to use it often. Example: Goldeneye. You hardly need to look away from your crosshairs.
    -Transparency: Transparency is nice, but consider why it's being used. Players need to see under at HUD item? Well, why is the HUD item in that location in the first place? Many problems can be fixed by simply moving the item. I will say, though, that light transparency even on well placed HUD items isn't a bad idea. It's more about the sense of being able to see rather than actually seeing, when your eyes catch movement under the HUD it feels more natural and cuts back the tunnel vision that can occur with a busy solid HUD.
    -Dead space and busy space. Dead space often comes about from console spacing, nothing's placed along the edges to be easier to see on TVs and prevent HUD cropping on TVs. Bothers me to no end when this is forced on the player, the best games will let you adjust this, not just on PC ports but the console version as well. Busy space is fairly obvious, when you've got information overload in the same area. Usually comes about when related information is placed together, such as character stats. Health, mana, status effects, targets, etc. all crammed into the same corner since they're related. Almost all default MMO HUDs suffer from this.

    Some menu rambles:
    -PC players click! If you're going to make keyboard controls for your menu make sure they're left hand accessible. All too often you see those "Final Fantasy" style scrolling menus with small hard to click text that's clearly designed for a D-pad or arrow keys.
    -It doesn't have to pop up full screen, or in the center of your screen. If the game's real time in particular this becomes a huge issue. Dark Souls is an example of both good and bad: semi-transparent menu allows players to see and move even while the menu is open. On the flip side, pop-up messages (such as an invader) all go in the same spot, no transparency, and can cover other HUD items such as loot.
    -Think about where things go. What's the most likely thing for a player to do in any given situation? Place that closest in the menu and work your way down from there. Again, seems obvious but has countless small examples of "could have been better".
     
  8. Sloth

    Sloth #yolo #swag

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    double post!
     
  9. Throbbi

    Throbbi What's a Dremel?

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    The Lord of the Rings Online is, in my opinion, a truly awesome example of a great GUI. Not only is the default layout good with all important information covered it has that most important feature as mentioned by Sloth: it's customisable. By that I mean EVERY element of the GUI (skill bars, health displays, maps, inventories, quest logs, group panels, literally everything) can be moved freely and resized or removed in very simple ways. One ctrl+# sets everything to be free to move and one tab in the GUI options has a simple slider bar for everything which can be shown on screen. In short, it's perfect. Some good points are very small but are very clever, for example you can set staus effects to only show up if they can be cured by you or if they're cast by you making things much easier in large raids when there's dozens of buffs/DoTs/HoTs/etc. flying around.

    This is also one of the reasons that I find other MMO's hard to get into because they just can't get it right. Even the chatbox is perfectly done and I haven't once seen it done to that level again.
     
  10. Digi

    Digi The not-so-funny Cockney

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    You are mixing up 2 elements IMO.

    - GUI = Graphical User Interface = Menus/Options/Anything not inside the game engine/outside of gameplay.
    - HUD = Heads Up Display = The in-game interface, health, ammo, objectives, minimap etc etc.

    For GUI, it's a toss-up but I'd say CS. Not only can you access everything from the menus at any time (in-game or out) but you also have access to the Steam Overlay for checking more stuff or chatting whilst playing. It all works very intuitively and combined with the console, you have everything you will ever need.

    For HUD, it's a little more difficult - not least of which because different genres require different styles. I'd say this is the more subjective of the 2. I haven't played WoW for years but the modular add-on approach let you create a mind-bogglingly hot looking display to your own tastes and I like that free approach.
    For an FPS, it's more difficult. There's little difference from one to the next. BF3's was pretty and CS has always been functional but there's been everything from flashy to useless in between.
     
  11. lp rob1

    lp rob1 Modder

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    Meh, GUI covers the HUD as well as the menus, as it is all graphical and designed to be interfaced by the user in the end. I think that a properly designed needs to be customizable, for exactly the same reasons as Sloth said. The Elder Scrolls games GUIs are prime examples of this - take Oblivion for example. It was obviously designed for a console and TV - large font and HUD, clunky inventory system... Thankfully Bethesda allowed for mod support, and so Darnified UI was born - a mod that completely changes the UI to allow for ultimate customization, along with making all of the elements much smaller and in more intelligent positions. It also cleared up the menus like the inventory screen - everything became more fluid for a mouse and keyboard.

    Few games pay any attention to the GUI. In some games it is completely unnecessary to have a well designed GUI - the game might simply not require that level of user interaction. Others, for example the MMO, strategy or building genres need fine GUIs that make sense and work well with the user. Unfortunately some games do not implement it properly, like Multiwinia. An excellent game, but let down slightly by the mysterious controls and frustrating crate deployment menu (IMHO). It has too many context-sensitive elements in it - which some games really benefit from, but others (like Multiwinia) do not.
     
  12. Jester_612

    Jester_612 "Jammy..."

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    One thing that really annoys me is unwanted artifacts present all the time, like blufor signs. I wan those off, it's caught me out before that an opponent maneuvers under one. So customisation off and on and location, switch games and suddenly your looking at the wrong spot :(

    Ammo and health bars should be inverted. In a racing car big bright lights come on when it's time to do something, that's what I want out of health and ammo, not for it to become increasingly invisible.
     
  13. DragunovHUN

    DragunovHUN Modder

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    Game UI has undoubtedly come a long way in the last decade or so. I love older games, but i have a really hard time getting into some of them if i haven't already played them when i was younger. They're just too clunky unfortunately. Granted some modern games can get oversimplified to the point where they deny information or control, but, when done right they're so much more comfortable that it's almost impossible to go back.
     
  14. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

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    GUI is important to me. For example, BF3 has a horrible design IMO. The HUD is plain and boring and the ENTIRE process of choosing weapons, attachments and camo is a gigantic, time consuming pain in the ass.

    Bad company 2 on the other hand made it all an easy and painless experience.
     
  15. sotu1

    sotu1 Ex-Modder

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    Hi all,

    some really good responses here, more than what I thought I'd get! Re: BF3 - the UI is fine, except for the weapon mods which is SHOCKING.

    Also, I think Xcom's soldier equipment screen is terrible. If you're swapping between soldiers I often forget which soldier is carrying which gear and then have to hunt through 20 odd recruits to see whos carrying what.
     
  16. notmeagain

    notmeagain Minimodder

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    The best UI: Crysis, the sentiments up top are accurate. It was a joy to use.
    The worst: EvE Online

    I've lost count of how many windows I can have open at any one time. The font size doesn't fit right, the chat windows are attrocious and blinky, the sidebar is clunky and distracting and everything kind of just floats on top of everything else.

    I honestly feel that I'd need an 180in projection screen @ 4k res just to get the most relevant information to be displayed simultaneously!

    I did a fair bit of HCI in the early years and have been impressed on how things have improved over the span of a decade, but there are still some garish mistakes that are being made by developers when they adopt the "Form over Function" approach - ala Borderlands 2.

    That interface gave me a headache when trading or comparing weapons and was definitely designed with a controller in mind.
     

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