UI Design for Video Games

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Have you ever peered over someone’s shoulder and watched them play a video game only to not understand anything that’s going on? You see icons flash and words display across the screen and nothing makes sense to you. But to the player, everything on the screen has a meaning and signals to the player what they need to do. A video game with well designed user interface can immerse the player into the game world within a matter of minutes by simply providing relevant information when needed.

Make Use of Spacing

If the game requires Heads Up Display (HUD) elements such as a mini-map and health-bar, make sure they’re minimal. Elements such as these should be placed in the corner with a semi-transparent backing so as to not distract the player while they’re exploring the game world. If they need to refer to it, they’ll know where to look without having it shoved in front of their eyes at all times. Notifications are also useful elements to let the player know what their object is when a new one arrives. But they don’t need to be repetitive by popping up multiple times or staying on the screen all the time. Good UI design would be to show the notification just long enough to be read and then go away. If the player needs to read it again, they should be able to refer to it again elsewhere, such as a menu.

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Access to Information

Information is crucial to players. All their actions depend on the information that is given to them so it’s important that players are able to obtain it as efficiently as possible. Using icons or shortened names are a great method of using minimal space while still relaying understandable information to the player. There’s no need to say “Your Health”. Players will generally know that a green bar that reduces in length generally represents the player’s health. Using established patterns gets the message across with just a glance. On the other hand, sometimes there’s too much information needed and having hundreds of icons is no help to anyone. No one could possibly memorize all those symbols. That’s where tool-tips come in handy. If the player hovers their mouse over the icon, a text-box will pop up and gives relevant information about what that icon represents. Once the user reads what they need, they moves the mouse away and the text-box goes away. This way, uncommon icons can easily be learned while common icons don’t take up unnecessary space with text permanently on the screen.

Timing

People don’t play games to look at numbers and information. There’s an actual job for that. Players play for the action in games and to feel immersed in a world where they could do the impossible. Information in games are just a means to an end. Players need it to progress in the game and to decide on what action to take. Therefore, information needs to easy to find and without load time. Some games play an animation before presenting the numbers and while it may only take a second, it becomes annoying after you need to reference the information hundreds of times and have to wait for that one second hundreds of times. It’s unnecessary. In games where timing is everything and where decisions are made in real-time, players need to be able to read the information and make decisions in a split of a second. They have no time to waste.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
Photo by Harpal Singh on Unsplash

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