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What is good UI design in RPGs?

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Zanzoken, Dec 9, 2019.

  1. Zanzoken Arcane

    Zanzoken
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    I often see in threads people criticizing a game's user interface (UI) but this is something I've never fully understood.

    I admit this is one area where I lack a discerning eye. My experience with UI is that whenever I pick up a new game it usually feels weird for the first hour or two, then I get used to it and don't really notice it anymore because that's just how the game is. But for others this seems to be a major source of frustration.

    So what separates good UI design from bad? What are things that you like vs things that irritate you? I'd also like to hear some examples of each, if any games in particular come to mind.
     
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  2. Butter Arcane

    Butter
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    I don't think there are a lot of universal rules for UI design. It all depends on what game you're making. But generally speaking, you want to minimize button presses and mouse clicks in menus. You want to avoid cluttering the screen during normal play. You want to make important information readily available to the player. You want the whole thing to be intuitive.

    Example of good vs bad UI: Inventory in Morrowind vs Fallout. Morrowind allows you to sort by item type, and arranges everything in a grid so you can easily find things. Fallout dumps everything in a single column and you have to scroll down and down and down in order to find things.
     
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  3. Egosphere Magister

    Egosphere
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    Imo if I spend a few hours in a game, but it still takes time for me to find the item or action that I need, then the ui needs work. For example, in Morrowind I'd take me a lot of time to sort through potions, because many of them would be represented by the same icon.
    On the other hand, a game like Fallout 1 would give you clean, crisp images for every item that you picked up, but you had to scroll down a long list to find what you wanted.
    In Arcanum, I would go to towns to sell all of the junk I've accumulated, but the inventory would not highlight those items that a particular vendor would accept, so I would resort to clicking on each one to see if it's acceptable or not.
     
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  4. Quillon Magister

    Quillon
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    Changes from game to game, fresh in my mind is how unfunctional TOW's UI is; it has unnecessary tabs instead of adding functions to current tab or combining info of different tabs, has useless UI elements during gameplay which are supposed to be informative. Also I never understood such UI elements like inventory/journal etc not being in full screen when it already covers 80% of it(PoEs/ATOM RPG). Fuck style, give me functionality and efficiently use the space! [​IMG]
     
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  5. Craig Ritchie Drop Bear Bytes Developer

    Craig Ritchie
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    This can be very annoying - does this even make for a good player experience? I just find it frustrating and even if it might make sense in the game world, it's not the best overall UX if I want to offload the items I won't be using but need to find an appropriate shop.
     
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  6. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
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    By Example?

    The best UI I've ever seen is World of Warcraft. It's simple to pick up, intuitive, has very good modding support, is hyper configurable, and features incredibly deep programmability features in the form of LUA scripts (i.e. WeakAuras). It has everything you could possible want from a UI, and anything you don't like? You can remove it.

    The worst UI I've ever seen is unequivocally Gothic. Not only does it strangle the player into some bizzare keyboard/mouse hybridization that is unintuitive and used nowhere else, it doesn't even allow you to remap keys! It's appalling in every way, and I'm a Vim > Emacs guy. Gothic is like trying to play a game while wearing a straight jacket. Vim and command line controls are fast in the hands of experts, and if I get paid to work for years to become a professional I may elect to memorize that degree of control depth, but I don't want to have to deal with any of that shit in my games. I actually prefer the ASCII UI of NetHack and Angband to Gothic because the keystroke sequence to look up commands is fast enough that I can find what I need quickly!

    Give your users intuitive interfaces and flexible/modifiable controls, always.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
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  7. Nano Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    Nano
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    The more the UI works with and is responsive to both the keyboard and the mouse, the better. And that includes all three mouse buttons as well as the scrolling part.
     
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  8. Egosphere Magister

    Egosphere
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    The game had different vendors for different items: gunsmiths would buy firearms, armourers would buy armour etc. So if you had picked up something nice, chances were you knew where to sell it. But selling off junk was a chore, because general stores were very picky in what they'd buy, so you'd only ever pick it up if your character was a craftsman who could turn it into something useful.
     
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  9. badger76 Scholar

    badger76
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    I'm a big sucker for visual ornateness in a UI. I don't really mind if it's a little clunky or obtuse if it looks beautiful. Case in point: never had a problem with Arcanum's inventory or button layout because it is so incredibly posh-looking. Same goes for JA2 and Diablo 1.

    This is the main reason I can't bring myself to play Underrail, regardless of how good the game may be, because the UI lacks visual distinction and character (in my opinion).

    It's also one of my main arguments against B-dog's enhance-ification of Baldur's Gate 1. Whereas the original UI popped with visual appeal; the B-dog one looks like someone took a vacuum and systematically sucked every ounce of fun and coziness out of it.
     
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  10. lukaszek the determinator

    lukaszek
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    deterministic system > RNG
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2021
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  11. user Learned

    user
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    Both games did something right though. Their UIs are nicely textured for their theme.

    welcome to console :P
     
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  12. lukaszek the determinator

    lukaszek
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    deterministic system > RNG
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2021
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  13. Catacombs Cipher Patron

    Catacombs
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    Make the Codex Great Again! Insert Title Here RPG Wokedex
    Grimoire
     
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  14. Zed Duke of Banville Zo Kath Ra Patron

    Zed Duke of Banville
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    For CRPGs, there have been two pioneering graphical user-interfaces.

    First, Dungeon Master from 1987, which created the "paper doll" inventory screen and for its main interface ringed the central first-person view with controls and info relating to each party member, the party members in relation to each other (and individual party member facing!), the magic system for spellcasting, weapons/items held by each character for immediate use, and directional movement --- all contained on one screen!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Second, Morrowind from 2002, which had basic information at the bottom of its first-person (or optionally behind-the-shoulder) view but where pressing the right mouse button would instantly pause the game and bring up four windowed menu screens, which could be resized and moved around as desired. The image below is from Mobygames, and the windows have been moved and resized from their defaults, but it demonstrates the separate menus for inventory, magic, the map, and character statistics.
    [​IMG]
     
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  15. PorkyThePaladin Arcane

    PorkyThePaladin
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    It depends on what kind of RPG. For action RPGs in third/first person, I feel like the less you can see the UI, the better. I played KCD with a mod that pretty much removed the entire HUD, and it was great, because it's way more immersive that way.

    But for isometric games, I feel like there is nothing as beautiful as Baldur's Gate 1 UI. The stone background with the scroll tooltips and the icons, it was just so charming and on point for that kind of game.
     
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  16. Bah Cipher

    Bah
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    Outside of the graphical aspect, I think good UI design also requires including good hot-key support and configurable hot-keys. Nothing drives me nuts more than being forced to use the mouse to click some icon that could have had a key-binding.
     
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  17. Valky Arcane Manlet

    Valky
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    The radial menu was the best UI ever made.
     
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  18. Bad Sector Cipher Patron

    Bad Sector
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    Overall i like Morrowind's UI and how i can move/resize the windows around the view and pin them (mainly the map). There are a few issues i have with the UI though.

    One is that when a window is pinned the frame wastes space. I'd prefer it if the frame would either disappear and be replaced with an outline or if there was an alternative thinner frame. A related issue is that since i most often pin the map, i want it at a small size, but sometimes i want to fully open it to cover the entire screen - a maximize/restore button would help there. Both are minor issues, just some nice things to have.

    A bigger issue is that when i carry a lot of stuff - which is pretty much all the time in Morrowind after the first 30 minutes of gameplay or so - i often want to find something specific or, when i carry too much, i want to throw out some stuff. The icon view just doesn't cut it because the icons are very similar and do not provide enough information at a glance so i have to hover over each one to see what exactly they are, how much they cost and how much they weight (after all the first stuff to throw away once i go over my weight limit is the heaviest and cheapest items). Oblivion's UI might have its issues (big fonts, weird tabs) but one thing i like is that the items are on a list with explicit columns for name, price, power and weight and you can sort your inventory by any of those. One issue with Oblivion's arrangement is that you can only resize vertically (in Oblivion you can't resize at all, but let's imagine using Morrowind's UI for everything). This could be fixed by using an arrangement similar to what Windows Explorer calls "List mode" (in the View tab) but in addition to icon and name there would also be columns for any other item details (price, power, weight, whatever) and like List mode, the items would grow downwards and once they hit the bottom, they'd start again from the top after the rightmost item, with a horizontal scrollbar. Also filtering via text would be nice.

    Another thing would be to somehow any topics in conversations that you have already read. Morrowind has a lot of repeated content in conversations and especially after a few hours in the game you can have a very long list of topics (which BTW i really like as a conversation system since it doesn't force any sort of "voice" on you), so being able to skip over topics (but without hiding them since after all you may still want to re-read them, e.g. for following some instructions) you already have read would be nice.

    For the last two (filtering and topics) there seems to be this mod but i never used it myself.

    Finally, as someone already mentioned, it'd be nice if items that i cannot sell to a merchant would be hidden or grayed out (grayed out would be better because i'd like to know what i already have in my inventory, though if possible the non-grayed out items should be sorted at the top). Also this is more of a gameplay feature than a UI one, but if i'm able to sell stuff and buy stuff, i'd really like being able to trade with both cash and items like in Fallout - in other words, i should be able to buy something expensive by trading something else expensive (and perhaps some extra cash). And haggle, i like haggling in games :-P.
     
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  19. Alex Arcane

    Alex
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    I think Ultima 7's UI is unsurpassed to this day...
     
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  20. Zed Duke of Banville Zo Kath Ra Patron

    Zed Duke of Banville
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    The interface of Faery Tale Adventure II: Halls of the Dead wasn't quite as elegantly designed as that of Dungeon Master or Morrowind, but it did boast a number of beautiful images contained in a sidebar that could be switched between a few different menus, as seen in the screenshots below:

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  21. nyjsu Educated

    nyjsu
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    Gothic has a really minimal and practical UI. All the spells, maps and shit are right there in your inventory, you have a simple quest log and a character sheet, that's it. Crafting menus and all that nonsense are present only when you are using a alchemy table, anvil etc.
    There still was one major issue with the UI design as the game had a "New game" option in the game menu, why the fuck would you do that? I remember few times when I meant to save my game but accidentally started a new game instead, my joy was immense.
     
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  22. HansDampf Arcane

    HansDampf
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    Give me hotkeys for everything.
     
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  23. Popiel Arcane Patron

    Popiel
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    Skyrim.
     
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  24. Quillon Magister

    Quillon
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    I want the "confirm" key to be bound to some key my left hand can reach easily, making it "enter" key only makes no sense yo, fucking fallout 3 and NV got it right with the menu key binds and its rarely been replicated even by the same devs [​IMG]
     
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  25. Daedalos Arcane The Real Fanboy

    Daedalos
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    There are broad guidelines to any UI to follow imo.

    - Minimize needless mouse and keyboard clicking through menus, through the screen, through anything really. A UI should be fast, intuitive and slick, obviously with hoykeys too.

    Bottom line: DON'T WASTE MY TIME!

    - Visibility and transparency is key to communicating what is happening to the player through the UI, why and how. Absolute key to a great experience

    - Graphical simplicity which doesn't mean bad art or simple graphics on the UI, but less is more. Don't clutter the UI with dumb shit that confuse or take away from the experience

    - Scalability. Give me the option to scale most shit to my liking, so I can customize my experience.

    - Item management always seems to be the worst offender of shit UI. I have countless examples of how badly item management UI and such is implemented, which is a hassle and creates a mini-game of clicking shit around and getting carpel tunnel in the process, horrendous.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
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