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TOPIC: Interface, how do you like it?

Elloa

Administrator
Stormhaven Studios
Let's take a break from our BEING UNIQUE IN MMORPGs discussion for this week. We will resume this very interesting discussion later. For now, I'd like to speak about a practical feature that has all its importance!



TOPIC: Interface, how do you like it?

While a clumsy, confusing interface is not game breaking if the other aspects of the game are great, it can add greatly to the experience if it's well made.

In my opinion a good interface is informative, clear, practical and intuitive.
  1. Informative: the primary purpose of a good interface is to be informative. Every needed bit of information is there to help the players to enjoy the game and play it well. Various options that can be easily toggled ON and OFF are also a big advantage, as players can customise the flow of information depending on their needs. Someone focusing on quests and exploration will not require the same information than someone focusing on competitive end game.
  2. Clear: to me clarity is primordial. If the interface is badly set up, if the font is messy, if there is too much text at once, I won't be capable of having the information that I need. Instead, it becomes an annoying flow of signs and colors splashing my screen and ruining my experience. Everyone's sensitivity will obviously play into this, and everyone 's opinion will differ. However, I think everyone will agree that clarity is a very important aspect of the interface if we want it to serve its prime purpose: information.
  3. Practical: aesthetics are always nice, but practicality should always come first. Menus and settings need to be easily accessible and organised in the most convenient way. Unnecessary complications should be avoided at all cost. The system needs to be simple and convenient to serve its prime purpose best.
  4. Intuitive: Nothing is more annoying than needing to have studied engineering or quantum physics to understand how the different menus of an interface works. There are certain patterns, a certain logic that have become almost universal in the video games industry. A good interface is easy to pick up and players will guess easily were every option and what every setting is used for.
A badly conceptualised interface can corrupt the game experience by making the simplest task tedious. This overtime can affect a player's motivation and consistency to play the game.
A well-done interface may be overlooked by the players. And that's the genius of it. It serves its purpose perfectly: as the console of commands and players may be able to forget it even exists.



And you? Tell me everything!
  • What is your experience with your favourite video games interface

  • What are your MUST HAVE features

  • Show me a screenshot of your dream MMORPG UI
 

Aetrion

Member
I think UI design for an MMORPG is extremely difficult, because these games are almost always information driven, and consequently getting the most possible information is a huge advantage to the player, but at the same time, the more information a UI conveys the more it distracts from the action on the screen. There are a lot of MMORPGs where you end up playing the UI and the game is just sort of fluff in the background. Especially as a healer this easily becomes the case, because you have to monitor the health of your team mates, select who the heals go to etc, so you'll spend more time looking at raid frames than what's actually going on on the screen. The community mods for UIs in games like WoW have also given rise to a huge number of utilities that inform you of fight mechanics etc. to the point where DPS and tanks also get better info from the UI than from watching the enemies.

It's also more than just UI that can lead to information overkill in MMORPGs. Item databases and wikis are great on the one hand because they allow you to read up on the game and figure out what to do, but on the other hand they tend to take away a lot of the mystery and need to actually explore and socialize. They also become a major distraction from the actual game, and while they aren't technically part of the UI, lots of players end up treating them that way.

So, the UI in most games tends to experience a conflict where the player wants as much information as possible, but the more information it gives them the more it takes over the gameplay and actually makes the game worse. It's similar to how the ability to fly in a game sounds awesome and everyone always wants it, but once you actually have it the whole game becomes less interesting because no place is ever difficult to get to when you can fly.

Ultimately what this all boils down to is that in order for a game to have a really stellar UI that doesn't leave people running to third party sources for information or overloads their screen with it the game itself has to be playable without an excessive amount of information at your finger tips. I think a really good example of a system that gets the UI out of your hair by just being well designed in itself are the healing spells in Dark Souls. In Dark Souls divine spells are cast by ringing a holy bell, and the way healing spells function in particular is that when you cast the spell your character kneels, rings the bell, and creates a circle of light around themselves. You can hold the spell by not releasing the button, causing your character to kneel and keep ringing the bell as if engaged in some sort of ritual. Where this becomes really great is when you're playing with a friend you summoned to your world, because the act of healing someone doesn't come down to monitoring their life bar and keeping it topped off, but the actual on screen interactions between the two players. The other player is informed of the opportunity to receive a heal by the ringing of the bell and magic effect, but has to move into range to receive it, and the healer has to make sure to fire it off when they are in range. Healing is not usually a big part of Dark Souls and co-op is optional, but the general idea behind this system fits into MMORPGs extremely well I think. It takes an element that would normally be extremely UI heavy and instead refines it into an almost pure character interaction. So simply by reversing the responsibilities of the players from "The healer must monitor their party's health" to "The party must seek out the healer's spell" a huge amount of UI play is gone from the game. I think ideas like that are ultimately the most defining to how good a games UI can be.
 

Elloa

Administrator
Stormhaven Studios
Very interesting answer related to healing in Dark Soul. I have not played much of Dark Soul myself, so I can not say much about it. However I remember when I played a action combat MMORPG for the first time (Tera Online) I really enjoyed my healer, Mystic, that were dropping mana and health orbs for players to catch up. Most of the healing was done with placement, and requiered all players to participate. It was very fun and so I understand perfectly your point of view @Aetrion
That being said, I still enjoy more the tab target healing style of a game such as modern WOW. I perfectly agree with you, but I still enkoy that heal playstyle more than the most action oriented one.
If you have never tried it before, I think The Elder Scrolls Online combat style would please you.


1. I really enjoy the clean interface of ESO and GW2. ESO is also easy to set up. I really do not like World of Warcraft default interface, but I'm used to it.... I can be arsed to find addons to improve it.
2. High level of customisation. Allow players to move windows and action bars. - So happy we already have this in Embers Adrift.


Like i said, I really like ESO UI. The options allows you to have a informative UI, or a very clean UI. In this screenshot you do not see my life & ressource bars, nor my action bar, cause I'm not in combat. I could even remove the very small and discrete quest log aswell.

1h5mKXG.png
 
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Dork

New Member
I like UI efficient and modular. And by modular I dont mean only to be able to switch on/off the UI box like in teso but also be able to move each box around the screen. (like having the compass botom middle or center of the the screen or wherever I want) and ofc be able to change the opacityand size setting individually



Darkfall is the best example for the modularity. (not the efficiency because the inventory/ loot gestion was hawfull)
Some screen form darkfall :
maxresdefault.jpg
darkfall-new-dawn-killed.jpg
maxresdefault.jpg
ME0001446945_2.jpg
sandbox-mmo-games-darkfall-online-river-pvp-screenshot.jpg
 
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Aetrion

Member
Customization features are one of those things that can get out of hand very easily, where a small number of "power users" are super into it, but everyone else just feels overwhelmed with options they don't actually know what to do with. I also feel like a lot of times when devs put in a lot of customization that becomes an excuse to leave the user to figure out how to make it all work. Having the option to rearrange stuff is nice, but a really well designed UI shouldn't feel like you have to move stuff around to begin with.

It reminds me of the saying: "The reason you've never seen a good toupee is because you can only see the bad ones". If you need to rearrange or mod a UI then it's not a good UI for giving you that option, it's a bad UI for making you want that option.
 

Elloa

Administrator
Stormhaven Studios
There was a cool option for that in SWTOR. It was a modular system, but you also had a few template that players could use, or could modify and save. In that way, it was giving an option for the players that do not enjoy to play arround with UI. This is also a feature that had been added to the game post launch. So the basic UI had already been created, it was only a quality-of-life feature they added for players.
 

Dalton

Active Member
UI in games of any sort has always been a make or break for me. An ugly or disorganized UI in a game makes me not want to play it. Specially in the mmo genre where it is very important to the key gameplay. Warcraft to me is the example of what a clean but intuitive UI should be, blizzard overall does great from website to game UI. The UI should definitely follow the same art direction and share placement of buttons in the same place. Option to drag around the bars / windows is where WoW has failed but with addons you can easily fix it. Albion Online for the first few years had a terrible UI as it was designed for mobile phones in mind but have slowly improved it for all platforms. I don’t ask for much, just make the information readable without crazy fonts and colors everywhere and be able to scale the UI as I please. Many indie mmos try to go over the top with art direction and you end up with fonts hard to read or icons / items in your bag all looking the same.
 

Anemo

New Member
MUDs are amazing at being super concise while being complex.

If you have a question about a skill/mod/abilitily just use "help question" and you're going to almost always get what you want.

Also have really convenient ways to enable/disable notifications. "Prompt show/hide X", ofcourse "help prompt" works.

And there are even MUDs made to work well with screen readers (text to speech for the blind). So poking at something like AlterAeon which has great support for normal and screen reader UIs. Would probably be a great lesson for how little you need for such a complex game (tons of class customization, great crafting, and lots of quest chaining/timing/sequencing).

____

Basically lots of hover text, the hover text linking to further detail (ie: wiki), even your event log could have *help links* showing the rolls (attack, defenses, and weakness applications).

And those help systems directly pulling from the server ability files. Or your server having a wiki bot to edit changes.

The ability to show/hide/resize/transparency of all UI elements is important. If I want to fill the center of my screen with a 90% transparent and noninteractable skill icon, let me put my spam skill there.

Map drawing from GW1 was nice, or the ping system from LoL. Essentially those are systems designed on the assumption of ingame communication. (Though can be far less important these days if you're with guildies on voice).
 

Pilidus2035

New Member
Let's take a break from our BEING UNIQUE IN MMORPGs discussion for this week. We will resume this very interesting discussion later. For now, I'd like to speak about a practical feature that has all its importance!



TOPIC: Interface, how do you like it?

While a clumsy, confusing interface is not game breaking if the other aspects of the game are great, it can add greatly to the experience if it's well made.

In my opinion a good interface is informative, clear, practical and intuitive.
  1. Informative: the primary purpose of a good interface is to be informative. Every needed bit of information is there to help the players to enjoy the game and play it well. Various options that can be easily toggled ON and OFF are also a big advantage, as players can customise the flow of information depending on their needs. Someone focusing on quests and exploration will not require the same information than someone focusing on competitive end game.
  2. Clear: to me clarity is primordial. If the interface is badly set up, if the font is messy, if there is too much text at once, I won't be capable of having the information that I need. Instead, it becomes an annoying flow of signs and colors splashing my screen and ruining my experience. Everyone's sensitivity will obviously play into this, and everyone 's opinion will differ. However, I think everyone will agree that clarity is a very important aspect of the interface if we want it to serve its prime purpose: information.
  3. Practical: aesthetics are always nice, but practicality should always come first. Menus and settings need to be easily accessible and organised in the most convenient way. Unnecessary complications should be avoided at all cost. The system needs to be simple and convenient to serve its prime purpose best.
  4. Intuitive: Nothing is more annoying than needing to have studied engineering or quantum physics to understand how the different menus of an interface works. There are certain patterns, a certain logic that have become almost universal in the video games industry. A good interface is easy to pick up and players will guess easily were every option and what every setting is used for.
A badly conceptualised interface can corrupt the game experience by making the simplest task tedious. This overtime can affect a player's motivation and consistency to play the game.
A well-done interface may be overlooked by the players. And that's the genius of it. It serves its purpose perfectly: as the console of commands and players may be able to forget it even exists.



And you? Tell me everything!
  • What is your experience with your favourite video games interface

  • What are your MUST HAVE features

  • Show me a screenshot of your dream MMORPG UI
I think The Repopulation's UI is nice. I'm excited about this game because I think of it as a true multiplayer version of The Repopoulation or The Shroud of the Avatar. I just can't get into either of those because I don't like solo play. But their UI's and skill systems are boss.
 

Ariatras

Member
UI design is difficult. In this day and age, the ability to customise your UI is paramount.

Having the battle log separate from the chatlog for example, or have them in the same window using tabs.
Being able to change the location of all UI elements.
Simple things like coloured themes for spells. (Fire based spells with red in it, etc)
Make it scalable, of course.
Saving it server side would be amazing. Much like WoW. Throughout 3~4 PC's the placement of my spells/skills on the UI has been saved. Not the keybinds themselves. But that's a huge boon.
For those of us who love alts, saving the UI preference automatically so I won't have to re-do the customisation per character. But add the option to have it be character specific. (I might want information and such presented differently as a healer for example)
 

Elloa

Administrator
Stormhaven Studios
Saving it server side would be amazing. Much like WoW. Throughout 3~4 PC's the placement of my spells/skills on the UI has been saved. Not the keybinds themselves. But that's a huge boon.
For those of us who love alts, saving the UI preference automatically so I won't have to re-do the customisation per character. But add the option to have it be character specific. (I might want information and such presented differently as a healer for example)

THIS
It is extremly annoying to have to re-do your binds for each characters. It's really something that frustrate me. So I would absolutely love this solutionif its not a coding/yechnical nightmare
 

Crypton

New Member
I feel the best approach to a UI is how customizable it is within the game itself . Obviously Mods will probably come along but I think if you allow customization re-sizing windows, window placement, window opacity ability to change window hot keys then players can fit the UI to their needs and how they like their immersion within the game. I say this because if people are locked in to a UI there will always be a certain percentage of the community that will not like one thing or another so let them choose :)
 

Crypton

New Member
I like UI efficient and modular. And by modular I dont mean only to be able to switch on/off the UI box like in teso but also be able to move each box around the screen. (like having the compass botom middle or center of the the screen or wherever I want) and ofc be able to change the opacityand size setting individually



Darkfall is the best example for the modularity. (not the efficiency because the inventory/ loot gestion was hawfull)
Some screen form darkfall :
I liked Darkfall's UI a lot !! Great choice ... But I think my favorite was SWG while it was hard at the beginning, as you learned the game it was very easy to fit to your playstyle and what you actually wanted to see on screen at a given time. SWG offered a ton of info in their UI with the option to change just about anything to how you wanted it.
 

Ariatras

Member
I feel the best approach to a UI is how customizable it is within the game itself . Obviously Mods will probably come along but I think if you allow customization re-sizing windows, window placement, window opacity ability to change window hot keys then players can fit the UI to their needs and how they like their immersion within the game. I say this because if people are locked in to a UI there will always be a certain percentage of the community that will not like one thing or another so let them choose :)
Is it obvious? Not all games allow mods
 

Dalton

Active Member
If windows are move roundtable and the game isn't designed like FFXIV or WoW where you have to have 12 actions bars and 40+ group windows. I've not really seen a reason to have crazy in depth mods for the interface.
 

Elloa

Administrator
Stormhaven Studios
Yeah, I do not think we will allow addons. Not sure if it's something that really has been discussed in depth though.
I'm personally in disfavour of addons. I prefer when everyone play the same game.
 

Ariatras

Member
Add-ons are a slippery slope. If you make the UI customizable enough, add-ons should not be needed. I find they often take away from the game experience. WoW is a great example of that, with boss mods, quest add-ons etc. I only use roleplay add-ons (TRP3) for a more detailed character description and backstory. But if I raid or do dungeons, I am the only one who manually keeps track of mechanics and cooldowns (my own, and sometimes if I heal, the tank's defensives)