GUI Research

For an assignment, we’ve been asked to research various GUI (Graphical User Interface) models present in current gaming material, to garner a greater understanding of what makes a good GUI to use as inspiration and a basis for an upcoming project.

Dead Space

Dead Space is a fairly unique game when it comes to the overall experience. Primarily because of it’s genuine ability to immerse the player in this ‘horror’ filled universe. The main way in accomplishes this its use Graphical User Interfaces (GUI), the way this game uses them is referred to as a ‘Diegetic’ display. Of which with this, the in-game protagonist(s) have the ability to see what the player can see. Thus conforming to the immersion by making the player and in-game character as one.

The effectiveness relies on the premise of the player being able to negate what is happening onscreen. Dead Space for example, displays the health bar by integrating it onto the protagonist Isaac’s suit, along with the bar for an in-game power that the character can use. The holographic screen becomes present when the player accesses the menu screen, enforcing the diegetic form as it’s present within Isaac’s eye range.

I think personally that the game really does execute the type of GUI tremendously, it’d be fair to say it’s one of the few games out within recent times to integrate a HUD system that doesn’t protrude too much onto the players screen, whilst making the player have to be wary of their surroundings. Sure other games that have a more fixated viewpoint, such as First Person Shooters can be classed as ‘diegetic’ because of the simplistic nature of the viewpoint, but Dead Space really does take advantage of its mechanics and revels in the benefits that it gives gameplay.

Prototype 2

There wasn’t any particular reason i chose this in particular, i just saw it as one of the more recent examples of basic HUD display that i’d seen previously. As a GUI, it would be referred to as non-diegetic. In the sense that the display is only visible to the player playing the game, a kind of dramatic irony in retrospect to in-game characters not being able to notice these aspects. Prototype 2’s GUI is particularily basic, as an open-world game it has the expected mini-map located on the bottom left of the screen. A health bar is located at the top left with the entire right hand side of the screen open for the player to take in the sights.

I included a menu screenshot on the basic premise that to get a better insight into GUI’s, it’s best to explore how each game is represented in terms of the interface the user actually uses. The menu is apart of that most definitely and in Prototype 2 it isn’t exactly appropriate. Not to detract from the game itself, but it has no direct correlation with the product, it is for all intents and purposes a basic interface with no desire on interacting with the player in any fashion other than navigating to and from the game itself.

Overall it’s a pretty basic GUI. It has limited related factors to the actual product, it just feels too basic and forced. I don’t know if that’s preference to diegetic forms or the sheer basic premise of this system.

Dishonored

This is another diegetic form of GUI, but in the sense that it’s reliant on the in-game perspective. Dishonored is an RPG played in the First Person Perspective. From this notion, anything the player sees on screen ‘could’ be inferred as being seen as information seen by the in-game avatar. The protagonist Corvo Atano is in possession of a magical mask that ‘could’ effectively cast the shadow of being a diegetic GUI. The screen includes a Health and Mana bar located to the top left, other than that the only indicators on screen are the ones inbuilt into the games interface and the cursor located at the center of the screen. These items are generally themed accordingly to the content and have an appealing look to them because of the fact that their not ordinary nor basic.  The menu system is fairly basic in structure, but the design artwork works in a way to make it more intuitive and more related to the content.

Overall i like the GUI, there isn’t much to see in terms of the in-game interface but the debatable fact here would be, is less more? When you see most First Person games of this generation, they tend to have similar GUI’s that give the player the information they need, but in terms of a design it feels too forced. With Dishonored it’s basic and simple, and it works. Give the player the necessities and no more, Arkane have really hit the sweet spot here.

Mass Effect 3

When it comes to Mass Effect 3, the GUI is fairly basic in its design. Non-diegetic from the principle that the protagonist Commander Shepard cannot see the display, the setting is a futuristic environment playing upon the Sci-Fi element within the game. In terms of presentation the in-game UI doesn’t detract too much from the gameplay itself because of careful consideration from the developers. By this, they’ve intricately placed the necessary onscreen interfaces away from the major viewpoints that can detract from user interaction. The health and shield bar appropriately placed below the protagonists back so that the player is most likely going to look in that direction as the third person perspective takes dominance for the player to look through an over the shoulder perspective.

The menu system is reflective of and is intended to be similar to using an in-game PC to check information. This enforces the Sci-Fi element again to the game and improves the relative factor to the player.

Overall i like the GUI. The theme of it fits with the game itself so it’s at least relatable, but in terms of ingenuity it doesn’t do anything other than what it’s supposed to do. I think Dead Space has left a lasting impression when it comes to in-game UI’s that i can’t shake.

Halo 4

The Halo universe is a known name within the gaming world. Following the tale of Master Chief as he scours the galaxy generally saving humanity from various alien races, he comes back with a vengeance in Halo 4. But the campaign isn’t what i want to talk about here. You see with Halo 4 specifically, the GUI caught my interest very much so. Being of first person perspective the ingenious GUI takes this into account aswell as Master Chief’s helmet and incorporates them into one. On the picture on the left above, is the in-game display seen through the players perspective. I found it quite interesting the use of general game mechanics that are required for display through the HUD to be used in such a manner that works in relation to the game.

The downside is the Menu UI. Having played the game personally, i have first hand experience in telling you how annoyingly strange it is. Above is merely a screenshot capturing the simplicity of the UI. In any terms of effectiveness, it displays the information it needs to but what it fails in, is its ability to navigate around which is in my opinion more important than design. Think about it, if a GUI is nice looking but terrible to navigate, is it really effective at being a Graphical User Interface or is it just a terrible UI that looks nice?

Overall the in-game GUI is a winner, taking the aspect of Master Chief and enforcing the immersion by giving the player the belief system that they are Master Chief. The menu system lets the overall package down by its lack of intuitive nature but it at least pertains to the futuristic setting similarly to Mass Effect.

Research:
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4286/game_ui_discoveries_what_players_.php?print=1

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