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Game interfaces

PeewiPeewi Registered User regular
edited November 2008 in Games and Technology
People talk about games all the time, but I don't see people talking about their interfaces very often. Maybe I'm just weird, but when I see a new game I tend to think "what does the menus look like?" and the menus of a game is something that is rarely shown before release.

Let's talk about some game menus, shall we?
These are the main menus of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii:
various18_071112a-l.jpg791311-mkw_menu_super.jpg
As you can see, these two games have very different menus. Brawl focuses on game modes and Mario Kart Wii focuses on the amount of players.

People familiar with Brawl will know that with the exception of Tourney and Rotation, the modes found within the Group option is actually playable with just a single player. Likewise most modes found within Solo can be played with two players. In all cases, the amount of players can be changed in between matches without leaving the character select screen. Also of note is that the Vault, Options and Data menu items, while smaller than Group, Solo and Nintendo WFC are still pretty big, even though the buttons do not lead to gameplay (with the exception of the coin launcher minigame found within the vault).

Offhand, the only complaint that I have with the menus in Brawl is that GameCube controllers are always assigned to the player slot corresponding to the port they're connected to and no Wii controller can use this spot without unplugging the controller.

Mario Kart Wii, on the other hand, has single and multiplayer strictly seperated. It even has the number of players in multiplayer seperated. This means that if the amount of players change, you have to back out all the way to the main menu. If you're playing online with one local player and wish to switch to two local players (or vice versa), you have to disconnect from Nintendo WFC completely and then reconnect again.

Let's talk about something not Nintendo now: Valve makes some absolutely fantastic games, but I must admit to hating the window based interface used in all their recent games. Originally, your friends list was accessed through the game menu and the window based interface allowed for having multiple chats going at once. However, the ingame friends list and chat has been replaced by the Steam overlay, so the window based interface is no longer needed for the ingame menu. I don't see any benefit from the ability of having the server browser, achievement list and options open all at once.

Even if your interface isn't that great, I still say that consistency should be maintained, something that haven't been done in Team Fortress 2 with the weapon loadout/stats screen taking up the entire screen.

A game whose menus I've heard complaints about is Unreal Tournament 3, which certainly is easier to navigate with the keyboard than the mouse.

A thing that is horrible in all PC games is if the keyboard can't be used for text input. Granted, this doesn't happen that often, but there certainly are examples of bad ports of console games that features this. Examples I can name offhand are Rayman 2 and 3. When naming your save file in those games, you can't just type it, but have to use decidedly console-ish text input.

So, let's all talk about game interfaces. I've mostly talked about menus, but we could also have it include stuff like HUDs.

Peewi on
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    GreenGreen Stick around. I'm full of bad ideas.Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    HUDs are for chumps

    dead-space-pics-20080519112104580_640w.jpg

    Green on
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    EchoEcho ski-bap ba-dapModerator mod
    edited November 2008
    The character spiral in Beyond Good & Evil is awesome for gamepads. Can't find any youtube vids of it though.

    Echo on
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    Mustachio JonesMustachio Jones jerseyRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    m_screen011.jpg



    swrepcommandopic2.jpg

    Mustachio Jones on
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    PikaPuffPikaPuff Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RdXt0XQ8CQ

    Spider-Man: Web of Shadows was traditional, but minimalistic.
    Fable II had minimal HUD and disappearing portions depending on what needed to be shown at the time. It's interface was horrible.
    Dead Space integrates the HUD with the game, and puts the interface into the game. Works well.
    Saints row 2 had a nice weapon selection circle.

    PikaPuff on
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    Local H JayLocal H Jay Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    the RE4 (i know other games have similar methods of inventory) inventory was really awesome to me, because often times in games you just end up picking up everything, turning you into a unstoppable force. i like in RE4, that the decisions on what to keep, what to leave, and what to use where up to you.
    should i rotate this ammo and lose the old pistol? or should i wait and sell it?
    and i'll never forget that time i accidently tossed out my infinite rocket launcher (quick restart of course, but made my blood run cold for .5 seconds)

    Local H Jay on
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    GrudgeGrudge blessed is the mind too small for doubtRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I always take note of the interface, occupational hazard I guess.

    Generally developers would really benefit from hireing competent interaction designers. Occationally you do find a good example or two, like the aforementioned BG&E's spiral menus, but most often the quality, usability and efficiency of game interfaces range from "ok, I guess" to "abysmal" IMO.

    Grudge on
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    Arch Guru XXArch Guru XX Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay had a great HUD (no info at all - if you got hit a minimal series of white boxes would appear at the top of the screen, and the more hits you took more of them would disappear- if they all go you die, ammo was always displayed on the weapon) but an extremely stupid menu system that had this giant cube in the center of the screen, which would rotate to various menu options, then make a stupid noise as it got everything ready for you. Not game-breaking, but one of the worst menus I've used.

    I liked the idea of the HUD in Deus Ex: invisible War (it was curved as though an overlay on your eye) and thought it was executed reasonably well (I played it on the Xbox, in fairness), but the inventory system was stupidly hard to navigate with the Xbox controller.

    The fact that Mario Kart Wii drops you back to the main screen to change characters in multiplayer is completely retarded.

    Loved the No More Heroes pause screen, done all in pixels like an old 8-bit game. I think the overall usability of the screen wasn't much greater than other games, but fantastic art design made it memorable.

    Arch Guru XX on
    Should have been a rock star.
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    PeewiPeewi Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Loved the No More Heroes pause screen, done all in pixels like an old 8-bit game. I think the overall usability of the screen wasn't much greater than other games, but fantastic art design made it memorable.

    I really hate that when you press the pause button, it takes a second before the menu appears and the way the map would adjust when you changed zoom level, but otherwise I liked it. One thing I really like about NMH is it's behavior when you start the game the first time. The menu is limited to choosing your difficulty, then you're in control and go down to your bike before the intro movie starts playing. And if you have a save file, it shows Travis on the toilet where you last saved and pops you into the game immedietly.

    Peewi on
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I'd like to say that WoW (between mods and standard) has about the best interface(s) possible. There is pretty much nothing you can't tailor to what you want. It was one of my favorite things about the game.

    edit: aw hell.

    Xaquin on
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    PeewiPeewi Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Xaquin wrote: »
    I'd like to say that WoW (between mods and standard) has about the best interface(s) possible. There is pretty much nothing you can tailor to what you want. It was one of my favorite things about the game.

    Unless you meant to write "can't", your post makes zero sense.

    Peewi on
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    BallmanBallman Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I forget whether it was Tribes 1 or 2, but in one of the two games, you could move, resize, or completely remove most of the HUD elements with a drag-and-drop interface. In addition, the main screen, where you had tabs for all of your settings and other such things, was extremely customizable, to the point that someone released an mp3 player specifically for the game, which you could play and control while playing the game.

    It's just a shame the game was so damn buggy.

    Ballman on
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Peewi wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    I'd like to say that WoW (between mods and standard) has about the best interface(s) possible. There is pretty much nothing you can tailor to what you want. It was one of my favorite things about the game.

    Unless you meant to write "can't", your post makes zero sense.

    doh

    Xaquin on
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    DartboyDartboy Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    RE4

    For any game with a grid-based inventory, the whole Temporary Space thing is one of the greatest inventions ever.

    Dartboy on
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    Roland_tHTGRoland_tHTG Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I loved the pop up menus of Natural Selection when you were on alien, until I started using a secondary monitor on my pc. Having the mouse go to the edge of the screen would minimize it.

    Not the devs fault, really, but it was a pain in the ass.

    Roland_tHTG on
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    DisruptorX2DisruptorX2 Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    This is a strategy game interface.
    arrows1.jpg
    Note how it does not take up 1/3 the screen with useless buttons that everyone ignores in favour of hotkeys anyway.

    DisruptorX2 on
    1208768734831.jpg
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    TeeManTeeMan BrainSpoon Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Far Cry 2 has a fairly simple and functional HUD, only showing you the important stuff like ammo, health and health packs once you somebody starts shooting. All the rest of the time it's clear of everything and you can enjoy an unblemished scenery.

    TeeMan on
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    Lave IILave II Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Rhythm Tengoku for the GBA

    RT has one of the greatest menus in the history of the computer game. It is phenomenal. I've thought this for a long time. And have come close to making threads about the greatness of it's menu for a long time. It's seems crazy to talk about the menu to a game, but RT proves that menus can make or break a game.

    I wanted to find a video of it but I couldn't. Basically it's a very pretty checker board of boxes - each with a tiny pic that summarises the stage, whilst wonderful music plays and swirly boxes fly past in the background.

    toc14tq0.gif
    This picture is the best I could fine, it is the basic layout of the menu, but doesn't represent the screen at all well. It may well be a sprite theft or something.

    The asethitic pleasure of completing a column of boxes and seeing another open up, can not be understated.

    Then after that a perfect play of a level gives you a little gold medal in the corner of the box. Despite it being just a few pixels in size this little touch was enough to drive me to complete every level till I got a full
    checkboard of medals.

    Compared to the power of a increasing number to gamerpoint fans, a properly designed menu is far superior. If it is a) instantly responsive and b) constantly rewards your progress through the game visually.

    So many games could sell their different modes and so on to such a greater extent if they stole from RT.

    It's wonderful.

    Lave II on
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    JurgJurg In a TeacupRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    This is one of the only things I don't like about Gitarooman. Every time you turn the game on, you have to go to a separate menu screen to load your save.

    Pressing start at the "Press Start" screen is particularly awesome, though, and makes up for this.

    One of the worst I've ever dealt with was in Makai Kingdom though.

    Say you want to make a facility.

    You go to make a wish, but you already have 4 facilities, so you have to go into a different menu to remove one of them.

    Then, you choose the character to sacrifice, but they are in one of your facilities, so you have to go into a different menu to remove the character.

    Then, you choose the same character, but you forgot to take off all of their equipment, because only naked people can sacrifice themselves for whatever reason. Different menu.

    Finally, you can resummon your character, at which point you'll immediately equip them and place them in a facility.

    They could have made it so much smoother. And they should have let you have more buildings in your town! I meticulously arranged all my characters, but they had nowhere cool to stand around.

    Jurg on
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    KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Assassins Creed PC anyone?

    Worst menu system ever.

    Khavall on
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    DisruptorX2DisruptorX2 Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Well, as far as bad HUDs, I would have to say Halo 3. They tried to simulate Chief's golf visor by greying out the top and bottom of the screen. Damn is it annoying.

    DisruptorX2 on
    1208768734831.jpg
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    PeewiPeewi Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Khavall wrote: »
    Assassins Creed PC anyone?

    Worst menu system ever.

    I haven't played it myself, but it's horrible how much you have to do just to exit the game.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwOvuY0UbFM

    EDIT: That video has annoying music. Let's try another one.

    Peewi on
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    LunkerLunker Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    The genius of Geometry Wars 2's main menu:

    geometrywars2menuzt4.jpg

    Every single time you start up the game, you see your leaderboard status on each of the six modes at one glance, and since that's the button to go into each mode, you're pretty much forced to look at it. What this means is that instead of relegating the leaderboard to a different screen, which almost no one will actively look at, your score and the score of a few people above and below you are always sitting in front of your nose. I love it because it reminds me of what modes I need to work on and which ones I can lord over other people. :)

    What's also nice is that when you're actually playing, you'll see the high score of the person one rank above you in the top-right of the screen, silently mocking you, and if you manage to pass it it'll bump you up one rank and then display the new next person above you, until you're at the top of your friends leaderboard, at which point it'll display your own high score so you can challenge yourself. It's so simple, but so addictive.

    I also agree with Echo, and originally came in to talk about the BG&E spiral text interface. It's the only interface that's actually usable with an analog stick, and I have no idea why other games haven't stolen it wholesale.

    Lunker on
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    PunkBoyPunkBoy Thank you! And thank you again! Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    breakdown.725032.jpg

    Breakdown had a nice minimal HUD.
    And is even part of a major plot point.

    PunkBoy on
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    The Linecutters Podcast: Your weekly dose of nerd! Tune in for the live broadcast every Wednesday at 7 PM EST, only at www.non-productive.com!
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    RookRook Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Peewi wrote: »
    Khavall wrote: »
    Assassins Creed PC anyone?

    Worst menu system ever.

    I haven't played it myself, but it's horrible how much you have to do just to exit the game.
    SNIP

    EDIT: That video has annoying music. Let's try another one.

    Yes, pressing alt-f4 was such a pain in the ass. I think we can just add any game that doesn't have a quit to windows function as part of it's pause menu as being a failure in design.

    As for huds, I liked metroid prime's visor, at least I think it was that game that would clear off rain spots/frost/snow as well as see samus reflected in it undercertain conditions.

    Rook on
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    Big ClassyBig Classy Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Shame the entire game had only two environment textures.

    Big Classy on
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    PunkBoyPunkBoy Thank you! And thank you again! Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yeah, and crappy ranged combat. :(

    Still, I enjoy playing it from time to time.

    PunkBoy on
    Steam ID:
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    The Linecutters Podcast: Your weekly dose of nerd! Tune in for the live broadcast every Wednesday at 7 PM EST, only at www.non-productive.com!
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    SirUltimosSirUltimos Don't talk, Rusty. Just paint. Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Echo wrote: »
    The character spiral in Beyond Good & Evil is awesome for gamepads. Can't find any youtube vids of it though.
    I came into this thread just to say that. It was absolutely brilliant and is the best text entry I've ever seen on a console.

    SirUltimos on
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    Big ClassyBig Classy Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Why do I not remember it? Seriously. I played that game..... well, not a lot but I played it and I don't remember that.

    Big Classy on
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    NickTheNewbieNickTheNewbie Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    PunkBoy wrote: »
    breakdown.725032.jpg

    Breakdown had a nice minimal HUD.
    And is even part of a major plot point.

    that was a cool game

    NickTheNewbie on
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    Arch Guru XXArch Guru XX Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Just remembered another thing, the interface for how you put in your initials for a high score in Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2. In SMB1 you basically have a circular area with letter buttons lining the walls. You then control it the way you would a normal level, and bounce your monkey into the letters. It's fun!

    In SMB2, they switched to be like a gumball machine where you use the joystick to cycle through letters one-at-a-time. And you have to watch an explanation of how to use the thing every time you get to enter letters, with no way to skip the instructions. It's really stupid, especially in light of how fun the system was in SMB1.

    And in case anyone is wondering, it feels very strange to be using SMB as a game acronym that has nothing to do with Super Mario Bros.

    Arch Guru XX on
    Should have been a rock star.
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    EvilBadmanEvilBadman DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Well, as far as bad HUDs, I would have to say Halo 3. They tried to simulate Chief's golf visor by greying out the top and bottom of the screen. Damn is it annoying.

    I really don't notice it at all.

    EvilBadman on
    FyreWulff wrote: »
    I should note that Badman is fucking awesome
    XBL- Evil Badman; Steam- EvilBadman; Twitter - EvilBadman
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    ArrathArrath Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    EvilBadman wrote: »
    Well, as far as bad HUDs, I would have to say Halo 3. They tried to simulate Chief's golf visor by greying out the top and bottom of the screen. Damn is it annoying.

    I really don't notice it at all.

    I kinda like it, and the grid wipe effect when you respawn. Reminds me of Republic Commando.

    Arrath on
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    randombattlerandombattle Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    PunkBoy wrote: »
    breakdown.725032.jpg

    Breakdown had a nice minimal HUD.
    And is even part of a major plot point.

    that was a cool game
    Oh yeah I think Breakdown really did so many things right with it's story and how everything played out. It's just a shame more people didn't play it.

    randombattle on
    itsstupidbutidontcare2.gif
    I never asked for this!
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    JohnDoeJohnDoe Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Peewi wrote: »
    Khavall wrote: »
    Assassins Creed PC anyone?

    Worst menu system ever.

    I haven't played it myself, but it's horrible how much you have to do just to exit the game.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwOvuY0UbFM

    EDIT: That video has annoying music. Let's try another one.

    AC was a shite port overall.

    JohnDoe on
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    CmdPromptCmdPrompt Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Supreme Commander's ability to zoom out, especially to a strategic map, is incredibly excellent and every RTS ever should steal it.

    CmdPrompt on
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    JohnDoeJohnDoe Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I always get annoyed in RTSs that limit how much you can zoom out.

    JohnDoe on
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    DarmakDarmak RAGE vympyvvhyc vyctyvyRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    In addition to Supreme Commander's great interface, I'd also like to mention Sins of a Solar Empire. I don't know if it's already been mentioned or not but holy shit do I love it's empire tree. I can coordinate an entire attack on an enemy system without ever moving the camera away from one of my own planets, it's truely amazing.

    Darmak on
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    TrevorTrevor Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I kind of dig the whole Fallout 3 Pipboy hand-screen thing. Every so often I switch screens trying to move the map, but for the most part it's a very interesting and engaging way to do the whole big RPG menu thing.

    Trevor on
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    BlakoutBlakout Lordran's SpookylandRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Codemasters's recent racing games have had phenomenal presentation. The interface isn't really any more usable than most, but it looks gorgeous.

    GRID

    DIRT

    Blakout on
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    wakeboarderbluntwakeboarderblunt Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I liked the recent menus in the codemaster racing games GRID and DiRT. Very involving and fun to navigate, and surprisingly, the little touches like that make a game feel more polished.


    Edit: aww serious blakout? Beat'd

    wakeboarderblunt on
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