The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG has most improved its UI over the years?

    
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In an earlier Daily Grind on peripherals, I mentioned how I used to fold up a piece of paper into a triangular prism, write down my keybinds, and prop it up on my keyboard in old school Ultima Online. That was because the game really didn’t have much of an interface. Things like healthbars and paperdolls and bags and spells were ad hoc; you could pull them out and drag them around your screen (that was ahead of its time!), but there wasn’t even a trace of the rudimentary hotbar that EverQuest would later introduce to the genre. You set your macros in options and that was that.

Since then, UO has come a really long way in the UI department thanks to multiple client upgrades. The current top-shelf UI for the game is in the “enhanced client” that about half the playerbase reportedly uses, and it’s much more like the sort of UI modern players are used to, complete with endless hotbars, API support, and on-the-fly configuration. If I dropped that UI onto a screenshot for a different game, I bet most of you wouldn’t bat an eyelash. (I was going to do that for this post, but I decided to use the brand-new F2P login screen instead – does that take you back, vets, or what?)

Anyway, that’s just one example of an MMO with a vastly improved UI. Which MMORPG do you think has most improved its UI over the years?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Dug From The Earth

Ive played a LOT of mmorpgs. And in my experience, most never update their UI. A little tweak here and there doesnt really count.

That said..

ESO has probably made the most useful changes to its UI since the release of the game. Both adding useful things, and giving options to REMOVE things people didnt want. It still has some really awful aspects, but compared to release, its a huge improvement.

WoW probably has the best UI overall, but… ONLY because of addons/mods. Having the freedom to completely replace and revamp nearly every element of the UI is what makes WoW’s UI #1.

I do remember the UI revamp for Anarchy Online years and years ago, but it went from Horrible, to Bad. An improvement, but certainly not “most improved”.

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Sally Bowls

WoW, due to the user addons.

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Bango on Laurelin

100% agreed. ElvUI is the mainstay of my UI along with Weak Auras.

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Hirku

I don’t have a specific answer today because every game I’ve played hasn’t changed their UI during my time, but any MMO that adds a scaleable UI would get my vote.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

Of the ones I have played long enough for them to have time to make significant UI changes, most have not made any, or at least any you would notice. So I’d say none of them.

However, WoW deserves some mention here just for the fact that it’s been around for near 15 years and still has nearly exactly the same overall default UI that it launched with. It always amazes me when I see ancient screenshots of the game and it’s hard to pick out what actually changed. Maybe I’m in the minority since I actually play the game with the default UI and no major UI addons. But I think the reason it hasn’t changed, or has changed so little, is that it was a basically well thought and executed design at the start, and Blizzard had the sense not to waste time trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. And the few noticeable changes they have made all have made it better rather than undoing good work already done. Blizzard also had the sense to allow addons that could do significant cosmetic things to the UI from the start, which allowed them neatly to sidestep most demands for big changes.

SWTOR, on the other hand, is a good example of a game that never had a great UI, and that has seen endless flubbed attempts at freshening up and adding or overhauling segments of it, all of which have only made it worse (probably because the only real objective of any of the changes was to devote even more real estate to the cash shop and loot box “opening experience”). It’s one of the few games I can think of where the UI has changed significantly since launch, and it’s been all downhill.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

WoW? i’m not sure because that the only game i played for a long time and the interface is getting better every year, but the improvement is not huge, you find it in the small details, Blizzard kept improving the interface with every expansion, as every MMO should do.

As for UO, i really wish to see more improvement on everything, bring the game into 2018, better everything but keep the systems as they are, if they can do that on the client side what stops them from doing it again?

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Oleg Chebeneev

Current Ultima Online UI is terrible. I cant imagine it beeing worse but if it was before, its not much of an improvement. Id say World of Warcraft wins in the most improved UI.

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Vorender

I just logged back into EVE Online after being away for about 4 years. I’m not sure I like the new UI, but it’s very different from the old one (which I liked).

I’m having trouble thinking of one that is drastically improved over its original incarnation.

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Armsbend

UI is probably the main reason I check and see if a game allows add-ons or not. If it doesn’t move on to the existing greener pastures.

Games like FFXIV will always be inferior in my opinion because of the lack of player customization – and therefore interest.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

in some cases i find the default UI perfectly serviceable – when it’sa more HUD oriented UI with critical frames front and center close to the action.

but even then i still welcome solid addon API and modding community. like wildstar’s default ui is largely sufficent really but the community made UIs are even better for the most part (aside from an obsession with the remaining total unit frams addon makers of removing the various menu buttons for like character and whatnot which i like having buttons for on the UI due to keybinds for those kinds of things being different in every single fucking mmo).

i’m doing default ui with moving around the frames in rift prime but i feel i am gonna smash my head on finding a half decent bag ui before long here. that archaic wow vanilla bag ui clone is driving me nuts already XD

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Armsbend

Serviceable or not I like seeing what the talented add-on/modder folks can do to make the game better. They always do. And I just think it adds to excitement surrounding a game. If people care enough to sink 100s if not more hours into mod creation then it likely means there are tons of players enjoying the game.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

oh agreed.

it’s been a long standing annoyance of mine that invariably the best first party UIs are a far cry from mediocre community made UIs.

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Utakata

…on the other pigtail, you can move the elements of XIV’s UI all over place for example. Have them stack in spot…even make a pretty picture with them. Try and do that in WoW without 3rd party addon’s is literally no go. So for me at least, a game’s inferiority complex is being forced to go elsewhere to remedy the game’s UI deficiencies.

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Sally Bowls

I guess I don’t draw any distinctions as to how I get the UI I want. I personally like the much greater capabilities that addons give a game. Users can come out with lots of addons and other addon makers, and the developer can see what is popular. It is so much more vibrant and creative rather than waiting for the developer to release a new expansion every couple of years. And it frees the developer up to work on other things if needs for various types of users can be addressed by addons. One site lists over sixteen thousand addons for WoW, one of which has been downloaded 189 million times. I am not sure about the person-hours, but there are far more people writing code for WoW addons than there are writing code for FF XIV. I like the choices the extra functionality gives me.

Veldan
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Veldan

RuneScape comes to mind. The UI in RS3 nowadays is nothing like the old UI the game used to have (and possibly still has in OSRS? I wouldn’t know). It’s so much better and more clear, and can be customized.

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Jack Pipsam

Totally, I mean Runescape has to be the most ever-evolving MMO ever.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

while still actively supporting the original classic and older versions!

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Jack Pipsam

Two older versions at that, puts everyone else to major shame.

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Weilan

That’s the only one that came to mind.