The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG has the best user interface?

Is this the ugly one or the pretty one, it's hard to tell.

In the comments of my last Daily Grind about Star Wars Galaxies, there erupted a lively debate about the game’s user interface in the particular. I was surprised to find that some folks are convinced the game’s interface was lacking, given that it’s basically the same minimap-plus-hotbars-plus-unit-frames-plus-chat interface that every other MMORPG since has cribbed, just a bit more Star Warsy, glowy and minimalistic.

Then again, if you hate the stock minimap-plus-hotbars-plus-unit-frames-plus-chat interface setup that most MMORPGs boast, then yeah, hating SWG’s too makes sense.

Which MMORPG has the best user interface? And how does it deviate from the (at this point) completely standard World of Warcraft template?

(Note: The screenshot above isn’t actually SWG’s; it’s Otherland’s. You should check out The Repopulation’s too.)

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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Pretty much every MMO I’ve played over the last decade has had a better UI than the SWG emu I played a couple of years back. Not sure how close that is to the author’s version but it was hella bad and one of the reasons I never returned. (that said, I never saw anything that looked like the screenshot in the article title thingie)


The two MMORPGs I’ve played the most are ESO and WoW and both have good UIs IMO.


Out of the few games I played I’d have to say ESO. It’s minimalistic, no silly faces showing up next to our HP bar, no minimap we all absolutely have to have without ever paying much attention to it, no eleventythree hotbars, …

But in order for it to be as good as I feel it is, it requires the use of some addons, particularly a quest tracker and an addon dealing with the dispaly of buffs, debuffs, … which ESO luckily allows for, without going as far as WoW which basically allows for far too much in the addon-department.

Robert Mann

I like minimalistic. Give me a small health setup on one side. Let me have a physical map. Give me more things that feel like it’s an actual world to live in, rather than a combat simulation with some backgrounds.

For graphics setup, it should be very flexible. For doing things, important stuff should be easy to get to (logout and settings, for example.)

I know many people don’t want those things in turn… everyone has different opinions. UI isn’t the most important thing to me all in all, but I’d think some variety in how things are handled would be good. Give a number of layout options, allow people to make designs for their own use, etc. *If somebody wants a giant heart as their health display let them do that. If they want a burger that gets darker as they are cooked by the dragon, let them do that. Etc.*

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Nick Martin

WoW, because it gives freedom to the player to make it work for them, and doesn’t lock you into the dev’s idea of what’s good.

As a UI/UX professional, it’s so frustrating to look at game UIs, because it’s pretty clear that it’s always an afterthought in design and development. Especially within the MMO space.

Joe Seabreeze

What I don’t understand is the many games after WoW that haven’t learned by example on how to design a good UI. It’s as if the developers never played a popular mmorpg. Why are they making games if they don’t know the basics? It’s like trying to cook a 5 course meal before learning how to boil water.


Do elaborate. What do they lack that WoW has? Are you talking addons?

Rolan Storm

TESO UI minimalism.

Thomas Zervogiannis

EVE Online’s UI, especially considering the complexity, the number of systems that it has to deal with and its importance in the overall game experience, given EVE’s nature. It has some wrinkles but is still my favorite – you can tell how well modularized lots of functionalities are and how they can be easily accessed consistently under different contexts.


That’s a tough question. I want to say FFXIV, but I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve played it for so long that it’s all second-nature. I can’t remember if I ever had trouble with it in the beginning, though that’s because I have a set of keybinds that carries across multiple MMOs.

Or .. maybe the sign of a good UI to me is one that I don’t notice or have to think about, because I can think of a lot of bad UIs I hated (ESO, for example), but I can’t think of many UIs where I was like, “Wow this is done really well.” I know they’re there, but I can’t picture them right now. Damn. Something to try keeping in mind, I think.

Oleg Chebeneev

WoW’s UI is perfect, its why it was copypasted by hundreds of MMOs.