Extra Credits examines how UI style can alter video game experiences

    
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The UI. It’s such an intrinsic part of video gaming that we very often don’t pay it any attention, except for when it’s awful and draws attention to itself. UI design is the focus of a newly released video from the folks at Extra Credits, which goes into diegetic versus non-diegetic UI elements, whether they work best, and what makes a game’s UI good.

The video hearkens back to the PS3 and Xbox era, when new graphical fidelity provided opportunities for game devs to try and make their UI elements more immersive and part of the game world — aka diegetic — as opposed to flat elements on a game screen. The video ultimately concludes that these kind of elements, while clever, could often lead to more inconvenience than they’re actually worth developing, and finds that most modern games seem to have wisely eschewed the practice altogether. In short, “good UI should be legible first and stylized second. You know, form after function.”

As with other videos from the channel, this episode of Extra credits is well-illustrated and thought out, with art presentation from Alisa Bishop, who is an actual UI designer by trade. You can check out the complete video below.

source: YouTube

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kjempff
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kjempff

The reason non diegetic UI is often not immersion breaking is because it is static. And because it is static this means that your mind has learned to subconsciously filter the UI out of the game world context – Aka not breaking your immersion, and then it doesn’t matter much what quality of UI it is. Your mind learns to filter this very fast, especially for experienced gamers.

So good diegetic UI is often of a static kind, so it does not make your mind try to decide whether it is part of the game world or a UI element, but just accepts it as UI … like it does with normal UI.
There are some horrific examples of diegetic UI in mmo games, and in my opinion mmos (as in real mmos, not lobby games, shooters, arpgs, etc) should generally not use diegetic UI. Other types of games can benefit greatly from it, but always use with caution as it can quickly turn against you; it only takes a tiny little detail to go from awesome-kool to whathe-wierd.

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IronSalamander8 .

UI is one of the reasons I enjoy CoX and didn’t enjoy DCUO. CoX’s was so easy to use and visually unobtrusive, and later on you could really alter it to a great degree. DCUO’s was designed for consoles and that was glaringly obvious when I tried the beta; being unable to adjust it was a killer for me.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

SWTOR lets you use a ‘interface editor’ to move your UI around/adjust sizes/add/subtract things. I’d forgotten I used to use it and it’s semi odd…so you kind of have to spend awhile adjusting things in there and it detracts from actually playing the game. I had to re-learn a little of it because I couldn’t figure out why I only had a single bar and they’d bragged about putting another quickbar in for F2P players. (Turns out it didn’t matter, because I’m a former subscriber and we get 5 bars for being the tier between F2P/sub…I’d just apparently had them default off unless I turned em on in the editor…).

So yeah, UI issues can make a game feel awkward…and there’s certainly a few over the years I wished I could alter but couldn’t and that bothered me…it can be nice to be able to adjust it as a player, but when you’re basically making it a game of ‘how do I do this?’ in the editor it becomes too much hassle to bother with for many people…so just make a decent one to begin with and leave the option open for those people who like to fiddle to adjust it as needed…

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Grim? Darhk

Oh Goody, a shitty youtube channel on a site about mmonews. Lovely.

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Eamil

This is a problem I frequently have with Korean-developed MMOs. They generally seem to have interfaces that just don’t fit with the style of literally everything else in the game. It bothers me to no end.

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Neurotic

I do like Neverwinter’s UI alot. It’s easy to read, but still has the little fantasy styling that I feel is D&D-appropriate. There’s no modding system to replace it, but you can freely move every element around, which is a nice compromise. Like, if we can’t replace it, at least give us total control of it. Kudos to Cryptic for that.

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Schmidt.Capela

Diegetic isn’t just an element, such as a piece of UI, inside the game world; it’s an element that the characters can see, hear, etc. Thus, diegetic UI is basically UI that is designed to be used by the character (rather than the player).

The difference is important because you can have non-diegetic UI inside the game world; WoW’s exclamation marks indicating NPCs that can start a quest is an example.

For my part, I tend to really dislike diegetic UI because it tends to only really work from a first person point of view, and I really dislike playing in first person, thus I tend to hate any UI or gameplay element that doesn’t work well in third person.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

That would make sense. I’m a “first person = immersion” kind of player, so I tend to prefer a minimal UI that draws upon being aware of the in-game surroundings.

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Ironwu

Here is a thought. Give the users the ability to create their own User Interfaces.

Given that they play the game orders of magnitude more than UI designers, you can bet they will come up with a UI that best fits the game they are playing.

World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 are great examples of AOI systems that allow users to completely replace (or selectively replace) the company UI. And they are so much better for it. :)

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

This.

In particular I loathe the 2D whack-a-mole frames for healing. I consider it such a counterintuitive, cludgy hack that I’d do almost anything to change how that system is presented to us.

So WoW gives us six modifier keys (Lshift, Rshift, etc…) plus the combos of those shift keys. I wrote a mod that assigned those combos to a D-pad on my Nostromo, and assigned the N-52 keypad to stand for each individual raid frame.

With that setup I had 12 actions to select with my thumb, and a keytap on the appropriate button would perform a click event on the corresponding raid frame.

Viola, I can raid heal using one hand and no mouse clicks and can condense the raid frames into little more than a dance-dance-revolution style scroll indicating which direction I need to press the thumb shift and which key number to press to get the heal where it should go.

Over time I refined this to where I used a thumbstick on the N52 and a thumbstick on my mouse to raid heal using nothing but my thumbs. It was a much better experience than chasing raid frames with a mouse pointer.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

TLDR: Diagetic is better. Form should follow function.

Function following form may be better for the uninitiated, but it can set a skill ceiling for those who have mastered the system.

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Alex Hyer

They also made this one.

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styopa

That’s pretty shallow whingy crap. When you’re playing a competitive game based on real-life, red vs blue is dull and uninteresting, so we pick A vs B in real life. It used to be cowboys vs indians, but we’re not allowed to do that any more because of (feathers not dots) indians’ feelings. So now it’s terrorists vs any, Nazis vs any, whatever. The Chinese use US forces (or something indistinguishable therefrom) as their “bad guys”. So what?

Trivializing bad guys like Nazis in particular is delightful. Let their dogma be ridiculed and demeaned to nothing.

And BTW, to suggest that every Wehrmacht grunt was a Nazi because there were swastikas on his vehicle is pretty ignorant. And no, that doesn’t mean he was ‘drafted at the point of a gun’. A lot of German soldiers were just a fundamentally patriotic as any other country, and joined because they felt Germany had been royally screwed by Versailles (objectively: they had; we could get into a long discussion about why), and believed the ‘national victimization’ narrative promulgated by Schickelgruber & co. In case you feel immune to such a ridiculous notion, there’s a few politicians these days that are leveraging the victimization narrative pretty hard across their following.
Psst; pretty nearly EVERYONE was antisemitic back then.
BTW2: if you think the British were somehow lily-white victims of ‘them dirty nazees’ perhaps you’d like to speak to India, the Mau Mau, or perhaps Boer concentration camp victims (yes, the British invented the modern concept).

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Neurotic

As an Englishman, I applaud this.

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elenie

Trivializing bad guys like Nazis in particular is delightful. Let their dogma be ridiculed and demeaned to nothing.

But that’s not what’s happening here. The issue is with games just letting you be a nazi and shoot people, as a nazi, and treat that as normal end even heroic.

And to suggest that somehow the Wehrmacht and other Nazis was no worse than the British just shows off the problematic thinking that’s discussed here. The Wehrmacht was, on the whole, hugely complicit and committed an incredible amount of war crimes. There is a difference between being anti-semitic and murdering millions (!) of civilians as a systematic project like the Nazis did. (I suggest http://professorbuzzkill.libsyn.com/podcast/professor-buzzkill-91-clean-wehrmacht if anyone is interested in Wehrmacht specifically).

The takeaway for me is that people are capable of doing incredibly bad things to each other and that it *is* important to figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

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styopa

Yeah, but so? You’re playing a “bad guy” in a widely accepted uniform that is a “bad guy” – that’s it.

    You are not in any meaningful sense PLAYING a Nazi.

You don’t load Jews on trains for Bergen-Belsen or Dachau, you’re not burning Ukrainian villages, you’re not killing civilians in mass graves for suspected partisan support. You’re not required to even pay lip-service to an Aryan-supremacist mythology.

All you’re doing is wearing a universally accepted “I’m a bad guy hat”.

Oh, and?
The British committed war crimes.
The Americans committed war crimes.
The Soviets VERY MUCH committed war crimes. One could argue persuasively that aside from industrialized death camps, in their conduct of the WAR the Soviets were much WORSE than the Germans – Nazis included. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/1382565/Red-Army-troops-raped-even-Russian-women-as-they-freed-them-from-camps.html

Would you have such qualms about playing Japanese troops? Or Soviet?
Chinese people, or, say, people descended from any woman who had the misfortune to remain in Eastern Europe during the Soviet advance might have issues with them.

I agree that the Nazis were the “bad guys”, no doubt but anyone who thinks anyone’s hands are clean in war is ridiculously naive.

“The takeaway for me is that people are capable of doing incredibly bad things to each other and that it *is* important to figure out how to prevent that from happening again.”
And 99.89% of people are going to agree with that sentiment. But it’s ridiculous to try to assume some moralizing high ground in a game where you run around and KILL EACH OTHER for NO REASON.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

Yeah, but so? You’re playing a “bad guy” in a widely accepted uniform that is a “bad guy” – that’s it.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desensitization

And I quote…

” : to make emotionally insensitive or callous specifically :

to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it ”

They should remain ‘the bad guys’, and anyone who’s trying to defend that behavior has become desensitized and thinks it’s A-OK to do that again. Society seems to have come full circle to wanting to act like that. If you’re wanting to act like that, SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY and stop blaming others for your ills.

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styopa

Hauling out dictionary definitions is nigh unto Godwinning a thread (ironically enough, in this context).
They ARE the bad guys.
They are poster-children for evil.

I’m curious: So who’s the arbiter of “proper, appropriate” deployment of this particular totem of evil – you?

It’s more than a little histrionic to connect the usage of Nazis as bad guys in video games with the idea that it’s “A-OK to do it again”.

Who’s blaming others for your ills? Non-sequitur, much?

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

I think the bigger question is why you feel the need to defend ‘evil’, and portray it as something that shouldn’t be confronted.

Do you perhaps have ‘evil’ you wish to do IRL? Would you be comfortable with someone doing that ‘evil’ to you?

Yeah, sure we can talk about ‘who’s to blame’ (There’s plenty of scapegoats out there.) for whatever ill you perceive has happened, and use it as an excuse for the actions you may take, but some of us would prefer you actually take responsibility if you’re planning something.

(With your diatribe, it sounds an awful lot like you agree with the sentimentality of that which you’re defending and saying it should be allowed, and even acted upon. Some of us are tired of watching people die IRL because some person who espouses the same kind of rhetoric as you are espousing decided to waltz into a public place and make others dead for their own ideological beliefs.)

We don’t really need to redirect towards me. I’m just a humble passersby who noticed something ‘off’ and had to make a comment.

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Utakata

They’re not talking about war crimes or atrocities here committed by both sides – that’s an entirely separate issue. Rather playing something (or even forced to play something) that has no moral ground begin with. Which enables, normalizes and sympathizes with folks who hold those views. /bleh

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Brazen Bondar

@Alex Hayer Thanks for the link. Good approach to countering some of the rhetoric around “it doesn’t matter which side you are” discussion.