Game Development Reference
6.3 Principles of Game Interface Design
For the the most part, HUDs are displayed as 2D screen overlays whether the
game is 2D or 3D. Sometimes extra essential information is displayed directly
on or near a character in the game environment. For example, in Dead Space ,
a third person space game, the player's health and air values are displayed
as colored bars and circles directly on the avatar's space suit.
The best-designed HUDs are ones that show the most amount of
information without cluttering the screen or distracting the player
from the game itself. A great majority of HUDs are designed with critical
information across the bottom of the screen, synonymous with the
original Wolfenstein and Doom HUDs. Extra information such as a radar
appears on the left-hand side.
So where do you start when designing an interface? How do those people
who design good game interfaces know how to do it? It's the same as for
animation. As there are principles of animation so too are there principles for
interface design. The research domain known as graphical user interface design
has, for as many years as there have been computer screens, endeavored
to analyze the interactions between human and computer and classify
and categorize best practice.
The following builds on an examination of the principles of user interface
design compiled by Talin at http://sylvantech.com/~talin/projects/ui_
design.html and information at http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/GUI_Design_
Principles . For our purposes, this general list relating to all software
applications is reworked to focus on best practice
for computer games.
6.3.1 User Profiling
Before designing a HUD you need to know for whom you are designing. You
should consider the player's existing skills and experience, goals, and needs.
If you are creating a serious game, chances are the players will be nongamers.
In this case the interface needs to be ultraintuitive to the point of holding the
player's hand through every step in the initial game play. If you are developing
an Xbox game that is a sequel to an existing franchise, for example, Assassins
Creed VII , you'd keep the interface similar to the other versions as you might
expect a great deal of the players to be hard-core gamers who've grown up
playing the previous six versions.
The objective of the game will also be central to your design considerations.
The player's goals and needs should be clearly visible. For example, in The
Sims , the character's needs, such as sleep and food, are clearly displayed in the
bottom center of the screen, as ensuring these needs are satisfied is the main
objective of the game. If the player is on a mission, these mission objectives
need to be visible in addition to how close the player is to achieving them.