Game Development Reference
Primary player actions, including building, moving units, pickup
item, drop item, and swap guns, should always appear on the
The toolbar (if any) should always appear on the screen. It may have
a roll-out feature that extends it into a bigger toolbar.
The main menu should be one click, key press, or button press away. In
some cases, it can appear inconspicuously across the top of the game
window as a fully exposed feature.
Submenu items should be one click, key press, or button press away
from their associated main menu item.
Dialog boxes are only for displaying or gathering information as it
becomes available or is required. They involve textual exchange with
the player and are best kept hidden until required.
The help screen should be accessible directly from the main screen via
the use of a metaphoric button with a “?” or one click away from the
Elements of your interface design should fit together both functionally and
visually. For example, submenu colors and fonts should fit with the main
menu colors and fonts. In addition, the game interface should match the
functionality of the platform for which it has been built. For example, Xbox
Kinect games all allow the players to stand up straight with their left arm
out at 45° to call up the main menu.
Artwork, borders, colors and fonts of toolbars, menus, buttons, and other
interface items should follow a common theme. For example, The Sims
interface is instantly recognizable by its blue-on-blue color theme with
Functionality should be coherent in that the same commands in different
areas of the game perform the same actions. If you can click an X in the top
right of a window to close it, all windows should allow for it. Any buttons
that do the same thing should be named the same. For example, another
metaphoric example in interfaces is the “Ok” button. If you are using an “Ok”
button, don't change the capitalization on some occurrences such that it
is “Ok” in one window and “OK” in another and don't change it to be “Yes”
An example of bad coherence in game interface design is exposed by Marcus
Andrews in his Gamasutra article Game UI Discoveries: What Players Want
players_.php ). Far Cry 2 has a very elegant and embedded interface. Player
status and information are built into displays in the 3D environment. For
example, a radar system is built into the player's weapon, the player's hand
can be revealed holding a compass, and bullets can be dug out of the player's