For something purely visual, UI design is absolutely integral in a good gaming experience. Effective UI design in console game development can be the difference between a player enjoying their time with your title and them never picking it up again.
That might sound dramatic, but effective UI design is a fast track for game information. It is the information highway that connects game knowledge and information directly to the players. And understand good UI design for console game development is important for any good designer and artist.
We’ve talked before about the importance of UI and UX on other platforms and discussed some tips for developing console games for Unity. Now, we’d like to jump into effective UI design and talk about some fundamental tips our UI designers consider for console game development projects and more.
Understand the purpose of UI Design
When considering UI design in console games, it typically falls under one of four categories.
UI design is either in the game’s story or for a game mechanic or function. It is then split into an in-world piece of UI or an out of game UI. So, you have UI that serves the story and is in the game space. Then you have UI that serves the story and is not in-world. Thirdly, functional UI that is in the game’s universe. And finally, UI design that is functional and not in the game world.
The heads-up-display or HUD of a sci-fi helmet is in-game. It tells the player their ammo count and heading. That is in-game and is known to the character as well as the player. James Bond’s watch in the N64 title Goldeneye is another example that is both in-game and exists in the story. A weapon select wheel that players can pull up does not exist in the game space or in the game world, but serves a functional purpose. A level map that exists separately to any in-game technology is the same. A line indicating where the player should head next is in the game space, but it is not in the game’s world.
Understanding these four approaches to UI design can allow you to further grow your world and your game’s mechanics. Understand what needs to exist or is good to have in the game space and world. Can the player losing their helmet serve an interesting gameplay experience later? If so, consider its implementation as effective UI design to serve the storytelling and overall gaming experience.
Top down, left to right
Next up for effective UI design in console game development, it’s key that you consider what a player needs to know and what they want to know.
When you understand the purpose of UI design in console game development, you can begin to understand the hierarchy of needs for game information. Figure out how players will navigate your game, your menus, and functionalities. When you know what they want and need, figure out what you want them to have in the quickest and easiest way.
Just as we have a pyramid of needs in real life, players have the same pyramid. Effective UI design is implementing that in-game pyramid of needs in your console game development. Work from the highest priority downwards. And, as most players will work from top down and left to right, effective UI design is built around that knowledge.
Learn from your Peers
There is a saying that every creative should hear. T.S. Eliot, famous poet and playwright, once said that “good writers borrow, great writers steal”.
Now, don’t take that too literally! The way we like to see it is that borrowing is no good. Take the ideas you love, the ones that struck you, and those that inspired you. Let them guide your decisions. There are so many great examples of good and effective UI design in the games industry. For your console game development, look to your successful peers and see what they did right. It’s not a crime to be inspired by success!
Just be sure to work from their ideas, evolve and take your own spin on it as you create your unique UI design. The goal is delivering a high-quality UI design for your players’ console gaming experience.
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