Now that I have researched a little into what makes UI good, I can start to evaluate what makes it bad. In my many years playing games, I have come across multiple interfaces that clash in terms of both looks and function.
Everything below is simply my opinion and is subjective. I understand that everyone will have different experiences and thoughts on these games and I would love to hear others opinions on these game interfaces.
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
Diablo II is one of the first games I ever played as a child and will always be close to my heart. However, when looking back at this game from a more critical point of view, there are issues with the UI.
For the most part, the UI is well made. The inventory system is cleanly laid out and its grid format makes each section easy to understand; the health, stamina and mana meters are pretty yet simple to understand at a quick glance in combat; and quick hotkey access to potions in the player belt makes refilling those meters fast and easy during a battle.
My personal issue comes from the player skill menu. As the player gains experience, they can increase their level in order to gain access to new skills and spells. The presentation of these unlocked skills is less than ideal however.
Each character class (sorceress, necromancer, druid, etc) has a total of 30 skills each, which are slowly unlocked throughout the game. They are presented in a grid format, which can be accessed by clicking the square button on the lower right of the screen.
The menu that appears is clunky and obscures the player’s view of their surroundings. This makes the menu impractical for quickly switching spells in the middle of combat. While the menu remains relatively small when the player is new – due to their lack of skills – it quickly becomes hard to navigate when the player’s level increases. This can really hinder their performance in harder fights later in the game.
The second issue is that, in order to learn about a spell, the player must hover the cursor over it for a moment. This triggers a pop up text box which explains the spell’s stats, damage and effects. This forces new players into choosing spells between battles and hoping that they work well for them in combat. Should the spell not work as expected or deal less damage than needed, players have to stick with it until they have a moment to read more about their other options.
I have however overcome these issues as I have memorised each skill’s icon, their effects and their position in the skill menu. I have my favourites and I know, at a glance in combat, which skill I need to change to. This knowledge however has only been achieved by playing this game for around fifteen years – because practice makes perfect. But this concept does not help new players who are picking up the game for the first time.
Luckily, Blizzard learnt from their mistakes and created a much better system in Diablo III. They created a menu with full descriptions of skills to ease player accessibility and only made this menu available when out of combat to prevent new players dying in fights while trying to navigate a clunky menu or by flipping it open accidentally.
Assassin’s Creed III
Assassin’s Creed III is a beautiful game with beautifully fluid combat sequences. However, it is somewhat ruined for me personally by the weapons system.
The weapon wheel is an ingenious creation that allows players to cycle through their available weapons. It is supposed to be easy to open and quick to navigate so the player can pick and choose what long or short range weapons suit their circumstances.
Most weapon wheels appear and disappear on screen in a split second so as not to break the player’s immersion or pace during a fight. However Assassin’s Creed III created a weapon wheel that takes up the whole screen. It takes a couple of seconds to load into a transition animation which then gives you the option to switch your weapons.
The game takes, on average, 1.5 seconds to load into the weapon wheel screen. While this may not seem like a lot in real time, the fight sequences are so fast that this really breaks the player’s immersion and interrupts their pace.
Once the screen loads, the player has a few options. On the left there is a simple choice of melee weapons. But, on the right, there is a choice of long range weapons, throwables and animal traps. During a fast paced fight sequence, these extensive choices are far too much for the player to navigate between. I have lost count of the amount of times I have died and lost progress because my character was too busy throwing rabbit bait on the floor instead of firing arrows to defend himself.
I cannot understand why Ubisoft deemed this a good design, when Assassin’s Creed II – a game released 3 years earlier – had a, near perfect, well laid out, quick to access weapon wheel. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Fallen Order is a stunning game, from graphics to gameplay, there are so many things that are done right in this game. But my issue comes from the in-game map.
The map is intended to present as a 3D hologramatic representation of the level and, on paper, that is a really cool idea. But in practice, this map is so difficult to read.
The map allows the player to flip through multiple storeys on each level, while attempting to highlight the one currently selected. It shows unexplored passages or collectables in bright colours – which is great – but the issues appear when trying to reach them. Unlike a 2D map, the player cannot clearly see where they need to take left or right turns in order to reach their destination as they have to continuously rotate the map, making it near impossible to read.
I am somewhat of a perfectionist and always try to obtain the 100% completion achievement – but for this game, I gave up. Although I have found most of the collectables and explored most of the levels, trying to locate the last few parts I need for 100% has become an impossible task. No matter how many times I look at the map, I just end up confusing myself and giving up.
While this isn’t accurate for everyone and, undoubtedly, some people will find this map clear to understand, I have had many issues with it during my time playing this game. To quote my previous post: ‘if one misuses your UI, then it simply means that your UI is misuse-able’.
The games listed above are brilliant in their own way but all have small flaws in their UI that hinder gameplay or usability. In my next post I will be looking into a game with multiple flaws that need addressing in further detail.