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We’ll Be Watching You: How UI in Video Games Can Influence Design Choices for Any Project

Everyone knows a little bit about video games now. It wasn’t like that thirty years ago, but now everyone has a favorite game or application that they don’t want to admit they spend hours playing. Sometimes a person can feel a little guilty with the amount of time that they waste grinding levels or competing online. So many parents, who were once obsessed with games or movies themselves, are thinking their teenage children spend too many hours in front of a computer screen.

If someone worries about someone else spending too much time playing video games instead of finishing job applications, maybe they should take a moment to read forward and consider this: Is that person wasting time playing around online? Or…are they cultivating professional skills and talents that are needed to understand User Interface (UI) design?

Hierographx isn’t a gaming company per se… but we know UI design. Every button they click, every visual cue that grabs gamers’ attention, and every moment that makes them shout expletives….these are things that we know are worth observing.

New Adventures and New Experiences

One of the latest gaming sensations in North America is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) named Lost Ark. As GeekWire displays, “We estimate that 1,656,927 people play Lost Ark per day, with a total player base of 17,441,342.” For those who aren’t gamers, MMORPGs are community-centered video games that often encourage players to communicate, adventure, and solve problems together. That means Lost Ark is a game where over a million real people are experiencing the same displays on their computer screens.

In the first week of launch in North America, Lost Ark had over a million eyes on the same product. That’s over a million users on the same interface.,”Once the floodgates opened, Lost Ark hit a peak of 984,111 concurrent players, a total it's [sic] gone on to beat the day after launch, when it peaked at 1,325,305 players. That made it number one on Steam's top 100 for the day, beating Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (959,550 players) and Dota 2 (722,671 players). It also beat both games' records for highest player peak: 1,308,963 for CS:GO and 1,295,114 for Dota 2” (PC Gamer). Consider that these players are taking part in business research that utilizes information from over 1 MILLION people.

Great UIs Have Some Forethought

The user base in Lost Ark consists of both veteran and new MMORPG players. That means the designers created the interface to be intelligible but also easy to use for inexperienced gamers.

After a character is created, the game leads new players into a tutorial that explains the basics. The game begins by making sure the player can at least get around the world. What is unique about Lost Ark is the way it teaches users to operate the game outside of the tutorial.

In MMORPGs, goals are usually given to the players through “quests” or “missions.” For non-gamers, that means that players progress through the game by completing tasks that non-player characters (NPCs) give to them. As the game progresses, the players unlock new quests from new characters. The game developers decided that instead of making the user learn all of the interface options during the tutorial, that they could slowly teach the players more options as they progress through the game. The amount of options would be overwhelming if they were presented all at the same time.

Lost Ark developers seem to be aware of one fact: Too many features can make a user feel like they are not in control of an application. A vast game like Lost Ark requires multiple interfaces within the overall user interface to function properly. To find the sweet spot between having enough interaction to make the game function and make the player feel in control of all of the functions, developers worked to slowly introduce new interfaces as the game progresses. Instead of scaring the players away with a new tutorial every time another aspect of the interface needs to be learned, they trick the players into feeling like the training is a part of the game.

A great example that anyone can imagine (gamer or not) is the idea that a hero needs a horse. When someone first plays the game, they don’t own a horse. In order to get a horse, they need to rescue the first NPC they meet, Armen. After helping Armen with his issues, he sends the player on a chain of quests that rewards them with a horse that they can ride. After the player completes the quests and is rewarded with their choice of a white, brown, or black horse, they are guided to the “Mounts” section of the user interface to discover how to fully utilize its functions. There the player learns that they can move any of their mounts to their combat bar for easier access. The game makes the player feel like they are streamlining their gaming process by themselves, but the developers programmed the game to make the player feel that way.

Great interfaces anticipate user problems before they happen. In Lost Ark’s case, they knew that the game would require an overwhelming amount of button interactions. Instead of giving up on the game because of a complicated problem, they decided to water the problem down by only allowing the interactions to happen when the time is right. Eventually, the player finds themselves able to command pirate ships, pets, guildmates, and even online friends to complete tasks for them in a matter of seconds.  

How Do Video Game UIs Relate to Small and Medium-sized Businesses?

Like Lost Ark, a business will lose money immediately if their customer is frustrated. The first impression is what matters. If a business is selling a complicated product or service, they should consider a “tutorial” approach that video games utilize. They need to feel comfortable with the very first click they make and every click after that one.

The client or customer wants the best horse, but don’t forget that they want to feel like they earned it. If they are swarmed with pop-up statements or questions like, “Do you love horses?” “We have a special horse on sale!” or “Are you 18 or older?” then they will feel overwhelmed and not want to continue.

Questions have to be asked about the interface with the “player” or user in mind. Hierographx asks those questions before design begins on any project. Some examples of those questions include “What images and features are the users interacting with before they reach the store page?” “How many automatic responses can a user handle in a live chat before becoming too frustrated with the website?” And, “ How many times does a user have to scroll before finding the product they are looking for?” Any questions that relate to the user are valuable and worth assessing.

Hierographx Creates a Fun and Effective Digital Presence

The complexity of UI research needed per business cannot be summarized in a blog. Each project has roadblocks that are unforeseen. Hierographx offers both small and medium-sized businesses an opportunity to build a digital presence that makes users feel like they are having fun and are in control. Together with the guidance of their experts, Hierographx can solve any UI problems that pop up!

Contrary to the popular saying, horses can be led to water and be forced to drink. If the horse isn’t drinking, maybe the rider was too frustrated and bought the wrong horse. Maybe if the hero and the horse are both happy, they won’t even need to stop in the middle of their quest. Hierographx knows that if that’s the case… you can thank UI for that.

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