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Design Details in Virtual Environments

Games are one of the most sophisticated forms of escapism. Virtual game worlds fill our imaginations the same way a good book does. Increases in graphical quality over the last few decades have allowed game-makers to add an astounding level of detail, making them even more immersive.

Traditional graphic design exists as an idea on a screen or printed page, separated from a real world context. Sure, there are often elements of interaction but it largely exists as a concept. Environmental Graphic Design (EGD) is how design behaves in a physical (or virtual, in our case) context. It includes things like wayfinding signage, architecture, and branded spaces.

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No Man’s UI

No Man’s Sky has captivated me with its vast alien landscapes and desolate exploration, but its user interface leaves a lot to be desired. I struggled to navigate the game early on as the game bombards you with dense panels of cacophonous typography.

I’m frustrated with many of the UI design patterns in the game, which often distract from the fun of space exploration. Browsing recent threads on the No Man’s Sky subreddit confirm that many of these complaints are common among players.

This article seeks to provide some constructive criticism for the game’s user interface and identify some of the UX problems present. When crafting a design system, it’s important to keep these things in mind!

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The Evolution of Soulsborne UI

The Soulsborne games are well-known for their difficulty and steep learning curve. While you’re fighting, dodging, and repeatedly dying to a myriad of nasty enemies, you also need to learn how to navigate the games’ interfaces, which can be especially confusing for new players. Even the control scheme is unlike most action games, but it starts to make sense after you’ve invested some hours.

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The Joy of Unlockable Color Palettes

I’ve been playing a lot of Downwell since it came out recently and it’s got me thinking about the value of color and customization in games.

As you play the game you unlock additional color palettes. It’s a nice incentive to continue playing but they’re also an opportunity to personalize the game and express yourself through your palette choice.

The colors technically have no effect on the gameplay but they can completely change our perception of the game. Each color palette in Downwell has only three colors and it’s amazing how much depth and variety can be created with so little.

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Interview: Dylan Jones, co-founder of Gamenest

At Game&Type we want to share the perspectives of the people making our games. This is the first in a series of interviews that aim to shed some light on the role of typography and user interface in the video game industry.

Dylan Jones is a game designer and co-founder of Gamenest, a coworking space for indie game developers in San Francisco. We spoke about his design process, the role of good game UI and the challenges of implementing it.

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From Dark Souls to Bloodborne

Bloodborne, From Software’s latest brutal masterpiece of a game, is finally out and I’ve been completely consumed by it. I could spend this entire article raving about how great the game is but instead I want to focus on some of the interface improvements (and a notable downgrade) from Dark Souls, its spiritual predecessor from 2011. (more…)

Mass Effect 2’s Secret Shame

This has bugged for a long time now.

Mass Effect 2 is a pinnacle of cinematic science fiction gaming with a level of polish that immediately impressed me. I spent hours soaking up the world and building relationships with characters as I explored (and saved) the galaxy.

You venture out on missions, selecting your most elite squad of human and alien buddies, stomp a bunch of bad dudes and at the end of the mission you’re awarded with…… this. Read More

How Far We’ve Come

When I sit down and play games on my 1080p HDTV it’s pretty incredible to think about how far we’ve come in the last few decades. From big, chunky bitmapped type on CRT televisions to smooth, crisp text on large high definition screens, newer tech has enabled much higher quality typography and more usable interfaces. (more…)