Rock Band 3 HUD Analysis

A overview of the successes and failures of Rock Band's HUD design.

HUD Analysis – Rock Band 3 (Xbox 360 – Music/Rhythm)

Rock Band In-Game HUD


+ The note charts travel down the screen towards the player allowing he or she to see each note coming in the next a few seconds (depending on the difficulty), which allow them to move their fingers/arms to prepare to hit each note. This works because it gives just enough information to the player to challenge their reaction time.

+ Notes are organized on the note chart to reflect the locations on each real life peripheral. Weather it is buttons on the fret board and keyboard, the position of the drums, or each string on pro guitar, all the on screen notes correspond logically to each peripheral. This allows the player to more easily relate what they see on the screen to their actual inputs, and gives a stronger connection between the gameplay and their real world actions.

+ Overdrive meter (gold horizontal bar below contact line) and score multiplier (circle with x4 in it) are located directly next to the contact line, where the player gives the most focus to, so players can see these elements without moving their eyes away from the notes they need to play.

+ The vertical green bar on the left hand side shows the current success of each player in playing the song. This bars gives all players a place where they can glance quickly to see how everyone is doing, who is in danger of failing out and who is doing well. With this information, they can decide to use their overdrive to double their points if everyone is doing pretty well, or if they should save it to save someone if they think they will fail out.

+ The top right holds the total score for the song thus far and the star rating, which gives the players an idea of how far along in the song they are and how well they are doing overall.


-       When several instruments are playing together on screen and the note charts are shrunk down, it can be very hard to see some of the finer elements of the note charts when playing. This is especially true with the all important fret numbers on the power guitar and bass charts.

-       Looking over at the status bar over in the left side can be strenuous for players playing one of the two right note charts, having to look all the way across the screen to view it and then back before they miss any notes can be frustrating. The same problem could be had with the star rating and total score parts of the HUD, but for players playing the note charts on the opposite side of the screen.

-       It can be very hard to simultaneously process the separation of notes and the differences in the background color (which tells you where on the keyboard peripheral each section of notes is located) on the pro keys chart. The notes themselves should be color-coded like all the other note charts, not just the background of the chart. This can cause difficulty and confusion, especially during quick changes.

-       There needs to be an easier way to view the overdrive meters of all players, besides looking at each player’s individual meter, so more uses of team overdrive can occur, resulting in the potential for higher scores and more teamwork. Note charts edges should highlight gold when overdrive is ready to deploy and radiate around the note chart (though significantly less than it does when overdrive is actually deployed), that way it is more easily visible to all players when a player has overdrive that’s ready to use.


~ The point that attracts the most focus from the player on average is the area on and directly above the contact line (horizontal line at the bottom of the note chart where the player hits each note as it passes through the line).

~ Because differentiating between notes depends so much on their color coding, it seems like it would be very difficult for the colorblind to play Rock Band, although they could still see the spatial differences in notes.

~ Because the vertical status bar, the star rating and the total score are all important things that the player will want to check periodically during play, it might be better to rethink how these are displayed so layers won’t have to look all the way across the screen to see each one. I would suggest combining them all and placing one of these combined graphs on both sides of the screen.

~  Instead of reducing the size of each note chart so much when new players enter and their respective note charts are added, they should instead grow taller a little bit and cover up a little more of the background band performing, because it isn’t necessary to gameplay, while being able to see and play the note charts is.

Would Likes/Fixes:

O When several instruments get added, op to cover up more of the performance or video in the background as opposed to shrinking the note charts of each instrument to the point where it becomes hard to see the finer details. Also the fret numbers for the pro guitar char should be larger in general.

O Color code the actual notes themselves on the keyboard charts, so players aren’t dependent on looking at the background of the chart that can be hard process while also paying attention to the notes.

O Add the glowing gold edges and the radiating glow to the note charts if the player has overdrive to deploy, this way it is much more visibly apparent to the player and the other band mates without having to actually look down at each individuals overdrive bar.

O Combine the vertical status bar on the left, and place the star ratings going up vertically next to it, with the total score near the bottom. The place a mirrored copy of these on the other side of the screen, so that way it appears on both sides and is easily visible by players, without their eyes having to travel completely across the screen no matter what instrument they’re playing or where their note chart is on the screen.


Tutorial Analysis – Fire Emblem (Game Boy Advanced – Turn-Based Strategy)


+ New gameplay elements are introduced gradually throughout the first 10 chapters (Lyn’s tale), which act as the game’s tutorial, the slow drip of new information and tactics are easy to absorb and the player doesn’t ever get overwhelmed with too much info all at once.

+ Outside the first level, the player controls all character actions, and plays each chapter as they would outside the tutorial, giving the player a large amount of freedom in how they play, even while they’re learning.

+ While characters that die on the battlefield in the main game die forever, characters that die in Lyn’s chapters are gone for the rest of her chapters, but will return (though at their base levels) later in the game as they would had they survived. This takes a bit of the pressure off of losing a member of the party in the tutorial missions and allows the player the freedom to learn from failure without great consequence.

+ While all of the core mechanics and details of combat, strategy, setup and leveling are explored in the first 10 chapters, the game continues to drop little bits of information on new elements like different and more challenging units and weapons later in the game. This gives a since of discovery and growth that passes beyond the core tutorial chapters.


-       Tutorial can be considered quite long. The game has 30 core chapters and the first 10 are the tutorial. While the player does get to have most of the freedom and fun that they have in the main game, because the challenge is minimal and it stretches across such a large portion of the game, it could be boring for some, especially if they are already familiar with the mechanics of the game.

-       There is no way for players to skip the tutorial chapters (though the player can turn the hints off). It can be annoying to spend an few hours playing through the first 10 chapters before the difficulty really ramps up, especially for series veterans or players playing the game a second time.

-       Tutorial spends time teaching some elements of the game that don’t occur in the actual game. On one mission in the tutorial, the player is told that one of their characters will be unavailable for this mission, and that sometimes the characters will have to leave temporarily to attend to some of their personal business. However, this only occurs in this one instance during the tutorial, and never again.

-       Because of the low stakes of the first ten chapters (that all the characters lost will come back later) and the largely separate story from the rest of the game, the player can be left with a feeling that everything they did there didn’t matter.


~ While the gradual introduction of elements allows the player time to process and play with each new element, it may have been better to cut down the core tutorial levels, and to have just spread out the information further into the later parts of the game, that way the details of the game can still be gradually learned, but players won’t be stuck in the easier tutorial levels for as long.

~ The tutorial shines the most in the places where it allows the player to play with what is introduced to them in their own why. They explain the weapons triangle (a gameplay mechanic that takes a rock, paper scissors like approach to combat, replacing those items with swards, lances and axes) and then allow the player to take characters of different weapon types towards set enemies of different weapon types, and allow him or her to experiment fighting different enemies with different weapons.

~ Allowing the player to skip the tutorial chapters, at least on a second playthrough, would allow players to jump back into the core of the game faster if they chose to replay it.

~ While the majority of the first 10 chapters incorporate a tremendous amount of freedom for the player to play the way they want, the first two or three chapters have the player lead down a very linear path and in the case of the first two chapters, have the game take over some of the movement and actions for him or her to demonstrate concepts. This type of handholding, even in the context of teaching the player how to play the game, is unsatisfying. Games are about interactivity, if the player isn’t interacting, they aren’t playing and Fire Emblem is a game that is all about strategy and making meaningful choices, if the player isn’t allowed to do that, are they really learning how to play the game?

Would Likes/Fixes:

O Shorten the time spent in tutorial levels.

O Let players skip the tutorial chapters or at least on a second playthrough.

O Remove some of the elements from the tutorial that are taught during the tutorial chapters, but are never used again in the main game.

O Remove the overly handholding elements from the first two or three chapters and allow players to have more freedom like they do in the rest of the tutorial. Do this by opening up the levels a bit and have a limited amount of choice in a situation where the player has a major advantage and isn’t likely to fail, so it won’t be frustrating while their learning the basics.

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