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User Interface and its Effect on the Senses

A discussion on user interfaces, music and how they invoke emotion and sensory reactions in a game.

Last week in class we began discussing user interfaces.  We started off  by comparing and contrasting the RPG and FPS genres.  My interpretation of the two genres and their different interfaces is described as such:

The FPS genre has an interface that allows the player to be in control of their character.  You have the ability to immerse yourself into your character and their exploits as if it were happening to you.  Your personality and style match that of your character and come out in your gameplay.  The interface tries to give the player the information necessary for gameplay without being a distraction or looking out of place. 

The RPG genre has an interface that allows the player to control the character in a scenario utilizing a broader view of the game screen.  This allows the player to see the adventure from more of an overview perspective, being able to see obstacles around you without turning your characters POV.  The player has more control over the situation than in an FPS because their is a wider view and the ability to see all sides of the character.  This style interface allows for a deeper immersion into the story and into the characters look and feel.  This is a different immersion than that of an FPS game.  FPS Tends to be more action oriented while RPG tends to be more strategic and thought based, or problem solving.

I feel that these genres allow for the imagination to run wild, but in different aspects.  RPG's allow me to picture myself in the story, going through the perils of my player character.  The FPS has my imagination centered around my ego and how I am so tricky and sneaky that the enemy will never find me.  This feeling or emotion is done through a careful interface layout as well as the many other elements involved in creating a winning game.

Both genres have great advantages and disadvantages to their interfaces, so when creating a game that combines these genres it must be difficult to determine what to take from each.  I often try to think of how would I design the interface if I were doing this.  How would I change it from the masterful Borderlands. What elements would I include?  How would I leverage what I like in Fable II and combine it with the elements I like in Call Of Duty?

As our discussion continued we began thinking about music in a game and how it works with the interface to immerse the player.  In an RPG the music tends to bring you into the gameworld and give you a sense of being part of it.  Whether it is soothing or creepy, it draws you into the story and the game. 

On the other hand, in and FPS the music tends to focus on action or battle sequences.  The music gives you a feeling of angst and can be unnerving at times which adds to the sensation of what you are doing on the screen.  The music in an FPS does not tend to focus on the story or game world.

Thinking about the music and interfaces led me to consider other important elements within a game and what they really mean.  We further discussed our interpretation of shading, texturing and visibility and what they mean to the game.  Not from a technical perspective, but from an emotional or sensory perspective.  Here is what I came up with:

Shading to me, relates to the way that lighting effects are handled.  They provide a level of depth and realism to a scene that would otherwise appear flat and with no apparent light source.  Proper shading in a scene helps add to the "realism" and immersive effect of the game.

Texturing is just that.  The textures that are applied to the scene that give it its' look and feel.  Textures would be skin on a character and the bumps and imperfections on that skin.  The battle scars that have been received through out years of constant fighting.  Texture is also what you see on every object and it is one element in creating a scene or scenario.  Texture works with the shading element to add depth and realism to the environment.  Texture is not just something you see, but it is something you can feel as well.  This is important in creating the objects within the game.  Think about a peach, you can see the texture as well as feel the texture.  Close your eyes and put it in your mouth and now you can almost taste the texture.

Visibility relates to an objects depth within the game screen and works hand in hand with layering.  But going beyond just the fact that an object is visible and how far it might be from you, is how visible is it.  What distractions or obstacles are in the way.  Is it dark, or foggy or raining?  Is the sun in my eyes and the object is now barely visible?  These are some other considerations in the visibility of an object within this context.  You can also consider how something sounds when it is far away vs. close by.  Or how objects get smaller as they go in the distance.

Well, I figured I would share some highlights from my week 4 discussion in class.  I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts and comments.

:)

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