In today's main Gamasutra feature article, full titled 'Off With Their HUDs!: Rethinking the Heads-Up Display in Console Game Design', former Acclaim concept designer Greg Wilson takes a critical eye to heads-up displays (HUDs) in video games. He proposes ways they can be improved and, in some cases, eliminated all together, the goal being to make games more immersive and accessible to the casual gamer.
In that extract, Wilson discusses a practical example of partial HUD removal:
"Many elements found on a typical HUD are there not out of necessity, but out of convention; they represent a sort of “info overkill” that, for the vast majority of players, has no impact on gameplay at all. For every piece of information you offer the player, ask, “Is this information essential to the game experience?” In doing so, you might find that you don't need to bombard the player with quite as much data as you once thought you did.
Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360) provides a good example of eliminating one type of unnecessary information. Although the game does feature some elaborate HUD elements, it's also notable for what it doesn't feature: a visible health meter. It seems illogical for a first-person shooter to not include a health meter of some sort; and yet, the game plays beautifully, relying on a very simple and intuitive visual cue that warns the player when health is dangerously low: the screen periphery turns red and pulses.
It doesn't take long for a player to realize that this means, “Take cover and give yourself a few seconds to heal, or you're going to die.” This not only removes unnecessary onscreen information, but also creates a much deeper sense of immersion in the game world."
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject
, including plenty more discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of extremely visible HUD elements (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).