Before we see how video game UI or User Interface evolved, let’s check what’s user interface in video games in the first place.
You can consider the User Interface as one of the most important yet underrated parts of game development. UI is how a player interacts and receives feedback from the game as a response. If you create a game with amazing characters and story but poor UI, the game will fail for sure.
The purpose of the UI is very simple. It helps the player or user understand the game or its functions better with visual information. The User Interface informs the user of his existing lives, present level, or score and allows him to engage with these features in the game.
There are four types of User Interfaces within a video game. They are:
The non-diegetic UI appears as an overlay on the screen within the game and is two-dimensional. It’s something specifically visible to the player or gamer. Common examples can be a life indicator in the game Contra or a hot bar in World of WarCraft.
Diegetic UI, unlike the non-Diegetic one, exists well within the game. Other characters are aware of what the player does. For example, in GTA Vice City, you can make your character drive a car or smoke, etc.
Meta UI is 2D and Is quite similar to Non-Diegetic UI. However, the overlay is not limited to the player. For example, in Call of Duty, there’s no health indicator. Whenever you’re low on health, you’ll see a blood overlay, which does the job.
Spatial UI, again, is similar to Meta and Non-Diegetic UI but exists three-dimensionally. Spatial UI can be both diegetic and non-diegetic. It means Spatial UI elements exist in the game’s 3d space with or without being a part of the game. A glowing trail for the player to follow is an example of spatial UI. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction and Fable 3 is a game that adopts spatial elements in UI.
Pong was created in 1972 and was one of the first-ever created games. The only things visible on the screen were numbers, which indicated scores, two bars, and a ball.
The math behind the game was simple. It was a two-player game pretty similar to tennis. Each player had to hit the ball towards the other player. If someone fails to hit, the opponent gets the point.
This was where the evolutions started. The game developers realized that players get an incentive for playing better than the competitor.
After Pong, several games like Super Mario Bros and Pac-man were released. And one must not forget the famous Space Invaders game as well. These games were just enough to show how important UI was. It became more of a necessity.
UI was necessary to show the number of lives left, current player score, or collectibles count (like in Super Mario Bros). Such UI elements were not only informative but made the games more engaging. It was only a matter of years when these games became more popular and complex.
Soon, RPG or Role-Playing games came into the market and made UI a fundamental part of game development. RPG games came in with complex UI, which marked the evolution of complex UI from a basic one. Common examples of complex UI can be Warcraft or Fantasy.
In 1990 came 3D Graphics. It was 3D graphics using which game developers created the POV gameplay. POV means the first-person point of view. Here you can see the action through your character’s eyes.
However, it was quite challenging too. It’s because, before that period, games were usually made in a 2D plane. So, it was quite hard for the developers to manage the UI. This was when game developers decided to branch the game UI into Diegetic (that exists within the game) and Non-Diegetic (overlay on the screen). Read here for better insights.
In the last few decades, video game developers have focused on creating more life-like games. This trend, along with VR, has simply pushed Non-Diegetic UI out of fashion. Now came the Meta UI, which was similar to Non-diegetic UI. The Meta UI was usually linked to some object which the character uses.
And the last evolution was Spatial UI. The Spatial UI was a 3-dimensional UI which was highly loved by the audience. Common examples can be drawing lines around an enemy character, like in Assassin’s Creed.
Although the most recent UI trend is quite advanced, the future will be even more advanced. You can think of the gestures to make your character move or do some action. Also, the game developers are adding virtual reality into the games. And this has set the standards high.
VR delivers an original life-like experience but is quite hard for designers to manage. It’s because one can easily lose the focus point. However, with time it has finally become a reality. You can experience a breathtaking VR experience with devices like Oculus Rift and play games like Beat Saber or Star Trek: Bridge Crew.
In the coming days or probably years, the controls will become more precise. A person would be able to control the character with full-body like motion gaming. It’s expected to become more popular over time. Interacting with the game using eye-tracking technology or thoughts through brain wave detection is also a possibility.
At Juego Studios, we create and help people create games ready for the next generation. You can expect Augmented reality, Virtual reality, and other popular technologies in the games we create. If you want a well-built game with impeccable UI, Juego studios are the best place to be.
Our professionals have ample experience in creating games & applications of all sorts. So, reach out to us! Get a custom-made future-ready application built by professionals.
We’ve traveled a long way from Pong to Resident Evil 7. From a nascent video game UI in the beginning to a flabbergasting UI today, we have witnessed a huge leap in the evolution of UI. And, what’s more, surprising is that there’s a lot to come.
Brain wave detection, full-body motion gaming, eye movement tracking being some examples. Tomorrow’s cutting edge video games, waiting in the pipeline, will find an able ally in futuristic video game User Interfaces. The synergy will immensely benefit the gaming industry!