I've spent the last five years of my game industry career making user interfaces for games of many types -- PC games, console games, games that ship on PC and multiple console platforms, first-person shooters, third-person action games, and strategy action games. And I spent the five years prior to that working in areas of game development that touched heavily on the user interface experience -- web design for some of the largest game web sites on the net, marketing materials for games, and more.I've learned a lot over those many years, and about a year ago I decided it would be kind of cool to keep track of the things I've learned about UI design and the user experience in games in some kind of list. The list has since grown to include about twenty items so far and as long as I work in UI I can only assume that the list will continue to grow. I've taken to calling the list "Good UI Principles" and I've decided it would be a great idea to start expanding on each one of the items in my list in a collection of blog essays because discussion about good UI design is surprisingly hard to find. As to whether or not I'll actually contribute anything to a discussion about good UI design remains to be seen, but hey, what's the harm in trying?
I was about to start off with a disclaimer saying that I don't profess to be a UI expert, but I'm pretty sure that the people I work with would probably call out my repeated arrogance. I do tend to profess that, but it doesn't mean I fully believe it. I don't have a degree in UI or graphic design (my degree, for those that don't know, is in astrophysics); all of my knowledge comes from sheer hands-on experience. And it's precisely because of that that I want to begin these essays -- not because I want to claim to be an expert, but because I'm hoping it'll generate some discussion about good UI design in what appears to be a vacuum from people who are a lot smarter about the topic than I am. (In other words, I'm just doing this so I can steal your smarts with the thin ruse of "sharing knowledge." You see what I did there?) So over the course of the next few months I plan to choose a topic from my list and devote a blog entry to it. As you can tell from the last dated entry I'm a fairly irregular blog writer these days, so I'm not promising any regularity in updates. But I'd love to hear back from people, and I'd especially love to get additions to the list. So if you keep your own, throw your suggestions into the comments. There's no importance to the numbering in my list, so I won't necessarily be going in any kind of order. They're simply added as I think of them. And the first one I'd like to expand on is the following (and it happens to be number 11 in my list):
You cannot simply port a PC game's UI over to a console -- it must be redesigned from the ground up. Conversely, if you design UI for a console game from the start, porting a PC version or maintaining a PC version alongside it is much easier.
Since I wan't to devote an entire entry to this and not just cram it in with the intro to my stunning and sure to be award-winning new series, I'll leave this for the next blog entry, which I hope to bring you over the weekend.