Terraria

Terraria is a 2D side-scrolling platformer where you explore, dig, build and fight your way around a procedurally-generated world. 2D Minecraft, if you will. Four years after its release, it recently received a massive free content patch, which is a good excuse to return to the game, and also look at its interface.

Lava in Terraria. Don't open that door!

Lava in Terraria. Don’t open that door!

Continue reading

Gone Home vs Her Story

Gone Home is an exploration game: arriving at an empty house you must walk around (in first-person perspective) and go through the house to find out what has happened, and explore the characters and events in the protagonist’s life. Her Story is a detective game: you have a searchable library of interview video clips with a murder suspect which you can view to try and piece together what happened in a man’s disappearance. I view them as fairly similar games: they are about you exploring a set of constructed clues to progressively piece together a story. But they have fairly different interfaces, which makes it an interesting comparison. No spoilers within.

Left: Gone Home, a game about exploring an empty house. Right: Her Story, a game about searching a database of video interviews with a murder suspect.

Left: Gone Home, a game about exploring an empty house. Right: Her Story, a game about searching a database of video interviews with a murder suspect.

Continue reading

Defense Grid

Defense Grid is a straight-up tower defence game. No hybrid mechanisms or other gameplay variants, just towers. For me, it’s the best game in the genre, and it also has an interesting and excellent interface. Let’s look back at everything it did right.

Continue reading

The Endless Wasted Corners of Games

One commonly used principle in interfaces is Fitts’ law. It can be boiled down very simply: the ease with which you can access a click target (like a button) is decided by how close it is to the current cursor position and how big it is. A nearby or big target is easier to reach than a far away or tiny click target. Very straightforward when you think about it.

There’s one more aspect, though: the edges and especially the corners of your screen are effectively huge. To click on a tiny button on your screen, you have to move your mouse to the general area (often starting with a large, imprecise mouse movement) followed by a slower precise movement to get to the right target, making sure not to overshoot. But if the button is in the top right of your screen, all you have to do is make one huge imprecise movement towards the top right. If you overshoot, it’s fine because the cursor hits the corner and stops. It’s easy to click on the corners of your screen, even though they’re often the furthest points from the cursor. It’s no accident that the Windows 7 start button is in the very bottom left corner, the close window icon is in the top right, and the show desktop button is in the bottom right. But do any games make use of this?

No click targets in the corners of Diablo III.

No click targets in the corners of Diablo III.

Continue reading

Invisible, Inc.

Invisible Inc is a turn-based strategy stealth game. It takes the isometric run/gun/hack of Shadowrun and combines with it with a healthy dose of stealth to create a captivatingly tense and rewarding game. However, there are a few possible interface improvements hiding just behind that server in the corner.

The visibility display in Invisible Inc. That half-red square ahead of my agent on the left: is it visible to the guards?

Continue reading

Shadow of Mordor

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (I’ll just go with “Shadow of Mordor”) was released last year to great acclaim, with praise for its polished combat and novel boss system. Shadow of Mordor has you running around an open world, killing a lot of orcs. Sometimes you sneak up on the orcs and stab them, sometimes you teleport in front of them and stab them, sometimes you jump on them from above and stab them, sometimes you stay back and loose a few arrows instead. Its combat, and the variation between the boss enemies, mean that it stays interesting and compelling. But does its interface deserve praise, too? It’s definitely good, but I still have some suggestions for improvement…

Some orcs about to meet their end in stab-em-up Shadow of Mordor.

Some orcs about to meet their end in stab-em-up Shadow of Mordor.

Continue reading