Keeping Graphical User Interface Clean (GUI)

I’m the kind of guy who wants the user interface to be as clean as possible. For example, I don’t want to see that guy has 32% health left (instead, I want the guy to limb when he walks). I’d rather not see an image of a gun with a text “laser cannon” in the user interface – I’d rather see simply laser cannon in the player character’s hands. I don’t wanna see “121 frags” on the screen all the time, I want it to be behind pressing TAB. And so on, I’m sure you get the point: I want (certain type of games) to be as much GUI-free as possible.

To me, it’s about (the fancy word) immersion. I feel I’m losing something if there’s textual representation about certain elements in games.

For the very same reason, I’ve tried to keep my Dead Wake zombie game as GUI free as possible in the game. Sure, there’s some text and hints and tips, but at the moment you haven’t for example seen how many ammo there’s in your gun’s clip. I remember playing Action Quake (stole the idea from there) many, many years ago – and it was the first game that didn’t show you how many ammo your gun had (and it had no “auto-reloading” after the clip is empty). This created really spooky situations when in the middle of a fight, you try to shoot but you realize that ammo clip is empty! I want the same to happen in Dead Wake where you shoot zombies, and in the middle of shooting you just hear dry fire sounds… you’ve just run out of ammo.

Now the thing is, that I’d still like to give players a way to know their total ammo (counting all ammo left excluding the ammo currently in gun). Similarly as in the army, you could know how many clips you had left thus you knew if you had 35 or 70 (or whatever) ammo left by simply counting full clips. I’ll consider adding this clip/ammo number in the screen, and either showing it all the time or when player hovers the mouse over something. (I’ll also ask you guys for suggestions, and think of checking out some other games to see if there’s some good ideas on doing this).

With that being said, anyone else likes to keep the user interface as empty as possible? Or… do you wanna show loads of stats? (I realize that different genres – like for example adventure RPG or some sort of strategy games where you might need to get much information about many units easily – need to provide more info than Dead Wake’s type of action game).

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I thin an AMMO number is important (shots left) but clips left could be visual. Perhaps it’s because I’m a programmer…

  2. “Showing a little picture of your weapon as if its projected in your helmet” = totally okay.

    Showing little picture of my weapon in top left corner all the time = (can be) annoying.


  3. I really don’t think its a negative corralation between amount of text in GUI and the immersion.
    Modern era FPS actually make sense to add all sort of Green LCD GUI.
    Showing a little picture of your weapon as if its projected in your helmet.
    RPGs use a lot of text, and they are among the most immersive games out there.
    So you need to be carefull when saying more GUI means less immersivness.
    When I am thinking of a GUI I am thinking of its usefullness.
    If I got some measurement of something like 56% health in the left leg in a FPS game, will it be usefull for the player?
    Will he be able to watch it in the heat of the battle?
    How many times will he take a look at it?
    If he is not looking at it while in battle, maybe you can have this GUI object appear only when pressing tab?
    And etc…

  4. Don’t print the number 3, just draw 3 clips in a row.

    For a highly competitive games, number of frags is a very important information as it’s the prime if not the only measure of your performance at the end of a round. You have to have it at a glance, preferably also in relation to the best of other players, like 121 (-4) meaning you have to score 4 frags to catch up with the top player. It may be even more important than ammo count, as in a fast paced game you are likely to be killed sooner than run out of bullets. When time is running out and you are almost tied with some other, you do feel more pressure than if you have an advantage or losing badly for this last minute to matter much, so it does affect the way you play. I guess it applies more to the games that you play for score, such as Crimsonland, Soldat or Tetris rather than those where the primary focus is to complete the stages to finish a story and to have the best performance in the process is not a such important objective.

    Anyway, you have very solid points for guns and wounds being visual effects rather than text or numbers.

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