Interfaces are another aspect I’ve been reading about on how it leads to/distracts from immersion in games. In general it is assumed that the less interface, the more immersion, but I don’t really go for this. Quick time events, HUD/Interface usually used interchangeably, but I see it as meant more for data that is not interactable with. This blog is sort of a mini overview of the interfaces I’ve used recently, how they are for ease of use and if relevant, how it could relate to my immersion of the game.
Also ❤ to Funk for teaching me about interface vs QTE vs HUD. ❤ ❤
The Wolf Among Us
The Wolf Among Us uses quicktime events, flashing icons on the screen to indicate you should do something. Although this is minimal, it really doesn’t feel immersive to me. It’s reminding me that the game is distinct from me, and it’s sort of a metafictive quality, it is reminding me of the work’s status as an artefact. Like a book may address “you, dear reader” directly. HIT THE KEYBOARD NOW! MASH THE BUTTON!Most of the time, the interface is simply selecting response options, there are few times (in the first chapter, at least) when you can walk around a room. When a response is required in a conversation, there is a countdown of how long you have to select one. I found this really irritating, as if I’m a bit tired and the scenario has a really short selection time, I’ll very quickly glance over what is written and select almost at random. This is supposed to be like you are making a fast reaction, mimicking thinking speed, but really, it means you have to be a fast reader and fast at making a decision of how you want to play. ~
Need For Speed: Rivals
This game uses a heads up display, or HUD which is an overlay that gives you the data you need, supposedly without distracting the player. As you see below, some of this information is designed to look natural to being in a car, speedometer, GPS, as well as game information such as the quest you are on and points you have accrued. Really, while playing the interface sort of melts away while in a chase. I get really into the game and that’s when an interface is considered successful with regards to immersion. However, once I have escaped, I may take a bit of time fiddling with menus to set my GPS to the nearest hideout. I’m not a regular at console games, so my slowness in learning could be related to that rather than the game itself being fiddly.
Dragon Age: Origins
I struggled a bit with this one because I’m not used to controlling multiple characters at once, or with having only one bar that I can organise my spells on. I rarely swap between other characters, because I’ve read and understood the spells for mage, but don’t really get everyone else so I set up their tactics and just let the AI take over. I generally tried to sort the icons between crowd control, damage, immediate help, defense passives and crafting.
The main menu is on top of the screen for character, inventory, quest journal, map etc. Clicking the character portrait will cause you to swap, and of course the minimap. Again, I’m not really sure how immersive this was for me, perhaps it was due it unfamiliarity with the game style. Sometimes I get frustrated when I click a spell and see my character running towards the ranged enemy, because I forgot that one spell required a shorter distance than another. Swapping between characters is not my bag, I picked mage and I want to play MY mage.
The interaction scenes are a little different, where it sort of zooms in on your character joining the conversation and gives you the option of response. Unlike in Wolf Among Us, there is no time limit on picking a response that suits your character, so with a particularly difficult choice, I might get up and make some tea while mulling over how my character would play it out. My mage is sort of honest and a bit naive (also perhaps due to being unfamiliar with how the game works, I have made some bad decisions I thought had to be dealt with asap, but it turned out that other options were equally valid), but the rogue I’ve leveled a little is more sarcastic and flirty. Both are able to persuade others, which I find an invaluable skill.
I like this interface for being clear cut with few buttons. I had no difficulty picking this up. I think for immersive purposes, the fact that you are a pre-established character and don’t really get to make choices about the story makes more of an impact than the interface. I don’t feel present in the game world or at one with my character, although my multiple max levels on various difficulties will show that I do enjoy the game. Plus, who doesn’t love decapitating unicorns and plushie bears and dancing flowers.
World of Warcraft
For Warcraft, I found the original UI to be very distracting as all the billion buttons I needed for my warlock were all over the place. So in the second picture, I used mods to make the bars more compact (this screen is from me firing at a dummy so I can test my rotation and work out where the best spot for the buttons are, and in no way resembles what they look like now). As well as moving the bars, I added mods for extra overlay information, to make the casting bar more prominent and when it is delayed (which can happen when you get hit), and a list of my curses/DoTs (damage over time) in the order that they will fall off. This is purely for mechanics reasons, what buttons do I need close at hand for fighting. I do, however, feel more immersed because of the narrative and character. I often refer to Banny or my mage, Sera, as ‘I’. Also possibly, I’ve just played it so long, I don’t really think about the interface as much anymore, it’s all muscle memory and reaction. All my characters have the same new bar placement, and try to stick defensives in the same place, potions, CC etc.
The Sims 4
And now for something completely different and very un-actiony, The Sims interface. One thing I also like is that I bought the collector’s edition, which came with a usb plumbob lamp. When you play the game with the usb lamp plugged in, the colour of the lamp will change depending on the mood of the active sim. One of the things I’ve wondered about the game is why it doesn’t have the ability for a first person view, seeing through the eyes of the character while they go about their day. If nothing else, it would be great for screenshots and machinima.
Another thing cool about The Sims 4 is the emotion system, which changes the options available to you depending on the sim’s mood. In the scene below the dude is angry, and that affects his romance interaction menu. I find that actually, this helps for immersion. I am constantly finding cute things about this emotion system, but it’s also good for playing out. In the scene above, you can see the moodlets next to the word Happy, and this says precisely what is affecting the sim and what that situation, event or object made them feel like. Everyone understands a bad day at work, or a great meal. This ramps up the realism from the previous series, where it was pretty easy to keep them in a constantly satisfied state.
There is a slightly more detailed display for the building side of The Sims, understandably so. The Sims 4 has some pretty cool possibilities for building, including being able to pick up a single room or the whole house to move it. Players can also save room designs individually too, and build a house using pre-designed rooms. This isn’t really about immersion, but functionality.
Just as a random aside, here is a purely functional interface for a city building simulation. These games require a lot of interface. From the menu on the left, I can choose various overlays for my town (one of my first attempts) to track the availability of various services, land value, noise pollution etc. The bottom is for zoning (highlighted at the time) and various other building types. There is also a budget panel and policies panel not shown, and a graph on which you can track various statistics about population flow, tourists, education levels, and so on. Warning: this game, OMG addictive. This is Cities: Cracklines.