UI and UX in Game Design: The Key to Player Enjoyment and Monetization
User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are fundamental aspects of game design that can greatly impact how players enjoy and engage with a game. While often overlooked from a business perspective, it’s crucial to recognize that a well-designed UI and UX can also drive monetization. At a recent game development conference, Leanne Bayley from Atomhawk Advance discussed the art of game UI design and its importance in her talk, “Style, Trends, Immersion and Abstraction – Developing UI Art Direction.”
Focusing primarily on UI design specific to gaming, Bayley highlighted key principles that can be applied across various platforms. She explored the concept of “immersion” versus “abstraction” and how UI design can fall on a sliding scale between the two. Games like Alien: Isolation prioritize immersion by creating diegetic interfaces and menus, even going as far as emulating VHS graphical glitches in their menu interfaces. On the other end of the scale, games like Genshin Impact use visual metaphors, such as spellbooks and star maps, to communicate their menus and UI in a more abstract manner.
From a business perspective, UI design plays a pivotal role in supporting monetization. Whether through unobtrusive storefronts or strategically placed advertisements that don’t interfere with gameplay, good UI design can contribute to a smoother and more enjoyable user experience, ultimately benefiting both players and developers. For example, even after Hi-Rez Studios canceled their mobile spin-off, Rogue Company: Elite, they incorporated elements such as maps, characters, skins, and store design into other games. This demonstrates how certain UI elements can still have value beyond the initial game they were designed for.
During her talk, Bayley also shared valuable suggestions for developers and UI designers. Firstly, it’s crucial to understand the competition and not innovate for the sake of change. Secondly, the readability and platform must be taken into account when designing UI. Mobile screens, for instance, have smaller dimensions, necessitating larger icons and text for improved readability. Lastly, it’s essential to consider how UI design can enhance the overall user experience. While a minimalist menu may work well for an action game, it may prove frustrating to navigate in a text-heavy RPG.
Bayley’s talk highlighted a wide range of games as examples of effective UI design, including Alien: Isolation, Genshin Impact, Pentiment, and even the older mobile game Voez. It’s no surprise that UI plays such a crucial role in the overall UX, as it serves as the primary mode of interaction between players and games across all platforms.