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Default Visual Noise: A Criticism of HUDs @ TPG

September 19th, 2011, 00:46
A bit of a left-field newsbit but True PC Gaming has an essay titled Visual Noise: A Criticism of HUDs and Fallout: New Vegas is one of their primary example, so I thought I'd include it. The author argues that HUD elements destroy the beauty and immersion of the game and make it too easy. After modding out the HUD in F:NV -
It’s really amazing how much of a difference this one little adjustment makes. New Vegas, which is often criticized for its outdated graphics, suddenly became visually spectacular. It was truly a sight for sore eyes; nearly every frame of gameplay was visually elegant and vivid enough to look more like a painted landscape than a conventional video game—it was a revealing observation that the visual design of the game was doing something right this whole time that the HUD was clearly interfering with.
On top of that, it became infinitely more interesting to play. Without the HUD effortlessly labeling almost everything in the game world, every little gameplay decision became a more interesting endeavor. Would picking a bottle of Nuka-Cola off an unoccupied table be considered stealing? Was that lone, armored warrior in the distance a hostile raider or another friendly guard? I would have to approach them and find out. Without the exhaustive on-screen warnings that the Falloutinterface provides, I had to make these judgments myself, planning carefully all along the way about the potential consequences. Without dialogue subtitles, I now had to look characters in the face and listen carefully. Navigating the desert without a compass involved noting the position of the sun against nearby landmarks (the glowing Lucky 38 tower became surprisingly helpful for this purpose.) Underground caves and vaults became terrifying labyrinths without the help of a map marker always pointing me towards an exit.
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September 19th, 2011, 00:46
I've mentioned this before, but I think it'd be great to have an RPG without insta-enemy awareness.

Even in Baldur's Gate 2, as a first level character, you can instantly recognize that you're being attacked by an Otyugh in the first dungeon. In near total darkness, in a sewer, you just KNOW from dozens of yards away. Then you can remember what that kind of monster does, its weaknesses, etc.

Worst example of this lately is Two Worlds 2. Just targeting a creature tells you what it has resistance to. Doesn't matter what level you are, you just "know" that monster X has resistance to fire or whatever. Silly.
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September 19th, 2011, 03:08
All that would do is make people loose interest in your game really fast as shown in sales and marketing. Only those who want a challenge would enjoy the game. I have real life for that thank you very much.

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September 19th, 2011, 03:58
I dislike HUDs and love immersive fading HUDs. The immersive interface for Oblivion is about perfect.

That said I can't imagine playing with no HUD at all unless health and such were indicated in the game world, like in Dead Space.
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September 19th, 2011, 12:48
In Drakensang 2, newest version, the UI can be made to disappear by pressing the key "H".

The experience is indeed completely different.

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September 19th, 2011, 14:52
Outstanding! But i must admit mods are probably the solution. There's clearly not a lot of market for existential simulators. It's sad, because you can definitely see how game elements in general often detract from the artistic elements of the world design. I'd install that mod, though!
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September 19th, 2011, 15:05
One of the best articles I've read in awhile, and he gives some great examples.

The HUD of F.E.A.R. was minimalist and efficient, and had proper scaling options for larger resolutions. This was all traded out for the helmet HUD of F.E.A.R. 2, which bordered its screen with pointless fluff and remained intrusively large and chunky at any resolution. A similar thing happened to Crysis, which already sported some helmet HUD elements but blew them way out of proportion for the sequel, even going so far as to bobble the HUD itself up and down with the player’s walk.
Intrusive HUD design was a major reason I didn't like FEAR 2, and to a lesser degree, Crysis 2.

I'm of the opinion that the HUD should always by kept to a minimum, or even nonexistent when it isn't necessary. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a good example of a first-person game that got it right.
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September 19th, 2011, 15:12
I like minimal HUDs when they retain the appropriate functionality. I'm not a big fan of minimal HUDs where functionality is sacrificed for the sake of appearances.

The more "immersive" the game, the less intrusive the HUD should be - which goes without saying.

Funny thing, though, is that games "evolve" sometimes - as you play them.

Take something like WoW - which I have had significant experience with. When you start playing that game, it's about immersing yourself into the world and "dreaming" yourself to that place. Well, it was for me. But as the game evolved, it became about optimising performance and for that you needed more and more information IMMEDIATELY available.

It got to be so necessary, that I didn't really watch the game - but the numbers and bars. That was necessary. I ended up with ~16 functions bound to my mouse (or a mouse/kb combination) - because I couldn't afford looking at anything BUT the bars and numbers.

So, I suppose it really depends - and I guess that competitive games or really challenging games have different requirements, where you have to make "immersion-killer" sacrifices.

Ideally, you'd want the world to "show you" everything without numbers or other meta-game aspects, and that's a huge challenge to implement.
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September 19th, 2011, 20:34
I'm not too picky about HUDs, just as long as essential info is conveyed one way or another - like health, mana, bullets, active weapons / combat modes. I prefer to have mappable quickkeys shown as well.
Last edited by Thrasher; September 20th, 2011 at 02:18.
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September 19th, 2011, 20:56
I don't necesarily find that a HUD breaks imersion, just because no matter how advanced the sound and graphics of a game is, it doesn't really give you all of the information that you would have in real life. For example in the real world if you hear a sound you can generally tell exactly from which direction it came from. In a game you cannot, it just comes from your speakers…maybe with a vague sense of left or right. So that's what I view the function of a HUD to be, to tell you all the things that your character should have a sense of, but that you as a player don't due to the limitations of the media.

Of course plenty of HUDs go beyond that and that can be fine depending on the genre. In Risen an advanced HUD would be silly. In DEHR, it would almost be sillier to not have an advanced HUD.
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September 19th, 2011, 23:20
I always found MMORPG HUDs as very immersion-breaking, judging from the screenshots I saw (on the Games Com as well) and the tiny bit I played with Tabula Rasa.

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