Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why are user interfaces so bad?

I have a high-end graphics card, a NVidia Geforce 8800 GTS (640 MB), which should be able to run most games at high resolutions, like 1600 x 1200. Many games already offer that resolution, and when I turn it on the games usually work fine with still good frame rates. Only I can't play that way, because most games don't have scaleable user interfaces, the UI elements and fonts are a fixed size in number of pixels. Thus the higher the resolution, the smaller the user interface gets, until you simply can't read the text any more nor distinguish the icons on the hotkeys.

Modern games costs millions of dollars to produce, a large part of which is spend on the visuals, the 3D graphics and art. So why do so many games feel as if the user interface had only cost $19.95? If you can spend years designing shoulder armor artwork for orcs, why can't the devs spend a month to check whether all their fonts are readable at all resolutions, whether the color combinations work, whether the icons are easily distinguishable from each other, and how to place everything in a logical way?

Even World of Warcraft, which nowadays has a rather good UI, only got there by allowing people to modify the UI, and then copying the most popular mods into the standard UI with later patches. And user interfaces that are easy to modify are probably the way to go. A UI should be scaleable, moveable, and easy to modify by the player. Games in which the UI only looks good in one specific resolution really shouldn't exist any more.

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