WildStar UI 2.0 Preview: Less is More

Written by Rob "Orbish" Martin on February 26, 2014

Hi everyone!

My name's Rob Martin, and I'm the new Senior UI Designer here at Carbine. Over the last few months, the UI team has been taking a look at the current state of the UI as well as the feedback we've received about it, in order to decide on a final design for us to launch with. We've spent a lot of time recently examining our (and players'!) likes and dislikes of the UI, and I'm finally ready to reveal some of the work our team's been up to!

Keep in mind that our newest design is still heavily under development, so lots of things can (and will) change before they go into beta, but we wanted to share it early to get some feedback from our community.

There were a variety of reasons why we decided to rebuild the HUD. I’ll go over each of them briefly and give you guys a preview of what’s to come in the future.

For starters, let's remind everyone what the current "base" UI looks like:

Improve the “Pyramid” Experience

The “Pyramid” Experience refers to the current state of the UI, centered at the bottom of the screen. Usually referred to as the bottom bar, over the course of development it has gone through a lot of iteration. Things were added and removed frequently to try out new ideas or mechanics. Over time, this led to various elements being stacked over one another for prototyping purposes in order to get them out to the team quickly for testing. You can see in the image above how secondary action bars had your skills stacked over it, and your health over your skills, and your pet actions over your health. etc. Now that the mechanics have become more solidified, we can look at what’s left and find better ways to present the information we now know you’ll need on the screen.

I intentionally said “Improve” and not “Eliminate” because while this problem is something we can greatly improve, I don’t think we’ll ever get away from needing information at the bottom of the screen; there’s always going to be information you absolutely need to know. Our goal is to take a hard look at what’s on the screen and trim out, move around, or add customization options that allow for this to be a better experience overall.

Improve the Combat Experience

There are two major things we weren't entirely happy with in the current UI:

  • Using the Engineer as our current “worst case scenario”, in the image above you’ll notice with two secondary action bars in use, the Engineer’s play space is covered by UI that takes up 26% of the screen from the bottom. This almost always required zooming the camera out in order improve combat mobility.
  • We also received a lot of feedback that information about your target (at the top of the above image) felt too disconnected from where you were usually looking during combat (typically around your characters feet).

We took both those points and tried to address them by stripping things out and flattening the pyramid. See what it looks like now?

This is the same Engineer you saw previously. There’s a lot more space available under his feet! Check this out if you don’t believe me!

A large amount of space that was opened up in this case came from splitting the "additional hotbars" and putting them on either side of your skills. We’re attempting to eliminate the need for having so many buttons by adding dedicated health consumable and mount buttons (which include quick access flyouts). We’re hoping this will reduce the need to have 24 icons on the screen at all times, but we'll be looking to beta testers to help provide feedback after they've gotten their hands on the new UI.

You'll notice we also addressed the disconnected target feedback by moving it down into the play space.  The play space is very important and we are always hesitant to add UI content there. In this case, though, we believe you have more space overall despite the changes. We also further reduced the height of the pyramid by putting a symmetrical target frame on the left side dedicated to displaying your own information. This makes it very easy to compare your vitals with your targets. And if you don't like our default placement? Both of these windows can be moved wherever you wish! In the end, the space around your character should feel more open, yet contain the information you need without having to move your eyes to the opposite edges of the screen.

We’re left with a pretty open space above the skills for each class’s unique resource mechanic. With this model, we also took the opportunity to help the Engineer out. We now treat Engineer bots as friendly cluster targets. You’ll see your pet vitals right below your own unit frame much in the same way you see clustered targets on the target frame. We’re going to try and do something cool visually with each class resource in the coming months to add more flavor.  This won’t come at the cost of obfuscating important information or blocking the play area, though!

But wait… There’s more!?!

If all that wasn’t enough, most of these new HUD elements will have customizable UI options to drive their display behavior. WildStar is a beautiful game, and I don’t want Alt+Z to be the only way you get to see the world without clutter! Many of the UI elements can be configured to be on or off all the time, or even on/off in combat. Theoretically, this means most of the bottom HUD can be eliminated entirely when you’re out of combat exploring the world if you'd prefer to take in the vistas.

Click to embiggen!

I see what you did there…

I know some of you are pretty observant and probably noticed some new things were also added! When this visual style became something we knew we liked, we took a look at the thin bar in the XP area, and realized there were other pieces of information that weren’t super important, but could elegantly improve the experience without occupying more space. A few quick examples:

  • A clock is a suggestion we’ve seen tons of times on the forums (it's been in such high demand, at one point a tester built a simple addon whose sole purpose was to tell you the time!).
  • Path progression is something we felt needed to be emphasized little better than burying it in a menu. We plan to eventually allow you to change the path XP bar into a reputation or tradeskill progression bar so players have more power over what they'd like to track.

We’re not just focused on the HUD. The team is also working on updates for Tradeskills, Auction House, Commodities Exchange, Housing, and applying a consistent Style Guide throughout the entire UI. We’re reading your feedback and making lists of things to improve. Even if it wasn’t mentioned here, you can be sure we’re thinking about every area of the game!

That’s all for now! Hopefully you enjoyed this little preview of the WildStar UI. For those in beta, this isn't something you'll be seeing in the next patch (though some of the art files might start appearing in Houston), but we're looking forward to hearing your feedback on it soon!

Rob Martin

Senior UI Designer

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