Off with their Huds (video game huds that is)

An interesting article about in game interfaces and how they’re slowly dieing out.

First, it’s important to answer the question, ‘What is a HUD?’ A HUD is simply a collection of persistent on screen elements whose purpose is to indicate player status. HUD elements can be used to show, among many other things, how much health the player has, in which direction the player is heading, or where the player ranks in a race. This makes the HUD an invaluable method of conveying information to the player during a game. It is an accepted shorthand, a direct pipeline from the developer to the end-user. So what would make console developers suddenly rethink the necessity of such a seemingly essential and time-honored technique as the HUD?

I’m a massive advocate of keeping in games interfaces, generally referred to as hud’s (heads up display), to a minimum. Even removing them if possible. I think they get in the way of the gameplay – anything that reduces your field of view is bad – and integrating traditional hud information (ammunition and health) into the game can be fairly simple, so why not do it?

screenshot from the recent King Kong videogame

A screenshot of the game, King King, with a total absence of heads up display

The best, most recent, example is King Kong. That game totally removed all interface elements from the actual gameplay, giving you other visual and auditory clues as to your situation. If you want to check your ammunition you press a key and the player will look at the gun and then tell you “you have enough ammo”, or “you’re down to your last two rounds”. For me this increases the immersion improving the believability of the situation.

My Games

In Rocket Boards I tried to keep the hud to a minimum, but racing games almost require you to have some sort of method for showing in game information. Maybe it would have been cool if, instead of having something visual telling you what lap you were on, you had a member of your pit crew telling you your position, and what the other racers are doing. The problem with purely audio messaging is that it doesn’t work for people who don’t have/ don’t use speakers, and is even worse for people who are deaf.

The other games (Bubble Blitz, Seths Puzzle Boxes, and Bubble Bomb) don’t really count. Score based games require at least a small amount of interface display, and since they’re not trying to represent any sort of reality the immersion is unnecessary.

The future

With my next game, like Rocket Boards before, the hud will be kept to a minimum. I haven’t spent much time thinking about it, but it’s likely there will just be a gun indicator, a health bar, and on certain game modes, a score. Thinking about it now though I wonder whether I can add the gun indicator and health into the actual game…

In commercial games I am thinking that, at least for the more realistic games, the huds will continue to get smaller – or even disappear entirely.

Was it good/ useful/ a load of old rubbish? Let me know on Mastodon, or BlueSky (or Twitter X if you must).

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