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Beyond the HUD - User Interfaces for Increased Player Immersion in FPS Games
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Beyond the HUD - User Interfaces for Increased Player Immersion in FPS Games

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Master thesis from Chalmers University of Technology done at DICE in 2009. …

Master thesis from Chalmers University of Technology done at DICE in 2009.

Full thesis available on: http://publications.dice.se and http://publications.lib.chalmers.se/cpl/record/index.xsql?pubid=111921

The concept of immersion has been adapted by game developers and game critics to describe a deep and positive game experience. While the definition of this concept varies, the user interface of the game is often said to affect the degree to which players can immerse themselves in a game experience. In cooperation with game developer DICE, this master thesis aims to investigate how the notion of immersion affects, and is affected by, the user interface (UI) of first-person shooter games, with the ultimate purpose of delivering user interface guidelines for increased immersion. By conducting a study of contemporary first-person shooter (FPS) games, the current state of user interfaces in FPS games is documented. With the addition of a subjective study of FPS games as well as games of other genres, a design space for UI designers is mapped out in order to provide a structure upon which the guidelines can be built. A literature study of various resources within the fields of ludology, cognitive science and media studies is conducted in order to gain increased understanding of what immersion is and its relation to the game experience. The knowledge acquired is used to formulate various hypotheses of how player immersion is connected to the user interfaces of FPS games. These hypotheses are evaluated by user studies and user tests. Looking at the results of the user tests and the literature study, a final definition of immersion is proposed, upon which the guidelines are based. The first guideline, Know Your Design Space, explains the user interface design space of FPS games and encourages UI designers to look at it as a set of tools. Know Your Game discusses how the competitive focus of the game and the game fiction affects the user interface from an immersion point of view. The guideline Establish Player Agency focuses on how the player can be transferred into the game world by acting within it as an agent rather than simply a player of the game. Finally, Strengthen the Player-Avatar Perceptual Link suggests how the user interface can link the player closer to his in-game character on a perceptual level.

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  • In our design space, we use two dimensions or properties to categorize user interface elements. Fiction and spatiality
  • The map is fictional, it exists in the game world and is visible for the characters in this world, just as it is visible for the player of the game. The instructional text is non-fictional, it is visible to the player but does not exist in the game world.
  • So, the design space can be visualized in the following way. Here, we have eased the categorization of UI elements by formulating two questions, regarding the spatiality and fictional nature of the UI element in question
  • We have identified a number of categories, which we view as the tools for UI design in FPS games
  • A common argument for increased immersion is to remove the HUD elements, or non-diegetic elements as we call them, as they remind the player that the game is just a game and not an alternative reality.
  • Meta-perception: perceptually linking the player with the game. In this case representing the players internal perception regarding the level of health, represented by some sort of emulation of tunnel-vision or loss of blood.
  • A common argument for increased immersion is to remove the HUD elements, or non-diegetic elements as we call them, as they remind the player that the game is just a game and not an alternative reality. However, in games based heavily on competition against other players, non-diegetic elements are actually justified. This is a highly competitive multiplayer game. They help the player to make decisions and choices, which is crucial to the game experience; competing agains other human players.
  • The outline of characters hidden by walls are spatial, since they are presented in the game geometry, The health bars in the bottom of the screen are non-spatial, since they are presented in an overlay manner superimposed onto the screen
  • Fictional, spatial. ”Realistic”. In this picture the amount of bullets left in the rifle is displayed as numbers on a digital display on the players weapon. Which is really great, by fiction there’s a logical explanation to why both the player and the player avatar has access to this information. Diegetic elements are great, if the fiction allows it. In a medieval game where the weapon is a crossbow, this would likely feel quite awkward and likely take the player out of the experience.
  • In this game, the player uses his watch to tell the game for how how many hours he will rest. In a perfect world, this is how the game interface should be presented. However, strongly dependent on fiction, and some information vital to the player simply is too abstract to represent with diegetic elements.
  • Signifiers is a subgroup of diegetic elements. Signifiers are UI elements that bring information to the player by interpretation and makes the player reason in a logic way. Really good way to establish player agency; the player is given information pretty much as he is given information in the real world, and acts reasons accordingly. This makes the game world much more believable, as it makes the game worlds functionality resembles our own world.
  • The signifier in this case is a trail of blood stains, both signifying that something dangerous is near, and the direction in which the player can go in order to confront whatever is dangerous. Which is a really immersive way of delivering information upon which the player can make a decision based on his own logical reasoning.
  • Have only shown visual examples, but of course UI designers must make use of audio and haptics as well. If you want a few examples of this youre welcome to read the report. :)
  • Have only shown visual examples, but of course UI designers must make use of audio and haptics as well. If you want a few examples of this youre welcome to read the report. :)
  • SP vs MP example: BFBC SP competitive example: ME Story mode vs time trial/speedrun, added overlay counter (also interesting to point out the abstractness of ME DLC levels?) parallell: quake Decisionmaking and making up a play strategy are primary activities – maybe the most important - in heavily competitive games,
  • A common argument for increased immersion is to remove the HUD elements, or non-diegetic elements as we call them, as they remind the player that the game is just a game and not an alternative reality. However, in games based heavily on competition against other players, non-diegetic elements are actually justified. This is a highly competitive multiplayer game. They help the player to make decisions and choices, which is crucial to the game experience; competing agains other human players.
  • SP vs MP example: BFBC SP competitive example: ME Story mode vs time trial/speedrun, added overlay counter (also interesting to point out the abstractness of ME DLC levels?) parallell: quake Decisionmaking and making up a play strategy are primary activities – maybe the most important - in heavily competitive games,
  • A common argument for increased immersion is to remove the HUD elements, or non-diegetic elements as we call them, as they remind the player that the game is just a game and not an alternative reality. However, in games based heavily on competition against other players, non-diegetic elements are actually justified. This is a highly competitive multiplayer game. They help the player to make decisions and choices, which is crucial to the game experience; competing agains other human players.
  • Dead space UI would have been awkward in a historically accurate WWII game
  • Amplifying the ”senses” of the avatar in some games might feel ok, like in ME, L4D (Arkham Asylum, Riddick, Wolverine etc), in which the player character has specialized training. Medieval vs sci-fi
  • Have only shown visual examples, but of course UI designers must make use of audio and haptics as well. If you want a few examples of this youre welcome to read the report. :)
  • Full-screen filtering, image distortion and overlay. Not rocket science: COD & Killzone examples. Also ME rays of light.
  • Meta-perception: perceptually linking the player with the game. In this case representing the players internal perception regarding the level of health, represented by some sort of emulation of tunnel-vision or loss of blood.
  • Another example of meta-perception using blood instead of the slightly abstract approach of dimming down the field of vision.
  • Of course, meta-perception can be used to convey other information than about critical health and damage
  • Leave traces behind the player to strengthen the player’s sense of direction
  • Traces are not only used for backtracking

Transcript

  • 1. Beyond the HUD User interfaces for player immersion in FPS games Magnus Lorentzon Erik Fagerholt Interaction Design Master’s Programme IT-Universitetet, Chalmers Tekniska Högskola
  • 2. Beyond the HUD How do we design interfaces for player immersion in FPS games? 1. Studied and player 20+ contemporary FPS’s 2. Studied innovative games in other genres 3. Interviews, focus-groups and play-testing 4. Extensive litterature study
  • 3. FPS games played The following titles were included in the preliminary game study Hour of Victory America's Army: True Soldiers Turning Point Legendary Conflict: Denied Ops Haze Clive Barker's Jericho BlackSite: Area 51 Turok TimeShift Call of Juarez Mirror's Edge The Darkness     F.E.A.R.2 Tom Clancy's GRAW 2 Resistance 2 Left 4 Dead Bioshock Killzone 2 The following titles were included in play-testing Halo 3 CoD 4: Modern Warfare Battlefield: Bad Company Far Cry 2
  • 4. other games of relevans Other games played or studied during the thesis work as examples of innovative UI solutions Jurassic Park: Trespasser Peter Jackson’s King Kong Call of Chuthulu: Dark Corners of the World Metroid Prime Tom Clancy’s Splinter cell: Conviction Heavy Rain GTA 4 Rockstar’s Table Tennis Dead Space Resident Evil 5    
  • 5.  
  • 6. from this…
  • 7. … to this “ In a participatory medium, immersion implies learning to swim, to do things that the new environment makes possible." (Murray, 1996)
  • 8. The interactive illusion is an illusion in itself… ludology not
  • 9. what is immersion?
  • 10. what is immersion? When the player accesses his real world perception, reasoning skills or emotions to play the game or voluntarily adopt the game world as a primary world, and reason from the character’s point of view rather than having to refer directly to the rules of the game in order to understand it
  • 11. guidelines
  • 12. guidelines 1. Know your design space 2. Know your game 3. Establish player agency 4. Strengthen the player-avatar perceptual link
  • 13. know your design space
  • 14. know your design space Every UI element can be categorized based on two fundamental properties: FICTION SPATIALITY
  • 15. Fictional map, non-fictional tutorial text
  • 16. Spatial runner vision, non-spatial subtitles
  • 17. know your design space
  • 18. know your design space
  • 19. Non-diegetic elements (non-spatial, non-fictional)
  • 20. Meta-perception (non-spatial, non-fictional)
  • 21. Meta-representation (non-spatial, fictional)
  • 22. Geometric elements (spatial, non-fictional)
  • 23. Diegetic elements (fictional, spatial)
  • 24. Diegetic elements (fictional, spatial)
  • 25. Signifiers (fictional, spatial)
  • 26. Signifiers (fictional, spatial)
  • 27. know your design space The user interface is not restricted to visual elements. Don’t forget to make use of… … the auditory dimension … the haptic dimension
  • 28. know your game
  • 29. know your game Distinguish games of progression from games of competition Single player vs multi player
  • 30. Non-diegetic HUD elements, justified given that the nature of the game is highly competitive (Battlefield: Bad Company)
  • 31. know your game Distinguish games of progression from games of competition SP games can be highly competitive
  • 32. HUD elements added to the more competitive Time Trial mode of Mirror’s Edge
  • 33. know your game The fiction of the game determines the possibilities of diegetic UI elements Consequently, fiction provides opportunity to explain why certain information is available to both the player and the player character, bringing the player closer to the avatar that he or she controls.
  • 34. A glimpse of the highly diegetic UI of Dead Space
  • 35. know your game The game fiction also determines what UI designers can get away with outside of the diegetic area… … would Runner Vision feel right if Faith wasn’t a ”runner”?
  • 36. establishing player agency
  • 37. establishing player agency
  • 38. Percieved Affordances
  • 39. Signifiers
  • 40.  
  • 41. Material Constraints
  • 42. Formal Constraints
  • 43. remember… Exsisting affordances might need to be amplified Non-existing ones might need to be supressed.
  • 44. Amplification using signifiers
  • 45. Supression AND Amplification
  • 46. Demonstrated Affordances
  • 47. "Hey, Resident Evil 5, I'm well aware that I'm supposed to throw a grenade into the boss monster's mouth. I kind of got the message from the way grenades keep getting spawned… So that's what I've been trying to do for twenty minutes by actually equipping a grenade and throwing it at the boss monster's mouth … I had no idea you expected me to walk directly up to the boss monster's mouth, at which point I would be prompted to press a button to script equipping and tossing a grenade. Last I checked, a grenade was a ranged weapon." breakdown… - Tom Chick
  • 48. strengthen the player-avatar perceptual link
  • 49. strengthen the player-avatar perceptual link Due to the fact that the player is only connected to the game world through graphics, audio and haptics, much of the way we act within the real world is lost when transferred into a game experience. This must be compensated by the game UI!
  • 50. strengthen the player-avatar perceptual link The most significant loss of perception is the broken perceptual link regarding the internal states of the player character Meta-perception – a straight forward strategy towards linking the player closer to the senses of the player avatar
  • 51. Meta-perception by simulating tunnel vision (Call of Duty 5)
  • 52. Meta-perception using ”blood on camera lense” metaphor (Killzone 2)
  • 53. Meta-perception to give an increased sense of speed (ME)
  • 54. strengthen the player-avatar perceptual link It is also important to consider perceptually linking the player to the external game world For example, use signifiers to leave environmental traces that strengthens the player’s sense of direction
  • 55. Shoe smear marks in Mirror’s Edge, increasing sense of direction regarding explored environments
  • 56. Blood traces, strengthening the player’s sense of direction regarding unexplored environments (Dead Space)
  • 57. strengthen the player-avatar perceptual link If non-fictional UI elements are used to guide the player, it is important to balance between providing the player with too much information and too little. While players appreciated the increased sense of direction that Runner Vision provides in ME, they actually preferred discovering their own paths through the game environments, without using Runner Vision