Fantastic gamification of the London transit system! Brilliant!

Nokia – HK Honey


Really excited for more work from these guys!

The UI Designer -> ? -> the UI Artist

The world of game UI is still growing, and one area in which it can be improved is the area of team structure. Most teams have a combination of UI Designers, UI Artists, and UI Programmers. This particular entry is going to deal with the structure of the sub teams, specifically the structure of the team in charge of conceptualizing and realizing the interface, the team that involves the UI Artists and the UI Designers.

The UI Designer in the games industry has the primary function of developing wire frames that are to be implemented by the UI Artist. While the UI artist’s primary function is to implement these wire frames in a manner that is visually appealing without changing the design. There in lies the problem with the entire setup.

Production has argued in the past that it is too much effort for one individual to take on both the functional and the visual design. With this I whole heartedly agree. However, I believe that to create a functional and visually appealing user interface, there needs to be an individual who does just that. Not all of it, but is the connection between visual design and functional design. This is a much needed role in the team and would ensure that both the functional and the visual can be combined effectively and efficiently.

The problem right now is that because roles are so specialized in the games industry, when communicating their needs designers and artists get lost in translation. This is where there needs to be someone who can direct both who can liaise between both areas and realize the designers goals by defining it in artistic terms.

Unfortunately, until this type of role is realized, the user interface development process will end up being convoluted, and games will always circum to the curse of the peanut butter.

Social Networks and Games to be or not to be?

Remember Myspace? It was the big social network of it’s day, and it got completely eclipsed by facebook… Social networks and games are converging more and more, and there’s a lot of drive for creatives in games to incorporate the social aspect of human interaction into games, not just in gameplay but at the meta level. But how do we design something that evolves and grows with people instead of working backwards and incorporating what is out there into our game?

Essentially, I believe that the common approach is to make a game and then hook facebook or twitter to it so you can see what your friends are doing despite the fact that this is completely superfluous information and may not be relevant to the game or gameplay in any way, shape or form. Infusing social network content into a game for the sake of it is a useless endeavour and simply stop gap measure to quell the desires of the publishers who see social networking as a big cash cow at the moment.

Perhaps we should work on developing a way for people to interact within the game, through the gameplay and outside the game, and then use whatever social networking systems that are present to facilitate the in game interactions. In doing so we would avoid simply infusing the game with social aspects after the fact, and actually develop a game with a social core that would grow with its users.

Or maybe the concept of a game precludes any conceivable means of growth because its nature prevents it. Perhaps its function is solely for use during a period of time until the user grows out of it? Perhaps games are subject to the grandeur of the latest and the greatest and no amount of social interaction can detract from awesome physics, big environments, great looking characters and awesome cut scenes…

In any case, I was reading this article about the inability of social networks to grow with us, and I started thinking of how we could learn from this and incorporate it into our game design? At least in so far as social interaction is concerned.