Game Philosopher

The philosophy of games and gaming

Weekend Discussion: How Important is the Interface?

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 30, 2006

Who’s going to go first?

Since I’m going to be doing other things this weekend, how about I post a discussion topic and you all spend your time discussing it?

How important is the interface to you? Would you still play a great game if it had a bad interface? Would you even be able to call it a great game if it did? Is more feedback from the interface in the form of menus and statistics always a good thing?

Are you always looking for the same kind of things in your menu systems and controls or do you think they vary by game?

To me, the way I interact with the game, the controls, the menus – they’re all very important. I find that the more intuitive the controls are and the more feedback I get from the game, the better. GTA San Andreas’ multitude of statistics about my game so far was a great way to see how well I was playing, and really keep me interested in getting into all sorts of challenges with myself to see if i could beat my high scores.

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One Response to “Weekend Discussion: How Important is the Interface?”

  1. zkip said

    Interface is an extremely important, if not THE most important, aspect of any video game. It’s the only thing that separates a video game from a movie (or a book, if you’re into text adventures like Zork). User input. If it’s flawed, what makes it a game is flawed. And that makes it a flawed game. Hell, speaking of Zork, what made it better than most text adventures out at the time was its advanced interface; it had a really good parser that understood more complex sentences.

    I can’t say whether or not I would play a great game with a bad interface, considering the interface is such an important part of the game, a bad interface could drag a great game down to an average game, or a below-average one.

    Menus are always necessary. How the hell would you start a game without a menu? The START MENU is a staple, ever since games on the NES and Genesis. I’m always expecting to see stuff like NEW GAME, CONTINUE, and OPTIONS on the first screen I have control over. Obviously, racing games will also include TIME TRIAL, etc., and other games will have their specific differences. It’s a level of data and input organization I expect from any game. A jarring example of a game I played as a kid with no start menu would be X-Men 2: Clone Wars. When you start the game, it loads a random character on a mission in the Danger Room. After the mission, you get to the start menu. It was kind of annoying, but it’s also a tradeoff for a certain type of cinematic introduction. Still, it’s surprising and out of the ordinary, as we consider the initial start menu to be a given.

    But interface is one of THE most important things. I can’t stress that enough. When you give the player lots of control over the interface, it also helps the game excel. For example, I’m used to pushing the control stick up and seeing the gun my character is holding point up. I was never a big fan of that airplane-type up-goes-down crap. So some old favorites of mine, like Jet Force Gemini for the N64, are a pain to play. Even if they’re classics. There’s no option to flip the thumbstick layout around, and it’s extremely frustrating when something like that happens in any game.

    Why can’t they ever remake games that could really benefit from a fresh look? Mario isn’t any better on GBA or DS than he was on NES or N64. Game interfaces can really benefit from new console technology, and games on older systems should probably be on PC by now anyway. Why isn’t Goldeneye on PC, anyway? Come on, fan developers!

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