The user interface is incredibly important to a person’s gaming experience, yet it often seems that this particular facet of design is either over looked or included as a last-minute thought. Even games with amazing visuals elsewhere have generic menus and head’s up displays, marring their otherwise perfect visages.
As a group, I think that gamers have gotten used to average looking UIs and we usually block them out. However, there are some that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Fable 3 is one of those, the few and the proud. This is a game that eschews the idea of traditional menus entirely and replaces the pause screen with your Sanctuary, essentially a magical bat-cave. There’s no long, arduous trek, or even loading, just a simple press of the “start” button brings you back to your John Cleese-staffed retreat. To me, this is a masterful solution to the multitude of clothing, weapon, spell, and quest menus that cluttered up previous games of the series and similar titles in the genre. I spent a good ten to fifteen minutes looking around seeing what it offered, and I’m anticipating the options that will come along to pimp it out as the game progresses.
Of course, there are a few recent examples of games doing the exact opposite. Dead Rising 2 has a horribly cluttered interface, replacing the smooth unobtrusive design of the first with big black splotch marks that hide a good bit of the scenery behind it.The original Force Unleashed was also a culprit of this because of the absolutely massive health and Force bars on the upper left side of the screen.
So I pose the question to you guys: what games have struck you as a masterpiece in usability? Any game that you absolutely hated because you couldn’t figure out what the menus were trying to tell you? Are there some that stick out in your head for being either terrible or amazing?