What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

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What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by DukeKingston » March 23rd, 2017, 4:21 pm

Introductions may be in order. I’m David, the lead designer on The Bard’s Tale 4. I’ve been lurking on the forums, but haven’t posted here until now. I wanted to reach out to you, our Bard’s Tale community, to hear your opinions on something that’s been a hot topic of discussion around the inXile office recently:

What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus, such as character sheets, inventory, skill trees, etc?

Do you like big full screen menus or smaller floating windows? Do you like 2D UI or UI that feels like it's in the world? What aesthetic themes do you feel would fit well for The Bard's Tale? You can even post pictures of your favorite looking RPG UI.

I'll try to make where I am as I read the comments, so you know yours has been seen. Happy posting!

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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by balinor » March 23rd, 2017, 4:31 pm

2D UI definitely.

I prefer a full screen menu but I can make do with floating windows if need be.

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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » March 23rd, 2017, 5:45 pm

What would a UI that "feels like it's in the world" entail? I'm mostly interested in something that allows me to keep both hands on the keyboard and not be forced to take a hand off the keyboard to manipulate a mouse or other pointing device. The classic Bard's Tale 1-3 UI is an example of such and I would highly recommend studying that for some design cues. (Not that it is perfect or anything - it's not.)
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Woolfe » March 23rd, 2017, 5:56 pm

Hmmm, I am not sure exactly what you are meaning. I don't suppose you could give us some examples of the opposing views.

And do you mean in game stuff like selecting equipment, or do you mean out of game, save and load quite menu?
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by DukeKingston » March 23rd, 2017, 7:04 pm

Woolfe wrote:
March 23rd, 2017, 5:56 pm
Hmmm, I am not sure exactly what you are meaning. I don't suppose you could give us some examples of the opposing views.

And do you mean in game stuff like selecting equipment, or do you mean out of game, save and load quite menu?
I'm asking about screens such as character sheets, inventory UI, and other classic game screens.

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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Crosmando » March 23rd, 2017, 8:44 pm

I like a solid, non-floaty UI which looks like it was made from elements of the actual game world (wood, tree roots, stone etc), especially text elements like the quest log looking like a old scroll or book, like when you open the spell list during combat it could look just like a wizard's spellbook. I believe the technical term is "Skeuomorph".
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Drool » March 23rd, 2017, 9:15 pm

Honestly, I don't much want the windows to be part of the world. They can have theme-appropriate art and doodads, but I prefer full screen elements. It gives more room for stuff and makes it easier to manage inventory and such. I have no interest in tiny windows that float in the air as summoned by a bard or whatever.
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Woolfe » March 23rd, 2017, 11:04 pm

DukeKingston wrote: I'm asking about screens such as character sheets, inventory UI, and other classic game screens.
Gotcha
Drool wrote: Honestly, I don't much want the windows to be part of the world. They can have theme-appropriate art and doodads, but I prefer full screen elements. It gives more room for stuff and makes it easier to manage inventory and such. I have no interest in tiny windows that float in the air as summoned by a bard or whatever.
Yep that is pretty much my point of view as well.

Generally when I am in those screens I am hoping the game is "Paused" and I can take my time doing what I want to do, as such there is no need to see what is going on around my characters.
Crosmando wrote:I like a solid, non-floaty UI which looks like it was made from elements of the actual game world (wood, tree roots, stone etc), especially text elements like the quest log looking like a old scroll or book, like when you open the spell list during combat it could look just like a wizard's spellbook. I believe the technical term is "Skeuomorph".
I also agree with this, up until the point it becomes "wasteful". Nothing worse than trying to manage an inventory or whatever and there is a big chunk of pretty art taking up a fair portion of the screen.
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Alation » March 24th, 2017, 1:04 am

The little doodads around the screen is nice, and if they "hold" the icons for showing a spell or song is active, even better. I am not fussed at how the inventory screen, character screen or skills etc look like as long as the game is paused while they are up. I hate feeling like I have to rush through the screens while a monster is beating the living crap out of you, or your characters starve to death while you are reading.

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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Crosmando » March 24th, 2017, 3:02 am

Drool wrote:
March 23rd, 2017, 9:15 pm
Honestly, I don't much want the windows to be part of the world. They can have theme-appropriate art and doodads, but I prefer full screen elements. It gives more room for stuff and makes it easier to manage inventory and such. I have no interest in tiny windows that float in the air as summoned by a bard or whatever.
Yeah, that's all I was suggesting.
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Crosmando » March 24th, 2017, 3:08 am

It's probably also worth noting that BT2 and 3 had stonework for the interface.
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by thebruce » March 24th, 2017, 6:51 am

What Drool said. And to add, floaty windows give the sense of 'covering', of blocking stuff behind it. Even if it's placed well, it still feels like clutter when there are multiple windows open. I get that some people like to see everything at the same time, even if they may only use some element 1/10 of the time, but a good UI design will reduce clutter while making every element easily and quickly accessible.

Another reason the keyboard-only consideration is paramount. To have move away, then carefully move the mouse to an icon in the corner, for instance, to view something, that is very tedious. BT classic was excellent with hotkeys - whether you knew them or not (part of the discovery perhaps? :)) which made playing the game a blast. Gameplay could include what may otherwise be long grinding sessions, but if you had the hotkeys you could breeze through them to your hearts content. (not that I'm advocating long grinding sessions; though, not that I'm saying I hate them either :P)

Basically: no clutter, hotkeys, well-designed thematic UI, functional, maybe customizable (but focus on a good primary design). I don't need my whole cmoputer screen to be the "window" into the game world. BT classic was 1/4 game world, the rest game UI. And that is just fine!
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by DukeKingston » March 24th, 2017, 10:43 am

Thanks for all the responses so far. I've read them all. All great points and suggestions.

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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by ZZGO » March 25th, 2017, 4:35 pm

This being a Bard's Tale game, I'd more or less expect full-screen 2D menus that convey information in an easy-to-see way and can easily be navigated by mouse or better yet keyboard commands. "Window dressing" is appreciated but must not infringe on the ease of use. (To give an example how not to do it, a spell book that graphically turns each and every page while you're frantically trying to scroll to that spell on page eleven. Don't. Even the scrollable spell lists in some classic BT versions were a chore compared to the 8-bit version four-letter typing which was much quicker. Remember that the UI is a tool and must be simple and useful; put fancy stuff elsewhere.)

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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by thebruce » March 27th, 2017, 8:14 am

Yes. Cast spell. Type code. Done.
Not Cast spell. down..down..down..down..down..down..down..down..down..down..down..down..click. Done. =P
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Gizmo » March 27th, 2017, 8:59 am

DukeKingston wrote:
March 23rd, 2017, 4:21 pm
What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus, such as character sheets, inventory, skill trees, etc?
For me, Baldur's Gate 2 and Fallout are my preferred style. Something with a bit of the character of the game, and its setting. I liked the physical nature of the UI in those games; especially Fallout [the first one of course, not FO3]. In Fallout, every menu was made to appear fashioned from salvaged machinery; and the barter menu was made to appear like a board or table... as in 'bring what you've got to the table, for trade.'
Even the dialog menu of Fallout was initially sketched out as a complete machine; from front and side views. 8-)
Image

Also [very important], you actually got to see the items in inventory.

For a dungeoncrawler though... where the the UI is probably meant to be unobtrusive of the view, I think Grimrock and Lands of Lore 2 are decent examples. Lands2 has flyouts for when the player needs more information.
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Drool » March 27th, 2017, 10:59 pm

thebruce wrote:
March 27th, 2017, 8:14 am
Yes. Cast spell. Type code. Done.
I grew up with the code and longed for the list. If you lost your book, you were completely lost. At least with the list you had a chance.
Gizmo wrote:
March 27th, 2017, 8:59 am
Lands2 has flyouts for when the player needs more information.
Image
Dear God no. Switch to a different screen.
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Gizmo » March 28th, 2017, 1:25 am

Drool wrote:
March 27th, 2017, 10:59 pm
Dear God no. Switch to a different screen.
In a dungeoncrawler?
Well... Lands of Lore:Throne of Chaos did it [pretty well too], but I rather liked the way Arx Fatalis did it; the PC unrolls his bag, and never loses sight of his surroundings. Stone Prophet also did it with a separate screen, and that was pretty well done also; though the PCs had very little room in their inventory.

Image

The problem I have with separate screen inventory is that you almost have to pause the game; except if you pause the game then the party gets infinite time to rummage their gear and possibly even use healing or buffs. Fallout was guilty of this.

Games like Eye of the Beholder were really intense because the party could be ambushed from behind while fiddling with their inventory. But spell memorization and resting did use an occluding menu and paused the game until resting, where you could be ambushed again.

But all [but one] of these games were realtime ~until combat designs. Fallout ~being turn based, it wasn't such a detriment to pause the game, but did run afoul of allowing the PC to reload every weapon, and take as many meds as needed while the game was paused, and that was a bad design flaw, and a cheap exploit.

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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by Crosmando » March 28th, 2017, 3:03 am

Ravenloft had such a beautiful art style.
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Re: What's your favorite art style for RPG Menus?

Post by thebruce » March 28th, 2017, 7:17 am

Gizmo wrote:
March 28th, 2017, 1:25 am
The problem I have with separate screen inventory is that you almost have to pause the game; except if you pause the game then the party gets infinite time to rummage their gear and possibly even use healing or buffs. Fallout was guilty of this.

Games like Eye of the Beholder were really intense because the party could be ambushed from behind while fiddling with their inventory. But spell memorization and resting did use an occluding menu and paused the game until resting, where you could be ambushed again.

But all [but one] of these games were realtime ~until combat designs. Fallout ~being turn based, it wasn't such a detriment to pause the game, but did run afoul of allowing the PC to reload every weapon, and take as many meds as needed while the game was paused, and that was a bad design flaw, and a cheap exploit.
Bard's Tale was pseudo-realtime. The classics were game-pausing screens. I am absolutely fine with that and would prefer that. It's a gameplay style that isn't bound by 'limited technology of the 80's', even if technically it may have been back then. In my mind, being not completely realtime left room for that game mechanic.

Heck we fight 396 berserkers in a 10' square. Pausing to look at your inventory is not a game-breaking feature or immersion-breaking design. The design allows for it, and I would prefer it. I don't want a real-time dungeon crawler (at least 100% realtime). It's already analog in that it's gridbased, but they're pushing it by designing with free movement.

Honestly, it's either all or nothing. Analog world allows for moments of realtime, but a 100% literal game can be broken by 'pausing' elements that really dno't make sense. That's why a lot of 3D non-turn based RPGs hvae things like flyouts and screen clutter - you gotta do everything live. That's part of the style, and it's not a bad thing. But it ain't Bard's Tale ;)

I feel like adding that to my sig... "That's a great idea... but it ain't Bard's Tale!" :lol:
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