Wednesday, March 15, 2006

HUD-less Horsemen

A couple of recent articles have debated the relative merits (and anti-merits) of heads-up displays (HUDs) in videogames.
Wilson contends that HUDs get in the way of immersion by distracting from the "realistic" elements of the game. On the other hand, Thompson claims that well-designed HUDs make information accessible to the player in such as way as to keep focus on the main experience. Both are interesting perspectives. From a design perspective though, I think the most useful thing about dropping the HUD is the creativity it forces. Without a HUD to fall back on, designers have come up with some really ingenious ways to convey information to the player.

On the other hand, arbitrarily dumping the HUD seems dangerous. Even Fumito Ueda, who famously went HUD-less with Ico, brought some elements back onto the screen with his equally atmospheric Shadow of the Collossus. His comments are illuminating:
"When we said ... Ico is not a conventional video game title, we set limitations on ourselves for the development of the game. We had to eliminate everything that made it look like a video game. But for our next game, we wanted to remove those artificial limitations that we placed on ourselves. We wanted to just make a game that was fun. If a limitation made the game less fun, we weren't going to restrict ourselves."
PS. People who write about games should agree to stop using bad HUD puns. I will if you will.


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