Obstructive HUD Elements like Omnipresent Nametags in Multiplayer

Ever turned off a PC game's HUD via console command? The perceived increase in image quality is astounding. So much unneeded 'noise' disappears instantly.
 
Online multiplayer games are particularly guilty of cluttering up the centerscreen with lots of irrelevant information like nametags. Yes, nametags can be useful for communication, but aren't really.  Imagine if a game automatically assigns you a color and a number for each match. Let's say in Battlefield 3, every squad gets assigned a color and the numbers 1 through 4. Instead of an obstructive nametag, all that remains in the HUD is a colored number. 'Red 4, tank coming up behind you.' So much cleaner than saying 'xxXButtMuncherXxx...', and just imagine how much cleaner the picture will show, being clear of blocky nametags. Watch the latest Medal of Honor Warfighter trailer, and tell me they shouldn't throw out their nametags for a more elegant solution, like the one I described. The game's HUD in general is an obstructive eyesore - it gets in the way of Frostbite 2's beauty.
 
  

  
 
There's an entire generation of online multiplayer FPS gamedesigners, who don't question nametags and other too obstructive HUD elements, like objective markers. Even if most HUDs in the history of online multiplayer HUDs are clearly broken. In Battlefield 3, for example, when you are pixelhunting for distant enemies on vast maps, and the centerscreen is cluttered with HUD elements, making the task nigh impossible -  that's so obviously broken, it hurts.
 
The only non-obstructive type of HUD I can think of? Silhuetting. Otherwise? Lose as much HUD as possible. Reduction to the max, is where innovation is at, regarding online multiplayer HUD. Names are for killfeeds, killcams, kill breakdown screens, and scoreboards - and are not to clutter up and obstruct centerscreen. Centerscreen is the space where gameplay happens, so keep it as clean and clear as you possibly can.
27 Comments
27 Comments
Edited by Seppli

Ever turned off a PC game's HUD via console command? The perceived increase in image quality is astounding. So much unneeded 'noise' disappears instantly.
 
Online multiplayer games are particularly guilty of cluttering up the centerscreen with lots of irrelevant information like nametags. Yes, nametags can be useful for communication, but aren't really.  Imagine if a game automatically assigns you a color and a number for each match. Let's say in Battlefield 3, every squad gets assigned a color and the numbers 1 through 4. Instead of an obstructive nametag, all that remains in the HUD is a colored number. 'Red 4, tank coming up behind you.' So much cleaner than saying 'xxXButtMuncherXxx...', and just imagine how much cleaner the picture will show, being clear of blocky nametags. Watch the latest Medal of Honor Warfighter trailer, and tell me they shouldn't throw out their nametags for a more elegant solution, like the one I described. The game's HUD in general is an obstructive eyesore - it gets in the way of Frostbite 2's beauty.
 
  

  
 
There's an entire generation of online multiplayer FPS gamedesigners, who don't question nametags and other too obstructive HUD elements, like objective markers. Even if most HUDs in the history of online multiplayer HUDs are clearly broken. In Battlefield 3, for example, when you are pixelhunting for distant enemies on vast maps, and the centerscreen is cluttered with HUD elements, making the task nigh impossible -  that's so obviously broken, it hurts.
 
The only non-obstructive type of HUD I can think of? Silhuetting. Otherwise? Lose as much HUD as possible. Reduction to the max, is where innovation is at, regarding online multiplayer HUD. Names are for killfeeds, killcams, kill breakdown screens, and scoreboards - and are not to clutter up and obstruct centerscreen. Centerscreen is the space where gameplay happens, so keep it as clean and clear as you possibly can.
Posted by Ubersmake

If I played more serious shooters, I'd be so much better at identifying the enemy by silhouette and uniform colors. Unfortunately, I rely on those name tags as an IFF.

But generally, yes, I totally agree. Game HUDs have a ton of crap that really doesn't need to be there. I mean, Counterstrike never told me where A and B were. I had to follow everyone else (to my death) to figure that out.

Posted by GreggD

Seems fine to me. Overly analytical argument.

Edited by Seppli
@Ubersmake said:

If I played more serious shooters, I'd be so much better at identifying the enemy by silhouette and uniform colors. Unfortunately, I rely on those name tags as an IFF. But generally, yes, I totally agree. Game HUDs have a ton of crap that really doesn't need to be there. I mean, Counterstrike never told me where A and B were. I had to follow everyone else (to my death) to figure that out.

The thing is, in games like Battlefield 3, it's the friendlies HUD marker, that fuck me up. The whole screen is full of blue triangles (showing friendlies on the entire map), and they often align with hostiles - leading to misinformation. In close quarters combat, with nametags showing, it can be even worse - adding precious split-seconds to my reaction time, or even to perceiving a hostile as a friendly altogether and passing each other. Happens quite frequently in BF3.
 
The most elegant solution is to only show friendlies with Silhuetting when in line of sight (and everywhere when holding down a mutator), so it's clear that any soldier in your line of sight, that doesn't get 'silhuetted', is a hostile. Not that I really want to make this specific an argument, it's more an example of what direction I belive developers should look into, when designing their HUD. Non-obstructive minimalism.
 

@GreggD said:

Seems fine to me. Overly analytical argument.

The devil's in the detail. Always. If you don't care, you don't care either way - but why stick to a bad way?
Posted by wewantsthering

@GreggD said:

Seems fine to me. Overly analytical argument.

You're calling his argument too smart? Haha. I think you need a different adjective, like nitpicky or critical.

Posted by Hunter5024

I totally agree with you, though I understand their desire to convey the information as clearly as possible. UI designers really need to step up their game in this industry, finding ways to convey every necessary piece of information without making everything so intrusive.

Posted by Ubersmake
@Hunter5024 Personally, I think the issue is with designers mistaking accessibility with awareness. Using BF3 as an example, I don't need to know everything to be effective. I don't need objective overlays, when the indicators near the map tell me the status of the objectives, and when I can pull up a map. I don't need XP indicators near my reticle, when they could be put somewhere else. You don't need to tell me where my teammates are, but at least train me to identify friend from foe.

Trust the player to learn how to play, instead of holding their hand the entire time. I feel Left 4 Dead does a good job at this, although it isn't nearly as chaotic as BF3. But this is just the ranting of an almodt-drunk man.
Posted by Little_Socrates

I kinda just don't play games online, but I would be interested in trying this sometime soon.

Posted by Brodehouse

I want all the information I can need as quickly as possible. In a big multiplayer shooter, I don't want to cross-reference numbers with names, I don't want to guess the bullets in my gun, and I don't want the minimap rendered useless by phasing out things I need to know.

I actually support less HUD in most games (the car-trailing racing HUD in Split/Second is one of the most ingenious things I've seen, and clears the screen up to appreciate the beauty of that game. But those examples in particular exist for a reason.

This strikes me as the idea that game designers don't test things, that decisions get made completely arbitrarily. For every thing that you think the developer just never thought of changing, there are 200 pages of test data that explain why they kept it that way.

Edited by Seppli
@Brodehouse said:

I want all the information I can need as quickly as possible. In a big multiplayer shooter, I don't want to cross-reference numbers with names, I don't want to guess the bullets in my gun, and I don't want the minimap rendered useless by phasing out things I need to know. I actually support less HUD in most games (the car-trailing racing HUD in Split/Second is one of the most ingenious things I've seen, and clears the screen up to appreciate the beauty of that game. But those examples in particular exist for a reason. This strikes me as the idea that game designers don't test things, that decisions get made completely arbitrarily. For every thing that you think the developer just never thought of changing, there are 200 pages of test data that explain why they kept it that way.

I have no doubt that designers think of lots of changes, but never get to push them through - due to the high risk of a being a big budget FPS, timeconstraints, and simply prioritizing other more marketable aspects - regardless, obstructive HUD is bad design for obvious reasons, especially in FPS games where awareness and pixel-perfect aim are key. Hence - designers should actively pursue a more minimalist, less obstructive HUD.
 
MoH Warfighter already uses silhuetting, which is great to a certain extent - but the rest of the HUD, especially the extremely prominently displayed nametags - are obstructive as all hell, whilst providing little relevant information. It's certainly as far from elegant as it gets.
 
And those 200 pages of data? Reform is always met with resistance. It's just a matter of company culture, if you can see past that or not. 15 years of obstructive nametags in online multiplayer HUDs (and broken spawn systems) tells me, the gamesindustry isn't good at reform - at all.
Edited by Seppli

All it really needs, much like choice in perspectives in racing games, is choice in HUD settings - like MMORPGs usually provide. Toggling on and off nametags of friend and foe, and so forth. For some reason, I can't think of a FPS that'd given me such options - which is crazy really, if you think about it.
 
An ingame mutator to turn it on when needed, and turning it off, when not - that'd be great too. Kinda like a turn on/off highlights switch.
 
Either way, there's much room for improvement when it comes to designing HUDs.

Posted by Masha2932

Good points. What games need more of is like said, options. Let me switch off parts of or all of the HUD in single or multiplayer.

Posted by Masha2932

@Brodehouse said:

I want all the information I can need as quickly as possible. In a big multiplayer shooter, I don't want to cross-reference numbers with names, I don't want to guess the bullets in my gun, and I don't want the minimap rendered useless by phasing out things I need to know. I actually support less HUD in most games (the car-trailing racing HUD in Split/Second is one of the most ingenious things I've seen, and clears the screen up to appreciate the beauty of that game. But those examples in particular exist for a reason. This strikes me as the idea that game designers don't test things, that decisions get made completely arbitrarily. For every thing that you think the developer just never thought of changing, there are 200 pages of test data that explain why they kept it that way.

I loved the HUD in Split/second. Such a beautiful way to convey information and allow you to see all the carnage around you at the same time.

Also, your last sentence reminds me of a feature I read a while back about the reload button on the screen that is prevalent among so many games. That indicator is obtrusive but the data from testing and real world examples shows that a lot of players forget to reload. I hate to admit it, but I'm one of those players, I always seem to hold down the shoot button for so long I forget to reload and that indicator has saved me a number of times.

I think the overall point is that developers need to give players more options to customise their experience.

Edited by Clonedzero

ive made friends playing shooters by simply being a good teammate, the guy recognized my name since i had his back for a bunch of matches, shot me a message later on. removing the names would make that cool stuff not happen.

besides when i sneak up on a dude, put my crosshairs over the enemy and his name appears and its something like xXxSepherioth666 that kill is WAY more satisfying

Posted by Seppli

@Clonedzero said:

ive made friends playing shooters by simply being a good teammate, the guy recognized my name since i had his back for a bunch of matches, shot me a message later on. removing the names would make that cool stuff not happen.

besides when i sneak up on a dude, put my crosshairs over the enemy and his name appears and its something like xXxSepherioth666 that kill is WAY more satisfying

(Optionally) Removing nametags from the standard HUD. They are definitely obstructive, but clearly not worthless. I just hate when the HUD gets in the way of awareness and such. There's many ways to keep both names meaningful, yet out of my center screen line of sight - to have them in your face all the time, that's simply not needed.

Posted by ajamafalous

I like having as much information possible as quickly as possible, thanks. I don't understand why you wouldn't if you were playing with any amount of seriousness (i.e. trying to win).

Edited by Seppli

@ajamafalous said:

I like having as much information possible as quickly as possible, thanks. I don't understand why you wouldn't if you were playing with any amount of seriousness (i.e. trying to win).

So you'd rather have a nametag obscure a the head of sniper lurking behind a window in the distance? I'm not against HUD and wealth of information, I'm against obstructive and needless HUD design.

Posted by Village_Guy

I'm with you on this, the HUD can get really disruptive - especially in an multiplayer environment where there is a lot of HUD elements on your screen most of the time - it would be awesome to have more options to disable these kind of things. I mean for gods sake, most first-person shooters these days don't even have an easy option to remove the cross-hair.

For example in Call of Duty, where the campaigns are made to be very cinematic and they try to hide your HUD as much as possible, and yet I still can't get rid of the four large white bars in the middle of my screen even though I don't need a cross-hair. Actually I don't want a cross-hair, every game should have the option to disable cross-hairs. The only time I want to see a cross-hair is when I am aiming in a third-person shooter.

Posted by impartialgecko

I don't noticed the HUD in games unless it's actively ugly. Screens are big and I generally don't focus on the peripheral elements apart from when I'm looking for information.

I don't care that much about competitive games either, so I understand where you're coming from but BF3 is a game for crashing stuff into other stuff.

Posted by GreggD

@wewantsthering said:

@GreggD said:

Seems fine to me. Overly analytical argument.

You're calling his argument too smart? Haha. I think you need a different adjective, like nitpicky or critical.

No, it works. Look up the definition.

Posted by wewantsthering

@GreggD said:

@wewantsthering said:

@GreggD said:

Seems fine to me. Overly analytical argument.

You're calling his argument too smart? Haha. I think you need a different adjective, like nitpicky or critical.

No, it works. Look up the definition.

Not really... Analytical: "pertaining to or proceeding by analysis." Analysis: "this process as a method of studying the nature of something or of determining its essential features and their relations." So you think he studied something too carefully? While it's certainly possible, I think the other adjectives more accurately describe your complain with his comment.

Posted by Pezen

In multiplayer I've never really had an issue with HUD elements, though I always wish they would move them closer to the edges, we're in HD people, get with it. And nametags aren't too bad, at least not in the ones I'm playing. Though granted, I tend to play CoD on Hardcore which gets rid of all the HUD elements. Going from that back to avarage multiplayer does feel a bit cluttered.

But I am growing increasingly tired of lack of HUD customization or more clever ways to portray that information that doesn't mean half of the real estate on my screen is numbers and icons. Part of why I am really enjoying physical representation of damage or fatigue in an MMA game as an example.

Posted by GreggD

@wewantsthering said:

@GreggD said:

@wewantsthering said:

@GreggD said:

Seems fine to me. Overly analytical argument.

You're calling his argument too smart? Haha. I think you need a different adjective, like nitpicky or critical.

No, it works. Look up the definition.

Not really... Analytical: "pertaining to or proceeding by analysis." Analysis: "this process as a method of studying the nature of something or of determining its essential features and their relations." So you think he studied something too carefully? While it's certainly possible, I think the other adjectives more accurately describe your complain with his comment.

Now who's being nitpicky?

Posted by Marz

i think we should all play with this UI.

Posted by wewantsthering

@GreggD said:

@wewantsthering said:

@GreggD said:

@wewantsthering said:

@GreggD said:

Seems fine to me. Overly analytical argument.

You're calling his argument too smart? Haha. I think you need a different adjective, like nitpicky or critical.

No, it works. Look up the definition.

Not really... Analytical: "pertaining to or proceeding by analysis." Analysis: "this process as a method of studying the nature of something or of determining its essential features and their relations." So you think he studied something too carefully? While it's certainly possible, I think the other adjectives more accurately describe your complain with his comment.

Now who's being nitpicky?

Thanks! You used the word correctly! I am being very nitpicky. :-d

Posted by believer258

@Ubersmake said:

If I played more serious shooters, I'd be so much better at identifying the enemy by silhouette and uniform colors. Unfortunately, I rely on those name tags as an IFF. But generally, yes, I totally agree. Game HUDs have a ton of crap that really doesn't need to be there. I mean, Counterstrike never told me where A and B were. I had to follow everyone else (to my death) to figure that out.

I would like for CSS to have a more immediate marker telling me who's on my team, who's not, and where things are and what to do. In general that game's user friendliness could be helped.

OP, I must say that I am A-OK with maximum HUD.

Posted by believer258

@Marz said:

i think we should all play with this UI.

Holy shit. And it even says "7 FPS" in the top left corner! What game is that?