How to Create a HUD That Matches Your Game Design: Step-by-Steb Guide

Author: Bob Feb 28, 2023 10 min read

The global heads-up display market witnessed a robust CAGR of 24.86%, valued at $3.80 billion in 2021, and expected to appreciate and reach $28.10 billion by 2030, confirms Strategic Market Research.

 

HUD and user interface design is one of the most underrated, but vital elements of development. It determines how the user interacts with the main systems of the game, and not only conveys to the player information about the character and the game world, but also forms a certain model of behavior. 

 

The insistence with which the player is informed about a badly injured character or a quest icon on the mini-map can seriously influence which gameplay elements the user considers primary and which are secondary. So, why is it so crucial to create a heads-up display thoroughly for the success of your future game?

Create your unique game HUD with professionals

 

What Is HUD In A Nutshell?

The HUD (Heads Up Display) is some composite of items permanently displayed on the screen, which task is to show the player’s status. 

 

What is HUD in games? These elements can be used to show, among other things, how much health the player has left, what direction he is looking in or where he is in the race. Also, it is a direct transmission of information from the developer to the end user. So, the clearer and more comprehensive the HUD is, the more enjoyable and engaging the user experience is.

 

Why Is The Game HUD More Important Than All The Other Interfaces?

There are a huge number of interface elements in games: inventory, dialogues, crafting and trading menus, lobbies, maps, character progression and equipment trees, and many others. All of them allow players to interact with the mechanics presented through the interface. And in this article, we will analyze in detail one of the most important elements of the game UI — HUD. 

 

HUD, if viewed as a complete, standalone interface, can include many elements: health and stamina bars, directional indicators, world markers, various diegetic elements and meta-interfaces. Everything that is required for playing, depending on a genre, gameplay, set of tasks and scenarios is a part of game HUD.

 

All HUD elements are essentially separate interfaces that convey a certain type of information and solve their unique tasks. At the same time, the HUD, fully or partially, is almost always placed in front of the player’s eyes, as all of its elements are displayed in the foreground of the gameplay and/or in the game world.

 

So, why is the HUD in the TOP-3 of the most important interfaces, if not the first one?

 

  1. It is the most frequently used interface element that the player encounters every game session. What’s more, practically every second of gameplay.
  2. HUD should cope with the task of conveying the necessary and often critical information to the player at a particular moment to solve certain game situations.
  3. HUD allows warning the player about events that have not happened yet but will take place in the future and that may have some consequences for the player. The player, based on the game HUD state, not only decides how to solve the current situation but also assumes what is going to happen in the near future and plans his gaming behavior, according to this info.
  4. Through the player’s reaction to the interface, the game AI also receives feedback from the player and can plan the same game situations.
  5. Through the game HUD we, as designers, can influence the look, feel and operation of the game as part of the player’s perception. This is achieved through the overall style and consistency of elements, the correct response and behavior of the HUD in different game situations, the number of displayed elements, etc.

 

What You Should Know About HUD Before Creation

Now let’s go a little beyond the basic term and break down the types of interfaces. The evolution of the user interface over time has led us to several branches of its development. As the popularity and complexity of games grew, the interface became their vital part. The emergence of new genres gave birth to new types of interface: it was necessary to display more information within the framework of new game mechanics, so the good old score counter and a timer over gameplay were no longer enough.

 

Features And Principles Of Interface Design

 

Clarity is the first and most crucial task of any interface. 

For an interface element to effectively help people achieve their goals, it must have the following characteristics. First, it should be recognizable, and its purpose — obvious to the user. Secondly, people have to clearly understand what they are interacting with through the interface, so, this process should be maximum predictable. 

 

The key purpose of interfaces is interaction.

Interfaces exist so that people can interact with the developed game world. Through interface elements, it’s possible to clarify, illustrate, enable, show interrelationships, bring people together or separate them, manage expectations, and provide access to services.

 

Give users a sense of control.

People feel most comfortable when they feel in control of themselves and their environment. Poorly designed software deprives users of control: unexpected interactions, confusing processes, and unpredictable results affect users’ satisfaction rates badly.

 

Suggest a logical next step.

We should always think clearly about the next step. Assume what the next interaction with the interface should be — and the game design rules that scenario. Be open to the user’s actions. Don’t leave them on their own when they get to the actions you want, prompt users to take the next step that will help them achieve their goals.

 

HUD Interface Types 

Over time, these branches of development have been systematized into the several variations of interfaces that we can see in certain types of video games today. Depending on whether the video game interface is part of the narrative, or whether it is part of the game space, we can divide HUD into the following components.

 

Diegetic components

An interface that the player’s character sees and can interact with. It allows for a more narrative experience within the game HUD world. For example, the speed of a car is transmitted through the speedometer located in the cab of the truck.

 

Non-diegetic components

Non-diegetic — the same flow meter/speedometer and truck integrity indicators are essentially widgets on top of the gameplay. Allows easy and quick reading, but breaks the narrative and is rarely explained through the gameplay story.

 

Spatial components

These are various selected HUD areas, interactive objects in the world, grenade flight paths, projection messages, etc., created for the player, but not for the character.

 

Meta components

These are drops of blood or water on the visor. In essence, post-processes allow you to transform the character experience into the player experience through another layer of interaction.

 

How To Design A Game Interface HUD: Important Tips 

Now we will analyze a few essential points that you should pay attention to in creating a game HUD.

 

Element arrangement

The information should be located within reach of the player’s main focus point/area during gameplay. For understanding, let’s divide the screen into basic game HUD blocks:

 

  • Main Area of Focus (MFA) – the area of the screen with the highest visibility to the player, where his attention is mostly concentrated during gameplay. The center of this area matches the center of the screen — the point of concentration of the main gameplay.
  • The surrounding areas are those with lower visibility due to their distance from the point of maximum visibility, which is the most often used to display the UI HUD.

 

Main Focus Area

If you are suddenly playing something faster and cognitively loaded, you need to get information as quickly and conveniently as possible to be successful, for example in PvP/PvE shooters. That’s why elements such as the attack direction indicator appear at the moment of hitting, are in the main focus area and are quite large. And that’s why our spatial indicators of the damage to the truck from the example above are mostly in the main focus area of the player’s attention.

 

The areas around

By placing the game HUD in areas around the MFA, they will be less of a distraction and still be close enough to the focus point of the player’s attention. In the example above – we already have information from the spatial interface element in the MFA area, and our non-diegetic version of its presentation does not require much attention.

 

The layout around the MFA allows the player to simply and quickly use the displayed information, spending less time and effort. However, it is worth noting that the visibility of interfaces in areas around the MFA will still be significantly reduced compared to interfaces within the MFA.

 

To level out the decrease in visibility and reduce the effort required, the UI in these areas must initiate a shift of the user’s attention to itself. It can do this through effects, animations and other possible indicators of its changed state. This is necessary so that the player can access critical information, and it is easier for him to interact with the interface.

 

Color Palette and Style

A color scheme is a set of several hues that will be used in the game. It will help to create a more thoughtful and coherent design, and also simplify and accelerate the immerse process. During the HUD design, it is necessary to take into account the main color palette of the game and create an interface that will match the overall style. For example, a dark gameplay can’t be matched with overly bright colors of HUD elements. 

 

Wow-How experts can help you find out the best combination, which will not be a burden on the eyes and will look harmonically with the game.

 

The Number of HUD Elements

When you create the perfect HUD, think about what points the player should see first. We recommend that you choose up to five items. For example, these can be basic indicators, such as health, hunger, sleep, and so on. You don’t need to put everything into the HUD, as the player’s too-big window may interfere with a comfortable game.

 

No-HUD Game Design

A game without an interface is a game that does not have a heads-up display or has not found a way to integrate one. In many games, this gives a deeper immersive, artistic quality and reduces screen clutter. 

 

Developers are constantly looking for new ways to engage players. Recently, the concept of no HUD interface has become very popular, making players focus on what they are playing rather than the numbers on the health bar. Some ways to limit HUD removal include the use of a health regeneration system. In this case, when a player’s health is low, the screen changes color or flashes red, allowing players to know what is happening without checking a health indicator.

 

Wrapping Up

The video game interface is the main tool of user interaction with the gameplay. It should be as simple and understandable as possible, following the traditions of design or going beyond them. Our expert recommendations will allow you to create a UI game that is understandable and engaging to any user.

 

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