Not Reinventing the Wheel - A UI Lesson

by Holly on November 29, 2018

Holly here with another art post!

UI is a tough nut to crack. It’s the best example I’ve found in game art of Einstein’s quote “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.”

One of the biggest learning moments of my career happened when I was working on a scrapped visual novel. The project had been behind schedule for a while, when the studio director came in, threw up his hands in exasperation, and said “it’s a dialogue system, we’re not re-inventing the wheel!”

I believe a lot of creatives are constantly seeking to reinvent the wheel, especially when it comes to indie developers. The issues arise when we start to see EVERY part of a game as a wheel. Unfortunately, there’s only so much reinventing before your car eventually becomes a cucumber. A cucumber isn’t always bad (unless you’re one of those cats on youtube), but a cucumber is not a bicycle, not a moped, and definitely not a car.

Close-up of a Cucumber
Maybe from this angle?
There was a point in time between the 10th and 13th art passes on our game board, where I gave myself permission to not reinvent the wheel. I had to remind myself that buttons should probably look like buttons, because people want to push buttons for a reason. HUD backings aren’t tacky, they create anchor points for your eye and establish a visual hierarchy. And just because I want to use a texture overlay doesn’t mean I’m conforming to some industry standard. Sometimes a little noise just looks nice.

An Early Gameplay Layout Mockup
"I just want everything to be fresh and clean!"
A More Recent Gameplay Layout Mockup