Crafting Life is a game about research and creativity. In the role of a scientist from the Galactic Imperium, the player travels from planet to planet investigating and combining elements, with the ultimate goal of discovering and engineering life. The ability to quickly gather elements allows the player to grow his/her own materials library. With this library and a top of the class dedicated software, the player is able to combine elements, creating new ones and progressing through the long and exciting research for Life.
Designing UI interfaces is often harder then it seems. Although “simplicity” is often the best way to comunicate with a new player, it is sometimes hard to reduce the amount of information or judiciously deliver it to the audience. Furthermore, designing user interfaces means not only guiding the user from point A to point B, but also building a multi-sensory experience for the player as he/she progresses through the game, one touch at a time.
Similarly to all the other phases of game development, UI development requires several steps, each of which, through tests and observation, progressively lead to the final solution. Here are some examples of how Crafting Life UI evolved throughout different developing phases.
PHASE 1_assessing the elements that need to appear on the screen.
During this phase the intention is to understand the functionality of the elements on the screen, what the player is supposed to do and which elements are going to guide him/her through the different phases of the game. Functioning similarly to a bullet point list or a sketch, this phase helps roughly understanding how many elements will appear on the screen, their size and overall hierarchy, which one the player can interact with, and which one’s act as signs.
As the mechanics started to be tested and the structure of the game slowly solidified, the research on the elements continued with the added visual component. Through a more attentive research of reference images, shapes and colors are selected in order to give every elements on the screen a greater sense of coherence with the game’s theme.
In Crafting Life specifically, the player is the scientist and the device he/she plays on is his/her own instrument of work. In this perspective, the main menu attempts to replicate a science lab software, through which the player can keep track of his/her progression, sorting and counting elements, along with the possibility to directly combine them into new ones or prepare gathering missions.
PHASE 3_target audience.
Another element to consider is the audience. Having a specific audience allows for research and make decisions on which style to use while designing the UI. For Crafting Life, the intended audience were children between the age of 8 and 14. Many of the researched sci-fiesc examples felt pretty homogeneous and gender neutral, with a pretty consistent color palette. In Crafting Life though, what displays the attempt to target a specific age range is the consistent use of rounded and softer shapes throughout the entire UI.
Last but not least, once the main elements and the style are quite consolidated, iterations remain as one of the fundamental steps in the pursue of an harmonic and functional UI. In this phase, anyone’s feedback, starting from colleagues and testers, to players and casual observers, can help improve the way the UI is presented, highlight which elements are more easy to understand, which ones are hidden in plain sight and most importantly, which ones do not deliver their function, the wrong one or none at all.
With this is mind, through the span of twelve weeks, numerous iterations and attempts were made for Crafting Life’s UI, as displayed in the examples on the side.
▴ Crafting Life_Main Menu v.1
▴ Crafting Life_Crafting Menu v.3
▴ Crafting Life_Crafting Menu v.5
▴ Crafting Life_Crafting Menu v.6
▴ Crafting Life_Wiki v.1
▴ Crafting Life_Mission Menu v.3
▴ Crafting Life_Mission Menu v.5
▴ Crafting Life_Mission Menu v.6
▴ Crafting Life_logo design
▴ SIP15_t.shirt and logo design fro Summer Innovation Program 2015