Nov 08 2010
By: Argetlam PlayStation MVP 11832 posts

Shooters (or any other genre): Less is More?

4 replies 327 views Edited Nov 8, 2010

I originally put this thread in the Shooter General board because it's geared mainly toward FPSs but the concept of a minimalistic HUD could be applied to any genre. Plus, I was a little disappointed by the lack of feedback I got. I definitely appreciate the three responses that were posted but 'd like to see a few more opinions on this subject. 


If anyone is interested, here is the link to the original thread:


Anyway, here is what I had posted:


After watching the ten-minute, first ever gameplay video of Bioshock: Infinite (which you can find a link to below), I remembered a game that I had played through a few years back. As I reflected on DeWitt pummeling and shooting crazed citizens, I pictured myself in my living room playing King Kong just after it had released. I felt the nostalgia race over me as I remembered the Tyrannosaurus Rex battles, the annoying and giant bat-like enemies, and the gnawing sense of frustration after losing hours of my progress after I had neglected to save my game at each checkpoint only to later die toward the end and have to start the majority of the game over again.


Of course, back then, I didn't realize that nearly all movie-to-game adaptations are hardly worth a gamer's time so I was eager to play the game that I had been waiting quite a while for. However, that's a different subject altogether, so before I get too off topic, I'm sure you're wondering why the two have a correlation between one another. As I pictured the two in my head, I suddenly realized it: The lack of a heads-up display, or HUD.


Now, before you call me a “noob” or something similar in nature, I fully realize that Irrational took out the HUD elements in the video in order to make the demo more pleasing and cinematic to the eye and/or to keep some of the elements shrouded in mystery. And, as I continued to watch, and as I thought about recent games, my appreciation for the lack of clutter on-screen continued to grow.


Ubisoft, in my opinion, made the right decision when it came to King Kong's HUD, or, lackthereof. If I remember correctly, there wasn't anything on-screen. This really pulled me into the experience and made each missed bullet feel like a stab through the heart. Not being able to aim with any sort of reticule or see my ammo count made me truly feel like a castaway on the edge of death. The set-up was basic and that made the experience all the more refreshing. I had a gun and I needed to aim and shoot to make it out of the jungle alive. Simple as that.


When I think about games like King Kong, I wonder why more developers don't try this sort of approach. I especially wonder why the shooter genre doesn't attempt to clean things up more frequently whenever the player is technically the main character. There is, after all, a reason as to why the view is first-person. If one thinks about it, it really doesn't make sense that something like the bullet count can be seen.


Now, I can already hear the “It's just a game” responses flooding in, and I agree, it is just a game and seeing information displayed on HUDs is great. Having said that, though, I think it would be fun, both for the developer and gamers, to see something new every so often.


For example, in Dead Space, similar to King Kong, there is no HUD at all. Instead, things are handled more cleverly; the state of Isaac's health can be seen on the back of his suit, cycling through weapons is handled through a hologram that pops up before his helmet, and ammo count is displayed (again via hologram) on the top of his guns. Everything is displayed in the world rather than on it, a distinction I would love to see more developers make with games, especially those working on shooters.


Instead of seeing DeWitt's health bar on the top-left of the screen start to empty, perhaps the colors of the world gradually washing out would make the fight more interesting. He wouldn't regenerate health (so many games already do this) but rather have trouble seeing as his eyes struggle to focus and his hand as it holds his gun would show signs of weakness either through shaking or by being the host to trickling blood. Of course, these ailments wouldn't be “game breaking” and would scale back as more health and/or power-ups are collected.


Power-ups bring up more possibilities as well. For example, instead of seeing another bar underneath the health one for something like the “Murder of Crows” power-up, maybe it would be more interesting for visual queues to again translate information to the player. As DeWitt starts to lose his juice, less and less crows could attack the enemy and/or the one perched on his arm could hold less and less strings of flesh.


I feel that these visual hints would create a certain fluidity and rhythm between the player and the game, transporting them further into the world. Instead of just looking at the number of bullets that  remain (that would be too easy), the player would have to watch a dial wind down on the gun or listen for DeWitt to say something like “I can't believe I'm so low.” Instead of seeing a menu pop up to change power-ups (essentially Tonics akin to Bioshock), DeWitt would go to an in-game screen that handles all of these changes in real-time, in the game world itself.


Overall, I think the lack of a HUD would be refreshing and encourage developers to be more creative. It would also more thoroughly grip gamers into the fictitious world of the game, essentially teaching them how to survive and to experience events just as the main character would. It would encourage them to watch what's going on right in front of them instead of requiring their focus to shift to numbers and bars on-screen.


So, how does everyone feel about no HUDs? Would their absence pull you further in or not? Is less really more?


Gameplay link:

Message 1 of 5 (327 Views)
PlayStation MVP
Registered: 04/26/2007
11590 posts

Re: Shooters (or any other genre): Less is More?

Nov 9, 2010

Resident Evil is one of the very first games I know of to ditch the heads-up display. At the time that I first played through this game, it's not that I felt it was more cinematic because there was no icon on the screen telling me how low my ammo count was. It just went to my head that this is a new way to think about gaming in general. Rather than tracking my vitals, I had the person on the screen showing signs of weakness. I could then check the Pause menu to see how not-so-well they are, and to replenish their life. Because a HUD is excluded, it's not that the game is any more impressive - it's how the whole shebang is implemented that really makes the game stand out.


To me it doesn't matter whether developers force me to read corners of the screen. What makes the game is how intuitive and competent you drive a game forward. Right now I'm playing through Star Ocean: The Last Hope International. Already I'm past the ten-hour mark and I still have no idea what it means when the game tells me my "Bonus Board" has broken. To the right during battles there are multicolored crystals for whatever reason. It doesn't seem to have any significant effect on how the battles measure out, for I get through them okay without worrying about anything but the health of my allies and the death of my enemies.


One way or the other, players need to know what's going on. In action/adventure games developers get away with the loss of on-screen status more often, as those games don't always need to drill too much in your head when you're constantly slammed with big-bang-booms all over the place. In RPGs, on the other hand, gamers probably require status links to determine where they are in this strategically-minded environment. Without the signs to tell you red poison light, yellow paralysis light, and green HP light, the game could very well run you into a brick wall.

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Fender Bender
Registered: 02/04/2004
4068 posts

Re: Shooters (or any other genre): Less is More?

Nov 9, 2010

No HUD.....hmmmmmm. Well it is a interesting idea but for certain types of games. I will say that the less cluster and info displayed on the screen the better the experience for me personally. That's my opinion. Just look at the games we are playing thses days....the visuals are stunning and I hate to see them ruined by too much game info displayed by the game's HUD.


I have played a few games recetly that had HUDs that would either disappear or show up if you requested them by pressing a certain button. First that comes to mind is the new Medal of Honor. This shooter did a good job of showing more GAME than INFO. Many will argue that shooters need some form of HUD and to a certain extent they are right. So....No HUD? Maybe not, but simplifing the HUD or hiding it would work really well. It is not a shooter, but Castlevania's HUD does disappear after a while freeing up the screen of the cluster.


Another route that game developers could take is allowing the gamer the ability to customize the HUD. This way you the gamer could choose how much info you want to see or what info you want your HUD to display. This would be a useful option in all sorts of games, not just shooters. Me personally...I think less is better, but not having a HUD would not go well with me for certain games.

Message 3 of 5 (327 Views)
Registered: 02/02/2010
876 posts

Re: Shooters (or any other genre): Less is More?

Nov 11, 2010

I'm actually not a huge fan of minimalist HUDs. I like my screen to be busy with lots of numbers and bars to keep track of. I like seeing exactly how much health I have left (and how much my enemies have) and how many bullets are left in my clip. I like mini-maps and inventory displays. I want to see the kill counts and know the score.


Maybe that's because I approach gaming from the perspective of a PC-style, Western RPG fan. Those worlds are all about the numbers, in the fore-ground, in the back-ground. Gotta keep track of my party members, my spell auras, my cooldowns and my experience. I like taking in all that minutia at once and getting lost in it. That's immersion for me.


Of course, real life's not like that. It's not like I need to have a little number in front of my face showing me how much money is in my wallet or a map updating in real time to show me my next objective at the grocery store. ... Or do I? Any sunglasses out there that offer a HUD function?

The horse says: DOCTORATE DENIED!
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Treasure Hunter
Registered: 07/14/2005
5586 posts

Re: Shooters (or any other genre): Less is More?

Dec 7, 2010

I don't know why I didn't see this thread before. I'm actually not surprised to see this thread at all especially coming from someone like you Argetlam. I know how much you loooooooove your shooters.


Anyway, I believe and promote the idea of a minimalistic HUD. I like it to be as less as possible. It allows greater immersion into the gaming experience. One game that I believe did this very well was Gears of War. I fell in love with the HUD so quickly because there was no cursor telling where to aim, no health bar, etc. There was just an ammo count at the right hand corner of the screen. However, I view that minimalistic HUD only works within the context of a third person shooter. I don't think it would work out as well in an FPS. I view third person shooters to be more of an action oriented gameplay with guns more so than just guns, guns, guns, guns, shoot to kill, guns, guns, guns as some other games.


Its a good thing for me because I tend to like action games more than I like shooters. I've been so jaded by the amount of shooters released on the market and the lack of innovation, I just want to know "when will it end?" I like a good shooter as much as the next person, but I really want the focus of online gaming to shift to something that doesn't require such stereotypical brute force.

I've done the math and discovered I was never part of the equation.
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