During this week’s Current Issues in Digital Media and Game Design class, we had a visiting speaker: Mr. Dino Ignacio, Lead UI Designer at Visceral Games. Thanks to him, the students learned the basic essence of UI design in game development.
In his speech ”The UI of Dead Space,” Mr. Ignacio covered the key elements of UI design in the Dead Space series. The design elements he discussed were: Diegetic (or Diegesis), the look, and Skeuomorphs. Diegetic is the term that is used for all the “In-game” elements that exist both for the character and player. This is essential to bring players in to the (virtual) game world, and also to break the boundary between the screen and players (The 4th wall).
Next step is ‘The Look’, where designers and artists define the style that matches with the game; cohesive art style cements continuity in the game world. This process can sometimes lead artists to a… strange place. For Dead Space 1 Mr. Ignacio and other UI team members used (real) lamb meat and pig organs as props to shoot an organic themed video for a front-end screen. He mentioned that this was one of the most interesting experiences for both him and his team. In the end, they ended up creating an awesome front-end screen, which enriched the entire atmosphere of the game.
The last topic he covered was Skeuomorphs. A skeuomorph is an element of an object that serves little or no purpose in the object but at one point was essential to its function, therefore is still included to engender familiarity. A common example of a skeuomorph is the folded paper mark on kindle or other readers to represent a ‘book mark.’ The core purpose of a Skeuomorph is to communicate with the players; to make sure they can figure out how to operate mechanics in game. Mr. Ignacio mentioned that a ‘Skeuomorph’ in the game can only be achieved by numerous play-tests and evaluations, since the purpose of UI design is ‘to communicate’ with players.