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rleiker13

Lead UI/UX Designer on Bloodlines 2
Jul 31, 2019
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Hello friends,

Rachel Leiker, Lead UI/UX Designer for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 here again. My team and I are responsible for designing all the menus, HUD, and interface elements in the game. We also spearhead the cross-disciplinary practice of UX at the studio.

What is UX you ask? Well gather ‘round and let Auntie Rachel learn ya a thing or two. UX - or User Experience – in games is the process of expressing content and systems in a way the player can interpret. A lot goes into making games, and not all of it can (and frankly, should) be exposed to the player. It is our job as the UX department to figure out what pieces of information the player needs, when they need it, how they need it, and then evaluate if it is good feedback or if more can be done.

In an earlier post, our Creative Director Ka’ai talked about the Pillars of the game. UX works with similar pillars, and they help us to inform and focus the kinds of feedback we give to the player:
  • Show the World of Darkness
  • Be a Vampire
  • Hierarchy
  • Consistency
  • Accessibility
Show the World of Darkness

The setting of the game dictates a certain aesthetic – modern day Noir, old versus new, tradition versus progress. We reflect this direction by presenting the player with a not-so pristine interface throughout the game.

Visual inspiration for the UI has been heavily influenced by Neo-noir and modern styles of media. The basic DNA of the style are high contrast, dramatic use of color, and high texture density to reflect the multi-layered quality of the world. With this in mind, we also needed to be careful not to obscure necessary information in style. The function of the thing is always more important than the form of the thing.

We established some basic scales for iconography and texture treatments - Modern, not Sci-fi; Scruffy, not grungy:




Be a Vampire

A HUD and menus are not typically something one would expect to deal with as a vampire, so we cultivated and curated every interaction to support that fantasy. Color scheme, interactions with the world, and character management have all been designed with this in mind.

To a Vampire, blood is everything. It sustains, it empowers, it demands. In the UI we use the color red very sparingly and only when it pertains to blood - Blood gain, blood loss, using blood, and specific feedback regarding health status. This is to help emphasize to the player that their very precious resource is changing, and they need to act accordingly.

Hierarchy

A game with complex systems needs sophisticated feedback. Hierarchies allow us to give the player the right information at the right time without overwhelming or underserving their needs. Every piece of feedback is given a priority against all other forms of feedback, which allows us to easily arrange their placement on screen and their visuals to help the player understand what is most important at any given time.

In the HUD, related items are grouped together – Navigation, Blood-related systems like Health, Hunger, and Disciplines, Combat, and others all have a specific place based on the attention they demand of the player. The more efficiently we can get the necessary information to the player, the more time they can spend immersed in the world and less time engaged with the interface. Notifications also follow this rule – things that demand less of the player’s time are small and appear in a certain location, while Very Important™ notifications such as Quest Completed dominate screen space and player attention.

HUD Priority Heat map



HUD Grouping breakdown




Consistency

Players can expect the UI to function the same way no matter how they are using it. From Character Creation to Quests to navigation, the player performs an action and the expected result occurs. The goal here is to make managing your character less of a chore and something you enjoy doing. By making it easier for the player to engage with and understand the menus during gameplay, we ensure that they spend less time thinking about the UI and more time enjoying the game. We achieve this by having a consistent menu layout through all pages, consistent input and button locations, and having precise, easily discernible visual feedback if player interaction is required or not.


Accessibility

This appears at the bottom of this list because it is really the foundation for all our work. Hardsuit Labs as a studio is invested in making games that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Wherever, whenever possible, the game UI and UX supports accessible features. For example, color is never the primary source of feedback. We use contrast, texture, iconography, FX, text, and layout to provide the primary feedback and use color as secondary enhancement. This helps players with color vision deficiencies without having to have a separate color-blind mode. We are able to test this by including testers with color vision deficiencies in our QA process to give us feedback. Inclusion is part of the accessibility process as well, we have been very conscious about creating iconography that is non-gender specific and considerate of cultural sensitivities. The icons are designed to not rely on gendered tropes (such as pouty lips for seduction or a man’s dress shirt to represent wardrobe), and we use straightforward ideas for icons that can be interpreted no matter the native language or culture.

I’ll be able to talk more about the accessibility options when we get closer to the game’s release, we have many options that we are implementing in the game to make it an enjoyable experience for all of our players. Designing for accessibility is not only great for the players who need them, but it enhances the experience for all players across the board.

UX is so much more than just meters in the HUD and upgrading your skill tree. It really tries to maximize the enjoyment of the player by removing obstacles and solving problems with good design. When you play Bloodlines 2, our goal is to make sure you get the most out of your time with the game and are able to fully immerse yourself in your story. The various UI elements and UX design are all there to give you what you need without getting in the way, putting the proper amount of Feed into your Feedback*.

Thanks for your time, if you have any additional questions or comments, I would love to read them!

-- Rachel Leiker

*I’m sorry Ka’ai, I had to.
 

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Thanks for the info. UI is what connects player and game, seeing how much you think of it is a good thing. Make sure to use all the feedback you can get in the forums, Paradox Forums is a trove of opinions directly from the players. Looking forward to see each element of the UI in action :)
 

Gangreador

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Mar 22, 2019
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Appreciate the info very much, thank you. Do have a question though: Will the player be able to turn off the HUD or customize things like the size/opacity of HUD elements?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The only other feedback I have is a personal matter of taste that likely wouldn't be changed at this point, but I'll mention it anyway. I feel some of the symbols are perhaps too modern and too clean for what I expect from WoD. Things are very geometric and streamlined. I realize that streamlining and visual simplicity can be important, but I don't feel the vampirism and the horror and the darkness through the UI elements the same way I did in VTMB. I'm not saying you should go full-on bubbling blood bar, just that the first game's UI elements leaned a lot more heavily into the dark / occult side of things and was better for it if you ask me. The world may have looked modern, but the UI was a constant reminder that I was living with an ancient curse. The World of Darkness has moments of elegance, but for most kindred it's a bloody, messy, grungy existence. And I don't feel the UI really does enough to reinforce that (I do appreciate the distressing though, that's a nice touch).

The difference is similar to the difference between the UI in Dragon Age: Origins and the UI in Dragon Age II. The UI for DA2 was much more streamlined, which on paper appears to be an objective improvement over the clunkier system, but that transition cost the the game all of the immersion and flavor that was built into the old UI - the appearance of an old journal with worn parchment, the bloodstains, etc. The new UI looked cleaner and conveyed the same information, but none of the elements had anything to do with medieval fantasy. It was just a clean menu built into a medieval fantasy game, where it should have been a medieval fantasy menu built for a medieval fantasy game.

You could argue that minimalism and streamlining improves immersion by not drawing your attention to the UI and minimizing menu times to keep players in the game, but I personally feel that if I'm going to be using the UI, it should do more than just provide the information in an efficient manner.

TL;DR: I think the UI elements still look a bit too modern and clean compared the ones from the first game and wish they had a bit more flavor built into them. That being said, it's probably too late to change / not a popular enough opinion.
 

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@rleiker13
Thanks for spending some time on informing us on the subject. Especially cool that you are directly looking to keep it accesible for people with some vision impairment.
Now i've got one major question, do you have any link towards what Neo-Noir means in terms of UI visuals? I mean Noir - used ArtDeco/ArtNouveau in terms of architecture and contrasted lighting and specific camera angles. But regarding Neo-Noir i can't seem to find much?
 

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Thanks for the interessing insight look but i really hope that we can adjust some parts of the UI.
I really don´t to need that the Questmarker, Questtexts or the current Weapon UI is active all the time.
Although it isn't mentioned above, I wonder if it will work like it does in The Witcher: Wild Hunt. Outside of certain specific times, most of the UI elements are actually hidden (especially combat related stuff). Perhaps @rleiker13 can confirm or deny that for us?
 

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There does seem to be at least some truth to the idea that UI elements aren't in the game 100% of the time. At several points, nearly all the biggest UI elements (Blood, Disciplines & Combat) disappeared entirely......as can be seen in this screenshot. Be interesting to see how a more finalized version will look!

 

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In terms of non gendered icons, what is the value of excluding for example pouty lips? Who does it actually help?

I'm not saying that I like the idea of pouty lips being used. Frankly a heart makes more sense for that option, but I'm genuinely confused by androgeny arguments.

If this is offensive to someone I apologise in advance, but isn't some of this stuff just a little silly?

Edit: of course if that icon has no contextual meaning in some countries and would only confuse people then fair enough.
 
Last edited:

Dmitrius

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Although it isn't mentioned above, I wonder if it will work like it does in The Witcher: Wild Hunt. Outside of certain specific times, most of the UI elements are actually hidden (especially combat related stuff). Perhaps @rleiker13 can confirm or deny that for us?
Yeah a lean approach to UI definitely improves the experience. If I don't need it right now don't show me.
 

Dmitrius

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Appreciate the info very much, thank you. Do have a question though: Will the player be able to turn off the HUD or customize things like the size/opacity of HUD elements?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The only other feedback I have is a personal matter of taste that likely wouldn't be changed at this point, but I'll mention it anyway. I feel some of the symbols are perhaps too modern and too clean for what I expect from WoD. Things are very geometric and streamlined. I realize that streamlining and visual simplicity can be important, but I don't feel the vampirism and the horror and the darkness through the UI elements the same way I did in VTMB. I'm not saying you should go full-on bubbling blood bar, just that the first game's UI elements leaned a lot more heavily into the dark / occult side of things and was better for it if you ask me. The world may have looked modern, but the UI was a constant reminder that I was living with an ancient curse. The World of Darkness has moments of elegance, but for most kindred it's a bloody, messy, grungy existence. And I don't feel the UI really does enough to reinforce that (I do appreciate the distressing though, that's a nice touch).

The difference is similar to the difference between the UI in Dragon Age: Origins and the UI in Dragon Age II. The UI for DA2 was much more streamlined, which on paper appears to be an objective improvement over the clunkier system, but that transition cost the the game all of the immersion and flavor that was built into the old UI - the appearance of an old journal with worn parchment, the bloodstains, etc. The new UI looked cleaner and conveyed the same information, but none of the elements had anything to do with medieval fantasy. It was just a clean menu built into a medieval fantasy game, where it should have been a medieval fantasy menu built for a medieval fantasy game.

You could argue that minimalism and streamlining improves immersion by not drawing your attention to the UI and minimizing menu times to keep players in the game, but I personally feel that if I'm going to be using the UI, it should do more than just provide the information in an efficient manner.

TL;DR: I think the UI elements still look a bit too modern and clean compared the ones from the first game and wish they had a bit more flavor built into them. That being said, it's probably too late to change / not a popular enough opinion.
I agree broadly. I would comment though that the UI for Imperator was aesthetically gorgeous, but functionally felt messy and undisciplined.

I'm all for UI style being on brand, but only so far as functionality remains unhindered.
 

Naiva klaM

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Mar 23, 2019
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In terms of non gendered icons, what is the value of excluding for example pouty lips? Who does it actually help?

I'm not saying that I like the idea of pouty lips being used. Frankly a heart makes more sense for that option, but I'm genuinely confused by androgeny arguments.

If this is offensive to someone I apologise in advance, but isn't some of this stuff just a little silly?

Edit: of course if that icon has no contextual meaning in some countries and would only confuse people then fair enough.
I think one of the main objective is to smash/break gender " roles " : women's main goal is be seductive and therefore have pouty lips (amongst other things).
 

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I think one of the main objective is to smash/break gender " roles " : women's main goal is be seductive and therefore have pouty lips (amongst other things).
If the icon is the same for male and female characters and the player is deciding when to use it what role does the UI play?

If we want inclusivity and a progressive experience I think there are far more meaningful ways of doing that.

1. Fully develop NPC characters with agency and purpose and motivation from all walks of life.

2. Avoid turning minorities into saints and saviors (which is almost as stupid as demonization). Instead view all characters as blended virtue and flaw with complexity of reason and means.

3. Allow the maximum practical customisation of player character to play as they want to play and be who they want to be throughout the game, not just in character creator and selecting which pronouns to use.

To be honest I think Cara Ellison's contribution will be tremendous here.
Censorship of trivialities I think trivializes the thing itself. Avoiding a kissy face doesn't empower anyone not is it going to change any old beliefs. It only reinforces the views of the mainstream that this is a solution in search of a problem.
 
Last edited:
Jun 11, 2019
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There does seem to be at least some truth to the idea that UI elements aren't in the game 100% of the time. At several points, nearly all the biggest UI elements (Blood, Disciplines & Combat) disappeared entirely......as can be seen in this screenshot. Be interesting to see how a more finalized version will look!
Well this is our Haven / Playerhome and like the Atrium club it is an Elysium. This means like Bloodlines 1 that you can´t use your Disciplines or Weapons anyway.
So they don´t need to be featured in UI. But there is one exception if you later fight the Elysium owner it become a combat zone when the UI should change.

Speaking of change. Is it really necessary while exploring the streets for example that Discipline and Weapon UI is on?
It should only be active when the player really need this. Also can turn we please turn the UI from Attract off when we don´t use it?


And i already mentioned this but the Blood, Discipline and Healthbar are taking too much space. I would prefer if the green and yellow bar (Health bar) and the bar below (taken damage?)
are integrated more the Blood semicircle.
 

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Well this is our Haven / Playerhome and like the Atrium club it is an Elysium. This means like Bloodlines 1 that you can´t use your Disciplines or Weapons anyway.
So they don´t need to be featured in UI. But there is one exception if you later fight the Elysium owner it become a combat zone when the UI should change.

Speaking of change. Is it really necessary while exploring the streets for example that Discipline and Weapon UI is on?
It should only be active when the player really need this. Also can turn we please turn the UI from Attract off when we don´t use it?


And i already mentioned this but the Blood, Discipline and Healthbar are taking too much space. I would prefer if the green and yellow bar (Health bar) and the bar below (taken damage?)
are integrated more the Blood semicircle.
Well I would rather wait to hear back from the Developer, rather than continue making idle speculations.
 

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Well I would rather wait to hear back from the Developer, rather than continue making idle speculations.
Mate, you"ve done this on my threads as well. It's a forum where people come to discuss things. Speculation is a part of that.

Take it easy on the policing eh?
 

Marc_Hicks

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Mate, you"ve done this on my threads as well. It's a forum where people come to discuss things. Speculation is a part of that.

Take it easy on the policing eh?
Who is policing? Feel free to continue speculating. I was merely saying that I will wait for further confirmation before joining in.
 

NmNighteyes

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Well this is our Haven / Playerhome and like the Atrium club it is an Elysium. This means like Bloodlines 1 that you can´t use your Disciplines or Weapons anyway.
So they don´t need to be featured in UI. But there is one exception if you later fight the Elysium owner it become a combat zone when the UI should change.

Speaking of change. Is it really necessary while exploring the streets for example that Discipline and Weapon UI is on?
It should only be active when the player really need this. Also can turn we please turn the UI from Attract off when we don´t use it?


And i already mentioned this but the Blood, Discipline and Healthbar are taking too much space. I would prefer if the green and yellow bar (Health bar) and the bar below (taken damage?)
are integrated more the Blood semicircle.
You integrate those 3 colours any more than they already are and I will not be able to tell them apart due to colour deficiency...
The yellow is already stretching it due to the background having similar colours, but because of the size and seperation of the bars I will be able to make sense of them as they are
 

NmNighteyes

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Fair point but i believe even for people with colour deficiency like yourself 3 semicircles could work.
Possibly, depends on how it's integrated, but I doubt it could be done in a way that would free up functional space of the screen...
Would you rather "lose" space in the bottom of the screen or in the peripheral?
Because the colours will not help me much to tell them apart, I'd need them to be functionally seperate, and if they are much smaller, I'd have to conciously stop to look at them and tell them apart where now I can still fairly easily do so at a glance...

to give an idea of what I would need (rough estimate) in the picture we are talking about, if they were placed on the outside of the blood circle they would end up covering most of the garbage can and her entire hand and her right leg at least...
and that would likely still make it visually "busy" meaning I'd be pressed to tell things apart easily...

Now the green/yellow bar on the other hand could easily be moved below the empty one giving up more relevant screen space...
However I'm pretty sure that's a design choice made due to a fear that if the bars are too close to the edge of the screen they will "disappear" from the players mind and they will miss when the bars change because they are "too far away"...

In case you didn't guess, the words in quotations is me trying to describe things that i can't think of proper descriptions for since English is not my native language :)
 

NmNighteyes

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Easy Peripheral. :)
Fair, I'd rather lose bottom, sides are already busy in action scenes, where as the bottom rarely is...
But to be fair, it worked in Bloodlines 1

But you can see the red blood semicircle? My suggestion would be two more semicircles with the same size outside the blood one. I believe this would be big enough.
Hard to say without seeing it, but I conceed that it could possibly work :)

Well to be fair i also not a native and my english isn´t that good.
Then let's just try to not misunderstand each other too much :)
 

Jean-Luc

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Hello friends.
Hello.

Are you planning on using different fonts and colors in conversations depending on type of response? It was a really cool feature of BL1 that made its UI look unique. I know you prefer not to rely on color to relay practical information but the font would still differentiate things and as long as the color scheme is consistent, and there's no reason why it wouldn't be, it should work out for everyone.
 

NmNighteyes

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Maybe this is the reason why i would prefer this.
Thing is...
I regularly lost track of both health and blood in every action sequence but that might have been for many other reasons than location of these bars

I don´t think that you really have to see it. Its such two more simicircles with the same size near to the existing blood one. Its really that simple and maybe a bit boring.
I think I know what your idea is...
Thing is that there are still a bunch of stylistic choices they could use to differentiate these things and some of them would work, but others certainly wouldn't :)
But I think it could be an alternative that I could work with

Hello.

Are you planning on using different fonts and colors in conversations depending on type of response? It was a really cool feature of BL1 that made its UI look unique. I know you prefer not to rely on color to relay practical information but the font would still differentiate things and as long as the color scheme is consistent, and there's no reason why it wouldn't be, it should work out for everyone.
Honestly I hated the way they did it in Bloodlines 1...
Only felt right for Domination.
Either Way I much prefer the way they are indicating it now with [Humanity] as the start of the line