How to Create Good UI For VR Games

How to create good UI’s for a virtual experience was one of the themes in the recent Shayla VR conference and Game Jam in Copenhagen.


With experience from high-profile titles such as the two Bioshock games and turn-based tactical shooter X-COM, Programmer at Unity Technologies, Tim Cooper has seen his share of game interfaces, but with the advent of the total immersion possible in VR experiences, the classic user interface has to be re-though he argued, at his recet talk at the Shayla VR conference and Game Jam in Copenhagen, Denmark. ” “You need to start thinking about alternative ways to convey information,” he told the crowd of developers gathered at the Aalborg University Campus in Copenhagen’s Sydhavn quater.

Tim Cooper (photo: twitter)

He outlined how it’s very important to create interfaces, that does not break the immersion, as this is one of the most important aspects of the whole Virtual Reality Experience. Any artificial interfaces that breaks the illusion, and reveals the artificial nature of the experience, is bound to frustrate the player, he told.


However, not all is bad, as some games are actually already doing the right things, even if they are not intended for VR. In a series of examples, he pointed out how the EA’s 2008 game, Dead Space and how a computer interface was placed on the computer in the game world itself, the ammo counter was a small display on the weapon itself, and the health-meter was a glowing tube on the back of the protagonists suit. All examples of, how the game was quite clever at making sure that the “information is shown in the world itself.”

As another example of this, he pointed to a newer game production. The upcoming sci-fi survival horror game PAMELA uses this method to great effect and shows that it’s actually possible to embed quite complex interfaces into the game world.

Cooper explained that he expects a lot of VR interfaces to be part of the character, in the form of bracelets, watches or terminals carried by the protagonist in the game world. But always depending on what makes sense in the specific situation. “The UI is part of the world, and fits with the rest of the world. Use what makes sense for your world,” he said. “There’s no indicators in real life ether. Not for hunger, sleep or anything, so think about how else you might express those things.”

The advantage of integrating user interfaces in the game world is that it gives what Cooper referred to as a “low cognitive overhead,” meaning that users will not be confused as to where the interface is coming from as it does not exist in a meta-layer between the player and the VR experience. “I would recommend not having any traditional HUD UI elements at all in your game,” he told the attendees.


After the talk Cooper explained to Nordic Game Bits that while especially important to VR experiences, almost any game would benefit from going though the same process of trying to express information though objects in the game’s own world. “Really, any game trying to achieve some form of immersion should do the same,” he explained. “If the UI is to dominating, it is the UI that will be immersive, and not the game world. And that’s bad, but especially so for VR.”

Multi-passionate game developer and journalist. Has been writing about the Danish games industry for more than ten years, and creating audio design for both Danish and International games for almost as long.

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