20 Nov 14

Working UI Harder, Better, Faster.

We’re hard at work on the monumental task of getting Desktop Dungeons to mobile platforms. A large part of this is re-approaching whole chunks of the user interface (UI) and reshuffling the information to deliver it more cleanly, particularly without mouseover information. Specifically things like the altar panel, that window that pops up to select and compare boons when you’re worshipping a god.


Aaaand that is one of the problems; it’s a pop up. It’s the only large, dungeon-obscuring, pop up of interaction within the dungeon experience. When we originally built it, this didn’t seem like too much of a problem. This panel has a lot of information and you’re comparing several items to each other; there are effects, prices, and interactions to consider. We built it large and added that sweet portrait art to flavour it accordingly. I’m not even sure if we knew it would be the only time we used this large pop up to deliver information when we built it. Either way, over time it has grown into a pet-hate, so while we’re under the hood, we have to take the chance to make it better; deliver this information smarter.

Making UI smarter is not easy; reorganising information in an information-heavy game like this, particularly with the tight size constraints that we have in place, can be pretty intensive. It  takes more iterations to achieve smarter design; balancing flavour against essential information, determining which aspects are really critical and which aspects might be summarized visually. Should the altar be made of stone? Can we fit the boon names in less space without making it feel like just a list? Can we integrate it into the book effectively?

Rough Altar Images

So we explore this visually as well as conceptually until we settle on a design that works. Then we proceed to make it pretty with artness (the icons for the individual boons are still in process, excuse the placeholders.)


Which also goes through a couple of iterations of refinement.


Until eventually we’re happy enough to build it in game.

New Altar Panel

I imagine there must be people for whom this process comes more intuitively, designers  who have less of a process of elimination in their process. UI is one of those areas of design that becomes more intangible and invisible as it gets better. We’re not there yet, but we’re significantly closer than we were.


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