What do these terms mean to game development? The acronyms, themselves stand for Graphical User Interface, User Interface and Heads Up Display. GUI (goo-ee) and UI (you-eye) can be used interchangeably, and to be honest I’m not expert on correct usage, but I use GUI to refer to all the visual components in a game that aren’t part of the actual game world. UI refers to menus, buttons windows and such, and HUD (hud) refers to status indicators you’d see overlaid on your game window, such as a health bar, or how many magic mushrooms you’ve collected.
These last few weeks we’ve been focusing on the GUI in the lead up to a vertical slice of the game we’re preparing. A good GUI is one that the user doesn’t notice; it does what it has to do seamlessly and lets you get on with enjoying the game. A good GUI takes a lot more work than you’d think, especially when you’re supporting keyboard, controller, and touch all on the one interface, it’s like building 3 GUI’s on top of each-other and requires an intimate knowledge of each device, so it helps if you play a lot of games using each input method. When developing a GUI it’s important to test it yourself, and when you’re happy with it to get as many people to use it as you can and give you feedback. A bad interface can be a massive barrier to entry for people to enjoy your game. We find that GUI can be one of the most important player experiences in a game, but it’s still something that is constantly overlooked or left till the last minute, and always underestimated in terms of the time it takes to build one, which we are being reminded of again.
If I were giving anyone advice on building their GUI for their game, I would say to get it in early so you can test it thoroughly, and multiply the time you think it will take to develop by the number of input devices and resolutions you’re supporting. Also, try not to giggle every time you say GUI.