Skyrim’s UI – Some UI’s just want to watch the world burn
It’s of no shock to my friends after our recent podcasts that I have a specific hatred towards the “consolization” of PC games and in particular the poor port of a game controls. Bulletstorm stoked the fires of this hatred because rather than use the usual point and click that has served us well for decades. Bulletstorm forced us to use our keyboards because of its unyielding hard on for specific key presses to navigate menus. It was a one off though, surely! Apparently not. Like all good villians it has surfaced once more this time in the guise of arguably the biggest release of 2011. Of course I’m speaking of the hideous parasitic barnacle that is Skyrim’s user interface.
Despite enjoying the world of Skyrim and revelling in my newly discovered vegetable-clepto obsession. I found that whenever I wished to marvel at my vast collection of vegetables, roots, tubers and fungi. I had to hitch up my trousers, square my shoulders and take a deep breath before opening the UI. Interacting with the clunky mechanical weirdness of the interface felt much like fingering Lermarchand’s Box. Call me old fashioned but I think I should be able to navigate ‘any’ interface without the fear of summoning a Cenobite to chauffeurs me to my own personnel hell.
Since Skyrim release there has been much scorn and derision aimed squarely at its UI, all completely justified I might add. You know when something is bad when the internet on mass agree. Race issues, world hunger and whether Megan Fox is hot or greasy looking are all things that are still argued. Yet at the mere mention of Skyrim’s UI there is a single resounding cry of “It’s SHIT” In my more reflective optimistic bouts of fancy I like to imagine that it was in actual fact all designed this way. A clever and calculated move to unite the world behind against a single foe, a scheme Ozymandias would be proud of. As crazy as this notion is, I would rather live in a world where this was true than believe that time, money and “expertise” were spent in the creation of such a useless UI.
I am not alone in my anger. There has been many well written posts and a few point by point deconstructions of the interface that describe its issues in precise detail.
Of which here are but a few samples:
Trying to find something inside your chest stash? This guy finds it annoying as well.
Want an awesome visual deconstruction of the UI? Someone knew you would.
Hankering for a detailed breakdown of the UI’s failings? Know thy enemy.
Since most posts regarding the UI are based on the 360 version of the game I would like to add that in the PC version there is an extremely odd issue with using the mouse to navigate the menus. The hidden area that you would usually click within to select something seems offset and smaller than the actual item. Usually the interactivity of an icon or more often in Skyrim’s case text; is exactly the same proportions and position as to what is visible to the user. This is not the case with Skyrim’s UI. This leads to you clicking on items and not having them respond, or worst still having you exit out of the UI entirely. I have since began using the keyboard to navigate the menus to avoid this very problem. Does this sound like an optimal design?
It’s disastrous, lazy and worst of all UI crimes, a hindrance. This would not be such an issue in a game with a short play time or one which does not make huge use of a menu system. Skyrim however is a game that many will play for countless hours, of which many will be spent in brutal bouts of wrestling with an opponent who has a penchant for placing its chubby callused digits were digits should not go. It is unforgivably sloppy work, for which the culprit must be called out for.
The frustration I feel while playing the game drove me to find the name of the person responsible so that I may be able to focus my anger on a name and face. To everyone that shares my irritation here is the man responsible. Eric Deitrick. Usually a developer or sometimes a figurehead (Peter Molynuex cough cough) is the target for a gamers ire. In Skyrim’s case it is this guy. Lead Interface Programmer and all round messer upper of an otherwise beautiful game.
For PC Skyrim fans there is a little hope in a newly released mod which you can find here. Unfortunately this mod does nothing to fix the skill screen, now officially labelled as the worst UI screen ever created. It is a testiment to the failings of Bethesda’s UI department when the player base race to develop a UI which far exceed their efforts.
I hope that those responsible take on board the vast amounts of criticism and pick up a UI book or two before their next release. In the meantime, here’s to a united playerbase.