Star Wars: The Old Republic Developer Blog

A new developer blog entry is up on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic website, and this time we hear from lead UI artist Michael Voigt about the goals they had while building the game's adventuring and space combat interfaces, as well as a font that can be easily read across various screen resolutions.
While we were iterating, we returned to our core concerns that players of all experience levels would be able to easily use the interface. We also decided the final UI candidate needed to be streamlined, sleek and complementary to our worlds.

Then we took some time to look at our framing, in other words how the UI elements work around the action of the game. We noticed that the trend in game interface framing seemed to be that frames were becoming more minimalistic. For example, if you look at some of BioWare's earliest games, often the game interface is quite large with quite a bit of framing.

We analyzed this further and noticed that screen resolution had a lot to do with this thread. Today's graphic cards and monitors can output and display much higher resolution imagery than the VGA monitors and single-chip graphics cards of old. Older games had to have much larger framing elements to ensure text was a legible size. By contrast, we also had to be careful because screen resolution has gotten so high that text can be made too small to be legible. In The Old Republic players will be able to set their text-size preference, but we wanted an extremely usable default experience.

With all of these considerations in mind, we decided to make further refinements to reduce the amount of framing on-screen. We wanted to utilize almost all of the interface's screen space for indicators and controls, leaving only the necessary amount of framing.

When this stage was completed, I actually felt that we held on to some framing for aesthetic purposes that could have even been further reduced - but we still had time to iterate, so more on that later.

With framing work complete for now, we took a pass at lessening the density of information and the overall '╦ťheaviness' of the user interface. We found that reducing the amount of text was a great way to achieve this. Where possible, we found methods to symbolize text with icons. We trimmed the always-on text to be only the essential pieces. The overall outcome was an interface that didn't appear overly cluttered.