Project #2: Oblivion Research

Project 2: Oblivion Interface

Research

In order to properly design a better Oblivion interface, I first had to turn to other games to give me ideas of how it’s been done before.  I decided to turn to other RPGs such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Morrowind, and Fallout 3 to get an idea of how they effectively organized similar information.  My first sketches of a redesign looked like so:

I thought that something more similar to the Fallout 3 feel would be more effective – using an item that is a symbol to the game itself to create more immersion.  I also wanted to use the feature similar to Farcry 2 where the user pulls the map out to reference.  Replacing the menu with something more similar to a journal would help the player feel more immersed.  It will also make the user more familiar with the menu, as we already know how to navigate through a book using things like tabs and pages.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. used the PDA in this way.  It is a symbol that is very iconic to the game itself and it is an important tool that tracks all of your missions, contacts, and diary entries, etc.  I would like to also have a “contacts” page sort of thing in an Oblivion journal, but maybe using sketches of people you’ve met instead of photographs to keep it relative to the time.  This also brought up an interesting point when our group was discussing a re-design.  A lot of times when you’d purchase a new video game, you would always get the flipbook manual that comes with it that had a “Notes” section in the back.  I for one always laughed at that page and said something like, “who would ever need to write notes here?”.  Ironically, Oblivion was the one game that did not come with one of these “Notes” pages, and yet I find myself needing that tool in this game the most.  In the re-design I am certainly going to add a “note-taking journal” section so that players can write down specific dungeon names they’ve conquered, names to re-visit, houses to loot, NPCs to remember, alchemy recipes, and so on.

Here is a reference image of the menu used in Fallout 3 in which the player brings up his wrist to look at his “pip-boy”, a watch-like menu system that contains all the information you need.  Again, it is an invention that is a core part of the game’s plot and gameplay.  I took a look at Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind’s menu to see what kind of interface Bethesda improved upon from their previous game.  The Morrowind interface was surpsingly worse than the Oblivion interface for several reasons.

Right-clicking is the only way to bring up this menu, and immediately you are overwhelmed with four windows – the map, character information, inventory, and quests.  I thought this was rather silly since you don’t need all four of these windows open at once but you don’t have a choice.  I did like the fact that they had more of the character’s stats more accessible on just one page instead of many different tabs.  Another thing I found from research was the handy quest organization options in Knights of the Old Republic.  In it, you could sort the quests by planet, name, recently acquired, and so on.  I found that to be very useful since my group agreed that it can be hard to stay on track with old quests in Oblivion.

Some of the most important improvement goals I’m going to keep in mind during the re-design are:

  1. Customizable sorting for quests, armor, and statistics.
  2. Improved aesthetic, less ambiguous icons.
  3. A divided, more efficient menu.
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