Sunday, September 9, 2012

UI Accessibility in Guild Wars 2

The problem of accessible user interfaces, or UIs, has been constant in all the MMOs. Besides being beautiful, which can be done by a skilled designer, the UI must have a very high degree of functionality. You have to remember that the UI is the means through which the player controls his character and can acknowledge the changes undergone in the virtual world. The information is all fed to him through this user interface.

But most of the time, the UIs are clunky, unresponsive and don't offer the needed feedback necessary for a player to cope quickly with the situation at hand. This is one of the aspects that can make or break any game, let alone the MMO genre.

Over the past years, there have been great improvements in the overall template of the MMO user interface and lots of features have been quickly inserted to enhance user experience. The idea of player driven UI addons was excellent but it took the full control over the game of the developers and moved some in the hands of the players, that were able to make some wonderful UI enhancements that later become a must in any MMO, but also allowed them to exploit this and make addons that would hack accounts. This transitional method was good, but wasn't what the developers were looking for.

The Guild Wars 2 developers turned this player driven user interface idea onto its head and decided that they should be the tools through which players should express their needs regarding UI accessibility. This way, with every beta weekend and every build, the UI was closely enhanced thanks to the great player feedback that was given. Features that needed addons in other games or were non-existent now became default in Guild Wars 2. Things that needed minutes to be accomplished, like the simple routine of selling all your junk or transferring all your crafting materials to the bank, now needs under 5 seconds to do both.

The degree of accessibility given to the player through the UI is great, although it can be always improved. The UI team has really listened to the community and this way they have solved some problems that were lingering in the MMO UIs forever. But there is another reason: Guild Wars 2 doesn't need you to spend all your time doing useless things since you don't need to pay a subscription fee… ever thought about that?

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