Interaction interfaces vs menu interfaces

The principle of Interaction interfaces vs menu interfaces by @delaneykingrox

A very interesting twitter thread analysing the differences between interaction interfaces vs Menu interfaces that has been tweeted by twitter user @delaneykingrox.

Original Thread The principle of Interaction interfaces vs menu interfaces

Twitter Thread Edited The principle of Interaction interfaces vs menu interfaces

In today’s #gamedev thread, I would like to talk about the principle of “interaction interfaces vs menu interfaces” and how it can greatly enhance your game.

In interaction based interface, the player performs tasks by their character interacting with things and characters in game world.

A menu based interface is when you perform tasks in an interface divorced from the game world.

The interaction based paradigm encourages immersion, it keeps the player in the world, and makes the things in world and its inhabitants have function.

Menu based is fast and immediate, but takes you out of the world. It is an abstraction.

Personally, I prefer interaction based interfaces for most games, though obviously it depends on the game.

To give an example, I could have a complicated interface that allows me to examine a magic item in detail, with some lore and the stats and so forth…

Interaction interfaces vs menu interfaces - Interfaces in games
Interaction interfaces vs menu interfaces – Interfaces in games

…or, I could show the item with a vague description, and give no information or allow no use.

Instead, I can take it to an NPC and they can tell me about it. The item's nature is revealed and I can get the lore.

In the second method, there is a reason for interacting with various NPCs, making talking to them worthwhile beyond quest lines.

Suddenly the wise woman of the swamp becomes a valuable guide, and returning to her lair has a use.

Another example is using the equipment in the rooms of your space ship as a way to manage upgrades, healing, recharging energy weapons, curing debuffs and storing loot.

Talking to a shopkeeper to access their menu is one thing… but entering a shop and being able to walk around and look at the item stocks on displays is way cooler, and keeps you entirely in the game world.

So consider ways to break down menu items into interactions with world assets and npcs, rather than loading a single thing with a complex menu.

Say we have a game where you have a ship acting as a hub.

You return, drop off your armoured space suit at your locker and drop off weapons to the armoury.

Then you drop some samples off to your biologist, that alien artefact piece to your xenoarchiologist.

The xenoarchiologost informs you of their discovery from the last thing you dropped off, and she gives you a key she printed to fit.

You head to the bridge and talk to the navigator to set course and then head to medbay to get your wounds stitched. You grab a medpack.

You then hit the canteen, top up your max stamina bar at the coffee machine. Whilst you drink the coffee, you find the engineer and discuss their quest line. You instruct them to upgrade the comms to level 4.

Coffee finished, you head to your quarters…

…there you shower to clean off your bloodied dirty texture and use then mirror to change your hairstyle.
You then drop off the cool trophies you found on your shelf, and upload the data module to read the diary entries from the colony.

Finally you skip time by using the bed.

This description is basically a menu interaction:

Inventory sort and dump stuff into chest, start research, check quest line, grab med pack, create key, start upgrade, customise character and skip time.

That can all be menus… but…

Which of those is roleplaying?

And which makes the npcs and environments useful?

For me, the interaction based system is a much more enjoyable, immersive experience. It justifies the assets in my ship too, and gives me a reason to walk around it.

As a general rule, I like to minimise extraneous GUI until it becomes something a player can do.

For example, hiding the magic tab entirely until the hero gets their first spell, not including the crafting menus until they can craft etc.

This is one of the other benefits of interaction based systems, because it introduces each feature only when the player first interacts with that feature. And that means very simple and easy to work with interfaces by nature.

Back to the sci-fi game example, I don't have to carry a million weapons or items. Using the information about the scenario I get from my crew, I can make informed decisions as to who I take on the away mission, and what weapons and gear we bring…

…I grab these from the locker and armoury and hand them to the npc and tell them to suit up and come with me.

A few moments later we are in the airlock, and ready to run the mission… and that is triggered by pressing the airlock controls or telling the crewman to do so.

So going in, we have limited equipment and inventory and that is easy to manage during the mission.
Especially cool if there is a mission time constraint ("they are killing the hostages, captain!") and certain items take hours to recharge and repair.

So in summary:

•Consider if your game is better suited to interaction based interfaces, or menu based.

•Look for ways to make things in your world serve a menu function.

•Immersing tasks fill time better than just grinding.

•Justify information and lore by who tells you

If you enjoyed this thread and now have ideas for your game, consider shouting me a coffee by interacting with this interface…

If you watch a show like The Expanse, a great deal of their time is spent interacting in this way… fixing space suit, suiting up, examining data, scanning things, giving each other pep talks or threats, sharing food, deciding on strategies ahead of a mission.

It's gameplay.

Originally tweeted by Delaney (spoo)King (@delaneykingrox) on October 30, 2022.

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