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  • The Long Dark: Survival Game HUD Analysis

    - Iuliana Urechi

  • Radial menu

    A radial menu and full HUD appears on screen while the player holds down a button. This also shows the time of day dial at the top right corner. The menu has several useful category options and behaves like a standard radial menu, with options in a circle, back button in the middle and navigation active even if the cursor is not touching the UI element.

    This type of radial menu is superior to a permanent quick slot menu at the bottom of the screen. Making it a button prompt clears the screen of unnecessary UI elements and allows it to house more options and items.

    The main options in the menu are: light, food, weapons, drop bait, navigation, camp, medicine, water and body status in the middle. Most options leads to a subsection of the menu that is displayed in the same ring field. Options are greyed out when unavailable.

    Instead of representing the items and options as text, the menu has clear icons arranged in a circle. The icon graphics are the same as the 3D model, but can still be easily identified at a glance. Careful item design and use of unique shapes and colors allows them to be legible even at a small size.

    Some items can be attached to the radial menu from the inventory screen. As items get added to the inventory, they are automatically added to the corresponding slots. The menu also displays a tooltip at the top for each option or item.

    The insight we can gain from this design are:

    • Make sure the icons in the radial menu are easy to identify for faster navigation. Here, each medicine and food has a unique, easy to identify shape and color.
    • Use radial menus instead of a fixed bottom of the screen quick-slot menu to clear the HUD of unnecessary UI clutter.
    • Use icons instead of text for faster navigation. Provide a tooltip outside the menu if you can't completely get rid of text.

    What can be improved here?

    Some of the icons representing actions currently look like items - rest, drop decoy. Having unique looking icons for them would help identify them quickly. Also, the decoy option is hard to select fast. It's supposed to be a predator deterrent and having it somewhere more accessible, maybe even as the middle option, would make more sense.

    Some items are made semi-transparent when not available ex. Shelter. Having them as dark outlines instead of transparent icons, would be more in line with the UI style and easier to understand.

    Another way we can improve this design is add a section with most used items. Some options are used very frequently, like water, food, charcoal etc. Maybe have them as a second ring in the menu. Having access to them without making several clicks every time would improve gameplay.

    Actions and Animations

    In survival games, immersion is often one of the key goals. With this in mind, the approach to UI and UX design has to be adapted to meet it. No longer can you represent a system or condition with another icon or UI element. You have to get creative with communication.

    Animations, sounds and field of view effects start to play a bigger role in an immersive game. In The Long Dark for example, your vision will blur at the edges from certain afflictions. Your character will limp if a leg is injured; walk slowly if encumbered. Great care was taken to balance the sound design and voice acting. You hear your character comment on hunger, thirst, cold, fatigue. It adds greatly to the feeling of immersion.

    The game takes a lot of UI, interaction and animation inspiration from the Far Cry game series. From its animal attack encounters to the resource harvesting. There are several predator and pray animals in The Long Dark and each has its own behavior pattern.


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