The simple things: User Interface elements I like

I was thinking recently that no single MMO gets everything right about its User Interface. As I play my way through various MMOs I’ve naturally ended up comparing what is done well and not so well. I’ll focus on the positive in this post and just cherry pick a few features I really like.

Guild Wars 2: two-click mail system
I have to say I love the intuitive minutiae of the Guild Wars 2 mail system. You can right click an item in your inventory to mail it as an attachment, that right there is good, but add in that if you have a party member targeted when you do this right click action then both the item attachment and the recipient are pre-filled and you have a beautiful two-click simplicity. This makes it very easy to share items with friends!

Rift: AoE looting
Many games have copied this feature, but the first MMO I played with this was Rift. Once you’ve experienced area looting it is *very* annoying to go back to frantic clicking after battles. All games should have this feature, after all what value does clicking individual opponents corpses after a fight really bring to the game experience? As an aside I’ve recently read that Guild Wars 2 should be getting this feature, so no more mashing the ‘F’ key while running madly around a battlefield!

LOTRO: party-friendly quest log
One of my biggest bugbears in any MMO is a user interface that doesn’t support easy grouping for normal questing (not just dungeons!). LOTRO, way back in 2009 when I first tried the game, already had advanced quest log features to display if other group members had the same quests or if they were on an earlier or later stage of a quest chain. That’s a lot of very useful information in this quest-heavy game.

SWTOR: loot ‘pillars’
Although some might think this feature affects immersion; I really appreciate the very clear markers for unclaimed items dropped by opponents in SWTOR. The yellow ‘pillar’ for mission item loot is especially useful. Sparkles of various kinds can’t really compare to a colour-coded beacon – they even add a bit of excitement to general gameplay by hinting when an especially rare or valuable item drops!

Neverwinter: auto-hide UI on screenshot option
This is an interesting option that I’ve not seen before. The default screenshot key auto-hides the UI for all screenshots, that’s a big convenience feature for a screenshot-addict like me. Better still you can bind additional key combos to take screenshots with UI intact. I usually want to take screenshots without the UI showing for my blog so this is a nice feature to have.

Guild Wars 2: crafting materials management
Personally I think the “right-click deposit” idea for crafting materials in Guild Wars 2 was sheer genius. Coupled with the auto-sorted (and pretty generous) shared account vault and I’m one happy crafter in this game. All my characters can easily tell what materials are available to them at a moment’s notice. Even better I never have to resort to mailing materials between characters just to do some crafting!

This isn’t an exhaustive list, just the top features I could think of while writing this. Some features, like full-on customisation of UI elements, are shared across several games so I’ve left them off of this post.

Beyond my picks above, do you have any favourite UI features from a MMO?

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3 Responses to The simple things: User Interface elements I like

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Most of the above I generally agree with but I disagree in the strongest terms with any suggestion that AE Looting is a universal good. I loathed it from the moment I first encountered it and I switch it off/don’t use it in any MMO that offers it as an option. I’m not aware of any MMO that has AE looting as the only option but if any do I wouldn’t be playing them in any case; it would be a deal-breaker for me.

    You ask “what value does clicking individual opponents corpses after a fight really bring to the game experience?”. I’ll answer that. Reflection, anticipation, surprise and satisfaction. Every mob killed is a Lucky Bag of wonders. Who knows what might be in its pockets? I want to savor and enjoy every single one of those moments, open every single present myself, in my own time, so I get the full flavor. Having it all chucked into my bags willy-nilly is no kind of substitute for that primal, core experience of MMOs, the searching of the bodies.

    I actually dislike any loot mechanism that puts the loot in bags or chests, too. I want it on the body of the thing I killed. If that leads to a frenzied rooting through the fallen before the bodies vanish, great! I love that part. Missing loot because I was too slow or dead to get to it is all part of the fun. Imagine what they COULD have had!

    If GW2 is planning to add AE looting as an option, fine. If other people want to rush and hurry through one of the best parts of playing MMOs that’s up to them. They better not try imposing it on those of us who aren’t in a steaming hurry to get all the things though. There will be harsh words if that happens.

    One thing you didn’t mention that GW2 gets right in a way few if any other MMOs do is that you can use pretty much all the UI elements while doing anything else at the same time. I often find my bags are too full to loot in the middle of a fight but it’s no problem. I can open them, send crafting mats to the bank then open a Mail window and send surplus items to my other account all while still in combat. That’s a flexibility all games could usefully emulate unless, as in Darkfall for example, there are structural reasons to prevent people having that utility.

    • Telwyn says:

      I guess you’re not a fan of light pillars in SWTOR if you’ve played that then? Just a difference of views on the topic I guess, but given the frantic nature of larger event gameplay in GW2 I find looting to be a real pain. Naturally I’m all for options over changes to basic mechanics, I expect ArenaNet will keep this optional.

    • Imakulata says:

      If a game wants to have a loot system like that, I really hope it’ll be an option rather than forcing players to. I already experienced it (in Ragnarok, to be precise) and see the newer loot systems as nothing but an improvement. I can’t see how missing rare loot such as Baphomet card (there was a famous screenshot where the whole party died at the same moment they killed Baphomet, a MVP/boss, who dropped a card) because you couldn’t loot it in time or a looting monster glitched and failed to drop it on its death (that was quite common in RO) is part of the fun. (For those who don’t know RO, the cards dropped with about 0.02% chance and for MVPs, it would take at least a few months on average before your server saw it drop again, depending on MVP’s respawn time.)

      Speaking of Ragnarok, I really started to appreciate the small things when I started played RO2. I understand that basic WoW lacked a lot of features addons such as Postal or Auctioneer added but I really miss things like being able to attach multiple items to a mail or having new mail or auction pre-filled with things like recipient name or auction length and price. Filling the stuff again and again gets really annoying when posting multiple auctions or sending many items via mail.

      Another thing I used to hate (although MMOs don’t do it nowadays) was putting unit frames to a corner or just any place which was out of sight.

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