The Importance of a Good HUD

Author: Josh

This originally appeared on Josh’s blog on November 13th, 2014

Over the years many games have used different HUDs (Heads Up Displays) for players to know what is going on with their character in the game.  Some of those HUDs have more material than others.  The question that arises is which is a better HUD?

 A good HUD should show the players what they need to know, and not get in the way.  A life bar, ammo counter, mini-map, these are just a few examples of the bare essentials.  Let’s look at Megaman X as an example of a good HUD system.  The player has a life bar on the far left of the screen at all times.  In a plat-former, a player must always know what their life is at (with exception to games where the player dies after one hit), thus it should always be displayed for the player to know how they are doing.  Second in Megaman is the ammo counter.  Generally the player has unlimited base ammo, but limited special ammo.  Whenever the player engages a special weapon, the ammo counter appears next to the life bar.  The combination of both of these devices only takes up a small percentage of the screen allowing the player to focus on the task at hand.  The only other information that shows up on the screen (aside from text boxes) is the enemies health bar, which only appears when the enemy is on screen.  Even with all three bars, the screen is 95% visible.  This should set the bar for any HUD.  It should not cloud the players view of the game.

Another great example of a HUD system is Golden Eye for the N64.  Similar to Megaman, Golden Eye keeps only what is necessary on the screen.  In the bottom right, players can see their ammo counter.  Unlike Megaman, it isn’t a straight counter of how many shots remain, but a breakdown of what the player has in their gun, and what they have ammo wise in total.  It is very minimal allowing for a full viewing of the terrain around the player, but what about the player’s life?  Well, that is there too, but it only appears on the screen when it is decreasing or increasing.  When it isn’t changing, it fades from the players view.  The player only ever sees what is necessary.

 HUDs are becoming ever more present, and not just in video games.  Take a look at fighter jets & helicopters.  The military uses HUDs on most all of their air crafts.  The information displayed included an altimeter, an attitude reader, speed, and even an ammo counter.  Now I know what many of you are thinking.  “What if I don’t want to be in the military to use a HUD?”  Well, there is also applications being seen all over the civilian sector.  Perhaps one of the most popular version of a personal HUD device, is the Google Glass device.  This attachment provides it’s users with the ability to access Google from nearly every location, as well as a location feature and picture taking ability.  There we have it, the HUD is not just important in video games, but also has practicality in real life.  From the way things are looking, it would seem that in a few short years HUDs will be a normal part of everyday life.

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