Hey all, we’ve been talking for a while about the fact that we’re reworking our HUD and here is the culmination of that discussion for small ships. The HUD rework for capital ships is still in its infancy and will come later. We haven’t actually scheduled the implementation of the new HUD yet, at the earliest it probably won’t be until sometime in January, however we wanted to give you all a chance to provide your feedback. Our high level design goals are the following:
- Make the HUD less cluttered
- Massive space battles have a lot going on, how do we condense all that information and prioritize it in a way that makes the most relevant bits easily accessible for newer players
- We want to make the HUD highly customizable for veteran players who have very particular play styles and preferences
- Fix our abysmal missile UX
We took a lot of inspiration from modern fighter jets as the companies that build them have spent millions of dollars on UX R&D and we felt it would be useful to leverage that as much as possible. Unfortunately, fighter pilots are paid to learn all of the HUD symbology for their respective aircraft and we can’t expect our players to do the same. Since accessibility is one of our goals we’re trying to walk a fine line between cramming lots of condensed information on the HUD with making it readily apparent to casual players what’s going on. To that end this will be a walk-through of various HUD states with a description of what we’re thinking. For starters here’s our prototype new HUD while in the initial unpowered state:
One of the problems we’ve been encountering with new players is that they don’t know their ship is unpowered when they spawn and therefore are quite confused about why they can’t move. The next issue they run into is not knowing how to turn the ship on, since they probably just quickly glossed over the keybinding graphic. To that end the HUD now makes the ships unpowered state in-your-face obvious along with what you need to do to power it on. Granted,
press "p" to power up ship doesn’t do much for immersion but in this case we felt accessibility should take priority.
Central HUD without VMFD’s
Next up is your central HUD without virtual multi-function displays (VMFD). We’ll talk about VMFD’s next so keep that in the back of your mind for now. Our goal with the central HUD was to only display information that is absolutely critical to the operation of the aircraft - stuff that you need to be made immediately aware of most or all of the time. On the left side of the HUD we have your speed information including your current speed, a progress bar for your current speed relative to your maximum speed, your current target speed in white, the minimum speed required to enter warp in purple, and hashmarks along the maximum speed progress bar to give you a reference point relative to maximum speed. You also have your aggregate shield health in blue along with an associated progress bar.
On the right side you have information about your current target. In this image no target is selected so we’ll get into the details of targeting a bit later. Along the bottom of the HUD you have general information about the state of your weapons and shields. This includes your currently selected weapon with ammunition state, your available countermeasures as well as their state, and your available energy.
A new concept we’ll be introducing, which I just mentioned, is that of “countermeasure state”. A problem many new players have is that they don’t know they’re supposed to release countermeasures when a missile is flying at them so they become easy pickings. To help alleviate this problem your flight computer will manage your countermeasures for you by default (AUTO). What this means is that when you have an incoming missile your flight computer will attempt to release countermeasures as it feels necessary to dodge the missile(s). You will of course be able to set countermeasures to manual mode and release them yourself if you so desire.
Virtual Multi-Function Display (VMFD) layout
As mentioned previously, the new HUD will introduce the concept of virtual multi-function displays (VMFD). In Infinity: Battlescape (I:B) your HUD is projected onto the visor of your helmet and the in-cockpit displays are for redundancy in case of system failure. The outer HUD surface area is split up into VMFD slots, each of which may optionally contain a “page” of information such as weapon configuration, various radar screens, additional target information, ship system health, the chat box, etc.
Assigning a VMFD page to a slot
Example of the HUD with a couple of placeholder VMFD pages
By hitting a special hot-key you will go into VMFD configuration mode where you can change which pages are assigned to the various VMFD slots. Some pages, such as the chat box and the bubble radar, are “double wide” pages and will take up 2 slots. These will come with some restrictions in their placement. By default, VMFD pages will be assigned based on whatever we think is the most sensible arrangement for new players however, you will be able to preconfigure your VMFD layout for each ship in the game options so that you don’t have to constantly mess with it every time you spawn into a new ship.
The HUD with an off-sight target selected
As I mentioned previously the right side of the central HUD will show information about your current target. This includes the pilot name, the ship type, the armor/health level (ARM), its aggregate shields, the distance between you and the target, as well as the relative velocity. One problem we’ve had in major space battles is that it’s hard to follow your target once they leave your field of view (FOV). Currently, a little dot around the central HUD gets highlighted to show you where you need to turn to follow your target. In a large battle the highlighted dot gets lost in a veritable ocean of dots and it’s nearly impossible to figure out how to find your target. With the new HUD we’ve removed the ring of dots and replace it with a simple arrow that points in the direction of your target.
Currently, I:B allows you to fire both blasters and guns at the same time. This is very confusing for new players as we have lead reticles for both weapons on the HUD. It’s also difficult to know when you should use one weapon vs the other or whether or not your target is in range. To resolve this problem we will restrict you to using a single weapon type at a time. In our original design blasters were not supposed to be only effective against shields. They were intended to do less overall damage in favor of no dependency on ammunition. We’re thinking about reverting blasters back to their original purpose, however we still want to have a specialized weapon for use against shields, it may just take a different form.
Basic Missile HUD
Missile Locked HUD
Another major area of focus is missiles. Currently, missiles are very awkward to use. You have to keep your targeting reticle over the enemy until you hear a
bing sound and then you can fire. It just doesn’t work well. We’ll be completely revamping missiles with the new HUD update. For starters, since you can only have a single weapon type selected the HUD will display special missile symbology. The most noticeable is the giant circle that shows up in the central HUD. This circle simply means that a missile is selected, we may change other properties of the circle depending on the type of missile/torpedo selected however that’s still TBD. When a missile is selected there will still be a lead reticle in front of your target. For an optimal firing solution you will want to put that lead reticle in the center of the giant circle.
New “missile reloading” HUD symbology
Unlike the current implementation, you will be able to fire missiles the moment you lock a target. You will also be able to fire them as quickly as you can pull the trigger - with one exception. If a missile hardpoint is an internal launcher, as is usually the case, there will be a reload cooldown before the next missile becomes available. If all of your missile hardpoints are in a reloading state the HUD will show the
Reloading message along with a timer until at least one missile becomes available. A number of players have expressed concern with missile spam. If missile spam becomes a significant problem after we introduce anti-missile systems and automatic countermeasures we’ll look at reducing the number of missiles that can be carried.
A mockup of the new HUD threat management system
Threat management while a target is locked
Another area where our current HUD is deficient is in threat management. This is an extremely tricky problem for us. Modern aircraft are more or less never in a situation where there are hundreds of friendly and enemy aircraft nearby. To detect threats they use something called a radar warning receiver (RWR) and a missile approach warning system (MAW). These systems classify threats based on whether or not an enemy is actively targeting you or if it’s a missile vs an aircraft. To help manage the chaos of a massive space battle our HUD will only display the 6 highest priority threats in the following order:
- A missile is actively targeting you
- A ship has you locked and has fired a missile at you
- A ship has you locked
- A nearby enemy radar contact
- A nearby unknown radar contact
We will use sounds, symbology, and possibly color to show what type of contact it is. One or more VMFD pages with a larger, more detailed threat picture may also be implemented at a later date.
A mockup of the HUD during atmospheric flight
Last but not least the HUD will have special symbology while in atmospheric flight. Specifically, it will show a pitch ladder and a heading tape. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing how to do a heading tape for space flight but we have yet to come up with a good solution so, for now at least, a heading tape will only be available during atmospheric flight. Finally, we’ve changed the color of the HUD to a yellowish green color. We still want to make HUD colors configurable so we’re trying to keep the secondary colors to a limited, also configurable palette.
As you can see the new HUD will represent a significant overhaul of not only our existing HUD - but many of the aircraft systems. We hope the end result of this will be a cleaner design that is more accessible and less cluttered for new players while also being more powerful for veteran players. If you made it this far thank you for taking the time to read through all of this and we look forward to hearing your thoughts!