New HUD mockups for small ships

#1

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:

  1. Make the HUD less cluttered
  2. 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
  3. We want to make the HUD highly customizable for veteran players who have very particular play styles and preferences
  4. 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:

Unpowered HUD

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:

  1. A missile is actively targeting you
  2. A ship has you locked and has fired a missile at you
  3. A ship has you locked
  4. A nearby enemy radar contact
  5. 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!

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#2

Great stuff, don’t have time to write up much atm, just one quick request: Please give small ships better heading indication. One should always be able to see their vector, regardless if it aligns with their view or not.

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#3

I like the mockups, but i think the main thing bothering me is the fact you don’t get the sense of wearing a helmet. My favorite addition is the view and information you get of your locked target basically looks super nice. Look forward to seeing future iterations if the mockup is alredy this good.

#4

Overall I really like the direction it’s going. I like the functional/industrial flavor to it and I think you can emphasize that more. It actually reminds me a little of the WipeOut HUD, I’m not sure why.


You can link it to the ship selection screen in the tab menu. I think a separate button to enter this mode is probably overkill and is yet another keybind. Considering that you probably won’t ever change it after the first time it’s just a wasted key. Plus this way you can make the ship-assignable VMFDs much more obvious.

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#5

Any suggestions on how this could be addressed? Why do you not get the sense of wearing a helmet?

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#6

my intitial impression from seeing the hud is that there is floating text since thats just what it looks like to me. Until i used headlook did i relise that it’s suposed to be hud coming from your helmet. The only suggestion i have is to make a helmet model that has the glass effect in the center of your view similar to the current windshield glass. Having solid borders at the very edge of view which would be the solid metal parts of the helmet. Concaving the text to give it a better allusion of being projected on the glass of your helmet. and allowing for the helmet to move independely (screen shake mostly) from both your view and the cockpit of your ship. I cant really explain it much better than that i am afraid which is why i didnt suggest anything in the first place so hopefully that gives a idea.

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#7

Hi Keith, what Arkenbrien probably means is that the HUD elements look a little flat and simpler.

How this can be, and we talk from a pure artistic pov here, is with a couple of perspective and rendering tricks.

First: you distort the HUD as if it’s projected on a curved helmet glass.
Second: you give a halo effect to letters and objects on the HUD, as if they emitting light on a glass surface.
Third: you give a doubled render of the HUD as if every HUD element has a mirrored image on a glass surface.

For reference an image from a concept for Star Citizen.

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#8

I have to disagree with most of the helmet stuff. I want my hud to be usable; I don’t want a permanent helmet blocking my view; and until I see this in motion, it’s really difficult to tell weather it is a helmet HUD or not. If you look at Keith’s later images, they already have helmet distortion, like the current HUD. A higher FOV, and a camera placed further back could probably get you the effect you are looking for.

The fancy effects @KREION is showing are a nice addition, but looking at that static image, I’m not getting a feeling of a helmet either. I know it is a helmet, but it could be a flat UI for all I know. The built in displays of the cockpit don’t separate from the head mounted stuff at all for me, and I’m fairly certain they won’t until I see it in motion. If things move with my head (not affected by screen shake, turns with view when I turn my head), it will feel like a helmet.

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#9

I really like the hud design.
One big issue though. Please attach the enemy ship stats to the icon again, having to moved eyes across the screen all the time is super unfun IMO.

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#10

It’s a bit unclear, on the first pictures the don’t appear, but on the missile screens they are next to the target.

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#11

The design of the new hud looks great. The side bars look visible at a glance, providing similar information with less obstruction and it is nice seeing that shade of green come back. I really like the font used too, it doesnt look like it’s monospaced though which maybe someone can fix easily for when its used to display changing numbers.

I guess i should point out that you absolutely no question want a drop shadow on all hud elements. Keith mentioned previously that the goal is to emulate a realistic hud where you only have positive light which prevents use of drop shadows, but frankly that isn’t actually realistic and such half-realism only causes problems. The reason doing it that way isn’t realistic is because in reality, a drop shadow is added to everything a fighter pilot sees using tinted glass, the emissive hud is always brighter than any elements that will appear behind the tinted glass, preventing clarity problems entirely. Without this measure HUDs quickly become invisible against bright backgrounds, expecially the grassy daytime side of planets or stars. Obviously though tinting all the glass just to make the hud visible against all backgrounds would wreck the visuals.

So just say in space-future glass has the ability to selectively and locally tint, and add a drop shadow to hud elements where it’s useful, this ensures visibility in all situations and is more realistic than the emissive only solution. I guess i should point out that SC had a similar issue and have recently started to fix it after a long time trying to go for the half-realism approach.

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#12

Really digging this new look. Especially the green! That’s going to be so much easier to see against the many gray/blue surfaces we see. (cough, cough, Rethe Prime, cough) I’m a little nervous about their readability in atmosphere, but I think that’s something we’ll need to see live to know for sure. I’m not as concerned about the helmet issue. I want it to be functional and I’m fine if it feels like this is a forward facing HUD. I’m with Aleon though, I’d like to see this all in motion before you guys go too far down that road for something that may not be that big of a payoff.

I definitely think moving the target stats to the center is better than where they were in the upper right. Not sure if we’ll still want them attached to the target, but this is a good step forward. Great work!

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#13

Usially i’m using guns. And thus i suppose see all valuable informatuion near target prediction pip (relative velocity, distance). New concept looks awful for combat purposes.

#14

Thanks for this Birthday present I-Novae :grinning::smile:

Here are my thoughts on it.

On first glance it certainly looks a bit more pretty and less cluttered. Maybe that’s due to the slim nature of the text.

It’s brave to go the kind of asymmetric look with the bars but it seems to work out, especially wi
The increased opacity on the bars seems to solve the problem of them being not so visible in-front of the cockpit pillar.
As for visibility, I agree that there needs to be more contrast in bright situations. I once suggested a overly complicated system that detect it automatically and would look cleaner if it was a darker situation, to make it functional a simple drop shadow or fuzzy tight shadow would work though.
Also, we had dark segments in the HUD for long though as backdrop to the bars.

I really like the “current weapon” readout. Much more useful like that. Seems like modern war vehicles really have some experience it seems. Also nice to put it beside the heat. Functionally at the right place. Generally it looks much more function grouped instead of “group it so it looks cool”.

Arrows instead of lines seem also more readable and kind of cuter.

As a first glance I also didn’t realise that the blue bar on the left was energy. Colour for shield and energy being so similar … I don’t know.

Virtual MFD positions seem to make sense. How about ultra wide and multi monitor setups? I guess the “UI FOV” slider will be sufficient. I don’t think the idea of this system is to allow people to put stuff on the ultimate corner of their Ultrawide setup but in the corner of their glancable setup, which this should be able to do.

Arrow to point towards target. Nice.

Missile cone. Nice. Big obvious but not obtrusive words. Nice. Less gamey and still super cool. Reloading time … finally.

I think single weapon selection will pay off eventually.

Important targets as different arrows … I guess the arrows indicate distance? That part could be super useful. More-so than a number. Really hard to judge from an image if it might get too cluttered, but if it really helps with situational awareness it might be worth it.

Atmospheric mode makes sense. Nice to see the Altitude readout be moved to there. Makes me hyped for big winged flight model in there. Expand those shields and turnbrake deep jovian style boysss …

Thanks a lot for the effort to compile this. I don’t think there’s much missing there. I wonder how it looks in less optimal situations, like with bright foreground and fleets of ships. The UI update that changed opacity based on distance really helped there. Missing consolidation really makes the game look unfinished.
It’s unusual though for a game to allow you to be so far away and at the same time have hundreds of real entities that can be selected still there. Yes, I:B is special indeed.


As for the controversial “information with target blip VS fixed Information window”.
I always preferred the fixed window, I dread to follow numbers on the screen zipping about.
The information I need while shooting a ship doesn’t need to be even remotely as precise as the Information that can be.

I think symbolic or visual nature would be much better then tacking on numbers by a target. We already have (some) sound for some of the target related Information like hit tones and a bit Doppler shift. If it would be possible to read ship status visually by the shield intensity or colour that would be one way without any need to add anything symbolic to the HUD.
Otherwise non numeric symbols could be a way to go. The Target symbol could have a blue drop shaddow that represents its shield that could “depleet” counterclocwise. Or a set of circles that represent the different Information. Orange circle for health, blue circle for shields, green circle for distance (0 to 20km), white hourglass for relative velocity -1km/s to +1km/s.
Still it would be another set of elements right where you should look at the target.

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