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Velora Newsletter | Issue 06 | March, 4th 2011


What is your favorite video game ever? What did you like about it the most: the plot, the exciting things you could do and discover, the experience, the characters? This month's newsletter will take you to the world of video games, and learn about the most interesting aspects of game UI and UX design, with Joe Kowalski. With this interview, we are exploring a side of UI design that people are not usually familiar with. Joe's menu design for Brutal Legend was considered one of the best in the history of game menu designs.

This Month's Spotlight Interview:


Joe Kowalski

User Interface Designer

Joe designed one of the best menus in video game history. More on his website:

V: Hey Joe, how would you describe your style in designing game interfaces?

Joe: Hello. My approach to designing game interfaces is to look for a way to represent the personality of the game throughout the UI in a way that enhances the experience rather than interfering with it. Every game is unique and requires consideration of where to draw that line. In my experience, the game designer will first outline the requirements of the UI in a document or through wireframes, and then I will use that as a basis to create visual designs that mesh with the style of the game. Then, together with a UI programmer, I will revise and implement my designs. Often times, the resources available and/or the requirements will change during production, so it helps to be flexible.

Designing for games offers greater freedom compared to developing for the web. You’re not limited by bandwidth or minimum browser capabilities. Everyone has the same consoles. That’s a huge plus. With games you’re only designing for two types of screens: standard definition (4:3) and high definition (16:9).

V: You designed one the most creative and fun menus in the history of video games (as described by Kotaku). Tell us a bit more about the special effects you used in your work.

Joe: Usually, the main menu in a video game is a fairly standard affair, and with good reason - you don’t want the first impression your game creates to be a negative one. That said, I really wanted to create something unique for Brutal Legend. When I started at Double Fine, the game already had a very original sense of style, and I wanted to find a way to reflect that in the main menu. If you haven’t seen it, this (video) is what I came up with. Tim Schafer, the founder of Double Fine and creative lead on the project, was very supportive of the idea, and helped to flesh it out, and having that type of support and attention makes a huge difference.

Ultimately, I think the main menu garnered such a positive response because it is unconventional and unexpected. It’s designed to look and feel like a metal gatefold album. It doesn’t look like a menu, yet it’s still easy to intuit and even fun to explore.

V: What are the challenges of UI design for video games that users will play on variety of devices?

Joe: When working on a multi-platform title, there’s the obvious challenge that the UI must be modular enough that it can support the different types of controller associated with each console. But even trickier is making sure you use the correct terminology. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all very specific about how certain buttons and features are referenced in text.

V: Would you experiment with character design? Any character you would like to re-design some day?

Joe: Character design isn’t really an interest of mine, but I would someday like to see a protagonist that’s bald, overweight, and gets really sweaty when he’s forced to run. And every time you kill an enemy, he has a remorse meter fills up a little bit more.

V: Is there a particular UI designer or style that inspires you?

Joe: I try to avoid looking only to user interfaces in other games for inspiration, as the games industry is already a bit of an echo chamber in terms of inspiration. However, as a UI Designer, I am predictably a fan of Apple products, and I’ve noticed some interesting UI developments happening on the iPad. The official Twitter app and Flipboard are both worth a look for their unique interfaces.

Thanks for the interview Joe, we're looking forward to see more fantastic and creative interfaces in the video games you will work on at Double Fine.

Monthly Designer Tip:

 Shadow Effects in CCS3: Many designers and developers are now aware of the fact that CSS3 can be used to create shadows using the box-shadow property, but there are a couple techniques we love using that aren't as widely known. First is the ability to create inner shadows using box-shadow. The markup for creating an inner shadow is the same with the addition of the word "inset". (Example: box-shadow: inset 0 1px 1px #FFF;) The second technique is the ability to layer multiple shadows to create unique dimensional effects. You can experiment with multiple shadows and inner shadows in succession. (Example: box-shadow: inset 0 1px 1px #FFF, 0 0 4px #000;)

          Example - Our CSS3 button:

Brands heavily rely on social media and interaction to strengthen their positioning and achieve "top of the mind awareness", but the way websites use social media elements is not completely authentic.

In our newest post we are questioning current practices and reveal ways in which we can actually improve interaction and user experience, especially when it comes to integrating social media in the interfaces we create.

Read more here: The Problem with Social Interaction on Websites - Bringing Back Authenticity.

Did you enjoy this newsletter? If you did please forward and share it with your friends!

Until next time -
Be Brilliant!

The Velora Studios Team
Recent Velora Studios Blog Posts:

> NEW! The Problem with Social Interaction on Websites - Bringing Back Authenticity
In this post we are questioning current practices and reveal ways in which we can actually improve interaction and user experience, especially when it comes to integrating social media in the interfaces we create.

> NEW! Go Beyond Scalable Websites, Learn How to Create Scalable Technology Businesses
Start-ups are part of a very dynamic market. Once you figure the perfect recipe for the next big thing in the web, you need to be ready to scale your business model fast and smoothly. Here is how.

The Creative Flow in a Web Design Studio

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