In a talk given at GDC this week, Bungie’s lead UI designer gave an intriguing look at the journey Destiny‘s award-winning UI design went through during development.
Those who have played Destiny know that not only is the minute-to-minute gunplay silky smooth like the Halo days, but also the user interface is just as pleasant to use. It has even won awards for its design and implementation. A departure from common console game menu navigation, Destiny’s UI is intuitive and a perfect fit for the looter-shooter RPG elements found in the game. But it took a long time to get it there.
In a talk titled “Tenacious Design and The Interface of Destiny” given by Bungie UI design lead David Candland at GDC this week, the developer detailed the many iterations Destiny‘s UI system went through during development.
Candland said the biggest challenge to accomplish was that the UI needed to communicate vital information to the player using words and symbols, while freely allowing players to understand and act quickly on that information. They moved away from the arrow-through navigation system that most console games use and went with a free-flowing cursor that mimicked a mouse.
Even that cursor received a ton of work, getting its feeling just right. When that cursor moves over an object in the UI, not only does the icon it is selecting enlarge but the cursor also sticks a bit. That stickiness uses the same Aim Assist system that helps players target an enemy while out exploring.
The UI was in development for years, just as Destiny was. Also like Destiny, some of the UI was scrapped and reworked late in development. Once Destiny‘s original story was tossed out a year before launch and the game split into missions, the game needed a UI to support those new concepts. Eventually Bungie settled on the destination director we know today, and from there the UI expanded on those core ideas.
Check out how Destiny‘s UI changed over the years below, but keep in mind much of the content contained within was placeholder.
As with any game in development, a lot of design and iteration takes place as features change, and the UI in Destiny is no exception. And even after launch, as new features are added to game, the UI has had to adjust and change. There’s a solid foundation there, no doubt, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see more innovation when Destiny 2 releases next year.
It’s intriguing to get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of Destiny‘s development, but as for what’s next, Destiny‘s next content drop was just announced and will launch April 12.
What do you think of Destiny‘s old UI? Is there any part of it you wish was in the actual game?