I caught the PC Gamer demo of PoE last night. As a whole the game looks absolutely fantastic. There was one thing, however, that stood out like a nasty chip marring the beauty of a masterfully cut gem: the inconsistent user interface.
Now, I’ve been lurking this forum off and on since the Kickstarter campaign and I’ve seen many skirmishes of the skeuomorphic-minimalist UI holy war flare up and that is not the point of this post. Regardless of which side of that philosophic divide you fall I would assume you would desire a consistent interface. During the video I counted what I consider to be five different “interface styles” (for lack of better term), not counting character creation, etc.
The first is the docked dialogue interface. It utilizes a heavy wooden style and is “docked” awkwardly to the bottom of the screen. It doesn’t feel like part of the game; it isn’t grounded in the interface pane like the Infinity Engine games’ dialogue boxes.
The second is the floating inventory/trading screen.
The third is the main combat screen. This interface appears to be striving for a minimalist approach with free floating panels and buttons. This runs counter to the other screens’ big heavy wooden windows. While I can see some wood in the buttons this screen looks closer to Neverwinter Nights wireframe style interface.
The fourth “style” that I saw was the full screen, stone and paper based role playing screens.
The fifth “style” that I noticed was the floating wooden looting window that pops up near the item you’re looting. I understand that Obsidian probably chose to do this to minimize mouse movement but given the dynamic positioning of this box from moment to moment it becomes inconsistent in and of itself.
Each individual UI element looks well enough by itself but when they are all mixed together the game loses its visual identity. For example, everything in Baldur’s Gate was based in gray stone, Baldur’s Gate II had that light wood or leather (not sure what it was), Neverwinter had that gold wireframe. I did not get that sense of consistency from the PC Gamer Demo; wooden skuemorhpic buttons here, full screen stone there, metal filigree surrounding floating box down there, etc…
I am not going to argue for or against whether or not the interface should be minimalist in nature so we can better see the paper dolls on the grid. But I would like to see a more consistent visual identity for the game especially since I am very optimistic for future sequels in which I hope they would also have their own unique designs.