Could we please NOT have targeting highlights!

I hated them in every MMO I’ve ever played. Still hate them bigtime whenever I’m playing Rift.
I mean, just look at this!

Can you see me NAO?

What is it with the white frame all around my target? I have eyes and a target window popping up – I can already see what I got targeted! It doesn’t matter if they are white, green or any other shade; full-body target highlights are obtrusive, ugly and unnecessary!

I am extremely bugged by this type of visual aid in MMOs. I already have a UI with floating symbols, bars and buttons overlaying my illusion; do I really need the immersion destroyed further by bright highlights all over targets, myself included? Am I dealing with people, NPCs and mobs or RTS style units?

There are a few games that handle this more delicately, with a faint shadow or ring on the ground, maybe a brighter name-tag. It’s obviously a big deal for PvP especially, although one could argue that players should just learn to tell opponents or aggressive mobs apart themselves without a visual crutch. Brave adventurers that we all are, we can’t seem to go anywhere without our GPS, quest markers and target highlights…..

Why am I bringing this up now? Because I really do hope Guild Wars 2 will let you switch it off! There’s not just a target ring on the ground and a floating arrow above, but apparently also full scale highlights in different colors for targeting/mouse-hover:

Yikes! A target window is all I need. Add a shadow if you have to – but enough with the highlight disco already! I guess this is the perfect time to name my top 5 UI gripes in MMOs:

  • Bright and colorful target highlights
  • Sparkling quest objects or areas
  • Quest/event markers and paths on the map
  • White/yellow/green/red NPC state indicators
  • Chat bubbles (eugh)

…and pretty much every flavor of not so subtle hints and themepark rails. I know, this ain’t the real thing, I know I’m not really a fire mage but please – please let me delude myself as far as choosing my own path and knowing my own targets will go, thanks!

14 comments

  1. Much that is there because otherwise it can be impossible to see what’s going on. What am I hitting? If there is a pack of identical mobs, then the target does nothing. What is hostile to me? That boar looks angry, but is it attacking me or someone else? It doesn’t help that we’re often zoomed out too far to see the details we’d need.

    1. I can see what I target because there’s a circle on the ground, an arrow above, a target or focus window?

      Most of the time, you’re actually not fighting similar targets. maybe at a multi-mob pull, but it’s more a problem of people zooming out as you said, not targets all looking the same in great numbers. but sure, there will be rushes in WvW etc. and things can get messy – my point was however, that there’s such a thing as too much. WoW did fine without full-body outlines. I think they’re nasty and obtrusive. :(

      I’m also no fan of getting all info in advance; it can be fun to figure out enemy states such as passive or aggressive yourself. it’s a way to really engage with your environment (just like ignoring the minimap). the colored highlights rob you of such exploration.

  2. I’m right there with you on cutting down on the UI distractions; less really is more for most things.

    I disagree with chat bubbles though, at least if there is no visible chat box and the ‘bubbles’ are designed to be your main way to see text. I’d much rather have directly associated with players within the visible game than the rather bulky text box perpetually present and flashing lines of colored text in the lower left corner.

    I hit on a few of the ideas in a recent casual post, but having something like bubbles only, better yet real time bubbles which don’t linger long or become overly large and obtrusive, would make it so that your attention is only drawn to things that are being said in your proximity and area of view. Having a more localized real-time chat which is present in the actual game (and not tucked in a corner and dependent on names) would be a nice change imo. There could always be an option to pull up the text box to backtrack.

    If you have your own idea to bypass chat bubbles while also keeping the player focused in the game and associating dialogue with characters who are actually present within the game, then I’d love to hear. Social interaction in MMOs could really use a revival and it’s a topic I’ve been thinking more about lately :)

    1. I love the main UI in GW2 for this reason, it’s so minimalistic. I hope they’ll make extras such as highlights optional, too. I’m so sick of staring at indicators rather than the actual events (yay for more environmental spells & abilities in GW2!).

      I see the advantages of chat bubbles because they are “on there” where the speech comes from and therefore harder to miss. my qualm in WoW was more that it made an already very comicky game even more comic. I don’t necessarily think all text in the default chat window is better, but in general my preferred solution is audio dialogue as much as possible for NPCs and floating text for special events. it’s difficult though, for reasons you already mentioned – Skyrim did a pretty good job in my opinion with its proximity based dialogues.

  3. The highlights in rift are horrible! your character looks like a ghost. it’s annoying if you try to take screenshots, either too dark or you live with the ugly outline. i never played another mmo where it is this bad though.

    1. I think that’s a culprit of the engine (Hero, or whatever it’s called), that a lot of things look like ghosts when you target them, and you have these weird fairy dust sprinklings in the environment everywhere. I think SW:TOR is using the same engine? At least they have the same style problems.

  4. I agree that a highlight + an arrow + a cirlce on the ground is overdoing it. But since different people prefer different styles of highlighting your target, they just throw everything on it that helps one or another. It would be very nice if you had checkboxes in some menu where you can turn on/off your prefered targeting help.

    Chat bubbles are a difficult matter. If you can look at the center of the screen and at the same time read what people are saying, it is letting you immerse better into the scenery than when you have to look to your lower left corner all the time. Voice acting is great, but those who are not native english speakers have subtitles/bubbles still turned on alot, since reading is easier to understand than listening to different dialects.

    Your other gripes that you loath so much are convenience settings that other people (not me personally, but..) consider mandatory by now so that in the already zoomed out state they don’t have to mouse over the whole ground to see where there goodies are and they don’t want to read the quest text again to know where to go.

    If a game company wants to appease you on one hand and the straight as an arrow hackNslash player on the other, they would need to implement a huge options menu full of check boxes – but what would the default setting be?

    UI customization should be left to addons, but the original game setting must have all the features built in first, so you know what you really want turned off.

    1. That’s my problem though – why are they “mandatory by now”? what’s happening in this genre? at which point can we stop talking about exploration, world and setting when everything is basically a roller coaster ride? what’s the point of designing beautiful maps and exciting quests when the player does nothing but follow arrows?

      I don’t like it! :D I think standard UIs can be minimal, whoever needs/wants more can get mods.

  5. Can’t say that those are things that particularly bother me, but I can see your point. :)

    However, I do have to join the commenters above in their defence of chat bubbles. They are one of those things that I never really cared about until I suddenly had to play without them in SWTOR. It is so annoying to have a face-to-face conversation with a player who is standing right in front of you, and yet all the chat goes into the chat box in the corner. I imagine the real life equivalent would be talking to someone whose voice comes out of their shoes. Extremely distracting, lol.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. I hate visual pollution on my MMO screen and the first thing I do in any new game is switch nearly all of it off. Rift is the only MMO I have ever played that makes targeting circles mandatory. I sent several fairly harsh feedbacks about it in beta and posted more than once about it on the beta forums, all to no avail.

    It’s entirely reasonable for players like Klepsacovic above to want this type of visual aid but it’s entirely unreasonable to impose it on those of us who don’t.

    (As an aside, Syl, I have just added Raging Monkey’s to my blogroll. Not sure why I never found it before since I’ve read your comments on other blogs often enough. I really should click through people’s names more often…)

    1. Haha, you and me both then – I recently updated the blogroll and wondered how I could not have your blog in there yet when we appear to comment at the same places so often! (plus you got a cat in the header = win!) :)

      My hopes are still up this stuff will be optional in GW2; they show a pretty decent UI philosophy so far.

  7. That’s actually one of my biggest gripes with RIFT. It’s small thing, really, but the full body glow bugs me wherever I see it. I just think it looks bad. I don’t like the XBox avatars for similar reasons; the lighting is dumb and forced.

    1. It IS particularly bad in Rift, to a point where it spoils your character’s appearance! if you want to check yourself out or take a nice screenshot, you gotta go find a proper, exterior light source.

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