BioWare “investigating” environmental HUD in Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect programmer Brenon Holmes has said that BioWare is currently “investigating” adapting the heads-up display (HUD) to the environment in Mass Effect 3, drawing inspiration from Visceral’s work on the Dead Space HUD.

“We’re still really interested in trying to move information into the world,” wrote Brenon on the BioWare forums. “That’s one of the things that I love about Dead Space; the interface… it feels really immersive. I just want to touch the hell out of those buttons.

“So we are still investigating ways of putting some of our HUD elements into the environment… we’ll see what we end up with.”

BioWare attempted working health and shield indicators into Commander Shepard’s armor during the early prototype phases of Mass Effect 2‘s development. It didn’t turn out “as great as [they’d] hoped,” according to Brenon.

“It was ok when Shepard was out of cover, like in the image you linked. The issues started to crop up once you popped into cover, with the way that the camera was positioned and with Shepard’s orientation changing we had to do some fairly crazy stuff to get the health indicator to display in a reasonable position. Even then it ended up being rather confusing to reference when you were in the middle of a fight. I think if we’d simplified our health system so we only had one meter or bar it might have been easier to represent it on the armour (like on Isaac’s back in DS).”

Mass Effect 2 featured what some players are calling an ‘ugly red tendril’ when Commander Shepard was low on health. According to Holmes, “This is also something [BioWare are] actively iterating on.”

Another gripe brought up by the Mass Effect community involved the troubling identification of enemy species and health without the need to read the words and bars that float above them. Brenon touched on this.

“At the start of ME3 we put together a ME2 silhouette chart… some interesting stuff came out of that. Basically, it’s very difficult to make out which enemy is which base purely on a lineup… some stand out a bit more (like Vorcha, Geth, Collectors, and the Oculus (dur, beach ball!)), but for the most part it’s difficult to tell who’s who…

“Even if you were able to easily recognise a given enemy, what are they going to do in a fight? What sort of strategy should you be using when engaging them? Sooo… one of the things we’re trying for ME3 is to make it a lot easier to identify the various types of enemies. Silhouette of the character is a huge component of that, and our character art/animator guys have done a pretty awesome job. I’m pretty excited for when we get to start showing off some of the really cool creatures we’ve been working on.”

Apparently, even “Sovereign was kind of hard to pick out of a lineup.”

He added: “If someone’s going to look different, it’s because their gameplay is different (or should be), and there is an actual reason for them to look different. This should also be supported by their AI behaviours and general “feel”.

I’d really like to go into specifics, but I don’t think it’s really appropriate just yet.”

Mass Effect 3 is out this holiday season for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

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