In this edition of our bi-weekly developer interview, our awesome community team took some time to sit down with Jorge Gonzalez, otherwise known as JorgeIII– Lead Graphic Artist for Galaxy in Turmoil.
(Pictured Above: JorgeIII)
JorgeIII, who are you?
I’m a 22-year-old guy who lives in Mexico. I study animation and digital arts, and my skills range from coding to design.
Which of those said skills do you actively use in your work on Galaxy in Turmoil?
Currently I code the main menu interaction directly on Unreal Engine 4, mainly using widgets from UMG and Slate. So basically, the applied skills are: programming, design, user experience and setting composition.
Now, of-course it goes without saying main menus often have something of an iconic status as everyone who plays a certain game will all go through the said menu. So let me ask you, which game do you look up to as a solidly good implementation of a menu?
Actually, I’ve drawn inspiration from quite a few: Bioshock Infinite, Super Mario Sunshine, The Witcher 3, and Age of Empires 2 & 3
Would you like to go into some detail about what aspects of each you’ve found yourself inspired by?
One of the main functions of a menu is simply to take you to the action. In my opinion, earlier games accomplished this well with very basic menus that allowed you to jump straight in without any complication. However, as games grow more complex, it is necessary to have an interaction map or path to follow to reach certain game mode, settings, lobbies, etc..
Take Bioshock Infinite for example. They created an atmosphere right off the bat, from the moment you press “start”. You are already inside Columbia (BioShock Infinite’s city) from the very beginning you start the game and enter the menu. Not like other games, where you don’t see a lot until you actually start the story. That, for me, is one of the most important aspects when starting off a game: to create an atmosphere and have the player feel immersed in the game from the very first moment they interact with it.
This is an example of my favorite part of Bioshock Infinite:
It sets a dynamic tone to the interaction in an otherwise boring menu scheme, the UX is very present in this example.
Another one of my favorites: Super Mario Sunshine:
A simple yet highly interactive idea. The player can feel like they’re already playing while in the menu. You don’t feel you are being obstructed by lame menus before starting, you are already playing.
I presume in the image above Mario headbutts the block you select? As he does to so many floating blocks in game.
What is it with that guy and headbutting blocks anyway? It’s like he wants brain damage.
Dude stomps walking potatoes for a living, man.
That’s what I used to call them when I was 4 because I had no clue as to what they were.
All right. So, I just looked it up. The Mario mushrooms are called Goombas… You told me they were potatoes… You lied to me!
Yeah, I found that out about a year ago, I found out many things a year ago. Here’s a list:
- Goombas are not potatoes
- you can actually lick your elbow
- girls don’t like being called “dude”
- I’m lactose intolerant
I think we’ve drifted a tad off-topic here, so let’s get back to the topic on hand.
Haha okay. So, I think that my position in graphics design is very much tied to the user experience, making the game’s interface look good, being highly functional and overall creating an atmosphere from the finer details more relevant to in-game. Another good example would be the inventory screen from Borderlands 2. They managed to create a futuristic-looking, neatly organized inventory screen fit for an FPS RPG.
This is something I’ve taken some inspiration from for my work on parts of Galaxy in Turmoil, specifically the screen where the loadouts are ready to be selected:
You also mentioned The Witcher 3, what aspect of that do you feel inspired by?
The menu is fairly simple and straightforward, but the UX from that game is very fast-paced. Their quick selection menu is the element that I admire the most. You can switch signs (magic powers) with ease or consume buffs quickly without interrupting the action, even when you open the quick-actions menu, the game keeps on going in the background, but in slow-motion which is definitely a fine detail I respect.
And what about the Age of Empires?
Age of Empires 2 and 3 captured the atmosphere, similar to Bioshock Infinite, just a lot earlier. I think the top prize in Age of Empires 2 goes to the music and the interaction sounds. If you clicked on something, a heavy echoing thud would be heard and I think this gives you a serious feeling of power, even before starting anything. As for Age of Empires 3, they did it best by making the main menu your main city.
As a form of personalization I presume?
Exactly. For example, if you chose to play as the Spanish, your main city would be Madrid. The longer you played as them, the more upgrades to your city you could buy. So, every time you started the game, you’d see your amazing city blooming:
Not to mention the music is truly quite epic!
Unless of course you were awful at the game in which case you’d see a downtrodden sh*t-heap right?
Heh, no, the image I showed you is the crappiest a city can get.
You underestimate my poor city management skills. So you’re seeking to create something similar for Galaxy in Turmoil?
Actually, I’d like to use elements from all of these games. I wish to create a dynamic scene whenever anything is selected, something happens. What I’m picturing is: [REDACTED]. I want every interaction with the menu to trigger an event in the scene to truly capture what “Turmoil” actually means.
Seems like quite a challenge! Do you think you’ll have many issues to strike a balance between keeping it quick and easy to use while creating a dynamic scene?
I think the biggest challenge would be having interesting compositions. It’s like photography, The better they look, the more functional and pleasing they are. So I’m thinking about using Fibonacci compositions, rules of thirds, and color contrasts you know, blues and oranges, blacks and whites and so on.
Now that we have an idea of what you consider to make a good user experience, what are some examples of menu “no no’s” that you want to avoid completely. Are there any precedents set by other games that make you weep in dismay?
Indeed there are. Remember: making the player wait is always frustrating, and as much as I love League of Legends, I think their UX could be improved significantly. When you are waiting to be placed into a team, the only thing you can see is your own profile picture and a lame counter. Sometimes, you can find yourself waiting as long as 5 minutes to be paired! So in the meantime, most people “alt-tab” to browse the internet or something. That’s not a very effective way to create atmosphere, in my humble opinion.
League of Legends has a sizable amount of content to show while we wait, for example my favorite champion, Hecarim, looks quite frankly cool AF. Why not show me his lore while I wait for 5 minutes?
How about the patch notes? If I have time to read them, it’s certainly between matches. Whilst League of Legends has made a few UX innovations, I do feel they lack their pre-game attention. I think the most annoying aspect of the League of Legends UX is this:
A static image of the dudes you’re playing up against.. You could literally be looking at 3-5 min wasted in watching that. That’s why most people alt-tab out of the game.
And even an SSD in your computer wouldn’t help because you’d need to wait for everyone else to finish loading the game :/
And that’s one of the main issues in online gaming. One person shouldn’t be able to ruin it for everyone else. It’s my job to ensure that everyone enjoys the game in the same way. That’s the challenge, to make everyone live the same experience, regardless of their limits, be it time limits, tech specs, etc.. I don’t want people to feel they’re wasting their time selecting stuff I want to make them feel it’s all part of an awesome game and we achieve this by paying attention to details.
So, main menus are often the player’s first impression of a game and it goes without saying first impressions are always very important.
Exactly, if we can make the increase the hype from the first time they fire up the game, then we’ve achieved greatness.
Yup. Now, for the purpose of this whole thing being an interview, I’m going to ask you to tell me a bit more about yourself.
Hahaha ok, welp! I attend to one of the most tech-driven universities in Mexico, Tecnologico de Monterrey, so my major is very driven towards programming. Although my study plan includes 3D modeling and 2D animation, I’m way better at programming. I learned with C#, then Java, and then C++ later on. I also became a web developer kinda through force.
Care to elaborate on the “through force” thing?
Mind if I throw in a few community suggested questions? I should warn you most of them are random and really unrelated.
Do it. Random questions are the best questions!
What did you eat for dinner last night?
I ate something called Discada.
It’s a Northern Mexican dish: pork meat, red sausage, bell peppers, bacon, onions. They’re cooked together with tomato sauce and beer of course, eaten with tortillas.
A lot of people thought you were the guy responsible for the design of characters and character armor for some reason. So there are a couple of questions related to that. What’s your favorite heavy armor set?
Hmmmm heavy armour. Witcher 3 Ursine armor mastercrafted. Of course, all of them are cool.
One rather persistent user repeatedly asked if there was any known timeframe besides 20XX e.g; 201X or 202X?
Hopefully within the next four years. However, that’s my personal speculation, I don’t think it should take us as long.
The steam page says 20XX which could literally mean 2099. It would seem Frontwire Studios doesn’t like giving out specific dates or decades for that matter 😛
Welp, the thing is when you specify a date and you don’t deliver, fans start burning your family members. We don’t want that.
What is the general art direction GiT is trying to go? Will the graphics be realistic, cartoonish, or somewhere in between?
We are trying to achieve a serious, yet stylish look, with a mature look as most communities may agree, somewhere in between, with a cool unique style from every artist rendition.