User-interfaces: why Gears of War 2 is easier to play than others?


Most games on consoles are easier to play for a beginner, than their PC versions. This is due to various factors, but I think it’s mostly because it’s easier to get into the game on a console than installing, learning the controls and all on a PC.

Let’s take a look at Gears of War 2, as it has one exceptionally clever UI trick even when comparing to other console games.

Control hints

Today it’s common in games to get a little reminder mid-game on what button you have to press to perform an action – for example, in Gears of War when you walk over an item you can pick up, you will see that you’ll need to press X to pick it up.

In most games, you will see a hint like this:

So it’s the X button. Some games will just display a plain X without the color hint, too.

However, there’s a small problem in this: Those who aren’t perfectly familiar with the button locations on the controller will have no idea which button that actually is!

If you’re an Xbox 360 owner, you’ll probably know which button is blue and has an X on it. But take me as an example – I don’t own a 360, I just occasionally play it at a friend’s place.

Even though the controller only has four buttons like that, I still can’t remember which one it is without looking at the controller, which is no good in the middle of a fast-paced game.

How Gears of War 2 does this better?

Here’s an Xbox 360 controller:
Xbox 360 controller

As you can see, the buttons are grouped in a circular style. The developers of Gears of War 2 realized this, and they used it to create a better control hint:

The control hint in Gears of War 2 looks something like the image above. It includes a little circle with the button itself, which immediately shows you the button’s location on the gamepad!

This is a very small difference from the first example with just the button, but when playing it makes for a huge improvement!

Don’t underestimate clever little tricks like this.