Top Run UI: Embarassing Truth

Remember how easy it was to show adults colorful drawings you made when you were a kid? Not anymore. We are adults and we are making a G A M E. Of course, it’s our first game and we had no idea how to do anything, including UI (and we still don’t), but it’s nevertheless embarrassing to show earlier versions. There’s a good side though – someone might find it helpful and feel great because their UI is better. Here we go!

January: In the beginning we thought that VHS-like font is totally cool and used it everywhere until we realized that we will localize the game and the font doesn’t support any languages other than English. We wanted Top Run to work in all languages. So we said goodbye to that good looking font.

February: Same thing happened to extremely hardcore post-processing, ugly and too demanding for smart-phones. At that point we’ve added skins and that’s how buddy and Kevin appeared on the main screen. We wanted players to see that they can change skins!

Beta: We realized that square buttons are definitely not okay, but we didn’t know what else we can do yet. Thanks to similar-looking square buttons, many players couldn’t even find how to start the game! For same reasons skins and upgrades were completely unseen and forgotten by players.

November: We’ve got dad’s approval of the start button, threw away the rest of squared buttons and pixel counter (you don’t buy anything here so you don’t need it). iPhone X tests have shown that top-left icons were obscured by notch, so we rearranged them horizontally.  Also, we gave up on our idea to show Kevin and Buddy in the main menu.

January: To be honest it’s still our favorite color scheme, it’s the real 80s. The idea was to give players a feel of an old computer. We showed it to our sisters and they found it depressing:(

February:  80s grid background solved depression problem.

Beta:  Eureka moment: aaaaah icons were invented with a purpose! It solves localization and recognition problems (should’ve realized it way earlier, don’t judge us). Background is now even less depressing and we threw in a calling-to-action header.

November:  We realized that our back button is more like a next button – it’s on the right, it kinda leads forward. Now it’s a home icon, in the upper-left corner. Also, meet new rotating powerup icons. Oh, and we decided to be more consistent and make all buttons blue and non-buttons pink (hope you get the idea). And it’s a game, it can be more vivid and fun!

We’ve added transparent grid background to all pop-up menus and a cool “now playing” panel. Also replaced those boxes with bullets to make it easier to read objectives.

January: Same story with depressing background:(

February: Obviously a bad decision to make that huge “1 token/restart” button with token counter under it. Background is not depressing anymore though!

Beta:  We’ve added one more menu and restart button moved there, so it was replaced by next button. A huge and ugly next button.

November:  Now players can share a screenshot of their score and send it to friends! That brings back the idea to show Kevin and Buddy skins (only now you can even show them to other people) and bye-bye square button, hello icons!

Beta: We’ve added temporary boosts and that’s how this menu appeared. Our goal was to show players that skins and boosts exist. Then we threw in statistics and upgrades buttons to fill the screen.

November:  Game modes. We realized that a player should be able to change them before restarting the game. Boosts were changed to cheats, because cheating is something each of us did in games. At least once. And we made our restart button look very similar to start button. We checked with Dad, it’s cool. Overall, less square items and less clutter.

Conclusion: We still have no idea how to UI and no way current UI is up to any standards. However, it’s still better than it was (even dad could navigate there).

Here’s what we’ve realized during this time:

  • Fonts should support all languages (it’s really bad when the game looks nice in English but when you change the language it’s just all ugly Arial)
  • Buttons shouldn’t be same and square. Icons are great.
  • Show your UI to your dad and your grandma and your little sisters/brothers and to your cat.
  • UI is incredibly hard and that’s why UI/UX designers earn a lot. They deserve it.
  • Forget everything we said and hire someone to do UI for you.