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Inventory UX Design – How Zelda, Resident Evil, and Doom Make Great Game Menu UX



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Inventories are hardly ever the stars of the show, but that doesn’t mean they can be ignored. There’s tons of design work that goes into making good inventory UX. Let’s talk about the history of game inventory design, from Zork and other point-and-click adventure games through Skyrim and Moonlighter, how Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker fixed their hotbar problems with the help of the second screens on the DS and Wii U, and what games like Resident Evil, Monkey Island, and Doom can tell us about how to make inventories feel great.

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21 Comments
  1. Design Doc 9 months ago
    Reply

    This episode features clips from (by order of first appearance):

    0:19 Zelda: Ocarina of Time
    0:21 Zelda: Wind Waker
    0:24 Splatoon 2
    0:27 Jack and Casie
    0:29 Resident Evil 4
    0:31 Moonlighter
    0:37 Borderlands 2
    0:41 Mass Effect
    0:45 Dark Souls
    0:54 Mario Maker 2
    1:07 Zelda: Breath of the Wild
    1:11 Persona 5
    1:18 Resident Evil Remake
    1:28 Stardew Valley
    1:37 Octopath Traveler
    2:04 Zork
    2:57 Final Fantasy I
    3:18 Final Fantasy IX
    3:33 Day of the Tentacle
    3:40 King's Quest 6
    3:44 Putt Putt Travels Through Time
    3:51 Kyrandia Book 2
    3:56 Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When it's Dark Outside
    4:00 Companions of Xanth
    4:21 Monkey Island 2
    4:36 Doom
    5:00 Elder Scrolls: Morrowind
    5:10 Elder Scrolls: Arena
    5:14 Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
    5:51 Dead Space
    7:23 Kingdom Hearts 3
    7:48 Smash Ultimate
    7:57 Horizon Zero Dawn
    8:02 Bloodborne
    8:25 Dragon Quest XI
    8:30 Witcher 3
    9:40 Zelda: Majora’s Mask
    11:40 Mario Kart 8
    11:57 A Hat in Time
    12:09 Dishonored 2
    12:18 Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
    12:25 Red Dead Redemption 2
    12:33 Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)
    12:58 Fable 3
    13:10 Resident Evil 2 Remake
    13:24 ZombiU
    13:53 DOOM (2016)
    15:14 Final Fantasy XII

  2. Thatsa Goodone 9 months ago
    Reply

    And Doom had the keycards which upon retrieval, are shown in the lower end of the screen too

  3. Miguel Hernandez 9 months ago
    Reply

    My most recent game that messes this up: Tales of Vesperia.

  4. Nisverah 9 months ago
    Reply

    This reminded me of the worst inventory I've experienced, Two Worlds II. Basically I gave up on the final boss cuz I got frustrated and just counted it as a win (since it's just running in circles).
    slight spoiler warning btw


    If you pause to open the inventory, the game continues ticking for half a second, which is enough to get nearly 1 shot by the boss's fireballs, from a dragon flying over head.
    (I should clarify that it is supposed to pause time, but it doesn't pause while showing the animation for opening the menu)
    The other option for accessing items, the radial menu, includes every item you've collected throughout your playthrough, so it has hundreds of items on it. You either risk getting 1 shot from pausing, or you use the radial menu which has you attempt to precisely navigate to where the item is in a mess. IIRC, items didn't stack on the radial menu, so it just made it even worse.

  5. Thegamer 2000 9 months ago
    Reply

    Honestly I can’t think of many disadvantages of slowing down time while you go through your inventory, it both looks nice and it allows you to think about what you’re doing.

  6. Goodly Vibes 9 months ago
    Reply

    Having an inventory system that feels like a game in its own right is perhaps the easiest way to win instant bonus points from me.

  7. Thegamer 2000 9 months ago
    Reply

    Imagine Minesweeper in the RE4 toolbox…

  8. Matthew Riner 9 months ago
    Reply

    Hey! Joey JoJo!

  9. Leeroy Jenkins 9 months ago
    Reply

    I know this was before Death Stranding was released, but I think it’s also a good example of a good inventory

  10. william nebe 9 months ago
    Reply

    To me the best quick menu was in infamous 2
    You had so many different powers and being able to quickly change what each button will do was super immersive for me
    Because if i had those powers i woukdnt have to slug through menus to use it
    Just a tap and attack

  11. wilott90 9 months ago
    Reply

    Prey had a great quick wheel that changed into a looping spiral once so many weapons were obtained. Never seem anyone else do that

  12. dd nava 9 months ago
    Reply

    Another game that doesn't let the world stop while you're in the inventory is The Last of Us. I freaking love it because you also use some materials to craft some items like bandages, and you can't just do that if you have enemies running towards you

  13. Plastic Grape 9 months ago
    Reply

    Thank you for this video. It covered a great deal of interesting UX topics in inventory UI design. However, I feel the way you present UX does it a disservice : while you describe UX in UI design, especially in inventory design, rather well, you describe UX as being a part of UI design. UX is not the study of menus, that's software ergonomics. There are several heuristics in ergonomics. UX goes beyond them by outlining an iterative process in which the developers pay attention to how the system (software) impacts user emotional responses. That is, UX should be a process through which the experience of the users is tailored so as to ensure maximum adequation between this and the experience developers intended throughout all of the game. In turn, UX should not affect solely UI, but also controls, mechanics and all of the game's aspects.

    TL;DR : I liked your video, but UX is not just about UI design, it attempts at creating a similar experience for as many users as possible throughout all of the project's design.

  14. HARDgames 9 months ago
    Reply

    The video did not say anything about another design fail I know of (unluckily):

    I remember the UX in Skyrim when sorting out inventory: Select an item for the chest and press r-key. Item by item. Then I realized, I needed just one of the items from the chest. I changed to the chest, carefully selected the item and pressed r-key again to transfer a single item like I did 100 times before. BANG! The whole chest is in the inventory again, because the use of the key changed when I changed from my inventory to the chest's inventory. Very bad! I got furious about that default many times.

  15. John 9 months ago
    Reply

    Inventories are also another way to measure how much care was given to a PC port. Usually a PC game doesn't need the big, few per screen items that console games usually have to make it easier to read on TVs.

  16. Dum Dum 9 months ago
    Reply

    Metal Gear series and Seiken Densetsu? No? Okay.

  17. Jack Pfefferkorn 9 months ago
    Reply

    The time-slowing effect of DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal's weapon wheel is great for normal gameplay, but unfortunately introduced a lot of unintended side effects. For example, the BFG's energy tendrils will spend longer zapping enemies if you bring up the weapon wheel after firing. Slowing down time in DOOM Eternal also caused you to be able to do a super jump by pressing the jump key repeatedly. That effect was leveraged by speedrunners to be able to jump to the skybox of each level and just run to the exit, meaning that Doom Eternal speedruns are really boring to watch.

  18. Appez 9 months ago
    Reply

    Yess, I always loved the inventory of RE4. After I played it I started looking for games with that same inventory system haha

  19. leo rid 9 months ago
    Reply

    So – should I use icons or text or both? List or Grid? Categories or everything on one screen? Controller Cursor or selecting UI Buttons?
    For an RPG the Circular Menu won't work, too many items. How about the button to open the menu? Prey had it on "Mouse Wheel down", most games have it on TAB or "i"-Key ..
    In the end this video left more questions open than it answered. Not a bad video in total but more details of what worked for which genre would be really helpful. I haven't seen a single good menu for any game that has more than 15 items.

    Edit: I guess most of the viewers are game-devs, so you could say something like "Icons are better, if you have to budget for it" plus the reason why they are better (if thats the case).

  20. J R 9 months ago
    Reply

    This took an amazing amount of work. Thanks man! It was great!

  21. Nyx 9 months ago
    Reply

    6:03
    I thought pandora's tower inventory was original

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