NiRaSt joins us to cover one of the biggest changes of the new patch, the combat UI changes. Follow him on Twitter at @nirast25 for more!
A new patch for Mythgard landed recently, and with it came a brand new User Interface for combat. It’s... not great. To understand why, I’m going to lay down the information that this UI has to convey to the player in a clear and quick manner, take a look at some other interfaces from other card games, see where the new interface succeeds and where it fails, and finally end up with a couple redesigns, one of them my own. Just keep in mind I’m not a professional UI designer, just a hobbyist, and this is mostly done for fun. Without further ado, let’s get started.
What the UI needs to accomplish
Mythgard is a very complex card game, more so than most other on the market right now, and as such, it’s UI need to convey a few things:
How much life each player has left.
How much time the current player has remaining in their turn.
How much mana a player has, both in total and at the moment.
Which types of gems each player has burned.
Whether they have used their Power or not yet.
What Path they follow and its current state.
What artefacts they have in play and which one was played last.
That’s quite a lot. And when you add that it must also be usable on a small screen, you can see how harrowing a task it is to design this. But before we take a look at how Rhino went about tackling this behemoth, let’s take a look at the competition and see how they fare.
The UI of Hearthstone, Legends and Runterra
Let’s start things off with the granddaddy of digital CCGs, Hearthstone:
This game is arguably the pioneer in CCG interfaces. There have been other digital card games before it, but Hearthstone is the first to get it RIGHT.
All the information for each player is nicely condensed in the lower and upper side of the screen, the Hero power is next to your portrait, with a nice space on the other side, letting you know there’s probably something that can fit there. Indeed, that something is your Weapon, if your hero can equip one. Your health is displayed in the lower-right corner of your hero’s portrait the same as a minion’s, so it’s very intuitive.
Your opponent is mirrored to your own, so if you want to take a quick glance at them, you just take a quick glance up. And you have your decks to the right, giving you a rough idea of how many cards are left in it.
Not everything is perfect, though. There’s no turn timer until the last 15 seconds, when a rope starts burning, signifying you should hurry up. And the history bar only shows a small number of actions that have taken place, so if you want to see a card that was played a long time ago, you’re out of luck. Sill, it’s a very easy to use interface, and that’s what matters to new players.
Next up, let’s take a look at Bethesda’s foray into the CCG market, The Elder Scrols: Legends (TESL, for short):
A similar board to the Hearthstone one, with a few key differences. The biggest one is the blue light in the middle, which signifies the separation between the lanes. The health of each player is displayed at the bottom of the portrait, but that’s fine, since it’s still close to the thing you need to hit repeatedly to win the game.
The portrait is also flanked by the rune slots, which, together with the life circle that goes around the portrait, tell you that something important happens when a player’s life passes this threshold. And again, a quick glance up tells you the state of your opponent.
The amount of resources available is also easy to read, with the mana bar clearly displaying how much each player has left, and support cards being placed right next to each player’s avatar.
One downside is the lack of a physical representation of the graveyard and the deck apart from the tiny skull symbol tiny deck symbol next to the mana bar. It’s not a huge problem, but a ‘tangible’ reminder of their existence would be nice.
Another is the fact that lanes can have special effects applied to them, but apart from the symbols on the left and right side of the boards, there’s no indication those exist.
Finally, let’s talk about the new kid on the block, Legends of Runeterra (or LoR for short):
This image was taken from an invenglobal.com article talking about the board. The UI on this board is probably the simplest, yet the most complete of the ones we’re discussing here. Ignoring elements regarding units, there are two major focal points in the UI: the mana and the nexuses. Apart from those, you have the names and regions on each players in the upper- and lower-right corners of the screen.
The mana bars are located on the right side of the screen. Each mana point has its own slot that is blue if available, ‘empty’ if it was used, or looks ‘sealed’ if not available yet. Below/above the mana bar (depending on perspective) is the spell mana, represented by 3 spheres, as opposed to regular man, which is represented by rectangles. This is also where you’ll find the end/pass turn button and the attack token, which lets you know if you can attack this turn.
The life of each player is represented on the left side of the screen, through each nexus. This is the only game in this article that doesn’t have a portrait, but it can get away with that, since they’re not needed. Between the two nexuses is the ‘Oracle Eye’, which lets you know the outcome of battles or spells you cast, to help you better plan your turn. And further to the left is the history bar.
Having the two points of interest this far apart is quite unusual, and so far this is the game that has them the farthest apart (we’ll get to that), but it’s not much of an inconvenience, since it’s only two major points on the screen, and you normally focus on one or the other at a time. The only other problem with the UI is the lack of a total mana counter, showing instead only the current mana you have. This can prove problematic in the late game, making it more difficult to plan your turn.
Mythgard’s new UI
At long last, let’s take a look at how Mythgard handles things:
Well… This is a lot. Let’s start with an obvious one: the life. Why is it so far removed from the portrait of the player? Those two things should be right next to each other, since they’re tied together so strongly. Worse yet, in order to target the enemy player directly, you must target their portrait. This isn’t immediately obvious, especially to a new player.
Next, there’s burning cards. Since burning cards generates resources, it would make sense to drag them towards the UI that shows you the resources, right? However, in the new sistem, you actually drag them towards your life. This is the same direction as before the patch, but there it made sense, since the mana bar was where the life is now. But in the new layout, it’s extremely counterintuitive. Burning cards by dragging them to the side would also prevent accidental burn, which has happened quite a lot.
Speaking of things that are far apart: your Path and its symbol. Can you spot the symbol? It’s on the right side of the screen, right above your Power (which, btw, is scary close to the end turn button), on the opposite end of the screen from where the Path is physically present on the board. They should, again, be next to each other.
The players and their mana bars are also too far apart from each other. If you want to take a quick glance at them, you’d have to move your eyes from one corner of the screen to the other. Ideally, you want players to be on the same side of the screen, preferably the shortest side, opposite each other.
Finally, let’s talk about Artefacts. Is there any obvious place where they could be places? I’d say probably above the mana bar, since there’s quite a lot of dead space there, but no, they go a little above the portrait. They also go in an incredibly unintuitive order, like so:
Can you tell which artifact is the last one placed? If you’d say ‘the one on top’, you’d be wrong, it’s actually the dragon head, since that one is an Artefact that can stack. Even if your answer was correct, remove the Artefact that’s on top. Assuming the order of the other ones doesn’t change, can you now tell which one is the last one placed? Not very easily, which is a problem, since Artefacts take damage in the order they were played.
Fan’s attempt at fixing the UI
I’ll end this article by showcasing two fan mock-ups of UIs for the game. First up, there’s DisturbedNeo on Discord:
Neo went for a portrait in the middle approach. The power and mana are flanking the portrait, and having the gems go around in a circle is a very elegant solution. Going even more outwards, you have a player’s path on one side and their cards on the other. Finally, the Artefacts will go around the hero’s portrait, similar to Hearthstone’s Quests and Secrets, according to Neo.
My biggest gripe with the UI is the history bar, which is now tucked between the players’ decks. There;s also not much room for a streamer to put their overlay.
The second board was made by yours truly:
I’ve decided to try and keep the aesthetic of the official UI while concentrating all the important information in one spot for the player. The health is above your portrait, with the Power towards the center. The history bar is now on the left side of the screen.
In between them you have the mana bar (where you’d drag your card in order to burn), and above it, you have the Artefacts, with the latest one popping up slightly. Your opponent would ideally have a mirrored version of this setup.
Your cards would be between your Power and the end turn button, though I will admit that I’m playing on a wider monitor than most, which I didn’t account for when making this design, so the game might be cramped on a smaller screen.
I’ve criticised the new UI quite a lot, but that doesn’t mean I hate the game. Mythgard is still one of the most mechanically sound games out there, and an absolute blast to play. I hope Rhino will do another sweep of the UI and will make it better.
And I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings! Have a nice day and maybe I’ll se you again in the future.