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User Interface: a simple UI you can switch off



It's always been my goal to have as little UI as possible, one that tells you everything you need to know and not a single item more.

Like any game, Tokyo Light Cycle needs to convey certain information to its player. There are things the player can do in certain situations and not in others and they need feedback to tell them what they can currently do.  

Currently, the UI for Tokyo Light Cycle looks like this:


The UI can be broken down into three section. Lap times, Health and Speedometer. Lap timer and health are self-explanatory but due to the nature of the gameplay the Speedo conveys (for a racing game) quite a lot of information.

Start of game

  • Current speed: Red line shows selected speed (in the below example 0).
  • Available speed: White area shows available speed. Grey area shows speed yet to be earned.
  • Charge status: The word "empty" denotes the current status of the charge bar
  • Charge bar: The charge bar itself is visible (and also empty)


Gameplay begins:

  • Current speed: Red line moves to current max as accelerator is held
  • Charge status and bar: Bar fills and status changes to "charging" as players drifts


Charge bar full:

  • Available speed: In this case the player has unlocked level 3 speed.
  • Charge status: When the bar is full the words "Cell Full" with a button prompt tell the player the charge is ready to cash in


I designed this and for a while I was pretty happy with it...

...then I realised that a racing game, by its nature, demands your attention is fixed on the road ahead at all times and that relying on the UI at all to make the game playable is probably a really bad idea.

The world is the UI

The answer of course is obvious. The UI isn't the only thing that tells the player what's happening. Visual and audio cues of different kinds convey this information much more effectively than even the most elegent UI can manage. Whether its the whoosh and boom that accompany a filled boost bar in Burnout, or the way a powerup appears next to your racer in Mario Kart (an upgrade from the original where it just appeared in a box) the information needs to be conveyed in the most effective way, and for a racing game this means a way that doesn't force the players eyes away from the road.

So, this created a whole new goal: to have the entire game playable without any UI at all. Could the UI be something you can toggle off in the menu? Can all the necessary information be conveyed in-world?

I recollect how Dead Space handled showing player health on the player's back:


Or the addition of ammo count to the actual gun in Halo:


Both conveying important, gameplay-relevant information right where the player was already looking.

So the ideas begin to flow and like many other aspects of Tokyo Light Cycle, I find myself taking inspiration from Akira:

The crackle of electricity on a wheel.


The afterglow of tail lights:


Thanks for reading.



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