Let's Talk About Console UI

A major issue that has surrounded a plethora of games that are developed for the PC first and ported to consoles later is the UI and controls. Now, No Man’s Sky has been on PS4 for these two years, too, so why does it still feel like no one on the development team has actually looked at the console UI and thought, “This doesn’t seem right…”?
These are simple quality of life improvements that would make the game feel a lot less like a PC port and more like a game with each system in mind.

Big tells of obvious PC porting are the cursor elements that are common for mouse and keyboard users. Making it so a console user with a controller cannot use the directional buttons to go through their inventory or drop down boxes and have to use the cursor just doesn’t feel at home. Many games opt for a mix of the two, where you can use the stick to drag the cursor and if that cursor is on a box, you can then choose to use the d-pad to select between the adjacent boxes. NMS, at least on Xbox, does not support and use of the d-pad in inventory screens, except for one thing that I’ll mention later. Another big tell is the actual UI moving around as you move the cursor. It’s a pretty effect, but it becomes much less pretty when whole columns of your inventory can be hidden off the side of the screen because your cursor is too far to the right - or the inventory text or names of your things become partially hidden at the top of the screen because the cursor is too low. I have some experience with certain UI code so I’m more than positive these things could be fixed just by changing some percentages so that the UI can still move without going off the screen.

The UI is also hindered by just being this cluttered mess of information text that covers 80% of your inventory sometimes so you have to drag the cursor out of the inventory area to be able to find the icon you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. Just moving the cursor along a single row or down a column of resources in your inventory will show you just how obnoxious the flickering info box can be. An easy fix for this would be to simply have that info display stick to the lower right side of the inventory. Of course, this mean moving the General, Cargo and Technology symbols, which would be worth doing regardless. The way these options are displayed is to create the immersive illusion that the Cargo, General and Tech options involve unique sections of the Backpack, Starship and freighter, which is nice, but more unnecessary than not. Example, ‘Technology’ stays clearly visible even when the drop down box is opened to display the stats of your Starship. So the word ‘Technology’, well as the icon for it if selected, will almost always be overlapping ‘Hyperdrive’ or ‘Damage Potential’. You’re Backpack, Multi-tool and Exocraft luckily won’t suffer from this issue since the Multi-Tool has no Tech option, the Backpack has no stat display, and the Exocraft has neither. Yet, the UI should still be unified throughout every menu, yes?
Looking at the UI currently, and we’ll use the Starship tab for this example, you have something like this: Inventory/Tech display in middle-left, the Starship name and Class and an edit option for the name at the top-right with a drop down arrow beneath the Class that displays Starship stats, and the image of the Starship with the General and Tech icons tossed over that image in middle-right. This very simple edit keeps the goal of a streamlined look intact… Move the drop down arrow to be underneath the edit option, but let the stats appear in the exact same spot. When the stat display drops down, keep the arrow in the same spot so the user doesn’t have to drag the cursor down to hit the arrow since it currently sticks to the bottom of the stat display. Now, for every item that has multiple tabs (General, Cargo, Tech), have those options display neatly under the Starship name with enough room between them and the drop arrow so there is room for the stat display. This keeps everything neatly tucked up at the top with no gaps while making it so ‘Technology’ doesn’t overlap the Stat display.

Also, to swap from General to Cargo to Technology, they allow the use of the Left and Right d-pad buttons… Well, since the bumpers swap between your Backpack, Multi-tool, etc., why not have the triggers swap between the inventories for those items? This then frees up your d-pad for navigating the inventory itself as I mentioned before.

Now for the controller layout… It’s almost expected by now that games just allow users to configure their own button schemes because not every developer has the best set up in mind. In this case, it’s with Exocraft. When flying your Starship, you can look around with the right stick, steer with the left, use the right trigger to thrust forward and the left to go in reverse. Standard. Simple. Easy and neat. But then you get in an Exocraft and think it’ll be exactly the same, which is totally normal and fair. You can look around with the right stick and go in reverse with the left trigger… But the right trigger doesn’t do anything while the left stick in used to make the vehicle move forward… But what is even more odd than just that is the Halo effect… Steering the vehicle by looking a certain direction. So, you move the left stick forward and you drive forward, but only in the direction you’re looking. Pulling back on the stick oddly also reverses it. Left trigger also reverses, so what gives? The left stick should be to steer while the triggers control going forward of back. The current set up makes it impossible to watch everything move passed you in a cinematic way, which for a lot of people, is the draw of the game. Limiting the ability to sight see in an exploration space game is like eating soup without a spoon because they only gave you chopsticks… That’s what I mean when I say devs don’t always have the best control scheme in mind… You’d easily be able to correct this yourself, but the screen that displays the controls (at the time of writing) has no edit option. When you fly the Starships one way for so long only to use another vehicle and it have a needlessly different control scheme is just jarring at first. It’s not something I can’t get used to, but it would make more sense if I didn’t have to just accept something that doesn’t make sense and live with it.

Finally, the building UI. This is simple, nested menus are a little annoying but not awful - I generally don’t mind. But it would be nice if holding the button to back out of the menu would back me all the way out rather than me having to tap the button for every layer in I am. Additionally, since 3rd person is new, I’m a little forgiving there, but let’s face it… Being told you’re inside an object that’s 5 feet away from you so you can’t place it is super obnoxious. Coming from a modded Fallout 4, I tend to get really close to things to make extremely slight and precise adjustments. Having to guess over 5 feet away is more different than it sounds. This is also a huge issue when certain bugs occur. For example, I jumped down a ladder rather than climbing down. The bottom floor I jumped to was situated on top of the metal cylinder foundation piece (forget the name). The cylinder in the middle is hollow and I guess the floor of the rounded rooms tend to forget they are solid, so I fell through the floor and go stuck inside that cylinder. Since you can’t delete an object if your ‘inside’ of it, there’s no hope. An hour of base building progress gone as the only solution is to reload. Simple game fix here would be to make the player character not take up so much invisible space while also allowing us to delete something regardless of proximity. If the base piece is being deleted, why does it matter where we are relative to it when we delete it? In Fallout 4, this was helpful because there were also several cases in that game where you could get stuck, but you could just delete the thing and replace it once out of the spot. The ability to do that same exact thing in NMS is both easily done and would be so so so useful, especially in those situations.

Those are my thoughts. I am enjoying the game now that NEXT has basically made it a 2.0 rather than 1.5-something. All the things I’ve mentioned here would be incredibly easy fixes and adjustments, truly. Given the things this tiny team has done to make this game so massive, I can’t imagine these changes would be anything more than scooping a litter box in terms of difficulty… so not hard at all. I appreciate anyone else’s thoughts and opinions, additions to this list even, though I can’t say I’ll be checking this all too often as I really just wanted to share these ideas where it can be seen easily with direct connection to NMS by it’s forums. Thanks!


Some of the things you mention, show for me that the game is designed to be played with a controller, not keyboard and mouse


Everything I mentioned are things that make it easier for mouse and keyboard use. I’ve played my fair share of PC and console games over the last twenty years, it’s easy to tell this game was not designed specifically for controller use, but rather as a basic port. Not to mention no team should ever have trouble making controller buttons do things, it’s just a matter of those things making sense. Take Elite Dangerous as an example. That game is a PC game before a console one. This especially given the number of different controls you can use at any given time, it’d be pretty hard to map every control since a great many of them require dual inputs like holding the left bumper so any other button will do something different when pressed than if the bumper wasn’t held. Luckily, NMS isn’t even remotely as complicated as Elite Dangerous. Yet the controls still make little sense primarily in the Exocraft driving. Had they just outright copied the flying controls, it’d be dismissed entirely. Had they allowed the user to configure their own control scheme, same thing. But neither of those two are the case.

The awkward hold to accept, the menu for reloading, the fact that multiple key do different things. Even the fact that they are not entirely configurable are definitely only useful for a controller. They should talk to larian games and see how they can have a different control scheme for controller and keyboard. Divinity original sin did do that correctly.

Edit: what I’m trying to say. You’re probably right, but it does not feel like it’s designed for keyboard and mouse either. Because it doesn’t feel fluent at all.

It’s that clunky with PC, too? The way it’s situated, for Xbox at least, it feels like it would be infinitely better with a mouse. But the dozens of ‘hold (x)’ cases are annoying, I agree. Seems they need to serious help overhauling the UI all around then. And Divinity OS 2 is a perfect example of a solid UI port, but not without some of it’s own issues.

I play on PC but use an Xbox controller because I feel like the keyboard and mouse controls are too complicated and unwieldy. Maybe the inventory is slightly easier to use with a mouse, but the quick menus for charging tech and such are so, so much better with a controller. Honestly I think it’s just a bit of a weird UI, but part of the game’s identity at this point.

(PC version also has the click and hold mechanism, the scrolling/moving inventory slots, and other annoying bits you mentioned.)


So, the UI is just a slow to use, cluttered mess in general, regardless of platform… That’s honestly a bit worse.


You get good at it after a few hundred hours.


I play a lot of Warframe, and I only am mentioning this because DE recently ‘unified’ their UI across platforms. The problem that came with that is now the controller feels very weird going through the menus there because now those menus are made for the keyboard and mouse first, controllers second. When the UI wasn’t unified, it was admittedly more work for the devs, but PC players were generally more comfortable as well as console users - this being further helped by having an option to remap keys or controller buttons freely on any platform.

I don’t mind unified UI’s, but without the option to remap buttons and keys, some might be fine but others can feel like it’s weird with no way to make it better other than to wait in hopes the devs work on it. But the devs have their own schedule, so it’s ultimately up to them.

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Believe me, it don’t seem right on PC either. No man’s sky’s UI is simply not good, and I see two major factors responsible for that.
One, they’re a bunch of brilliant nerds, but I’d dare say none of them has much experience with, nor a passion for, UX design.
Two, they’ve cooked up they’re own graphics engine, and one of the problems you face when you do that is that you also have to cook up your own UI framework. And that shit is a lot harder than you’d think. I’m currently shoehorning a UI-framework on top of a 3d-engine that doesn’t have one yet, and it’s really, really time consuming to get even the basic infrastructure going to make it possible to actually design and implement a user interface on top of it without going crazy. So I’m pretty sure that one of the things hampering a better UI being developed is that the infrastructure to actually do so with reasonable effort simply isn’t there.


Well said! Believe me, I know engine work can be a pain. Hell, watching CDred trying to get their own engine to work with Cyberpunk has been a roller coaster of emotions and effort on their part. It actually totally slipped my mind that HG could be using their own engine, so that makes a lot of sense.


I just want to add, for the record, that I also always thought the UI and UX was clunky and awkward. Being able to use the D-Pad or AWSD or arrow keys would definitely make a huge difference in the overall experience in playing the game. I too play Warframe and the recent UI change is quite annoying and awkward to use. Something like ARK’s UI for your inventory(atleast) would be nice. Or having your inventory on the left side, and a description of what you are highlighting in a dedicated corner somewhere on the right side. Move the backpack 3D image somewhere in a corner. It looks nice, but we don’t need it to take up half the screen.

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I kind on no where your coming from, I think the UI was inspired by destiny’s UI it’s similar in so many ways, however your right with the information obscuring the inventory and that the inventory window moves too much off screen when moving the cursor to a particular area. Wi regard to building, you shouldn’t really need to be precise as the parts should just snap together but I know that not all of them do, maybe having the ability to switch between snap and free place would be good, and also if the players avatar disappeared when building would work well, maybe having a free cam system like phot mode would be very benificial, but I understand where your coming from with all the points you made, there is a suggestions section on the Zendesk for ideas and suggestions , you should definitely post there :smiley::+1:


Jesus…that’s the mother of all essays…something about having a problem with the PS4 UI? I am so flipping confused right now. I am primarily a console player with a competent gaming PC for the few games I really like and can’t have on consoles. What’s the problem with the console UI of NMS, again? Preferably explained in like one reasonable paragraph. I’ve put over 1000 hours into this game on PS4 since day one and NEVER, at any point in time. for even a split second, did it EVER cross my mind that the UI was anything but great on the PS4…I never really thought it should be different or anything. It’s simple, functional, intuitive, and communicates all relevant information…except for the 3rd person ship camera as I don’t see the pirate attack warning and fuel status. That’s literally my ONLY UI gripe and that’s identical on both PC and PS4…it’s not a platform specific gripe.

If anything there were more problems for PC players where lots of complaints have driven HG to implement alternate ship controls and such because they felt the controls were poorly ported from consoles.

As someone who has toyed with UI designs and object placements for a couple years, though I don’t do it professionally, just looking at the UI with inventory management is annoying. If you can’t take the time to read a few ‘reasonable paragraphs’, then I’m not going to be able to help you out much by typing up yet another saying more or less exactly the same thing… Extremely, overly simplified, the UI is bad. Goes off screen when moving cursor. Information text pops in and out over inventory when looking at the things. Some text overlays other text. Cluttered mess. Nested Menus. Also playing on Xbox. If after over 1000 hours you only noticed a lack of HUD elements when flying, then UI design doesn’t matter to you and that’s totally fine, but that UI design is what this thread is all about…
I take it you also skipped all the other responses. They’ve pointed out for me that the UI is just generally bad on all platforms. Something they will hopefully address in due time.

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You wrote three screens full of text including four massive walls of text for what is in essence a perfectly functional and intuitive UI that communicates all relevant information pretty plainly.

There is a slight problem with the game’s UI in 3rd person ship view and I said as much but that’s new to NEXT…and you can switch to the 1st person camera and that communicates all relevant info on your ship’s dashboard. You don’t HAVE to stay in 3rd person…and in 3rd person you do get all vital info as it becomes relevant…shields health and weapon ammo/heating appear on screen when the state of those bars change.

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…I wrote the equivalent of a third grade paper on how a day at the park went… Just because the site is designed so the text is compressed to 40% of the screens width (at least on my end) doesn’t make it any harder to read, and being that I’m a slow reader and still didn’t take but a few minutes, well… I digress.
You’re missing points and offering literally no argument or viewpoint of much value to work with. Yes, the UI works. Intuitive? That’s where it’s lacking. Sure, it gives all the needed information, but that isn’t something that was ever in question, even when I gave the very basic summary. When you put the cursor on an item in the furthest left column when there are 4 columns, the 3 columns to the right are then blocked by the box displaying the information of the one you selected… This is bad design. The box appears and disappears instantly with no transition every single time your cursor passes the gap between other boxes. Bad design. Having the ‘Technology’ text and icon appear above the stats of your Starship and Freighter. Bad design. It’s not the information being given, but how it is being given when interacting with the menu. Shift the information display to the right edge of the inventory. Thus the information is always out of the way, in clear view without blocking other elements. Wouldn’t know I had Warp Cells because the box was in the way talking about something else, only revealing what I was looking for when I drag the cursor out of the inventory area.
Also, your second bit with quoting me on the ship part, again, I don’t think you’re fully aware of the topic. Or maybe you’re misinterpreting things…

You stated right there that this was your sole gripe after over 1000 hours played, which is, as I said, HUD elements that are lacking. I’m fully aware of the ability to swap first and third person. I’m fully aware there are some HUD elements in 3rd person. Fully aware I can swap out and don’t have to play in 3rd forever. Not once did I list these things as issues in the OP. I literally only mentioned a lack of HUD elements when flying because you listed 2 things that aren’t there. It’s barely a UI issue. And only barely because having to use the UI to swap views is the only part of that involving UI… Sure wish I could see fuel in 3rd person so I don’t have to switch, but that’s just another easy fix.

Agree 100%.
One of my biggest complaints about console games, is how slow and cumbersome the ‘cursor’ moves. For me, anything that can be done to minimise/eliminate it’s use will go a long way towards enjoying the game more.
In regards to NMS, I’ll give a few examples.

The Save game screen - why do we need to use the cursor? Move up/down the list with the D-pad. Simple.

The Small Refinery screen (and probably other screens) - there are 3 main option controls. Input, Output & Fuel supply. Why do we need to move the cursor from the far left of the screen to the right of the screen? This is especially painful when you only want to convert some of the Input. If they insist on using the cursor, then have all the controls on one side of the screen. A better approach is to tie the controls to the D-pad. Simple.
(I know this has nothing to do with the UI… but for the love of god, why do we need to empty out the remaining Input if you want to Pickup the refinery? If it’s smart enough to put the remaining Fuel in your inventory, why can’t it do the same for the Input… just lazy programming)

The Inventory screens - I would suggest that 99% of the time you are there to make/move/delete an item. Using the Cursor (especially if you’re 48 slotted) is terrible. Get rid of it and use the D-pad (as Hexis_Cibil mentioned, use the trigger buttons to move between General/Technology/Cargo instead of the left/right buttons). You can use the Cursor if you want edit the names.


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I agree completely with the refinery part. Another issue with those is how you access the input with one button if it’s empty but a different button when it has something there. It’s a small nitpick, but I’ve heard several people wondering the same thing. The UI looks pretty, but the methods of using it just make no sense sometimes.

As for the save screen, I agree there, too. There’s so few things to drag a cursor to that there may as well not be one for those specific parts. The option would be nice in the inventory but those screens have so little need.

Have literally had exactly zero problems with the cursor in two years…it will not hinder you in way if you have any concept of what you’re doing…it’s obnoxious and just terrible game design to allow lightspeed clicking…if you want to mad rush through the game then why are you even playing it? There’s a trillion spaz twitch games designed for kids and people who can’t get off a damn caffeine rush out there…this isn’t one of them.