The UI Still Burns. UI Problems in Soul Calibur IV

I’ve been enjoying Soul Calibur IV the past couple of weeks, it’s been frustrating but fun and challenging in such a way that I’m still coming back to try to perfect it. Unfortunately, my online game has been horrible and as such I’ve sworn off it. Instead, I’ve just relegated myself to only using grabs against the CPU - especially when fighting against Vader’s Apprentice - when I get too frustrated that I can’t land any moves at all!

But there are some things that are really distracting me when I’m playing the game, and I’m sad to say that It’s the UI. Sure it’s nice and polished, but there’s just too much of it sometimes, and sometimes there’s not enough.

Story mode is nothing more than a series of predetermined fights sandwiched by flat loading screens with random text and icons. I was really disappointed by the execution of this mode. It definitely seemed like one of those ideas that was never going to have enough time to execute properly, so it gets added with minimum fuss with the use of UI. For example, the beginning story on most of the characters could have been cut in half with the other half done as in-game cut scenes. The character showdown/loading screens could have been as nicely polished as the Arcade version, but instead is left as a dull screen with icons and skill points. And the chapter screens: do they really have a point? There isn’t a lot of extra plot dialog before and after the fights for them to make any sense! Like I said, this mode was really disappointing.


Story Mode loading screen with character info. Very Flat compared to the Arcade loading vs Character shots. Image source: Kotaku.

On the other hand, the Character Creation mode could have done with a little more options and information to keep it from being overwhelming. Starting off, you’re taken to the same Character Selection Screen as any other mode, but if you’re new and you’re not reading the manual, how do you know that selecting a regular character just creates a new wardrobe for that character but to create your own character you need to select the button with the male and female portraits in the middle?

If you do end up selecting an existing character, it might then be a surprise to see that the several options in the Model Information page are disabled and unchangeable. This makes sense in context since you aren’t creating your own fighter but adding a wardrobe to a current one, but how are you supposed to know that? This is a usability problem that I’ve yet to see a good solution for. Should you just not show all the options if they are unavailable? Show them but leave them to be selectable or unchangeable? Show a hint somewhere as to how to enable them? Are they unlockables? I think on this case, it would have been better to only show the options that can be changed for the current fighter. I know a couple of people who were puzzled by their inability to change these options their first time creating a character.


Custom Characters have all options available


Notice the black options on the left side

Also, you have to be careful when creating a brand new character. Depending on the decisions you make for your fighters basic traits, changing one piece of clothing could leave you without enough skill points for a skill that was added depending on your traits. I’m not sure what the idea behind this was, but I was surprised that the mode wouldn’t let me save and exit after creating my first character because I didn’t have enough skill points to fill a skill! It was odd, because I had yet to assign any skills to this character, yet I was already over loaded on them!

These are really just minor points. The character creator is rather well done over all, allowing you to change most of the major colors in just about anything, selecting from a variety of equipment, and allowing you to pick different skills for each character you create. But there were definitely some minor areas where they could have polished the experience a little more to alleviate some possible areas where users could have become confused and frustrated.


Is this really necessary? Can you tell what it’s for? Image source: Kotaku.

August 13, 2008 11:02 PM User Interface


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