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Recently I've been putting together an in-game UI for a passion project I'm working on, but I absolutely hate the UI meta at the moment.

I love Morrowind's UI, in that it is central and easy to access. For this reason, when opening inventory nearly everything is instantly visible. The difference is that I find those kind of UIs break the flow of the game and immersion, so I used a diegetic UI element for this. Other UI elements I've succeeded in making diegetic include a basic map, compass, and journal.

I also love Dead Space's UI, and it's impossible to mention diegetic UI without mentioning it. Other diegetic UI's such as those in some Metroid series entries are similar, though I prefer Dead Space's for its simplicity.

My own game is a third-person action adventure RPG, so immersion in the environment is important to me. It has its own magic system that plays a lot on the way health works. Magic overuse can kill the user, making it very important for me to telegraph HP and magic reserves to the player.

These goals make UI hard though. I don't want a cluttered UI, but I can't use sci-fi or futuristic elements to display information like the examples I listed due to the context of the story and the time period it is based in. I can use animation based things like limping, slouching and so on, but I feel those are too hard to recognise in the heat of a fight and could use some complementary system. Are there any fantasy games that don't use futuristic elements or gamey UIs successfully? Is it possible and has it been done before?

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How do you signal to the player that they are about to cast a spell?

The Elder Scrolls series, for example, shows some "magic stuff" in the player-characters hand:

Spell hand

In TES, the look of that "magic stuff" symbolizes the kind of spell. But what you could do in addition to that is use size and intensity of that effect to communicate how much mana the character has left.

  • Large flame: You have plenty of mana left.
  • Small flame: You are about to run out.
  • No flame at all: You are out of mana. Hope you got a plan B.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ This did come to mind, but it's a little harder from a third person perspective. I thought of the spell particles coming all the way up the arms, wrapping around them and shrinking with less power, which I'm going to put together and test. The other hard part is that charged attacks with weapons use magic from the same pool of power, so there is no actual "spell", though this technique could easily be applied to a weapon. I think this is the best route, thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cube ok
    Dec 27, 2018 at 14:28
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Something of a zen koan you're asking. What does it "look" like to be low on mana or full mana from the point of view of a spellcaster, given that spell casting isnt real? I cant think of a game that does this without some form of non-diegetic scroll bar. You could maybe play with shaders. Maybe the world is more colorful the more mana someone has, approaching black and white when nearing empty. Lots of games do something in the vein of having the screen turn red (and more so at the edges of the screen, i.e. a vignette) as the health is low.

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