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Shooter games : Either Blue/teal/azure or other shades of blue and transparent or gray and transparent

MMO games : Either blue and transparent or shades of Brown+Gold or a very dark red, so dark it's almost brown

Mobile and Browser RPGs : Cutsie icons and everything is green, brown and shiny with a little bit of blue

Source: Search image... google "MMO UI" or "RPG UI" and everything is either transparent or brown for example

just search any genra of game by UI and your google page will almost look like an array of identical images.

Is this there only because players are used to certain types of UI? Like how back in the day, talking decades ago.... some RPGs used Blue for health and green for energy or red for your teams health bars and blue for the enemy health bars simply because no one was used to the colors we consider normal today so any color scheme was ''normal" at the time?

or is there simply a psychological reason for these color schemes dedicated to certain game genras?

I'm asking because I'm making an rpg game, I'm making the UI now , and I just noticed that I never played a single rpg game that deviated from the standard rpg ui colors...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no authoritative answer, but I'd hazard that it's driven by the colours likely to be visible in the viewport and wanting aesthetically pleasing contrast/blending. \$\endgroup\$
    – Basic
    Jun 25, 2023 at 22:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how real color psychology is, in particular when wielded by graphic designers instead of psychologists... At least it seems to be mostly cultural, with association, and fashion, playing roles on it. Addendum: Something more concrete to keep in mind is accessibility for color blindness. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theraot
    Jun 25, 2023 at 22:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Theraot visual accessibility is definitely a factor in the prevalence of blue vs red/orange team colours (or the two portal colours in Portal), since those pairings tend to be robustly distinguishable across a range of common colour vision differences. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Jun 25, 2023 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ My guess is that it is not so much about the colors themselves (besides good/pleasing contrast) but more about the historical staples that gamers are used to recognize. I think being 100% consistent with your pre-established conventions (whatever they may be) is the most important thing to create meaning behind the colors. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nikaas
    Jun 27, 2023 at 7:13

3 Answers 3

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When picking a color palette for your game UI, there are several considerations:

  • Fitting with the theme of the game. If you have a medieval fantasy game, then the UI color scheme should communicate "old". So you often see colors creating associations with wood, leather, old paper and rough stone. If you have a science fiction game, the UI color scheme should communicate "modern". So you often have grays and blues.
  • Fitting with the overall aesthetics of your game. If the diegetic visuals of your game are oriented at a specific color palette, then you want your UI to have the same palette to ensure an overall consistent aesthetic. How to pick a color palette for a game, why it is so important and how to apply it is a whole other topic one could write several paragraphs about. But needless to say that the one place where it is the easiest to apply is the UI.
  • Readability. On the other hand, you don't want the UI to look too similar to the background it is displayed on, because then it might no longer look visually distinct enough to get the players attention. Finding the right balance between standing out enough to be visible but not so much as to feel out of place is a delicate matter. This is where good art direction comes into play.
  • Following conventions of the platform and genre. Most new players will have experience with other games on the same platform and/or in the same genre. Building on established design language and patterns greatly accelerates the onboarding process for these players. There are several reason why mobile UIs look so different from PC UIs. One of them is that the player does not have a mouse cursor. The UI can't communicate what's interactive through mouse hover, so anything that can be pressed must look explicitly pressable. Which is why buttons in mobile games tend to look very "buttony", while PC game menus can get away with a simple piece of clickable text with no decoration whatsoever.
  • Accessibility for people with color blindness. Perhaps the most important here is red/green color blindness. Especially when you target a predominantly male demographic, because about 9% of genetically male people have trouble differentiating red and green. Other color visibility conditions are rarer, but not to be neglected either.
  • Good artists copy, great artists steal! When there is already a game on the market you aspire to live up to, then why not blatantly rip off take some inspiration from their design?

All these considerations (with the exception perhaps of picking a distinct color palette) result in UI artist gravitating towards the same color choices.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ as for the colorblind people, isn't it enough to just use distinguishable symbols and icons instead of adjusting the colors for them? like enemy health bars instead of being red or green, having a symbol close to them, and the symbol being different that that for team players? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cei
    Jun 26, 2023 at 12:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cei Sometimes that's a feasible solution, but not always. But you can avoid a lot of such problems in the first place by not choosing a color palette you know will cause problem for deuteranopia. Color blindness accessibility is a complex issue. We already have several questions which address this topic in more detail than I can here via a comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Jun 26, 2023 at 12:17
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I'm making an rpg game, I'm making the UI now , and I just noticed that I never played a single rpg game that deviated from the standard rpg ui color

This is intended to ease knowledge transfer. When using the a symbol (or a color in this case) to represent something, it poses less friction to the players if they are consistent with other games, as that means less time learning your game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think there's also something to be said for colour language and cultural associations — the fact that say blue is often used in sci-fi movies makes it feel "cool & future-ish," and begins setting audience expectations from their first glimpse of the game. You probably wouldn't see a lot of harsh red in relaxing chill-out games or wellness apps, while those might be more appropriate in games with an aggressive/competitive/military mood. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Jun 25, 2023 at 22:55
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My thoughts would be that people like familiarity, and it's easier to get into a game (or other medium) if you can quickly recognise them.

This extends a bit further than just colors and color shemes, as it also applies for icons, terms, atmosphere, game mechanics and more. Color is just a part of that grander scheme.

Changing the colors usually applies to the game's overall style. For example: Overwatch, who displays health in many colors, like white, orange and blue, but not Red. This is fitting because the whole game's color code is more like white, orange and blue.
If a game looks more like a traditional RPG, but the health looks blue instead of red, then I would wonder if such change was necessary, and if there was a reason behind it. (though, you could take that opportunity to add a bit of lore to the game).

I don't think it's a rule to hold on to these color patterns. But striving away from it to make it less familiar/more unique is a risk on the game's appeal.

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