User Interfarce: Skyrim’s Silly Choices

Graphics are options are just behind that mountain.
Oh, Skyrim. I really am so enamoured by your peaks, and your misty valleys. Oh, what a beautiful world, filled with possibility and with cheese. Oh, Skyrim, let us bask in the the spook of your ghosts and squirm in the horror of your catacombs. Let us be gleefully smacked about by giants and devoured by dragons. Let us steal hats and trade them for unexpected potions. Oh, Skyrim. There’s so much to you that there are even ants crawling on this log! Blimey.

And then we bring up the menu. Oh, Skyrim.

UPDATE: Someone went to the trouble illustrating what I am talking about, here.

I’m embarrassed, basically. Embarrassed that I have to sit here writing about fucking interfaces and menus when I should be talking about the fascinating bigger picture of a broad, detailed, open-world RPG. Man, when there’s so much going on in this game, and so much to talk about, why did I have to be the one who put up his hand and said: “But what about that crappy interface?”

I know I signed up to be a dork for a living, but for fuck’s sake.

My plight is so: this is the first Bethesda game I’ve ever actually been able to spend serious time in without becoming fatally annoyed. Skyrim has done what their other games have not: it has managed to not eject me from its world through sheer frustration (as did Oblivion and Fallout 3) and I have begun to get lost in side-quests and exploration as I plod slowly through my career in professional dragon shouting. I like the world. I am enjoying the story. That’s quite the thing.

Then I hit tab, and I sigh. I rumble. Even when played with gamepad, as it is surely meant to be, the back end UI of Skyrim is a horrible clonky mess. Thoughtless, awkward, unhelpful. I don’t think it even tells you to hit tab to exit when you first encounter it. (In fact Kieron tells me he got stuck searching for the exit key the first time he tried to pick something up.) Sure, Fallout 3’s wrist-thing was crap, too, but I don’t care about that right now. I care about Skyrim. And it’s not good enough.

Skyrim’s menu, a huge, unwieldy thing that wants you to scroll from a menu on the left, and then takes over the rest of the screen with sparse “details”, is as cumbersome as any I can imagine, and that’s without the general issues of navigating it with a keyboard and mouse.

Hell, Oblivion’s awkward interface was bad enough, but at least it allowed you to see almost everything at a glance. And sure, Bethesda, take away my stats, but at least allow me to see what I am wearing and equipped with inside the menus? The bonuses I have? Anything? No? And so I have to exit the menu system to look at my character? And I also have scroll through everything just to see what I am carrying? And even when you are clicking about in the menu there’s a huge margin of error with a mouse, that most precise of pointing devices? Come on, Bethesda, this is not the future of RPG interface design we were promised.

And you want to use essentially the same menu for trading? Okay. No. This is not okay. It’s time consuming and opaque. I am a bold fantasy adventurer, not a guy browsing ostentatious Flash-driven websites circa 1999.

Ah, but then there are also the twin horrors of the perk screen and the map. Selecting what bonuses you are going to get is, for some reason, built into a carousel of star constellations… no, stop right there. You can see the problem right away: “a carousel of star constellations”. That is one of those ideas that surely a design team would react to with “yeah, nice idea Dave, but really we just need something that allows the player to see what they are choosing, and what result that will have in the game…” Instead it seems to have made it through to release, delivering a +40% increase to bafflement for anyone who tries to use it. I mean it: a carousel of star constellations. A what. Why.

The issue with that, and much else here is a lack of summary: I want to find what the fuck is going on with my dude! Why are people saying I look like I have the plague? Look under magic -> active affects. Oh, of course. Lucky you bothered to put it in there. I MIGHT NEVER HAVE FOUND IT WITHOUT GOOGLING THE RESULT…. OH.

Then there’s the map. A lovely 3D map. Swish! ZooM! And I can’t see anything because of clouds, and I can’t zoom out far enough to take it all in, or give myself a proper sense of place. Why bother with this at all? Give me a static 2D map, thanks.

There are other crimes, too: you can’t get at the settings – the basic settings of the game – from the main menu. These come when you are inside the game itself. Huh? I can’t get at the parameters for play until I am playing? It’s this sort of illogicality of nesting that makes me want to cry. It doesn’t take an exhaustive study of PC interfaces to see how this stuff can be done sensibly.

Amazingly, if you have a gamepad plugged in the some of keyboard and mouse short cuts fail to work at all. Why? Why not just leave the original binds active, too? Worse, once the gamepad is deactivated, you are faced with keybinds that may or may not rebind, depending on what it is you’ve decided to rebind. The failures seem arbitrary, but they also seem totally unacceptable in one of the biggest PC releases of the year.

It’s funny. I step back and look at this, with Bethesda clearly trying to do something new and slick with their interface, and then I look at the Diablo III beta. And I realise that RPG back-ends work in a certain way for a good reason: we need information. And we need it immediately. And we don’t want faff about scrolling, or getting full-screen renders of the apple in question. We just want the goddamn thing to work – to compare hammer stats, to show us what armour we have, or could have. Diablo III does little that is new with its menus and interface, but it is always RIGHT THERE, and you know what you need. Hit the key and read off the info. Simple! And as a result the experience is silky. The difference here seems to be that Blizzard actually pay attention to the fact that their games are going to come out on the PC. Sure, Bethesda have their hapless console chums to think about, but that should not be at the expense of their fiercest, most loyal, and most creative fanbase. We needed a PC interface. We did not get one.

In conclusion, here are some helpful (and fun!) rules of RPG interface design:

  • When designing a UI, try to design not only for the platform your game is on, but also for the type of game you are making!
  • If it is broken, fix it!
  • If it ain’t broke, please do not invent totally new forms of interface, like those based in stars. Instead: get something that works and polish the fuck out of it.

That’s better. Right, back to thieving more ale.


  1. Kleppy says:

    So did no one on RPS play Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas? Because after burning away a couple hundred hours on each of those, Skyrim’s UI is a fucking joy to use. Comparatively anyway.

    Also, aside from a few small niggles, playing with a gamepad in this type of game is just better than using a mouse and keyboard.

  2. Phinor says:

    Like them or not, but I really think this game needed an actual manual instead of a two-page flier with keybindings. Or at least a lot more information available in-game. I’ve had to google quite a few things already because there’s often nothing in the game to indicate how some game mechanics actually work. I really don’t want to alt-tab out of the game to find how alchemy functions or if that new smithing material type is light or heavy before I invest points into it and have no need for one of those choices. Nothing indicated that there are various ways to hit your enemies, different type of power attacks. You just kind of stumble upon them and consider yourself lucky for doing that.

  3. chackosan says:

    Quite the calamity. I’ve found playing on the gamepad much less frustrating, though since I’m going the archer path, it has made my aim a good deal clumsier. But even that doesn’t feel too out of character now since I’m supposed to be a fairly crap archer at this point. Some levels down, I ought to be hitting William Tell heights. Hopefully.

  4. tehfish says:

    Just out of interest, does anyone actually use/want mouse acceleration in a PC game? None of the people i know who play games do…

    My first reaction on loading up the game initially was “ugh”, followed by a trip through the menus, followed by dropping out of the game to google it.

    First thing you do when playing a new game shouldn’t be searching online for pretty much mandatory ini file tweaks :/

    Still, the game is so awesome i can ignore the interface disaster for now until it gets modded into a more usable state :)

  5. Xigageshi says:

    I actually really really like the interface. the skills are.. interesting to navigate, but other than that I rather dug it. I have used tab for menu’s / inventories in every game since fallout3 so I suppose I’m just ideal to use the new menu here, though I did notice the rebinding thing.

    On rebinding, it’s convoluted but I discovered that if, lets say you rebind use from E to R, whatever R was originally bound to in the bindings menu will be bound to E. as such menu shortkeys will still work you just have to hit the other key. super convoluted, but I am fortunate apparently in that I just get all of Bethesda’s UIs

    also I love the map

    • Fox89 says:

      The map is really pretty, I like it. But it’s kind of useless as a map. If I’m at Dawnstar and I need to get to a random cave I haven’t discovered yet for a quest, I want to try and find a path so I don’t find myself awkwardly climbing up a sheer cliff. But seeing as the map doesn’t denote mountain trails, it’s really difficult!

      At the very least give me some contour lines. I can read maps in real life, it should be no harder to read a map in a game!

    • aircool says:

      Hands up who had tried to ‘drag scroll’ the map, only to plant a waypoint.


    • Colthor says:


      Every single damn time I open it.

    • Bostec says:

      Yep me too, then spent the next 5 mins the first time trying to get rid of that ugly blue marker.

  6. Mordsung says:

    The saddest part about this is that most PC gamers could create a design document for a far better interface in about half an hour.

    I’m confident I could create and interface and keybinding system that would blow the defaults out of the water for ease of use, speed of use and information given.

    If only I had any modding capabilities.

  7. Shroom says:

    I actually like the UI.

    Whilst it may not be the most practical I feel it immerses me in the game world even further, I imagine the inventory as sorting though and working out each thing in my (invisible) pack by looking at it, and the skill menu as something which makes as much sense as you can of gaining boosts to someone’s skills.

    But then again I appreciate that immersion in the world more an awful lot and am willing to sacrifice more for it than most in terms of practicality.

  8. Orvanis says:

    I can deal with the crappy item interface, and the horrid skill stars – but what bugs the crap out of me is not having some kind of visual display for how long my spells have before they time out.

    There is nothing worse than being in a giant fight only to realize too late that oh damn, my conjured weapon timed out and my armor boost spells are gone – now I am royally screwed. Give me *something* to work with here Bethesda – I will GLADLY take back the little timer circles in the upper corner from Oblivion!!

  9. aircool says:

    I also got stuck the first time I opened an empty chest, I thought the game had crashed. I wasn’t aware that there were no stats as I just thought I couldn’t find the screen.

    As for the amount of times I’ve sold/experimented using the clothes off my back; it says a lot about an interface where I’m still unable to work out what I’m wearing.

    For me though, I find the lack of visible hotkey slots is the biggest crime. I gave up writing down what was in each slot and just pressed Q when I needed something.

  10. TheLordMoosey says:

    Although many of the complaints here are entirely true and really should have been picked up on by Bethesda before release, like the weirdly floaty mouse or FPS-limited looking up, a surprising amount of the issues that people seem to be having are fixed by simply reading the manual that comes with the game. Steam provides a manual for most every game it sells, it’s in your library waiting.

  11. felisc says:

    i switched from playing Avadon to playing Skyrim, and I miss my good old tetris inventory.

  12. Lev Astov says:

    Thank you for bringing this to light, Jim. I’d like to point out one abysmal lack of planning that you probably missed. The interface is designed to scale by width, rather than height, designed around a 16:9 screen. I play on a wider aspect ratio screen than that, as do many eyefinity users. The game cuts off the top and bottom of the interface and I cannot see my encumberance, money, recipe ingredients, number of perks, or any of the buttons I need to hit to exit the menu I’m in. It’s really quite unacceptable.

    The widescreen gaming forum has a working hack to fix it for most, but that isn’t quite working for me yet. Here’s that if any other super widescreen users are interested: link to

  13. johnpeat says:

    It’s weird this – normally the sight of ‘that’ UI would have me running a mile, but I watched the GiantBomb Quickplay and DESPITE the fact it makes it obvious that the UI is a warcrime of quite epic proportions, the guys playing it make it seem almost irrelevant to the game (and I suspect they’re on 360 which is apparently a bit slower at transitioning in/out of stuff like menus, building, the game itself etc. etc???

    I’ve still not bought it tho – not because I don’t yearn to explore that world and do all the plethora of things I can do there – but because

    a – I’m not sure I can spare the time this will surely suck out of me at a busy (real work) time of year
    b – I remember Fallout 3 on PC and it’s astonishing and mind boggling inability to run for more than 20 mins without random and instant CTDs

    I’m not sure I can take b ever again and a is just guilt eating at me…

    *shuffles back to The Witcher which he’s STILL not completed*

    • aircool says:

      It will suck up time – I spent several hours last night searching for some books in a dungeon. Loved every minute of it.

  14. reticulate says:

    Also, on the map: If you spin it around so you’re not above mountains, you gain a fair bit more zoom. It would appear they transplanted their third person camera to the map view, meaning mountains act as walls that stop the camera.

    It’s still not great, but it’s something.

  15. snv says:

    This is exaclty why dislike the console porting practice. I dont care if the textures could be so much crisper, but a clunky interface sucks.
    Worse: Two Button combat system. Why can i only block with if my left hand has a Shield or is Empty? Not because of some in-game reason, but just because a gamepad would not have enough buttons for that?

  16. ncampbell says:

    I can get my head around the map. I can get my head around having to use the stupid little bar down the bottom to work out how much armour I have on.

    What I can’t fathom is how anyone thought it would be a good idea to make the key that puts ONE ITEM INTO a container the same key that takes EVERY ITEM OUT of a container.

  17. Godsmith says:

    I think you might be overreacting a tad. Sure, there has been better user interfaces, and there is some weird inconsistencies when trying to navigate with the mouse and keyboard at once. But generally I think it works well and I can navigate where I want to fairly fast.

    • johnpeat says:

      I’m sorry but the fact that people who’ve played a lot of RPGs cannot

      – work out what they’re wearing
      – sort their inventory by type to find ingredients etc.
      – see what buffs/pets/companion statuses are
      – work out how to exit the menu!!

      Suggests it’s a disaster of fairly epic proportions.

      I’ve always felt that trying to remove a HUD from a game is a mistake because games consist of arbitrary rules and players have no sense of right/wrong/direction/morals to work with (so they don’t know who’s an enemy/friend or whatever).

      I’m sure the mod community will come through with key stuff within a week-or-2 and MUCH better stuff in due course – but as it is, I’m disappointed more reviewers didn’t actually remark on the fact that it’s a step back in UI terms…

    • psyk says:

      People can’t work out what they are wearing or how to exit menus? You have to be shitting me how stupid can people get seriously what has happened to gamers?

    • Brun says:

      It’s not that they can’t figure it out, it’s that they shouldn’t have to.

    • psyk says:

      What? why should they have to work out they need to put the cd in the drive to install the game. Ah that’s what DD services are for people are forgetting how to do basic computer stuff :p

      Finding out what you are using is one of the easiest things to do.

      Here is how
      Open your inventory
      Click apparel/weapons
      Use your eyes to look at what you have on

  18. Tomhai says:

    Thank you, Jim, for the article. Everything has been said here.
    I just keep wondering which aspect of the UI is MOST horrible. I mean there are so many choices here:) At first I thought it would be the skill screen… but then I realized that hey, it can be taken as a separate minigame… If you play Skyrim enough then I bet you have spent more time navigating the skill creen than it takes to finish a contemporary shooter… and voila… you have got two games for one.

  19. Miodrag Kovachevic says:

    This completely reflects my first few hours with the game.

    I had no idea I was sick and what I had, NPCs had to tell me;
    I was stuck in the menu for 10 minutes until I figured out tab was the exit;
    The map is atrocious.

    I think the worst offender by far is the compass. Until something engages you, you do not know it is hostile. Now, I know that makes sense, but my stealth character is completely useless when sneaking in the wilds, because I do not know that the bloke in the distance is a farmer or a bandit, so I can never sneak attack anything unless I’m in a dungeon or quick save and quick load whenever I see someone mucking about.

    • aircool says:

      Also, when harmless NPC ‘A’ spots you sneaking, does that mean that hostile monster ‘B’ has seen you as well?

    • Bostec says:

      I gave up on that, the 3x sneak kill is my bread and butter and if I can’t pull that off, i’m left (left) with a sword in one hand and the healing spell in the other, I did have a shield but it turned in to a healing hand and I can’t be arsed to figure it all out and put it to right (right).

      Anyway, long story short, I just launch arrows in to the distance if I see anything or anyone, much easier that way.

    • Brun says:

      “Until something engages you, you do not know it is hostile.”

      Get a Detect Life spell. It seems that inherently hostile characters will glow red when viewed through a Detect Life spell, passive or friendly characters will be blue – kind of like Assassin’s Creed’s Eagle Vision. I believe there is a shout that does this as well.

      I don’t have one of those spells on my stealthy-mage yet, but I don’t fault Bethesda for this issue because I know they included a way to get around it.

  20. ShineyBlueShoes says:

    This really was my worst fear about it being such a console heavy game, much like the consolisms that weighed down DXHR, but it baffles me that from Oblivion to now Bethesda’s suffered this huge backlash about this and left it to the modders to fix and still don’t get it. Second class citizens and they still want to charge us $60.

  21. Wizardry says:

    Why do people care? It’s not like RPGs are known for having good UIs. All the best ones have terrible UIs. Not that Skyrim is one of those or anything.

    • Vinraith says:

      Exactly. UI complaints are almost invariably something I can completely ignore when trying to evaluate a game, most of the time I don’t have a clue what people are complaining about.

      In Skyrim’s case it may well be unusually bad, but the earliest mods tend to be neat and tidy UI fixes so by the time I get around to the game it won’t be a thing. Thank goodness for the TES mod community.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      On the one hand, we have great games buried under clunky interfaces. They prioritize game mechanics over the user interface. I think Academagia is a recent example of that, to the extent that it really does hurt the game. And your wrists. With older games, we can mostly blame the technology: low-res screens, primitive mouse interfaces, crappy font rendering, etc.

      On the other hand, we have decent games which aren’t really doing anything new, but they attempt to jazz up the interface and wind up ruining its usability in the process. They prioritize form over function. That’s Skyrim.

  22. csuzw says:

    The mouse inaccuracy seems to be due to the menu system sometimes deciding it’s not going to recognise where your mouse is at all and just select whichever the currently active item is. The problem is most of the time you don’t notice/can’t tell that it’s switched to this mode so you end up doing something you didn’t want to. Scrolling often fixes this problem but even that’s not entirely reliable.

    The constellations are a travesty of UI design for mouse/keyboard. I like the idea and when you’re just scrolling through skills at the top level they look really nice. When you’re actually browsing through them to make perk choices they’re terrible. Often it just won’t let you select a perk with the mouse, however with the keyboard you can’t actually select some nodes because you don’t have the required fine control to make that kind of diagonal movement.

    The main map I’m not too fussed by, however the “zooming” doesn’t work in any useful way. It seems to just change the angle of view very slightly. Places around the edge of map can be very hard to see properly especially if there are lots of landmarks/quests there. Being able to zoom in enough to make out more detail in places that are clustered with quest markings would be nice. Also being able to see routes to places in high mountains might have been useful although on the other hand not being able to promotes exploration so I’m sure what I prefer.

  23. StevoIRE says:


    Diablo Clone inventories can’t work on a scale like these. Those are menus have a set scale and cut off point for the amount of items they can hold. Bethesda’s design has no *space* it’s just a integer that gets incremented periodically over the course of the game, there is nothing stopping a user from defining their bag space to be of size “1000”.

    Just think to yourself how your supposed to convey a space of 1000 units in a Diablo style box system without getting horribly over loaded with graphical content and even from a technically point of you it would fall over just try to display all those sections.

    Witcher 2’s Inventory is pretty much the same principle of Skyrims anyway they are fairly similar in nearly every way.

    • mondomau says:

      They really aren’t.

    • kyrieee says:

      There’s nothing that says you can’t have sorting options for a Diablo style grid interface, in fact Morrowind had just that and if you ever have 1000 items it becomes hard to manage regardless of which interface you use. As for Witcher 2 it had a list based inventory but it had good sorting options and it also displayed info in the list so you didn’t have to highlight every single item to see its weight, for example.

  24. michal.lewtak says:

    The idea of constellations being perk trees is the greatest thing in the history of great ideas for interfaces, however, it is very unpractical in its current state, and it would have been much better as a grid rather than a panorama where you only see about 5 of all the perks. And why can’t I see the names of perks without entering the weird tilted view of each consteallation that shows me 5% of what I want to see and is extremely difficult to pan around? (actually you can’t even pan around it, you can only jump from node to node, but don’t use the movement keys for that, because it acts wildly, just click on the paths with your mouse)
    Yeah, they went for maximum beauty without thinking about practical use. I hope good UI mods arrive soon.
    Also, I suggest everybody turn off their compasses in the ini file. You don’t want to magically know about enemy locations without seeing them, do you? And for directions, you can turn on goal markers on screen (they’ll only show when you’re pretty close anyway) and use the map for the rest. Which reminds me, Bethesda, when I press the map key, please, don’t fade out, fade in, zoom out and throw confetti at my face, just show me the goddamn map!

    • Kdansky says:

      But I want to see NWSE? It’s annoying to have to open the map a lot (because it’s damn slow), so I want to use it as little as possible.

    • michal.lewtak says:

      I have a good sense of direction and I like to use my surroundings to figure out in what direction I’m going, but let’s just hope for a mod that moves the compass to the bottom and disables enemy dots. And those stupid idiot-friendly confirmation messages when crafting. GAH.

    • Milky1985 says:

      “And those stupid idiot-friendly confirmation messages when crafting. GAH.”

      Oh god the “are you sure you want to craft this” message, which requires a DIFFERENT button to be pressed to accept

      No i don’t want to make this , i just hit the make button with my head as I bashed my face into the keyboard to attempt to forget the awful sodding menu design!

  25. 9of9 says:

    The inventory is heinous, but I haven’t really had that much of an issue with the carousel of constellations, nor the map – I think they strike, overall, just the right degree of balance between usability and eye-candy. And I can even get used to the ‘use tab for exit’ thing… after all, good lord it’s not as bad as the Assassin’s Creed control scheme on the PC. No sir. No SHIFT to exit, Jesus Christ.

    What they really deserve ire for though is just how painful it is to navigate the menus with a mouse and keyboard. Anywhere with a vertical list of options – like, say, a dialogue or an inventory screen – has the peculiar weakness of not always selecting the option the mouse hovers over. Most of the time it highlights and, yet, sometimes it does not. You click on a dialogue option, only to find that the one you actually chose is the one a few entries below the reply you clicked on.

    This is horrible, annoying and inexcusable.

    While I like the constellations carousel in general, the other major fuck-up is in the perk trees. Maybe they can be sensibly browsed with a controller. With a mouse and keyboard – they can not. Sure, you can click on the individual stars, but that won’t let you go everywhere you want and you’ll have to use the keyboard if, say, you might want to go back to some perk you’ve missed, or even to get back to the carousel… since you can’t Tab back, you have to scroll through the whole chain of perks right back out into it. And once you use the keyboard, all hell breaks loose. You stard stupidly jumping from perk to perk in completely arbitrary ways. You want to take the left branching option in Speechcraft? Fuck you, we’re going to look at Illusion instead.

    The sheer lack of usability of the whole system is a painful nightmare.

  26. Patches the Hyena says:

    The map would greatly benefit from some indication of altitude. Also, this mod (link to makes things much better IMO.

  27. Hoaxfish says:

    I have a real weird soft-spot for GUI design… especially when a “new” version actively removes functionality/efficiency in comparison to previous products from the same company.

    Skyrim’s inventory system seems to be closer to safe-cracking than any sensible design… rotate up, rotate down, E, etc.

    Look at Window’s filemanager, or web-browsers with favourites, tagging, (firefox’s tabgroups is especially nice as an example), tablet UIs, etc. So many “non-game” examples that are far ahead of this sort of nonsense.

  28. WaaWaamp says:

    thank god, i thought i was the only one, the menus are the biggest pile of bollocks every. i never clicked about the console thing cos i have avoided them like aids for years but yeah, that’s a console UI right there lad.

    they better fuckin sort it.

  29. Styles says:

    Yeah, I hope to god they patch it to fix up the pathetic UI…. I’m sick of bethesda selling crappy console ports.

  30. aircool says:

    I must admit that I’m used to the highly informative hud’s used in MMO’s. Then again, I’m so used to MMO’s that I was shocked that the game returned me to somewhere I was ten minutes earlier after I’d died.

    Autosave it is then :/

  31. Burning Man says:

    I am very very happy with the UI. You, sir, are whining.

  32. Adynod says:

    I agree 100% with Jim here. I’ve kind of got used to it but this is not ok. I remember reading a preview where someone said it was the best pc interface they’d ever seen. Was that this thing they saw?!

    I really miss having my character viewable in the menus. To get around this somewhat I go 3rd person before entering the menu if I want to change armour or something visual. You’re obscured still but you can kind of see yourself.

    It took me ages to get my head around the fact that selecting the left hand option for Magic brings it up on the right side of the screen and vice versa for Items. I can see it would make sense on a controller (or even if it was touch screen, as in swiping it) but with a mouse, putting those options there means your cursor ends up further away from what you want. It’s just really inefficient.

    There are several bugs as well where it randomly selects the wrong dialog option which was definitely nowhere near where I clicked and sometimes I can’t click the exit button on some screens (you have to exit via tab).

    Also with regards to the 2d map thing, I found an oblivion style one in game somewhere and it was way more informative about what places were around and the type of terrain, landmarks etc. The zoomed out thing is horrible.

    Still, the rest of the game is amazing and I’m loving it despite these issues.

  33. yutt says:

    Thank you so much for writing this, Jim. Myself and a dozen friends who have played collectively 300 hours of Skyrim on the PC have all independently been frustrated by these exact same issues. I can go line-by-line and each of these issues has been mentioned by multiple people I know and myself.

    The situation is completely ridiculous.

  34. Robin says:

    I agree it’s utterly terrible.

    But you really don’t need to compare much. Being a game for modern gamer, it make sure you have to think the least possible, marking for you the items which have higher numbers than the ones you are equipping.

    Adding to that it has the Bethesda Flat Adaptive Items Stats SystemTM. So: same stats for everything in the same category.

  35. StingingVelvet says:

    The UI is bad for mice, great for WASD. Once I got used to it I fell in love with it. A lot of people seem to not be able to, however.

  36. Felixader says:

    Um, i play this game on a console cause… lack of money for hardware and couch comfort, you know.

    Since i also played Oblivion and Fallout 3 to death in wich the menues were horribble and so-so, i just fricking LOVE the menues.

    I also deeply agree on the missing stats screen and on the way the game sorts the inventory.

    I also really find the perk menue epic in the rigth ways.
    The thing here is… it is awfull to navigate even with a controller. I sometimes slip around so much in fact that i had the suspicion that they simply portet a mouse based menue to the consoles.

  37. asshibbitty says:

    Great! I was worried this will go the way these things go, reviewer notes interface being “somewhat unpolished” but “it’s such a minor hurdle in a superlative superlative”

    I’ve been complaining about it non=stop since the first screenshots hit, thinking if we raise enough stink maybe Beth will sense something’s wrong. Yeah right. They wanted to be like Apple but ended being more like Droid.

    Interfaces in entertainment software should be fucking perfect, yet mostly are the opposite of that.

  38. The Innocent says:

    I hate the fact that when in conversation (and in menus), the game is mighty finicky about what I’ve selected. This has led to a few reloads where I’ve sold something I didn’t mean to, or said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Having to save before each shop/conversation experience is a bit irritating.

    However, I like the map. It’s kind of fun. Though I do wish I could zoom out farther, and that there were a “toggle clouds” button.

    • vecordae says:

      I don’t know if it’ll help, but I’ve not had any problems whatsoever with clicking the choices that I meant to. I’m beginning to suspect that this is because I click on the letters themselves, rather than the blank space around them. Normally menu options like these have a uniformly-sized “click detection box” and all it asks of you is that you click closer to option A than option B, but Skyrim seems to employ a technique that, were it applied to rap, would be labeled as “piss poor freestyle”.

      Anyway, try clicking directly on the letters themselves and see if that helps. Then you can let us know if it’s brilliant or I’m out of my swollen, melon-like skull.

  39. Leandro says:

    Another developer that built it’s empire around PC games and then forsakes it’s roots for the sake of console kids and dumb people (“hardcore gamers”) who buy only the best marketed releases.

    As long as they don’t dumb down gameplay it’s the lesser evil, I guess.

    • InternetBatman says:

      How can they dumb down the gameplay? That’s not me being snarky, Elder Scrolls games are really, really simple. Combat is a few movement keys and maybe two or three other buttons. It’s not exactly Civilization.

  40. CaLe says:

    The problem I have is that I have too much stuff to sort through. There is no method of sorting anything and when I click something with a mouse it sometimes selects the option above or below it. Why does it do that? Oblivion had an interface overhaul via modding, so I’m guessing this will too, in time.

    • Bostec says:

      Time and time again I have clicked on a Vendors weapons tab or potion tab and then have it close the menu on me. Its extremely frustrating.

    • vecordae says:


      I get that, too, but I’ve noticed it seems to happen pretty much only when I’m a bit sloppy with my mouse am and click the blank space to the left of the category. I’m not sure if that’s a function of the resolution I’m at (1920×1080) or because the mouse selection aspect of the UI was programmed by depressed gibbons.

  41. Colthor says:

    The menus, and UI in general, are quite bad; make poor use of the space available, have inconsistent and illogical keyboard mappings, and miss or misinterpret mouse inputs. But the perks constellation thing is one of the worst crimes against usability I’ve ever seen.

    I hope that, in future games, Bethesda give the PC interface to the work experience bod. They can move the current UI chaps over to puzzle design or something.

  42. Jabberslops says:

    The Interface in Oblivion was better despite it being kind of shitty, but i would take stock Oblivion UI over Skyrim’s.

    Something that everyone seems to be overlooking is the fact that there is no cast Magic button like in Oblivion. In Oblivion, the cast Magic button would not unequip your weapons or shield. In Skyrim, Magic has to be equipped before you can use it . You can’t cast Magic without the game replacing your off-hand weapon, shield or 2hand weapon with the Magic you have taken 30 minutes figuring out how to quickly get to with the favorites menu…

    Also. You can’t block in Skyrim when you are dual wielding anything. The only way to block incoming melee attacks is with one weapon (either 1hand or 2h), 1hand weapon with shield or magic and shield (which is kind of cool if you think about it, but still annoying).

    You can’t block arrows with a shield. You need to watch the dick npc who is shooting at you so you can step aside to avoid the arrows. The same goes for magic.

    • neolith says:

      You can actually block arrows with the shield – you have to invest a skillpoint though.

    • iucounu says:

      With enemies shooting magic at you, I think it wants you to hold a Ward spell in one hand and use the other for stabbing/zapping them.

  43. chabuhi says:

    As a lefty, I for one hope they patch in the ability to bind to the numpad keys. I’m managing on the alpha keys, but after a decade and more of the numpad I just don’t see a reason not to allow binding to it.

    (Yeah, yeah, I know all you WASD studs are mocking me now.)

  44. fenriz says:

    So only because there’s ants you pretend the world it’s alive. when the character can’t even light a camp fire and cook a damn hare.

    Players are children.

    • sneetch says:

      Wow, that sneery disdain pretty much came out of nowhere. Is everything OK, fenriz?

    • AndrewC says:

      Yes, it’s the vehemency of the negative reactions that is always the telling thing.

    • fenriz says:

      wait… yes, yes here it comes

      Skyrim is a wow clone.

      does it hurt somehwære? Just a joke.

      I am an amiable person. everyone loves me in r/l, i teach to young ones and i am esteemed in what i do. But seriously, you are console childish fucks if you look at videogame ants, feel immersed and fap. :)

    • Saldek says:

      @fenriz: “I am an amiable person. everyone loves me in r/l […]”. So, this is the place you come to Hyde?

  45. merc-ai says:

    Indeed, the interface in Skyrim is pretty, horribly designed piece of shit.
    It’s not informative, it’s counter-intuitive at times, and it takes more time for simple, repeated tasks than it should have.
    The only worse interface I could think of is Fable 3. Both games’ interfaces are clear examples of “cool idea” that turns into horrible, shitty implementation.
    Speaking of ideas, I actually like the map approach, but skills-as-stars and perk-browsing there are horrible.

    Oh, and mouse buttons vs character hands: really fucking annoying.

  46. Mic2070 says:

    I find the UI is definitely usable IF you’re not using your mouse. Do it all with WASD. It’s very counter-intuitive on pc but once you figure out the oddities like weapon affectation and the like it becomes second nature. That said, constellations are trash.

  47. Moonracer says:

    I agree. Pretty much everything about the UI is a bad design.

    The constellations are clunky. A simple list of skills, with perks below each and definitions if you highlight them would fit all the data on the screen at once and be much easier to navigate.

    The map needs full 360 degree rotation at least. One of the first main mission locations is on the back side of the tallest mountain. So I couldn’t get a good look at where I was supposed to be going. Though to be fair I appreciate that the map shows if I’ve cleared a location so I don’t have to remember myself.

    I miss having quests managed in my character’s journal. That was such a nice way of managing quests in an immersive way. Although in some ways it was just as clunky as our current constellation system.

    But sadly I don’t think mods will be able to fix the UI unless we have the power to completely change how it works.

  48. matnym says:

    The interface is by far the biggest disappointment in Skyrim. It was pretty bad in Oblivion, as it didn’t scale with the resolution and some other stuff, but it was way better than the crap we got in Skyrim. So much faffing about in sub menus and and what the HELL were they thinking with the skills menu?

    The map is also appalling for other reasons not mentioned in the article. Like the fact that you can’t see any roads and that objective markers, player marker and location markers have the same color.

    May the modding community save this mess.

    Oh, and I approve of this article :)

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      Maybe I need to go back and check, but I think you can see the roads if they stand out from the ground texture. There aren’t as many roads as in Oblivion, however. I don’t think there’s a road leading to Winterhold, for instance (which made getting there challenging, as joining up with the Mages Guild equivalent was my first order of business).

  49. Zarunil says:

    I’m glad someone said it. I hate the UI of Skyrim. I spend WAY too much time navigating the inventory. It is clunky, time-consuming and it looks like shit. I don’t mind navigating the stars as much, though they are clearly not meant for keyboards, my main gripe is with the terrible inventory.

    Can’t wait for a mod that fixes the UI of this otherwise excellent game.

  50. theblazeuk says:

    I am finding it frequently inaccurate and initially obtuse in functionality, but largely successful and easy to use after experimentation.

    Much like yo momma (But seriously, so much whining on here for a system that largely works, just has a lot of flaws. And given the lack of perspective on comparitive systems in other games and unwillingness to adapt to anything different than their past experience, this is definitely whining