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. SketchyGalore says:

    I just want quick keys to come back, or at the very least a “swap” key so I can, for example, go from 2-handed sword to heal spell and back without plodding through a menu.
    The interface isn’t great, sure, but I get the impression people are forgetting just HOW bad Oblivion was interface-wise when it started out. I was never even able to play that game seriously on the PC until the modding community got its hands around it. This is, at the very least, more attractive and, other than the aforementioned lack of quick key actions, most of the clunkiness happens at low-intensity times, such as level-up.
    There are a few things that actually downright impressed me, too. Alchemy, for example. Whilst experimenting with hundreds and hundreds of ingredients, the alchemy menu automatically greys out ones that you already figured out don’t work, then sorts them into categories from which you can quickly make a previously discovered potion effect. Similarly, the merchant screen does a pretty good job of letting me sell off my junk quickly, so I can keep my inventory tidy, and the complete replacement of item icons with actual views of the actual items is just… awesome. Is it perfect? No. Is it up to Skyrim standards? Perhaps not, and I think that’s the problem. Compared to the glorious game surrounding it, sub-perfection sticks out.
    Fortunately, mods are on the horizon, and I think that’s why I’m not getting too torn-up about it, myself. If it was all-out stopping me from playing the game by having inventory glitches, crashes, bugged items, typos, or anything of that sort, then yes, I’d be as mad as everyone else. But it does work. It just works like a bicycle against a game that rides like a fighter jet.

  2. clockler says:

    You forgot to mention that if you rebind keys the interface doesn’t update to reflect this (swapping R and F swaps them in the interface; there’s one part of it that doesn’t obey this rule, though I can’t remember which part it is) and also the favourites menu becomes a pain to navigate when you’ve got a bunch of crap all jammed in it together. (some 9 shouts that I use regularly, fifteen spells, five different weapons, three sets of enchanted gauntlets)

    Then of course as said the whole thing has a margin of error with the mouse – clicking doesn’t always work and when it does it often clicks something that is definitely NOT what your cursor is over. Scrolling with the mousewheel sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I have an entire goddamn object in my right hand devoted to usability and your interface is so bad I’d rather not use this entire object that I have to navigate it.

    People whined about the animations, which are fine. People whined about the textures, which are also fine. But people will forgive them for this aberration some may call an interface? Sod off.

    Their hearts were in the right place with it, to be fair. It’s a very nice looking interface. It just doesn’t work very well.

  3. rustybroomhandle says:

    I am a UI/interaction designer by profession, and this thing grates on me in a way that few other UIs do.

    That font you see on the screen is Futura, a font that has been around for decades and that is to video what Helvetica is to print. It’s a font that one chooses because it looks good on a television.

    And that’s the thing, Skyrim’s UI is not that of a fantasy role-playing game, it resembles that of a media center.

    Now on top of this thing that looks/feels out of place, add in dodgy controller-centric interactions and an assortment of glitches/quirks. Well anyway, the article and comments sum it up.

    Blergh. Thanks Bethesda for treating PC gamers like second class citizens.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      And that’s the thing, Skyrim’s UI is not that of a fantasy role-playing game, it resembles that of a media center.

      Sure, but that was a deliberate choice, to go along with the simple black/gray look. It’s a bit odd, but it’s not objectively terrible like some other decisions.

      I happen to like the classic fantasy RPG look with a lot of natural textures and some medieval/renaissance-style fonts, but Bethesda attempted something more modern-looking. And I think that would’ve worked fine, the same widget style and font and everything, *if* they’d managed to make a usable interface with it.

  4. CaptainCasey says:

    Playing on the computer WITHOUT a gamepad has been a huge annoyance. Menus that you can only go through using WASD and then I have to switch to ESDF ????? I have to prepare myself to have my fingers correctly placed after I press Q to switch my weapons.

    I know the computer keyboard but man I’ve had to double check myself.

    AND YES the inventory menus are terrible. I spend so much time trying to go through my items to figure out what I have that in the end I’m sure I will be spending at least an hour total in my inventory after all is said and done.

    I’m looking forward to a patch to fix this mess, because that is what it is, a MESS.

    But Skyrim can get away with it becuase it is SUCH a great game… sigh =\

  5. GenuineEntropy says:

    Okay, I’m with you guys on the looting key-binds. – This annoyed me a little.

    I’m right with you on the often clumsy selection of single items from lists (dialogue options being particularly bad, I’ve accidentally repeated phrases more times than i’d care to count). – Also rather annoying.

    The ridiculous “skill carousel” that obscures all detail from me while simultaneously spreading, what is traditionally a single menu screen, across pages and pages worth of navigation and key presses. – Highly inconvenient.

    The map though…. Oh god the map. This has me gnashing my teeth in frustration and f-ing and blinding at a similar level to that expressed by Jim in this post (which seems relatively high, even for Mr Jim).

    My experience went something like this:

    1. I am enjoying this game very much and I need to go to a place.
    2. Time to bring up the map, that has places on it, I’m quite sure!
    3. Ooh, isn’t this map spiffy? It’s 3D! And there are clouds and everything!…
    4. Ah, theres the place I needed to go to, it’s roughly east of here, now which highway or road should I be following…
    5. Wait. Just. A minute. This map…. This map has no roads on it? Does it even qualify as a map without any useful travel information on it? Ordinance survey perhaps, but why would…? Who’d even?…. How could they?… WHAT!?
    6. Blargh!!!! *Gnash*.

    [P.S Edit]
    Just to clarify; the game is brilliant in more than enough ways to make me simply shrug and carry on playing and having fun, despite these UI niggles.

  6. Uthred says:

    Slow news day

  7. Maldomel says:

    I know this comment will be swallowed in a maelstrom of other comments, but I have to say it: it is the very first time that I disagree with RPS, and also that I dislike an article here. Makes me sad to be honest.

    So, seriously, what’s that whining about? the interface? you must mean that interface you can navigate with one hand, skipping almost entirely the mouse because you…don’t need it to navigate? Sure, there are no items comparisons, but considering the simple values of items (weight, price, amour/attack, eventual effects), and since you are in the inventory when you look at them, it does not really need comparison (besides, you can see your attack/amour stat at the bottom of the screen so you CAN compare actually.

    As for the perks menu, it is designed in an original way. But really, it stays simple. You want a point in magic? Look up your favorite school of magic, and see if you can put one in. What’s difficult or ill-designed with that? It’s essentially the same as in every other RPGs with skills trees…

    For pads I cannot say, I use mouse and keyboard to play. Again, the TAB system isn’t bad at all, it takes just a bit of time to adapt (I did try with escape at the beginning too), but there’s nothing THAT awful with the interface.

    Or is it that the game is really good, but since it’s Bethesda people have to point out stuff in rather pointless ways? (not trolling here, I’m seriously starting to think that this is how it works these days).

    edit: removed offending part I wrote when I was mad.

    • Brun says:

      Navigating certain things with the mouse (like an enormous list of items) is faster than using WASD. While I appreciate your desire for simplicity in wanting a UI that is one-handed-navigable, I think users should be able to choose WHICH hand (WASD or Mouse) to use.

    • kyrieee says:

      Well isn’t that a nice way to rationalize it. You think the UI is great therefore everyone else is wrong. Never mind that people have given detailed explanations of everything that’s wrong with it. You like it and so anyone who disagrees with you is just following the herd and is incapable of forming their own opinion. Or maybe you don’t know a bad UI when it’s staring you right in the face. No one here is going to apologize for holding the game to reasonable standards.

    • Lowbrow says:

      There’s no such thing as a “wannabe gamer,” the only threshold is interest in gaming. My first RPG was Ultima VI on a 386, and IT HAD A BETTER INTERFACE. I broke down and bought the game after reading accounts on reddit of people who hated Morrowind liking it, and I just quit out of the game to look for tweaks because sloppy mouse controls had just made me spend all my money on a mercenary instead of asking her about herself and then made me physically unable to select anything but the top dialogue choice from a vendor with keyboard or mouse (I tried with an Xbox controller but movement was even more syrupy than the slow-motion turning mouse controls).

      People have issues with the interface for the same reason I’d be upset if I bought a screwdriver with an umbrella handle. I don’t care how fucking pretty it looks if it doesn’t succeed in it’s basic function.

      You can call it a silk purse all you want, but for most people this interface is a sow’s ear. You’re not a better gamer for liking it or not liking it. Personally I think there’s no excuse these days for a poor interface, and I’m sick of dealing with them.

    • yutt says:

      Near unanimous independent agreement with the article makes us sheep? How does that even make sense? I played the game, was frustrated with the user interface for the empirically described reasons listed by Jim, days before this article existed – and that makes me a sheep?


      All of this weekend my friends and I traded annoyances with the interface.

      “But sometimes, it feels like I am surrounded with wannabe gamers who have never played games before.”

      So when you click on a dialogue option with your mouse pointer, and it doesn’t choose what you clicked on, your apathy about the problem makes you better than me?

    • Maldomel says:

      I’m sorry if I offended any one of you, for I was talking under a passionate anger state.
      I’m not elitist, just saying that this UI is playable (sure it’s not made for mouse-control and that’s a bad point, ok) and most people seem to bash the game all of a sudden because of that, and it reminds me many times when I felt like players in general where whining for nothing.

      @kyrieee: I could just return your argument the other way around and it would still be valid. I’ve read the reasons why people dislike this interface, both the readers of RPS and Jim Rossignol’s opinions on the subject. But that UI is fine, it works fine. It’s not the best in the world, but certainly it is not the ugly and broken beast people are talking about. It’s just different from what we see in general, and it’s also a try for something original from Bethesda.

      Now, I’m removing the part of my first comment about wannabe gamers and sheeps. It’s offending, and when i did write it, I was myself a bit mad from reading all that stuff. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions after all, and for a moment I forgot that.
      But I still feel that some people just have the need to prove that the game is not perfect, even when it means bashing it on stuff that are, in the end, not that bad/broken.

    • iucounu says:

      Well, a few pretty obvious things stand out for me.

      1) The LMB controls your right hand, the RMB your left. This is such a basic error I had to check and see if I had accidentally enabled some kind of sinister fuckery mode. Surely this is something that the very first playtester would have mentioned? I spent 20 minutes wrestling with this before thankfully finding I could rebind them to each other.

      That isn’t looking for a grievance, it’s just a baffling bit of counter-intuitive design that I cannot imagine anyone credibly defending. The rebind is just so much more logical. Bethesda shipped the PC version with by far the worst of two possible options for the buttons you use most in the entire game; I can’t understand that.

      2) The menu is navigable with keys alone, yes – that’s quite nifty, I guess, though it still feels like navigating a cash machine. It’s when you start to try to bring the mouse in as well that things go wrong. Trying to click on things in menus is buggy. I’ve sold things I really didn’t want to sell, and said things I regret, because I’ve clicked on one thing and it’s selected the thing the keyboard cursor has selected. OK, my continued attempts to use the mouse may amount to human error, but a) sometimes it does in fact select what you clicked on and b) why would you even want it to accept a click on one menu item as confirmation for another?

      3) When you rebind keys, the keyboard prompts don’t update. That’s also just bad design.

      4) Some keys are hard-coded in certain situations. If you rebind your movement keys, you’ll still need to use WASD for the map, for example.

      5) Some things seem to be completely undocumented. I hear you can use C to spin things round in your inventory. Great! Because the only thing I’ve found so far is selecting an item to show it in the right hand side of the screen, and then moving the mouse pointer over to the picture really carefully, because if I hover over any other item on the way it’ll snap the pic to that instead. And then I can spin it about with the mouse. It’s fiddly and annoying and they’re not in a hurry to tell you there’s an easier alternative.

      6) I get dumped out of shopping quite often for missing a click, though I’m still not quite sure what I’m erroneously clicking on.

      I’m loving the game so far, but the UI isn’t quite finished. It needs a little bit of patching, and perhaps a bit of modding, but it’s not finished. I hate to say it, but it’s not like the 360 version would have shipped with the left trigger mapped to your right hand, and vice versa.

  8. Mordsung says:

    A UI should be:

    A) Completely navigable without use of the mouse, though only hotkeys, none of which should be hard-bound and none of which should be further right on the keyboard than the T,G,B line (or the equivalent for those of you who game left handed)

    B)Completely navigable with only the mouse in a way that is intuitive and fast.

    C)Inventory lists should have a search function accessible through a hotkey or mouse-click (both not either/or, both should exist)

    D)Character equipment should be assignable to a number of pre-sets so that you could switch from all heavy armor and a sword and board to robes and a spell in each hand with ONE CLICK/KEYBIND

    E) Every key in the game should be rebindable, even stuff you barely use. Binds should also be screen specific and independently bindable for each screen. Switching my ready weapon from R to something else shouldn’t also change my “loot all” key.

    These are features that should exist in EVERY UI EVER. It’s unforgivable in 2011 to not have these features, many of which have existed in games for over ten years.

    Also, any time you give me info, it should translate it to game stats. If my shield gives me 24 armor, how much percentage of physical damage does that negate exactly? How much of my armor is armor, how much is perk related, how much is spell related? What is my crit chance to two decimal places? How much DPS do I do (as in combine by weapon speed and weapon damage and tell me what the result it).

  9. efexuy says:

    please, dont forget the fugly favorites system, instead of the proper hotkey asignation fallout 3 had

    • GenuineEntropy says:

      If you add an item or spell to your fav’s list, click on it in the favorites list then hit 1-9 on your keyboard.

      Hey-presto, number-key shortcuts!

  10. AlexTaldren says:

    I still don’t understand why they don’t give us a character window that shows our equipped items in the specific slots to make things more visual. Of course, I also don’t understand why we don’t have a simple, numbered weapon inventory that allows us to switch weapons by hitting 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

    These oversights just seem inexcusable for such a company.

    • Lowbrow says:

      Yeah, it would be useful to know before buying gloves, for instance, that bracers and gloves take up the same slot. This would also make it clear why I can’t wear 10 magical rings (I haven’t tried on any magic rings yet, but I assume there’s an arbitrary number that is less than ten).

  11. crewel says:

    The UI is pretty good after a while in my opinion. Though I do want a patch to fix the performance issues.
    I should be getting a stable 60 fps with my GTX580 (I think), and i do sometimes. But sometimes it stays around 30-40 and even drop to 20-25 for no reason. And when that happens it’s like my card is not being used at all, the temperatures are low and when I check with MSI afterburner on-screen display the card is being used to around 40%.. When I get 60fps it’s being used to 99%.

  12. vexis58 says:

    I was misclicking on dialogue options CONSTANTLY until I realized that it was selecting dialogue based on which answer was HIGHLIGHTED, not which one the little arrow was pointing at (the one I had scrolled to), and not the one that my mouse cursor was on.

    One specific example I remember was when I was accosted by a thief (who told me to hand over all of my valuables AFTER HELPING ME KILL A DRAGON) and I scrolled down to tell him to go away because he’s a waste of my time, but the interface decided that I ACTUALLY cowered in front of him and gave him my money. He laughed at me for being such a weakling, I said “what just happened?” and I killed him with a fireball and took back my gold.

    Now I take my conversations a little bit more slowly, making sure that the thing I actually want to say is highlighted before clicking on it. I am deathly afraid that I will accidentally tell Lydia I don’t need her services any more instead of trading with her and she’ll leave me in this crypt alone, taking all of my valuable stuff with her.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’ve given up on the mouse for conversations. It’s much faster and 100% reliable if I just scroll up and down with the keyboard, and hit “E” to make the selection I want. That seems to be the way the current UI wants me to play this game, so I’ll grumble and go with it.

      The annoying thing is that it really is faster this way, for those “yeah, yeah, hurry up and spit it out” minor dialogues where you just want to get through it quickly, because there are no important questions or decisions. So far, I haven’t had any misfires using the “E” key. I just resent on principle, that they don’t make it equally easy and predictable with the mouse.

  13. zebrastealer says:

    As horrid as the interface is, what really bugs me is that the game looks fantastic played with 3 monitors in surround, but the menus are utterly unusable. It looks as if they implemented widescreen 98% of the way and then just bailed on completing basic work. It really is ridiculous for a triple A title like this to utterly fail to implement basic mouse/keyboard menu controls and properly widescreen support. The game is fantastic, but no pc title should require play with a game pad.

  14. Toberoth says:

    The thing that pisses me off more than anything is how little information is displayed at once. For example, say my character is staggering under the weight of all the crap I’ve picked up, how lovely would it be if I could quickly filter items by weight, with value displayed in an adjacent column? Then I could cast away all the fucking buckets and bits of lego armour that I’ve picked up by accident in the course of looting the game’s charming, though clogged and messy shelves.

    And yes, the lack of a quickly accessible status/magic effects screen is unbearable. I was infected by vampirism very early on in the game and had not a fucking clue until my fangs came through. Ridiculous.

  15. bhlaab says:

    But… but I thought this UI was “pure sex”!

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      Alec really needs to justify that statement. I’m used to getting totally misled by enthusiastic fanboy marketing-speak previews on other sites, RPS deserves better.

    • Brun says:

      Beyond the wonky controls, the biggest gripe for me is the map. Incoming itemized complaint:

      1) In the previews released by Bethesda, Todd Howard notes that “if we bring up the map, we see that we’re actually rendering the entire world.” That’s not really the case – the map is really just a low-poly, low-resolution render of the game world. It seems to be completely static. Which is nifty, BUT…
      2) …Not particularly useful for navigation. Zooming in does not increase the texture or poly resolution, and as such provides little to no additional detail. That makes finding things like roads difficult.

      Given that Bethesda stated that their interface was “inspired” (lol) by Apple (supposedly the king of interfaces), I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t take some inspiration for their map from the supposed king of interactive maps – Google. A Google-API style map with scaling detail would be much more useful than the map we have now.

  16. 1R0N_W00K13 says:

    Am I the only one who likes the Pip Boy interface in F3/NV?

    • Zarunil says:

      Not at all. Personally, I would take the Pipboy-style interface over Skyrim’s anytime. Though the Pipboy has room for improvement.

  17. Potunka says:

    My “favorite” experience with the UI? Selecting the conversation option my mouse was most definitely not hovering over. Yeah, I only use the keyboard for conversing these days.

  18. AlwaysRight says:

    Whingy whinge whinge, fuck me the game is nearly perfect yet everyone is moaning about the one thing wrong (and it is slight if you use a gamepad) with it. Why not do an article praising how it bucks current market trends:

    It doesnt have a tacked on multiplayer mode, they managed a ‘no oceans’ release date, its doesnt have inhibitive DRM, they actively support modding, it doesnt have day one DLC or microtransactions (dragon hats?). You remember Wulf was banging on about how beautiful morrowind was because of things like giant floating jellyfish ITS FUCKING GOT THEM!

    I hate pessimism and nay saying on the internet, it takes the biscuit we cant all be proud of the incredible incredible acheivements made here, wot a shame.

    • Wulf says:

      Going by your post, it doesn’t surprise me that my argument went over your head.

      Let’s analyse this, shall we?

      My argument: Skyrim is a pedestrian, dull, medieval fantasy effort that has no identity other than what it’s ripped off from other games.

      Your counter-argument: WUT, Skyrim has flyin’ jellyfish!

      My retort? Well… ripping off the netches from Morrowind doesn’t give Skyrim its own identity, now does it? Think about this. What it does is it makes it schizophrenic, like it has multiple personality disorder. It can’t decide whether it’s a straight-up Morrowind rip-off, or a troped Conan-style ‘epic’ fantasy. Yeah, Skyrim totally has a unique identity.


    • Brun says:

      So let me ask this question Wulf:

      If Skyrim is so pedestrian, what setting would you have preferred, of the known regions of Tamriel (Cyrodiil, High Rock, Skyrim, Black Marsh, Morrowind, Valenwood, Elsweyr, Sumerset Isles, Hammerfell)? You can cross Cyrodiil and Morrowind off that list as they’ve already been done. Which one of those areas would have their “own identity?” No matter how they’re done they’re going to conform to their geographical and cultural stereotypes.

      Sumerset Isles would maybe come closest to the “strange uniqueness” that you for some reason put such a high premium on. As for the rest:

      -High Rock: Mountains, steppes
      -Hammerfell: Desert
      -Elsweyr: Desert, Jungle
      -Valenwood: Forest
      -Black Marsh: Swamp

      Which one would you prefer?

    • RakeShark says:

      I’m not sure he realizes that Overgrowth is pretty much Conan with bunnies.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Wulf, dude. I genuinely think your distaste for Bethesda games has crossed the line into irrationality. You’re coming off as being so defensive that you’re resorting to immense exaggeration. I think you’d get your point across better if you took it down a notch or two, eh?

      If you break Skyrim down into its core components then you can point out where most of them come from, yes. But the charm of the game lies in the fact that all those thing coalesce into something that DOES feel original and has a unique personality and sense of place — unlike Oblivion or Fallout 3. The music, the art design, the frosty mountains, hot springs and pine trees…to me it feels like stepping into a cheesy black metal album, and I mean that in the best way possible. Skyrim is a place I would want to visit if it were real, and Morrowind is the only other game like this that I can say that about.

      It does have its problems, but it nails the atmosphere (and by extension, immersion) so well that I’m having trouble putting it down.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      My comment has nothing to do with Wulfs puzzling one man vendetta against post Morrowind Bethesda, I just pointed him out as one of the sort of childish trolls that populate ‘negativity baiting’ articles like this.

      Its to do with gaming forums obsession with pessimism. Its sad and immature and its sickening me that RPS is going down this route.

      (Let me point out Ive been coming here for years and this is by far my favourite gaming site)

      RPS you once said that your ‘trying really fucking hard’ to be the John Peel of online gaming journalism. Well John Peel always focused on the positive aspects of music and if you want to be held in the same regards, don’t publish articles like this when there is so much to praise Skyrim for.

      EDIT: Another example; film critic Mark Kermode stood by Inception and said it was his film of the year. Not because it was perfect or the most clever/emotive/well written/best acted film of the year, but because it represented a massive step forward for the AAA blockbuster.

  19. MrBRAD! says:

    You don’t need to make games good for them to sell well, you just have to make them seem good.

    • Wulf says:


      The modders who’re used to Bethesda’s shenanigans have often asked the question: Why is it all so half-arsed? And this question applies to Skyrim, too. The world (lots of artefacts and missing geometry, so clever), the juvenile storyline, the soulless characters, the emotionless voice-acting, the quests that never seem quite “finished,” the lack of variety in how you can complete things (speech is useless, unlike in New Vegas), and… generally, Skyrim feels half-arsed.

  20. Jimmy Z says:

    I guess I’m in the minority here, because I really like the UI and other design decisions they’ve made, such as hiding much of the numeric data and other UI elements you don’t really need all the time (such as the health bar when you’re still in full health or out of combat). Mostly it seems to me that people have jumped the bandwagon with whining about the UI without actually bothering to figure out how it works.

    Personally I found it very fast and ituitive to use from the start, didn’t have any problems figuring out the whole favourites-quick key thing either, maybe because, I like read the information that’s provided and stuff. But I’m special like that.

    • barfmann says:

      I agree. I actually kind of love this UI. It’s very simple, it’s intuitive (to me) and all based around gestures that keep me centered on my character. I honestly think that the UI design philosophy has a lot to do with why I enjoy this game so much – it’s designed to keep you centered on the experience of your character in Skyrim.

      When I want to look at my big picture growth, I look up to the skies.

      When I want to see where I am in the world, I look down at the earth.

      I even like the magic/inventory separation – I usually have spells on my left hand, and weapons on my right, so that distinction makes intuitive sense to me too.

      I’ve never had difficulty determining when a particular item is better than what I’ve got on – the armor/damage indicator is useful for that, as is the little carrot on the right side of the item name, which will tell you right off that “this is the best possible thing on your person.”

      I also like the disease stuff – to me, it’s about immersion. It totally makes sense that in the heat of battle, you wouldn’t realize that you just contracted some rabid wolf disease. You’d realize when you started to feel the effects, or when someone told you “man, you look like shit.” That’s how sickness operates in the real world, and it’s cool that now it operates like that in game land too.

      So yeah, I’m a big defender of this UI. It does, for me, what a good UI should do: keeps me focused on the game world, and my character, not on managing numbers, tiles, and stats.

    • Lowbrow says:

      @barfmann: Not that I agree with the rest, but on the disease point you have described the opposite of what happens in the interface. In the heat of battle, you get a message saying you’ve contracted a disease, and then further info is buried except for people saying you look sick. Ignoring incubation periods etc., the information I received from the game about the effects of the wolf disease was on par with the information I would get about a large pimple. When you are sick it is the ONLY thing on your mind, and a “realistic” interface would prioritize over all else. With no physical feedback or prominent notification every disease becomes leprosy.

      Wait! That’s it! Every disease is magical leprosy! That’s why it’s buried, for realism!

    • barfmann says:

      I see what you’re saying, but I’m still fine with the way disease in handled. Yeah, it gives you that little “you just got infected” notice, but it’s super small and I nearly always miss it. I’m too busy killing things to read.

      There are “physical” effects, but it can be hard to tell sometimes. When vampirism starts to set in, your vision will go grey scale – that’s usually when I realize “oh damn, I gotta get to a church.” Other diseases will start noticeably effecting your health, magika or stamina. The first time I got sick, I missed the little notice thing, and didn’t realize anything was wrong until it felt like I couldn’t run as long as I could before. Looked up active effects and “diagnosed” that illness. For me, it’s cooler to realize the illness in an organic way like that, based on it’s actual gameplay effects, instead of big red text saying “you’re sick” or aesthetic changes to my character – neither of which, really, affect gameplay. That’s my preference, though.

    • Arglebargle says:

      This UI fails. It does not allow people to play the way they want. You should be able to set up the game to any system of use that you are comfortable with. There’s no real reason it HAS to be the way they’ve designed it. Other than Bethesda’s lazyness….

      It has inconsistant behaviors from the same commands in the same areas. You can reprogam some keys but not others. It is poor at giving you easy access to important information. etc.

      Notice the huge number of people who are having trouble or are legitimately unhappy with it. And, from what I gather, it is not going to be easy for the usual modding crowd to fix.

  21. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    My stance is: The UI is bad, but not enough to impact on the overall gaming experience.

    Therefore, I don’t believe it’s utterly terrible once you get used to its silly aspects. Just something you deal with while playing one of the best games ever.

    So, to conclude: Yes, it’s worth raising how bad it is but it should also be noted that it ultimately is more of a bugbear than a full on major game fault.

    • yutt says:

      You obviously don’t play a mage. Trying to juggle spells means you are fucking around in their terrible UI more often than actually playing the game while in combat.

      I assume from the lack of complaints on this specific issue that most people play melee or archer oriented.

    • Abundant_Suede says:


      The Skyrim interface is largely indefensible in my opinion, but I dont see a point there, unless it’s about the elder scrolls games in general, in which switching spells is always kind of clunky. (Far worse on consoles, of course.)

      If playing with a keyboard (which you should be), you can hotkey spells like any other weapon, and at least in Skyrim you can have two different spells active at a time, which is an improvement over Oblivion.

      The two step process to set the hotkeys up is annoying, but once you have it set up, playing a mage is no different than playing any other first person game that requires weapon switching.

    • yutt says:


      I’ve found the previous Elder Scrolls games too obtuse to bother with. Almost Nintendo-like in the developers’ obliviousness to what a modern game should be. Obviously this can have benefits, but it didn’t in the case of the UI.

      Past failure is never an excuse for present. If anything it should be all the more reason for complaint.

      I’ve noticed this sort of defense in the Elder Scrolls community. A sort of “Well the previous version was *extremely* bad, you should be grateful for this one being *merely* bad”. No, I’m not, and I’m not going to wait until I develop Bethesda-Stockholm Syndrome to get over the UI flaws.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      Yes, well, while I hate to argue in defense on this point, I dont think this *particular* issue has as much to do with the UI as with your playstyle. As long as hotkeys are available, if you’re juggling so many spells it’s difficult for you, that’s a challenge of your playstyle, not the UI…in this particular instance.

      The game allows you to have an offensive and defensive or support spell active at the same time, which is more than adequate for most of the encounters in the game, and equivalent to any other character’s bread and butter attacks and defense, even on max difficulty. If you’re constantly trying to keep up a buff, a pet, heal a companion, control, and attack all at the same, obviously that’s going to be more challenging, and it’s supposed to be. It would be just as difficult for an archer to do all those things, or to constantly switch to weapons with different effects. A Mage can run and gun effectively without doing any more weapon juggling than an archer, except to tailor his weapons to the situation.

      I wrote several paragraphs of UI gripes on the front page, but I disagree on this issue that playing a mage is any more difficult than playing another “class” because of the UI. Playing my mage is much easier than my other characters in my experience. I wish all the things I need to do with my archer assassin were as easy as assigning a hotkey to effortlessly swap out one of my hands. Your playstyle may be more ambitious with more spinning plates, and obviously there are different types of mages with unique challenges.

      Nitpicking your point aside, the UI does blow on a persistent basis.

  22. chaos4u says:

    What i really like is on the skrim offical forums. anyone who complains about the ui is met with a a lot of people yelling at them saying the ui is fine! use the control pad !! use the key board !! or i switched from one to using another and i dont have any problems. when actually the problems is highly visible
    but people just dont care . they would rather lavish praise upon praise on it then give it a critical think and offer helpful suggestions that would make the ui actually usable.

    • Unaco says:

      “they would rather lavish praise upon praise on it then give it a critical think and offer helpful suggestions that would make the ui actually usable.”

      Nothing wrong with that. They get to the critical thinking and comments eventually… Praise first, THEN critical comments. Some people prefer to do things serially.

    • Wulf says:

      This is why you never…

      Can I emphasise this?



      …go to Bethesda’s official forums. There are a lot of distasteful and disreputable people, there.

      Instead, try the Nexus forums. There I’ve found some of the nicest, the most helpful, and generally and genuinely some of the best examples of gamers I’ve seen anywhere on the Internet. Maybe it’s because there are so many modders there, perhaps it’s because there’s such a parade of entirely different people present, but there’s an air of tolerance at the Nexus which defies the Internet.

      If you want decency out of any Bethesda-related product’s community, you go there.

    • Unaco says:

      From my experience in the Morrowind and Oblivion modding communities… Yes, like with any community there are a couple bad apples at the TES Forums. There are a couple bad apples here, or anywhere though. That shouldn’t push you away from the place entirely… there are just as many “distasteful and disreputable people” at TES Nexus (or there where last I checked it out).

      TES Forums was also where a lot of the mechanics and utilities where discussed and organised… it was the only place where there was go-between and conversation betwixt modders and devs… it was the home of the efforts to produce the Construction Set wiki… it was where a lot of the bigger, more ambitious mods where organised and feedback was gathered… where a lot of efforts to do interesting things with mods where discussed (ESP dependencies, ESMification, etc) and where problems with mods where figured out (disruption of neighbouring cells to one changed, Archive invalidation for textures).

      Ignore Wulf’s sweeping generalisation, the TES Forums are just as bad/good as anywhere else on the web.

  23. Bellicose says:

    Know what I wish they’d fix? The total lack of integrity due to swearing.
    You’re on RPS, not Kotaku. Act a little more grown up.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      If swearing constitutes a lack of integrity then I’m pretty sure we’re all fucked.

    • yutt says:

      Was Jim being unnecessarily bellicose?

    • Bellicose says:

      I see RPS has been taken over by the mouthbreathers who play Call of Duty.
      Jim calls himself a journalist, but he’s utterly failing those standards.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      You’re trolling the comments section and making completely baseless claims about people (mouthbreathers? Call of Duty? Busting out the classic handwaving cliches, I see) yet you apparently think you’re too sophisticated for us peons because Jim said ‘fuck’ in his article.

      I’m sorry, I’m having trouble catching my breath with all the irony in the air. Excuse me if I breathe through my mouth for a bit.

  24. keef99 says:

    What is this “gamepad” of which you all speak, and is this something I need to go buy from my computer?

    • alundra says:

      I’m not sure if you are for real but yes, you can purchase a gamepad from any computer store, better yet get a x360 gamepad and connect it to the PC, I personally like other pads better but you will have literally 0 compatibility problems if you use one from the x360 console.

      Unfortunately it’s true and the gui wasn’t made for mouse input, it will work just fine with a gamepad, alternatively you can follow the advice found on this page and use the wasd input from the keyboard

  25. Jim Rossignol says:

    No personal insults, please. There is no need for it.

  26. Zefah says:

    Weird. I actually rather like the interface in Skyrim. Much more so than the one in Oblivion, at least.

  27. CommanderZx2 says:

    Indeed the menu thingy is annoying and so I barely ever use it. I’ve played any weapons, shouts, powers, potions, etc that I want to use frequently in the favourites menu.

    This allows for very fast swapping of items and I never go to that 4 way switch thing, I just press the button for the relevant area like M for map.

    The map can be quite useful in some ways, just open the journal highlight a quest goal and press M. The map will then zoom its way to the goal and then I can just fast travel to the nearest area to my goal. I also like how it’s easy to show multiple quest goals simultaneously on that map and decativate or activate the ones I want shown quite easily.

  28. MythArcana says:

    And I said all this one day one: Skyrim NEEDS a PC UI patch immediately. This is what happens when you design a PC game with the XBawks target in mind. And how do you exit the Credits all?

    Is is so damned hard to use ONE KEY like “Escape” or similar? There are like 3 keys which act like Return in the menus and depending on which menu you are on at the time, they seem to change. No consistency, non-intuitive, sloppy controls in this area – and it definitely does pull me out of the game every time I hit that damned TAB key. Ugh.

    I smell a community patch coming very soon ’cause Bethseda has too much pride to fix this.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Oh this so much. Even on gamepad the ‘back’ button regularly changes, and the skip dialogue button changes regularly as well. How hard is it?

      Also I would like to complain about same sex relationships not being supported so that this becomes the longest comments thread RPS has ever seen.

      Other than that, LOVE IT. When I found myself actually laughing at the dialogue rather than any comically bad voice acting I knew this was special.

  29. Eddy9000 says:

    Reply fail

  30. irongamer says:

    The UI will be consolized!

    The UI was built for one thing, to support a gamepad. Some will like this, others will hate it. I don’t use a gamepad.

    After playing for over 20 hours I have found the UI rather annoying and bland. The inventory, spell selection, and quick menu feel so disembodied from the game world, like some minimalist designer got a hold of it and tore out any theme or relation to the world of Skyrim.

    Not only does the interface feel empty I’m trying to figure out how some of it got by QA. The dialog options get screwed up if you are using your arrow keys. I often have to cycle to the bottom to get the selection lined up on the correct dialog option.

    The function of the inventory and spell system is like the Windows 95-7 start menu with slide out menus…or moving through folders in the Apple finder… I my book that is a horrible step backwards. But hey got to support those gamepads.

    I’m looking forward to some UI mods.

  31. asshibbitty says:

    And while we’re talking of interfaces: the RPS comment threads have gotten hecka unwieldy lately. Time to switch to a third party comment system perhaps?

  32. explodeydendron says:

    Another troublesome thing is the ambiguity of the quest screen. So far, I have at least a dozen vague entries in my quest log of mysterious origin. Such as, “Talk to (so and so)”. That’s it? Talk to some person? Why? What about?

    I end up having to use google too often–a real immersion breaker. And even if I have no intention of ever starting certain quests, I’m stuck with them. I call it quest spam. I’ll likely end up googling them again someday when I forget.

  33. FecesOfDeath says:

    Hello, copycat blog! Someone already complained about the UI days ago on Gamasutra. I think Mr. Rossignol read it and decided to make nearly the same blog post here.

    • Brun says:

      …Or perhaps the universality of the complaints is a testament to the shoddy state of the UI?

      I don’t think anyone who had played Oblivion, FO3, or NV had any delusions about what the UI in Skyrim would be like. We all knew it was going to be a built-for-consoles UI, we just didn’t know how bad it would be.

    • vecordae says:

      I agree. It is simply IMPOSSIBLE that someone looked at the UI, noted its glaring problems, and then discussed it on their blog INDEPENDENTLY of anyone else. Such things simply do not occur as Skyrims UI problems are subtle and only a profound GENIUS of games journalism would have ever even noticed and, as we all know, only one such genius exists.

    • SiHy_ says:

      Great Scott! Two gaming blogs covering a highly discussed element of one of the biggest games to come out recently AT THE SAME TIME?? Say it ain’t so!
      You, sir, have blown my mind.
      Boom… See, there it goes.

    • yutt says:

      I think you’re on to something. I noticed IGN put up their review of Skyrim the same day as RPS. It seems that no sort of professional integrity exists in this field. One outlet blatantly reviews a game around the same time as another outlet.


    • SiHy_ says:

      My god… How far up does this conspiracy go!?

    • Nick says:

      Thats nothing, they are also both in the same language. Total rip off.

  34. Dominic White says:

    I thought the UI was pretty clunky at first. Then I realised that absolutely everything can be done without moving my hand at all – Tab, WSAD, E and R control 99% of interface work, and you can get to what you want quite quickly. There’s some things that can be smoothed out, and some bugs to fix via hotkeying and reconfigured controls, but I actually found it rather elegant after a few hours play.

    Also, the map is beautiful. It seems ridiculous to complain about that.

    • Metonymy says:

      This is correct, and important.

      WSAD for moving through menus
      E instead of ‘Enter’
      R for miscellaneous stuff like ‘Take All’
      F for the spells you want to hotkey
      Q to acess those spells, then press a number to hotkey them.

      A hotkeyed weapon always goes to right hand, a hotkeyed spell always goes to left hand. If you want a spell in the right hand, you just hit that kotkey twice. So for a fireball, heal combo, you might hit: 223. 2 is fireball, 3 is heal.

      The UI is smooth as silk once you get this bit, but getting there is an annoying learning experience, with no documentation. And of course, customization is non-existent. I’ve decided it’s better not to swap left and right mouse function, since the designers have made it as difficult as possible.

      I personally switched sneak to ‘c’ since it’s stupid to put something important on a difficult key to reach, but otherwise the default is actually really good.

    • vecordae says:

      I think much of the annoyance is that the UI doesn’t function in a way that we, as PC RPG gamers are accustomed to and doesn’t let us easily modify it so that it does. It’s minimal (a bit too minimal at times) while we are used to having big gobs of numbers and such to poke at. I like the way it works fine, though it’d be nice if weapons and armor would provide a smidge more info. Like what slot they take up or relative swing speed, for instance

    • Brun says:

      Most of the complaints about the map are related to its functionality, not its aesthetics.

      Example: Snow-covered road is white. Snow-covered ground is white. Is there a road there at all? I can’t tell because the low-detail render of the world doesn’t capture enough detail for me to see it. I run into similar situations all the time, where it might look like there’s a road, but its exact path is not clear.

      Functionally, their map gets you nothing over a hand-drawn map like Oblivion’s except a pretty piece of eye-candy. If the detail increased as I zoomed in, things would be different.

    • vecordae says:

      That sounds like the problem is coming from expectations not being met more than anything. I don’t expect the game map to give me details of a game world before I’ve explored it. Once I’ve explored an area, I don’t feel the need to have the game give me an inaccurate, scaled-down representation of it. My little lizard bloke knows where the road is now, afterall. As long as it gives me a rough lay of the land and is accurate about where points of interest are located in the world, I am happy.

    • Arglebargle says:

      But apparantly it was too much trouble to allow people to switch the controls around. Gee, thanks! Even I know that there are people who like different patterns beside WASD, or -Gasp- use the numpad. Inconsistancy and inflexibility are really gross failures in this day and age, though I do expect that of Bethesda by now.

      What really amuses me are the reports from about how it doesn’t even work consistently well on gamepads.

    • yutt says:

      I’ve noticed most of the defense of the UI seems to be along these lines. At first you realized it was terrible, but then after 12 hours of play, you got used to it.

      So did we. You aren’t special. We are capable of adjusting (to the point of bare usability) to the objectively terrible UI, while still commenting on why it is terrible.

      Not a single one of you apologists has explained how the UI selecting a dialogue option you didn’t click on is good design. Nor how keybinding remapping can completely break the interface (as described in the Gamasutra article) is how things should be. Nor how the trade interface being a left-justified jumble mess with no visual distinction is somehow good. Nor how the tab key being used to escape sometimes, but not all the time, just completely arbitrarily – is good design.

      “You get used to it,” is not a defense. It is admission of the problem. You’ve agreed there was a problem to work around. That it was not intuitively designed. That the UI is flawed in ways that were clear to you from the moment you began playing.

      Do you know what a map is? That its purpose is to aid in navigation? If you were trying to find your way from one city to another, here in the real world, and someone tried to sell you a map without roads, would you buy it? No, you wouldn’t. You’d rightly tell them to fuck off.

      Before one of you tries to tell me that medieval maps were often real-time, low-poly, 3D satellite views of terrain – no, they weren’t. Shut up and admit it is bad.

      You don’t have to be contrary just for the sake of it. People have VERY clearly explained what is wrong with the UI. You can agree, I promise it doesn’t hurt. Also, you get to be right, instead of wrong, like you currently are.

    • Lowbrow says:

      @yutt You guys arguing for realism here don’t really want it. Here is a medieval world map:

      link to

      Remember, maps are a technology.

    • sneetch says:

      I’m not looking for realism, I’m looking for a more useful, in-game map.

      The 3D map is beautiful, the cloud cover is gorgeous and I though it was brilliant when I first saw it, but it’s also mostly useless due to that same cloud cover. If we could turn that off – or if it turned itself off as we discovered areas like I first assumed it would, like in Zelda and countless other games with a fog of war – then we could (probably) zoom in and see details that would enable us to actually navigate using the map as opposed to select destinations on the map then largely navigate using the compass alone.

      I’d prefer being able to glance at my map and say “alright, I need to follow this river upstream, cross it at the second bridge, follow the road to the first fork, take a right then it should be through a pass and behind that mountain” rather than say it’s “North-North-West lets go, over hill and dale”.

  35. vecordae says:

    I find the UI to be functional, though not perfect. I’ve not had many of the mouse-driven menu selection issues that people are mentioning, however, which seems to be where much of the frustration comes from.

    One of the things that I have really liked is how little information the UI gives you when you are actually playing the game. I like the feeling of uncertainty I have when I see someone up the road walking my way. There isn’t any pop-up to tell me if he’s a friend or a foe. Rather, I have to get a little closer, listen, and watch. There isn’t an icon telling me I have some disease or another. Rather, friendly NPC’s will comment on my apparent health. I enjoy this because it really allows me to get lost in the world they’ve created. Feedback is done via in-game visual and audio queues rather than UI pop-ups.

    I know that a big part of traditional PC role-playing is stat monkeying and the feeling of satisfaction one feels when they’ve mastered some complex and many-layered rule set. I know that the expectation is that an RPG have these things clearly exposed, but in this case it really isn’t necessary for me. I am experiencing the game through the eyes of my Argonian Sneaky-Archery-McConjuror in a way that feels very personal. Hiding the majority of his mathy guts under the hood has served to remove a layer of disconnect between his experiences and mine and I find that immensely satisfying.

    That all said, yeah, the UI could use some tweaking to make it more reliable, but I like its presentation pretty much as is.

  36. thesnakez says:

    Rename it

    Rock Paper Shotgun: Getting More Views from Flame Wars


    Complaining: A Day in the Life of a “Video Game Enthusiast”

    No wonder I don’t come here anymore, the only substance of the article is to complain about something that could be in a review. Don’t waste your time with reading past the first paragraph…because its something that could have been “organized”, like, oh lets say, a in-game interface.

    • psyk says:

      Got to get that ad revenue

    • yutt says:

      Flame wars? All I see is near universal agreement. Even from those who think they are disagreeing. I suppose your comment is a flame, but that’s a bit self-fulfilling, eh?

      I don’t even understand where the “could have been in a review” comment is coming from. Apparently, contrary to your implication that you used to regularly read RPS, you’ve in-fact rarely been here? As they comment on games outside of the arbitrary designation of “REVIEW” all the time.

    • Nick says:

      “No wonder I don’t come here anymore”

      Something doesn’t make sense here..

    • psyk says:

      It’s a good point, why did this need its own article?

      link to

      Oh look at that and alec even says it should of been in his first look. This is a way to up the page views and get more ad revenue.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “This is a way to up the page views and get more ad revenue.”

      Unlike all those other articles… Oh wait, I’m being cynical about my own site! That doesn’t even make sense.

      I think the point is: I can write what I like, because this is my blog. No one has to read it. Fortunately they are so outraged that they do. Hooray!

    • psyk says:

      :p evil

      Once again

      Yes you can and we can call you out on what is obviously flamebait but hey we all need extra cash

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “but hey we all need extra cash”

      Not me, I am already unimaginably wealthy.

      Besides, you’d think if I wanted to draw flamebait I’d post something that was actually controversial…

    • yutt says:

      @psyk So they should only post articles on current relevant topics if you agree with the premise?

    • psyk says:


      Yutt what? I agree they can post what they want no where have I said they can’t post what they want. I’m just calling it as I see it.

      “OK, this is the element I really should have spared a paragraph for in my initial WIT, in retrospect.”

      Nah just put each problem in it’s own article ;)

      Can’t wait for the article about no horse combat going to be a riot.

  37. Arglebargle says:

    There needs to be a new award set up: The Skyrim Award for worst UI of the Year!

  38. the.celt says:

    After reading the six pages of comments for this article I can’t believe the number of people that not only think the Skyrim UI is *not* bad, but they think it’s actually quite good! The don’t even refer to it as “acceptable”, they call it “good” and some even call it “great”! There’s even insults directed towards the writer of the article and anyone that agrees with him! A guy a few posts above me refers to people who dislike the UI as “sheeps” (not “sheep”). The damn sheeps are just going with the flow and hating the UI just to fit in with the other sheeps.

    Getting it out of the way, my opinion is that the UI is clearly very bad for PC users.

    These people calling it a good UI because you can eventually figure it out and learn to work with it… as a variant on the Princess Bride quote I would say to them that I don’t think you understand what UI means. I wish I could ask them all at once, is there *anything* you would call a bad UI design? Is your only requirement, pass or fail for a UI, that it “works”? The people defending this UI, it seems to me, would defend starting a car by pressing all pedals at once and then turning on and off the radio. After all, it breaks new ground and it works.

    Do they understand that a UI isn’t great just because it works at all? It’s called “great” because it’s intuitive and easy. Hopefully it’s clear that “intuitive and easy” is a standard that’s very much affected by previous efforts. It doesn’t stand alone in a vacuum, it stands next to other similar efforts. The effort to start a car isn’t graded as if no other car has ever existed. The grade is relative to the ease of starting most/all other cars. Right?

    Dang, I’ll just resist the desire to go on. This UI is so freaking unintuitive. As many others have said, just leaving a menu screen to return to the game (tab) is the number one piece of evidence. When I first encountered it I pressed so many keys on my keyboard before I got it right and I still keep getting it wrong, because I’m playing other games before returning to Skyrim. When I come back to Skyrim I have to retrain myself. It’s probably because I’m a sheeps.

    • yutt says:

      Oh man, that analogy is glorious.

      The accelerator works! You just have to turn the radio volume up, rather than press what sheep historically considered the gas pedal. They’re breaking new ground for human-car interface design!

    • vecordae says:

      My personal experience was that the UI was intuitive and easy. It took me all of five minutes to figure out and hasn’t caused me any problems since. I also understand that this isn’t everyone’s experience. I don’t think people are wrong for disliking it (though the amount of emotional investment in the UI that some people have displayed strikes me as less than reasonable) and I do understand that, from a purely technical perspective, it has some glaring issues. I have simply been fortunate in those issues either not applying to or otherwise not affecting me. I like the aesthetic and appreciate how the minimalist sort of interface helps with my personal sense of immersion.

      Also: Some games who’s UIs I didn’t care for that I still enjoyed: Mass Effect, Borderlands, Assassin’s Creed, and Sword of the Stars.

      Double-Plus Also: It probably bears mentioning that I’ve been playing ‘puter games since before the mouse was a commonly-used thing, so using a menu system that is primarily key-driven rather than mouse-driven presents me with no difficulty.

    • yutt says:


      I’ve been playing PC games since long before mice or PCs were things that people had. I’m capable of figuring out how to use a keyboard, so if you think that is why people are upset, no wonder you are confused.

      What part of the Perk interface is “minimal”? If you appreciate minimal UIs, as you claim, you would agree it is terrible.

      The low-poly 3D map is minimal? No, it is just not functional. A map is a particular thing, with a particular role, which the satellite camera they’ve given us instead of a map does not fulfill. If the map isn’t going to display something like roads (a thing humans figured out to include with maps since their invention thousands of years ago); why have a map at all?

      At this point I understand you’re entrenched and now can’t admit the failures, but if you figured out how to 1) Assign favorites 2) Access the favorites menu 3) Assign numerical hotkeys to a favorite “in 5 minutes”, you must have designed it. Because otherwise you’re exaggerating to the point of lying.

      Your positions are as inconsistent and unnavigable as the UI itself.

    • the.celt says:


      I’m 47. I think my first computer was a 286. I don’t remember. I don’t think whatever is causing our difference of opinion is coming from age or experience.

      Speaking only for myself, the amount of “emotional investment” I have was not initially very strong. My initial impression, after struggling with tab exiting, the sprawling constellation perk menu thingy, and the still unfound character menu (is there one?) was that the UI was literally “ha ha” laughable. Like I literally laughed and off-handedly blamed consoles, and then thought to myself that there will be a shitstorm on various forums about this debacle.

      The forums *are* busy with UI comments, as I predicted. What surprises me, though, are the people that think the UI is “great”. The first several I discounted as trolling. Now I’d guess about a third of the comments on the topic are defensively positive and I find myself thinking “Really?… Really!?”

      There’s a large enough number of positive comments that it’s giving me the desire to probe the phenomena. Is there nothing so bad that there wouldn’t always be someone saying “I think it’s actually quite good”? Is there no music or food that could be so bad that the *best* thing that could be said is that it’s an acquired taste?

      Apparantly my personal experience with Skyrim’s UI badness is not the final word. =) At any rate, I thank Mr. Rossignol for writing the article and think anyone calling his motives into question for writing the article is some variant of nuts. He said what needed saying.

    • Heisenberg says:

      I am just as baffled. Yesterday I dared to mention my dislike for the UI in the Sunday Papers, and was immediately insulted by someone who completely got the wrong end of the stick (and not only that,in the process i think managed to confuse HUD and UI as the same thing). It was then suggested that complex gameplay mechanics and a hard difficulty level where one and the same.Ok.

    • vecordae says:


      Nah. I didn’t mean to imply that my age somehow have me some strange advantage over everyone else. What I meant was that I’ve used all sorts of control schemes over the years, some of them particularly sadistic, so I might be more forgiving than some of the other good folks here.

      As far as understanding why someone could think it was good, I think that bears some mulling over. I think that the people who like the UI came into the game with very different expectations than those who didn’t or found the interface to simply align closely with their personal preferences. It’s really that easy. If the UI clicks for you and you don’t have any issues with it as it stands, you’re not going to be upset that you can’t easily change it. If you enjoy figuring out what’s going on around you by using your character’s eyes and ears rather than with UI popups and characters sheets, you’re not going to be bothered by their absence. If you’re expecting your map to be a rough abstraction of the world around you rather than a highly-accurate, information-rich representation, you’re not going to be upset that individual roads (and there are many, many, winding roads) aren’t shown on it. I understand why folks would find that frustrating and they aren’t wrong for it, but I hope that helps explain why someone might find the UI to be “pretty good” rather than “the worst ever” in its aesthetics. The technical problems, however, definitely need addressing and soon.


      This isn’t a debate. I’ve shared my impressions based on my experiences. I feel no inclination to list, in detail, why I think something is intuitive or not. That sort of thing is based almost entirely on my personal experiences, something that no amount of debate or argument on my part will ever impart upon anyone else. You obviously think the UI is terrible and I think that that’s fine. I’m not interested in changing your mind.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Stockholm syndrome
      From Wikipedia:

      “In psychology, Stockholm Syndrome is a term used to describe a real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them”

      Edit: To clarify, that’s a tongue-in-cheek comment, not intending to disparage anyone personally. I feel it myself, every time I look up at the night sky in this game, and think the UI may not be so bad after all.

    • vecordae says:

      It did feel rather like it was personally directed, mate. I enjoy the game and I like the UI. I’m not even saying everyone else should enjoy it or that it’s without problems.

      Seems a resonable, bygones-be-bygones sort of stance. Not sure why folks feel inclined to mock me over it. I suppose that’st he nature of the internet.

      Gets to me, it does. I can’t sleep at night, knowing that someone on the internet might be unhappy.

  39. Jimbo says:

    Did you know that the key to set a ‘Favorite’ item is actually determined by your ‘Change PoV’ binding (default F I think)? Good luck figuring that out if you’ve changed your bindings, because the GUI sure as fuck isn’t going to say anything other than ‘F’. I had to set everything back to default to find out what F was supposed to be, then redo all the bindings. I swore :(

    • Highstorm says:

      I threw things. A cat or two, actually. The poor things… This is on you, Skyrim!

  40. wiper says:

    The outraged comments in this thread have filled me with much mirth. Carry on, Angry Internet Men, spew forth your bile at the evil, copycat, needlessly whinging Skyrim-haters that RPS clearly are. How dare they assail the MAJESTIC GLORY of Skyrim’s UI!

    I hope that Jim is VERY sorry for his terrible behaviour, as he has surely RUINED the game for EVERYONE, the monster.

  41. psyk says:

    Yes you can and we can call you out on what is obviously flamebait but hey we all need extra cash.

  42. yutt says:


    I’ve been following this thread all day, and if one thing surprised me, it was how many people agreed. That, and how passionately some people AREN’T HAVING ANY PROBLEM WITH THE UI AND IT IS GREAT YOU IDIOT.

    Edit: Crazy comment system misplacement.

    • psyk says:

      not deleted just moved up a few posts to where it should of gone.

  43. catmorbid says:

    Well, personally it isn’t the worst possible GUI. At least its fairly easy to navigate using wasd e r and tab, making it pretty intuitive most of the time. Then again, if you have a lot of stuff it becomes more painful because of the list interface. Seriously, too much to ask for a scalable grid interface? Oblivion had some pretty good mods that did this and made a ton of difference.

    But the skill menu is in fact quite horrible, as is the complete lack of any feedback regarding how your skills affect stuff. Of course, with lack of anything better, you get used to it and find yourself navigating around the menus without too many problems. But seriously, I hope this can be modded.

    Edit: If you find the gui overwhelmingly bad, are you using the mouse most of the time? If you are, try using keyboard instead. Helps a lot for me.

  44. Dorako says:

    I don’t know, I’m glad it’s said but I think it was said too strongly. The menu is a pain, but it isn’t really the game breaking mess the article makes it out to be.

    • Heisenberg says:

      well, for me personally, this, along with a load of other things (that i’m to scared to go into) has made it a hard to enjoy experience.

  45. Larkington says:

    It’s unclear what all the hubbub is about. Skyrim’s UI works wonderfully on my Mac. I just pinch to zoom the map, swipe left and right to change equipment; I even four-finger swipe to bring up a different menu. Best of all, I can purchase new constellation configurations in the App store! Brilliant.

  46. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I actually like the constellations. They’re shiny. Ooooh.

  47. automata says:

    I’ll just point out that I haven’t bought Skyrim and don’t intend to ever buy it (or play it, for that matter), so I don’t really have my own opinions on the matter of whether it’s a good or bad UI. I did like some of the things I’ve seen in the game footage/let’s plays from a game design perspective, but at best it’s just made me nostalgic for Morrowind and Daggerfall.

    Note that Daggerfall allowed you to assign keys how you liked without fudging things up. Daggerfall.

    I’ve played a lot of older games with (by modern standards, and even by standards of the day) with poor UIs. Ultima 3 in particular had a rather annoying graphical display where all of the character info was given line by line (whereas in the previous Ultima you got a separate character screen and could see everything at once. However, at that time they didn’t have as much in the way of industry knowledge and consumer feedback to know how to design an interface well.

    By this stage they do, so I think games that have poor interfaces should come under heavy criticism. Like I said before: key assignment has been done in Bethesda games with at least some competence since Daggerfall. They also managed to make decent use of the mouse there and more so in Morrowind. Their own company surely knows how to do better than what’s been stated in this article, and in the comments here and in other places as well.

    I’ve not noticed this kind of complaints about many other new games than I have for Skyrim. Portal 2 didn’t get articles of this kind, none of the FPSes seemed to either, etc. That this is even an issue for as many people as it has been suggests that there is a problem. If people are playing a game that’s supposedly great in content and so many of them are noticing the UI in their way at all, it’s a problem. To go against the gaming norm, just because, seems very stupid. This incompetence or laziness (I’m not sure which) that Bethesda have shown for a while is exactly why I stopped buying their games.

    But the more serious problem is not that this problem exists, as this really only affects one game on one platform. The more serious problem is the journalism reporting on this issue in regards to reviewing. I can give a pass to the console/mixed site reviews that state they’ve reviewed a console copy, but when something so fundamental as backtracking on the established conventions for no real reason other than either disinterest or laziness and still calling it the best game of the year does a huge disservice. Not just to the consumers, but to every other game developer out there who has put out a title with an intuitive interface and good content.

    • Brun says:

      To be fair, the UI is not as important in FPS games like Portal 2, etc. You usually only use it to Pause or Save. In an RPG like The Elder Scrolls, where inventory management is a pretty important part of the game, the UI is, and should be, held to a much higher standard.

  48. Parable says:

    Does anybody know how to fix what he’s talking about? The plugging in a gamepad and suddenly the mouse/keyboard bindings are all wacky?

  49. freestonew says:

    I feel you all’s Pain!

    I was Introduced to this sort of thing when I sat down with a book showing a famous abstract artist’s works. the paintings were in time order. his first paintings were beautiful literal scenes of countrysides. Slowly, over the years, his paintings became more and more abstract. Near the end of his life, I could not even tell what he wanted to show to us!
    [Rule: unless carefully controlled, everything goes soon to abstractions where the head ends up ruling and the Device, painting, etc, is 30,000 feet off of the ground and you need an oxygen mask to be on that level and the whole connection to the earthly ground has long been lost.]

    There was that European sports car, recently, where the ENTIRE dashboard’s commands were centrally driven by a *tiny* keyboard in where the horn used to be. Every command. you needed two hands to enter anything. you better not be driving.
    it took THIRTY TWO DISCRETE COMMANDS just to get to *a* radio station and if one mistake was made, the console would reset back to command number one!!

    what were they thinking?!

    *that* is the problem! they *were* thinking! thinking a lot. but only thinking. that is what happens; they design something that is so so cool and complicated and “rococo”, and no real human being can use it!
    lost touch with the earth plane. a game where the menus and such are useless.

    the designers have lost touch with their players, they design only for other IQ 140 multi-tasking designer types of players.. not for you or I.

    Do another Daggerfall with a bit better graphics. add more things to the game.

    I have watched the Final fantasy games go ever ever the more reccoco and abstract too. the monsters sprout extra wings, extra body parts. get huger and huger. menus get ever the more abstract.
    bye bye…..

    will this Skyrim ever be played by me?

    how about a nice daggerfall game, installed on windows 7 and install it with a one click install and then play directly from the shortcut! someone made a dosbox exe. much like the GOG games, for daggerfall.

    link to

    Daggerfall : DaggerfallSetup EN


    Version 2.3
    By Ancestral Ghost

    DaggerfallSetup was done for install a ready to play Daggerfall easily on modern Windows Systems.

    The game is already patched with the patch 2.13 and the official questpack CompUSA Special Edition and work with a already configured DosBox. In option, you can install many unofficial fixes and new quests. (See detail).

    Like any Windows Setup, you can install Daggerfall anywhere on your computer. The setup can add a shortcut on your desktop, a folder in your start menu and a quick launch icon. Off course, you can uninstall Daggerfall as easily as you can install it.

    good grief!
    I just now discovered that on this same page there is a similar program for the older game ARENA too, the first elder scroll game!! for win 7, no less.
    [getting off topic, time to stop!]


  50. Roseiar says:

    As it so happens, I disagree with, Mr. Writer, I happen to think the UI is good. The only thing I can agree with you on is the skills/perks.