UI/Branding Teardown — Assetto Corsa

13d69c50-ede5-461d-a636-bdb2f8e14988Welcome to the second in an ongoing series of ‘UI/Branding Teardowns’ at Vyxl. The articles in this series are not intended to be excessively deep, but focus on key aspects of a game titles’ UI and Branding; providing a summary intended for design reference. 

Assetto Corsa
Kunos Simulazioni
2013 (PC), 2016 (PS4/Xbox One)

Assetto Corsa -‘Race Trim’ or ‘Racing Setup’ in Italian- is a Racing Simulation for PC and current-gen consoles (Nintendo Switch excepted) featuring modern supercars, historical F1 cars to street cars from the more exotic manufacturers.

Within the extremely healthy Sim Racing landscape, AC is held aloft in regards to both its driving physics and its outright beauty: quite simply it’s one of the most stunning racing games seen to date.

Let’s take a quick look at it’s UI first;

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Landing screen
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Main Menu>Drive>Quick Race>Select Track (Note rotated Practice/Challenges/Race/Online/Favourites text on the menu buttons at the top)
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Main Menu>Drive>Race>Quick Race>Select Car
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Main Menu>Options screen

Assetto Corsas’ main menu design is, overall, a straightforward interface to interact with. Layout is rather curious -‘Italian’, you might say- but all hinged around that rather innoccuosly sized ignition ‘Start’ button sitting middle right (see image below). We’ll return to that shortly.

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Quick Race – Summary screen with Session/Realism/Opponents columns

Each of those columns is clickable, and flips over to reveal its contents. The only shortcoming here being the interaction on those small, non-steppable sliders- particularly notable on the RACE DURATION slider where adding or removing 1 or 2 laps for your race is an exercise in fine mouse control:ac2_0008_ac_0006_ass15

The AC UI has a surprisingly enjoyable ‘use-flow’, as shown below:flow

One rather curious design choice, which weakens the thematic enjoyment of the ‘Start Engine’ button within the UI is the double-handled start buttons. Both launch into the driving section of the game when available, with the latter ‘Start Engine’ button revealed after navigating the left/right strip nav buttons. There maybe a technical necessity for this but it’s a strange addition:ass17

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Loading Screen
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In-game: Pit menus
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In-game: Pit menus
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In-game Driver flyout menu (right hand side) with pinnable ‘Onboard Settings’ panel revealed
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In-game ‘Escape key’ menu
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Main Menu Quit confirmation screen

UI pros

  • Layout contains all main UI options within a single view
  • Logical layout overall (if a little quirky in places)
  • Enjoyable ‘use-flow’
  • Well-presented design
  • Clear button hover-states
  • Neat ‘flipping’ columns which reveal sub-panels
  • Enjoyable button slide/panel flip animations
  • Italian flair evident

UI cons

  • Mouse-driven UI only
  • Pit Stop menus also mouse-driven only, offering minimal keyboard controls: the only way to manually exit the Pit Stop/Racing section of the game is to press ESC on the keyboard, with the resulting panel not offering keyboard interaction! *Vyxl has seen a mouse-controlled exit panel but this is only offered at the succesful completion of a race
  • rotate.PNG text may prove awkward to read for some Players
  • Mysterious double-handling of the ‘Start’ and ‘Start Engine’ buttons; hidden ‘Start Engine’ button is unintuitive
  • Narrow sliders offer fiddly controls in some contexts
  • ‘System-style’ text used in ‘Pit Stop’ menus feel like a technical solution rather than a design consideration; present readability issues
  • Assetto Corsa logo feels squeezed into a corner
  • Uninspired Graphic Design for backgrounds, loading screens

Now let’s take a quick look at AC’s branding:ac_logos.jpgBranding pros

  • Arguably one of the strongest current Racing Sim brand designs, alongside the Project CARS, Gran Turismo and Forza series.
  • Unique, elegant and exotic title helps further establish this new brand
  • Bold, dynamic, reflective ‘AC’ logo device screams both ‘cars’ and ‘excitement’ in equal measure
  • ‘AC’ device reduces well to flat, 2-colour

Branding cons

  • Unique title may also work against it; not being familiar within basic english-italian lexicon for many (contrast that with the simplicity of ‘Forza’)
  • Title requires repeating during face-to-face conversation
  • Skewed ‘AC’ device may push beyond limits of recognisability
  • Over-gradiated ‘Assetto Corsa’ wordmark impacts legibility (see box shots below)

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There’s no doubt of the pedigree of both the Assetto Corsa game and its’ branding prowess, yet with a little refinement -and perhaps a UI overhaul- and ensuring to retain some Italian flair; updates or subsequent titles by Kunos could be damn near perfect. Love this game!

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