UI/Branding Teardown — Automobilista

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Third 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. 

Automobilista
Reiza
2016 (PC)

Automobilista (Motorist in Portuguese and Italian) or AMS is a Brazilian-developed Racing Simulation for the PC, borne from Reiza’s previous Brazil-focused Stock Car Extreme title.

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Amongst the current generation of Racing Simulation titles it is without doubt an underdog, yet provides some of the finest racing physics experiences currently available.

The title features a fascinating range of cars (Stock Cars, Single Seaters, GT, Saloon, a range of unbranded historical F1 car series, Karting, Super Trucks and Offroad/Dirt) and South-American tracks never seen on other Sim titles. In regards to F1 cars; AMS may offer the most visceral experiences that your average Codemasters F1 series fan will never get to feel.

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Another significant point to be made about AMS is -and let’s be blunt- it’s not the best looking game within the current generation of Sim titles, using an older graphics engine. But that would be missing a significant point: this game runs smoothly on even the lowest-spec PC’s, with framerate (and physics of course) king in Sim Racing.

So let’s take a look at the UI:

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Main Menu / Landing screen
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Single Race screen
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Options>Difficulty
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Options>Audio

As should be fairly obvious, the UI is a nuts-and-bolts approach with a (overall) 4-column layout and a slightly dated -though likeable- style.

It’s those increment/decrement arrow buttons covering the bulk of interactions and pagination at all levels of the navigation hierarchy which is a notable part of the experience. So much so in fact, that even quitting the game makes use of a right-arrow for confirmation:au12

 

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It’s not elegant but in this particular case it is solid UX; with the X close button placement being replaced by a regressive left-arrow which prevents exiting by an accidental double-click. What isn’t ideal is using the > increment arrow to LAUNCH into the Racing itself; something titles like Assetto Corsa cover well with the suitable thematic use of a START ENGINE button.

So there is certainly room for improvement here with the use of more unique, modal button iconography, and a few less of those generic arrows.

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Loading screen
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Pitlane UI with replay viewport on right hand side

One of AMS’s most notable UX fumbles is with a significant fullscreen toggle button being hard to notice in the bottom left-hand corner:aut_0001_au8

Here’s some closer examples of that important double-arrow icon:au9

Unfortunately, not only does it offer impaired visibility against brighter and complex backdrops, but it’s the only navigation out of AMS’s full screen replay – with neither the ESC key or Enter (which simply toggles the UI off entirely) offering a backup method of navigating out.

Overall, AMS’s UI works in a straightforward and no-nonsense way. It’s not sexy; relying heavily on text, arrows and sliders, but it lets the Player get on with things and get racing – once they’ve found the correct increment arrow, that is.

UI pros

  • Functional, logical layout
  • No-nonsense UX
  • High contrast presentation aids readability overall
  • Solid, traditional UI design
  • Dark colour scheme ideal for Players in dark rooms or switching in/out of the UI
  • Shallow menu structure/hierarchy
  • Fast loading

UI cons

  • Over-reliance on < and > navigation arrows at all levels
  • Certain key icons (that full screen replay toggle icon) require urgent redesign
  • Hover-states (particularly for Vehicle selection) are very subtle
  • UI style doesn’t sell any excitement of the content (Cars, Tracks, Championships); simply lists them
  • Dated style, including use of arched header/footers (subtle nod to a Racing Helmet) and Bank Gothic as both logo and primary UI font
  • Small secondary font may offer readability issues to some Players

Branding

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Reiza -with AMS- has an understandably significant high level of competition in the current climate of PC Racing Sim titles, with Project CARS and Assetto Corsa the most notable. The existing AMS branding is solid and safe, allowing a unique non-English word to be clearly readable as its’ title. That gradiated fill on the AUTOMOBILISTA wordmark still takes some getting used to, but does help that initial readability hurdle with such an unusual word for its title.

However, it is certainly missing a fluorish of excitement or dynamism achieved on its’ developers’ own logo:reiza-studios-516x340.jpgBranding pros

  • Wordmark rendering aids readability of unusual game title
  • Can’t go wrong with Black/Red/Silver to represent the world of car Racing
  • Strapline clearly states what the product is

Branding cons

  • Lacking flourish of excitement or energy
  • Relys entirely on a single, older-style font
  • Relys entirely on a single logo treatment: not even an inverted or encapsulated version of the logo to sit on bright/noisy backgrounds – see example screenshot below:
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To close out, the biggest hope I would have is that Reiza were to elevate both the Branding and UI further and help more Players discover this incredible title: it’s an underdog which deserves an even brighter future.

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