Designing for the DualSense controller – the UI of Disciples: Liberation

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When we began development on Disciples: Liberation, we knew that one of the biggest hurdles we would face would be a genre that wouldn’t be widely available on consoles to an entirely new audience of players. Taking something like a dark-fantasy-strategy RPG, a genre that lived primarily on the PC platform, and moving it to the PlayStation 5 and DualSense wireless controllers was a challenging but satisfying adventure, especially for a small but passionate team. .

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From the outset, we knew that we would have the time and resources to focus on only one UI (user interface) philosophy and that due to the availability of the game on PC, it needed to serve two completely different input methods. Will have: Both a DualSense controller and a keyboard and mouse. In Bringing the Disciples: Salvation in PS5, our objective was twofold:

  • Make sure the veterans of the franchise didn’t feel like anything was simplified or sacrificed in making a complex dark-fantasy-strategy RPG for consoles
  • Developing intuitive menu and button mappings that make the DualSense controller feel organic

As the lead UI/UX designer for the project, it was my responsibility to marry those two worlds, ensuring that the game’s interface was deep and intuitive, while being fully synced with the DualSense controller. Due to ongoing back issues (by spending both work and free time sitting at a desk) I am using the DualSense controller full time while gaming on PC and PS5. I was thrilled with how well the controller worked on both platforms, so much so that I even shifted my entire UI layout from some of my favorite MMOs (no small feat!). With this unique background, I knew I was up to the task of building Disciples: Liberation as the perfect DualSense controller coupling. If I can give players more access, allowing any type of person to choose any input to play our game, then I consider my work a success.


It was early enough in development that we started leaning towards virtual cursors for in-game menus. For those who don’t know, a virtual cursor is one that players are able to move freely around the screen using the left or right analog stick. From my own experience playing other games using the same system, I knew we could come up with something really special if we spent time considering how we could best make menus that felt at home on the PS5. How can make

To start, we took some time researching some of the previous titles that had implemented a virtual cursor in their interface and quickly noticed that a fairly fast-moving cursor that slows down on buttons and interactive elements, causing Players have time to react and stop. He was perfect. We also used Fitts’ law for menu and on-screen button interactions, a law that states that any target smaller and farther from it is harder to hit.

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With that in mind, we decided on the best way to virtually increase the size of a button (make a smaller button perception Large for the player) will slow down the movement of the cursor when players pass over it. For example, if the cursor moves at 100 pixels per second and the button is 200 pixels wide, it will take the player two seconds to traverse it, whereas if moving a button the cursor slows down to 50 pixels per second. , we’ll have double the time it takes players to hit that button when making their selection.

Once the design was complete, I discussed it with my lead programmer and we went to work. Two days later, we had a very solid prototype and spent the next few weeks adding features to improve the players experience. This included small but important changes such as setting a specific cursor slow-down rate on a ‘per element’ basis (so that we can adjust the speed of cursor interaction with individual buttons), background counter-scrolling (contrast the screen). Moving the direction of the cursor for a virtual increase in speed), and adding a platform-specific filter to any element on the screen, allowed us to tailor the UI experience specifically for PS5 players. The filter worked like those old red/blue “3D” glasses – the information for all platforms will always be there but if you enable our filter, the player will only see DualSense controller prompts.

Having a virtual cursor also meant that we could easily create layouts that felt organic and were aesthetically pleasing across platforms. In designing the menu, we also used Fitt’s Law to tweak small interactions, such as whether an inventory item is populated from the left or right side of the screen depending on an element’s on-screen location. This meant less travel time between a category and the first item in the player’s inventory list, and resulted in a truly satisfying, buttery-smooth user experience.

In terms of gameplay, we applied a similar philosophy, ensuring that key actions were easily accessed via buttons on the DualSense controller. In-game, moving and zooming the camera during combat and assigning tasks to your units all feel very natural, and we’ve also added button shortcuts to actions that are repetitive or may require players to move their cursor across a large area of ​​the screen. Do the part back and forth. . Instead, players will have the option to either select buttons using the virtual cursor or use one of the DualSense controller’s face buttons to upgrade an item or leave the results screen. Our QA was quite happy with him.

Designing Discipline: Liberation for the DualSense was a unique challenge, but I’m extremely proud of the game and can’t wait to hear what PlayStation players think when it launches on October 21.

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