Hidden UI Features

I was thinking this morning about all the hidden features MMOs offer, that only become available to users who are willing to ferret them out, whether by internet searching or asking another player.  I realized that most if not all MMOs have these features, and further that they’re damned annoying.

Case in point: in LotRO, if you want to see how many frames per second your computer is currently generating in-game, you hit Ctrl-F.  I mean, that’s obvious, right?  There’s no UI checkbox, no in-game hint to lead you to this knowledge.  As I recall, the devs told us about this during closed beta.  When I used to play I knew all these hidden features and so they didn’t trouble me, but upon returning to the game after an extended absence, I found myself struggling to recall how to access some things that are well and truly hidden.

Another example: the deed log, which tracks progress towards various deeds, is accessed via Shift-L.  Again, irony aside, this is anything but obvious.  Whenever I sit down to a game whose UI I don’t know, I systematically test (literally) every key on my keyboard to see what they do, then I typically open up the keybindings control panel to see what else can be done that isn’t assigned a key.  Neither the deed log nor the FPS meter are listed in the LotRO keybindings though – players learn about these either from reading the manual, checking online, or asking a player.

This is a design failure, plain and simple.  The game should give us one clear means to discover, within the game itself, how to access all elements of the UI that exist.  It’s especially galling since LotRO’s UI tends to be quite elegant and well-laid-out.

In WoW, if you want to hide the UI (e.g. to take a screenshot) you press Alt-Z.  In WAR you press Shift-Z to do the same.  I mean, come on.  In what way is this readily apparent or user-friendly?


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