Nov 15 2011

The Problem(s) with Skyrim’s Menus

Published by at 1:00 pm under Images,Video Games

(click to enlarge)

I’ve lost about 20 hours so far to Skyrim, and it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I love the game dearly in many ways, but there are some clear areas of improvement. I noted a few of them in my first journal entry, but here’s one I hadn’t considered until I saw it all laid out before me.

In short: Skyrim’s menus are shit.

They’re very “pretty” though. The constellation skill tree is gorgeous, and the normal simplistic menu design in the regular game is pretty cool on first glance. But from a user interface perspective? It’s complete shit. Haven’t you noticed how long it takes you to do absolutely anything in the menus, whether it’s equip and item or a spell or check your stats? There’s a reason for that. And why can’t you see what you look like with your armor and weapons equipped?

Below is the full version of the above image which goes through in detail just how Skyrim’s got it wrong when it comes to its menus. Check it out and see if you agree.





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30 responses so far

  • Anon

    Brilliant.

  • Guy Incognitus

    Agree that it takes way too long to do anything and not being able to see active effects is really annoying. The modding community will handle this for us PC players just as they have already handled tweaking the visuals, but they shouldn’t have to. Bethesda dropped the ball.

  • Wite Boy

    you can see what your guy looks like with a armor in the menu if you first go into third person then rotate the camera to in front of him(more on his right i think) then select w/e in the menu

  • Johnny D

    I completely agree with this.

    Also, for PC users, sometimes you can click an action button and sometimes you have to hit enter; it’s never clear. When you CAN click something, You always have to have the choice highlighted/selected (using the up/down arrow keys) in order to click it, which is dumb. You should be able to click everything without having to use the keyboard. The menu system just seems like a horrible console port.

  • hun23

    @Johnny D
    Have you went into options and disabled Controller and Vibration? By disabling controller, I could use the mouse to click on things and have never needed the keyboard to scroll and select things with

  • Johnny D

    @hun23

    Hmm I have not; I’ll give that a try, though! Thanks!

    It seems silly that it would be enabled by default on the PC version.

  • Bud the Chud

    Try playing this game on an old projection 52″ mitsubishi (non high def) . You cant hardly read anything at all.

  • Shrikezero

    @Johnny D

    This is also an issue in the dialogue menu. Unless you are very careful about how precisely you click, you’ll get to hear the same dialogue repeated.

    I think you are right. I think they set up the menus with the consoles in mind and did a poor job retroing the PC controls.

  • KingOfPop

    As a console player, the menus are the biggest irritation I have run into with this game. The proposed graphic is excellent.

  • PhonicRay

    This game is amazing!….. I guess give me a few week or so to get past the millions of awesome things this game has to offer and i will consider your complaints lol.

  • http://thesepeoplearecrazy.us Tyler

    It had been nagging at me but now that you show the menus and exactly why they are annoying I can’t unsee it. It’s like now every time I go to a menu I’ll be thinking about this infographic growing increasingly frustrated.

  • George

    I’m playing on the PC and don’t find the menus annoying or time consuming at all. Maybe I am just used to quickly clicking and hitting buttons to move through things, but in a game where you have to use the mouse and keyboard in conjunction to do just about anything in game, why should it be changed for the menus? Heck, I enjoy the ability to hit a button and then click something with my mouse. It makes certain things like crafting a large number of leather straps (you need the damned things for just about every item you smith) from a stack of leather. Just hit the keyboard button and then click, you never have to move your mouse from the spot where “yes” appears.

    And as far as comparing the Morrowind inventory system to Skyrim’s, I’ll play ball. You need to drink a potion of resist fire. Look at that Morrowind inventory and tell me which potion you want, and then go to the Skyrim inventory and tell me the same thing. I find the ability to be able to tell at a glance which item I want to be incredibly simple.

    When it comes to the dialogue, why are you clicking? Use the W and S keys to scroll up and down to select the option you want and then hit E.

    Maybe I’ve been playing too much League of Legends lately, but hitting a couple extra keyboard keys doesn’t really seem like something to complain all that much about. I personally find the fact that I’m playing an Elder Scrolls game that hasn’t once crashed on me to be much more worthy of discussion.

  • George

    Just thought of another thing as I scrolled up the page. If the skill page had just put all the skill names on the page and then you had to click each one to see what Perks you’ve put into each skill and which ones you were high enough to take, would you complain that you had to click the skill name to see that?

  • Chris F

    100% agree on the menus. Oblivion’s were crap too (at least on the PC).

    I am loving the game otherwise

  • anon

    The menus are designed to be used via the WASD (for PC obviously, not sure on the xbox equivalent) and if you
    can get around the tiny learning curve presented here it is a very fluid menu system.

    I’ve had no problem at all flicking through the various menu’s,
    and the first patch that came out resolved the problem with
    not being able to use the mouse to click.
    Though even with the patch, I still prefer to use the
    WASD/E/TAB for navigating these SPLENDID menu’s.

    “Bethesda dropped the ball” Really? That sounds a tad dramatic
    considering the amazing job they’ve done on this game.
    Look at skyrim, now look at oblivion, now back to skyrim, stfu.

    And if you want to see what your character looks like with
    his or her new gear on, the 3rd person camera facilitates this
    with the taxing action of requiring you to press F and rotate the
    camera with your mouse.

    I notice none of you mentioned the favorites menu, which allows
    you to select as many of your favorite items, weapons, armor
    spells and powers with the press of a button and the flick of
    a mouse wheel. Not to mention the ability to assign up to 8 of
    those favorited items to numbers 1-8.
    It makes for very fluid game play when you’re able to
    understand the concept they had in mind when it was created.

    I believe the problem for you guys lay between the desk and chair.

  • djnforce9

    I also agree with this article that the interface could be improved. I would even take Oblivion’s UI over it because at least that fully utilizes screen real-estate even though it still doesn’t have a grid-like display. I also experience the same problem Shrikezero did in terms of it seeming like you’re going to select something but because it wasn’t highlighted first, you instead pick something else despite where you clicked. This persists even despite having the controller and vibration turned off.

    The skill trees are also a chore to navigate. Why do they zoom so far in rather than let you see the entire tree at once? It’s also so easy to mis-click and jump to a different tree when you really meant to hop to another node.

    Yes, thankfully the PC version had modding support so it’s only a matter of time before someone totally revamps the user interface so that it is optimal for PC players. In the meantime, I can at least tolerate it. The “quick pick” menu ensures that I don’t have to use the main one that often.

    One last bit of confusion is how an equipped weapon or spell has L and R on it. While I realize this is meant to be left and right hand, it’s far too easy to confuse it with “Left and Right mouse button” and at first I kept hitting the wrong button.

  • danielrandkai

    “Leave Brittney alone!” eh Skyrim fans?

  • Nadimbo

    I have to agree with the points in the article and with djnforce9. I too went too many times through casting the wrong spell because I thought L and R correspond to left and right click on the mouse. There’s not even a place to change that in the controls, so I’ll have to get used to it. But still every time I get engaged by some wild animals, they manage to take a few chunks of my a$$ before I make up my mind whether I want left or right click spell (btw, I don’t have Down syndrome).I also kept on equipping and unequipping the wrong items just because something else happened to be highlighted.

    Plus, the inventory list is very unfriendly. I preferred Oblivion’s list where you can sort the items by some criteria like armor or damage rating, or value. Now, I have to go through the list one by one to determine this. For example, if you pick up 10 swords and then you go to the menu, how do you determine which one does most damage?

    I really like the game so far but hopefully those menus get improved.

  • George

    If the Left/Right click is confusing, it takes a grand total of 10 seconds to swap the buttons in the controls menu.

    As far as the way things are organized in your inventories, having everything alphabetically makes things rather simple. There aren’t so many different types of things in the game that it is hard to remember that Orcish stuff is better than Steel which is better than Iron. Even if you somehow can’t remember that, merely hovering your mouse over an item will show you that item and its stats, so you can quickly look between them.

    All in all, I’m still finding things very smooth and easy to use. My only real complaint is that, as my main character uses two weapons, I do have to go into favorites to reequip them after I swap out for a bow or healing spell. I do wish they had made it possible to hotkey a pair of weapons.

  • Jewlzeh

    i dont really mind the menu too much, its pretty easy to use just the wasd and e/r

    my main problem with it is how hard it is to get to active effects, and the goddamn skill tree navigation. if i press right, i dont want to go to the next constellation!! and i dont want it to jump 3 perks when i press right either :|

    even so i still love this game to bits :3 if its possible, im sure a lot of people will be modding the menu screens anyway

  • Petrino

    it got clear to me in hour 2 of playing that they just finished the game to get it out on their super awesome release date.

  • sojourner

    While you can assign numbers to favorites, see what happens when you assign numbers to right and left hand weapons. Now try equiping them in the right and left hand with the hot keys. Also, I hot keyed a bow to the number 3 and only after hitting it twice would it equip. The first press of 3 would bring up a completely different favorite from the menu. This is NOT a fluid system but a very broken one.

    Also, you can swap the mouse buttons to match your hands in the game, but in some of the menus, they will still equip as the default binding. This is a decent sized bug in my opinion also making it not fluid.

    I don’t believe this to be a problem between keyboard and chair. I believe it has to do with peoples tolerance.

  • Starfish Prime

    Kinda off topic, but anyone running into major lag issues after about 20+ hours of gameplay? Did a search and apparantly it’s becoming a big issue on the PS3. As for the menus, they are a bit annoying.

  • George george

    The branching menu system just doesn’t work well due to the sheer amount of loot / equipment and such you’ll be toting around. The old way of displaying items was much easier, even for such menial tasks as finding a ‘potion of such and such’. My favorites list is also getting a little silly now, so I have to decide how to scale that back.

    It’s beautiful looking yes, but not practical at all.

  • Korky

    Designed for consoles.

  • Jokagetto

    An easy way to appease the masses, while keeping the fancy set up they worked so hard for:

    1. As many have suggested equipped items should move to the top.
    2. Alphabetical order is a FALLBACK DEFAULT. Sort by type then alphabetically. Re-add the sort by price and weight options for people who actually play the game.
    3. A mini icon should appear before each item on the secondary sidebar.
    4. If they want a fancy scrolling sidebar they could add some more categories. Their should be a bow and arrow group (or at least keep them apart from my swords), an accessory group (putting tieras and heavy armor together is really stupid), staves and soul gems should be in the scrolls (most useless) group, poisons and beneficial potions should be separated. And lastly a smithing group for all the hides, ore and crafting supplies (bones, scales, chitin).

  • RoaRawR

    agree on inventory, don’t care about the skill part as you can scroll fairly quick around (atleast I can) and I dont prefer a huge wall of ugly text, that I leave for the DnD board gamers but agree on the menu can be used better

    what I hate most is favorite tab, give back good olc favorite cheesewheel from oblivion. could just use the stick or mouse in a split secound to switch (aware of 1-8 but its still a pain to get it in RIGHT hand you want it to….)

  • Emmi

    Loving Skyrim <3

    The thing that bothers me the most is that if I look into my containers and the are full of the loot I've gathered, they are not categorized in groups. It's numbing to scroll trough all the stored items to find just one.

  • xeoz

    from what I remember in E3:

    Skyrim is developed for PC they said

    it won’t be consolified they said

  • Steve Gad

    Come on guys, for God’s sake. I’ve only just got the game (Having been down the trail through Obivion/Fallout et al) and found the learning curve to be fun. Yes, the menu’s aren’t gonna suit everyone and everyone is going to have their own opinion on how it could be “better”.
    All said and done why not accept that the game is a masterpiece and we just have to get used to (and you will) the menu system. Only a couple of (often frustrating) hours into playing and I’ve already figured out assigning left and right hand keys, favourites numbering (cool feature and so so simple to call up fave weapons and spells with ONE key press) and a small number o other labour saving assignments, and I’m a ham-fisted guitar player, so surely anyone can.
    You can’t please all of the people all of the time, accept it for what it is, mod to taste if possible and enjoy a great game for what it is, not what you wish it was.

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