Immediatly after completing Rebels & Redcoats (R&R), Hunted Cow asked me to work on their next game, Gettysburg. This proved particularly tricky as I’d already developed the UI for Shenandoahs ACW game, Battle Hymn (originaly called Gettysburg: The Tide Turns). Now I’ve been creating game UI’s long enough to develop a preferred way to tackle them and a preferred set of rules that I vaguely follow. The problem being that Battle Hymn was so recent that if I followed them again .. there would be a very good chance I’d arrive at the same answers and solutions. Not good. So I started my research with a view to finding a different direction.

When creating the UI for a historical game I always avoid the generic forms that many digital wargames use and instead find period design elements to inform the direction of materials, texture, typography and layout. It’s about ephasising an atmosphere or flavour. Aiding immerssion rather than being indifferent to it. I usually develop the in-game interactive elements first, in tandem with the typography. For historical games, typography can be awkward as I’m rarely given free reign to buy good quality fonts and instead have to rely on free ones. There are relatively few distinctive, practical and free Civil War period fonts and I found myself returning time and again to the pairing of the Egyptian block serifs and Baskerville. There was enough variety to suggest the distinct feel of period print and enough dynamic contrast to provide visual interest.

The use of the two flags to denote factions is a bit clichéd but they are such a definitive, iconic and colourful pair of emblems that they probably have to be used. I could of followed the route of Redcoats & Rebels and used the blue and grey uniform colours but its not evocative enough of the two ideologies.

Using paper as the background was the most difficult decision. Again its another cliché but I couldn’t find a more satisfying direction that for me spoke of that era so cleanly and simply.

I was lucky enough to travel to Gettysburg with my wife and son a couple of years ago . We went to the museum and around all the major sites of the battle and it was while stood at the Angle, looking down the hill towards where the Confederates had lined up ready for Picketts Charge, that I had this overwhelming desire to tell the story of these men. The things that stuck in my mind from the museum, and which I actually have more photos of, are the printed material, quotes from various individuals and the photos of soldiers who lived and died there. This was the first war to be photographed and by this time, printed media had started to take on a distinctive style and was being used more and more for propaganda. With earlier periods, something printed in America looked almost the same as something printed in Britain. Now it had its very own distinct flavour.

So as mentioned elsewhere, I started to develop a progressive theme from one game to the other. In R&R, America was yet to form its own sense of self so I used all the same decoration and accessories for both factions and only changed the background colour. By the end of the War of Independance they had a degree of autonomy but were still somewhat beholden to and under the influence of Britain and the rest of Europe. It was the War of 1812 that finally sealed their separation and independance but they were still trying to form a unified identity and it was the American Civil War that achieved that.

(As luck would have it I later did a game set in the War of 1812 and was able to bridge the first two games with the continued theme, using an older paper theme for the Americans (but with the British/European fonts from R&R) juxtaposed with a kitchy, regency British theme)

So here we are. A look thats distinctly different to R&R. That has an American, period feel and that suggests the printing styles of the period without being a slave to the difficult to read layouts. I’ve split the screen into thirds, suggesting the two opposing factions are on the outside joined by the central core element. This is the first main screen. The icons at the bottom are deliberatly the same as those used in R&R. They are functionally the same as is the underlying game so it did’t make sense to confuse the player by providing something different.

Above are a selection of the initial front end menus. Designed to be consistent in layout for easy implementation and visual clarity.

Near the end of development the scenario selection was changed from previous games.  It required more space so I had to put two pieces of paper side by side which feels a little awkward. The generic flags are to be replaced by scenario specific illustrations by the client.

 On completing each scenario your score was rewarded with one of three different medals. This was a bit tricky as there weren’t many medals awarded at the time so I had to cheat. They’re just about thematic .. at a pinch .. but it’s better than just bronze, silver and gold.

The in game layout is different to previous games that had a preference for the top right corner. Because this was the Civil War I wanted to show that the two factions were two halves of the same whole. The colour of the flags indicates whos turn it is. The coloured bars indicate the current troop levels and there are buttons to control and change the state of your units.

Above and below are a selection of other in-game menus and screens.

During the game there are a number of graphic elements attached to the units to relay information and, during combat, the many affecting modifiers can be indicated. Above are a small selection. Again these were to all intents and purposes kept the same as R&R to avoid player confuson. Just re-themed.