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Monument Valley: A Monument in UI & UX
07/17

In previous articles we’ve briefly touched the theme of game design, game user interface and experience. We thought it would be a good idea to dwell a bit more on this subject and see what we could learn from great game design and how these lessons might help brands reach more customers and enrich their online interaction with your brand.

For this, we chose one of the most beautiful games for mobile that exist out there: Monument Valley - winner of the Apple Design Award in 2014.

 

"Monument Valley stuns with its serenity... each screen is a work of art" - Huffington Post

 

We’re sure that by now you’ve already downloaded the second instalment in the game and enjoyed the peculiar and mind-bending puzzles it offers. If not, do it now. Familiarize yourself with the game and then come back for a more in depth analysis of what makes this game a world wide success.

 

Let’s get down to it and take the game apart.

 

The Story

Like in any great game everything follows a plot. Behind levels of impossible architectural puzzles there’s a story that drives you. Our story is a simple one, yet it has a deeper meaning. One Reddit user described princess’ Ida journey:

 

Ida's story is one of redemption. Long ago, there was an advanced race of human beings in the valley. They built these awe-inspiring monuments with their knowledge of sacred geometry. The crows envied them so they stole that knowledge for themselves. Ida is their princess. The human race fell into decline as a result, but not before they cursed the crows as punishment for their crime. The crows became trapped in the monuments and suffer total amnesia. Except Ida. Somehow, Ida is able to partially wake up and become aware of her endless wanderings. She is on a quest for forgiveness.” RJPVS

 

While the first story is about redemption, the second story, in Monument Valley II is about the relationship between a mother and her daughter. You might just say that the obstacles that they have to face and that sometimes separate them is a beautifully designed metaphor for what life is.

 

We simply love the fact that there’s something so utterly humane in these stories. And these themes work on multiple levels. Does your brand have a story? Or does it help make your customer’s story better?

 

Aesthetics

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It’s clear for anyone that M.C. Escher’s works are the inspiration for this game. Yet, Monument Valley wouldn’t be the first to reinterpret his drawings and woodcuts into something mesmerizing. We’ve all enjoyed the weird staircases in the Harry Potter movies:

 

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What’s most striking about the aesthetics of Monument Valley is its visual simplicity. We could just sit, admire each level as a unique painting and enunciate adjectives: innovative, intriguing, eye-candy, pleasing, amazing, colorful. And we could go on and on and on.

 

Visually, Monument Valley has all the qualities of a masterpiece. Decades from now on, when people will look back at the games created at the beginning of the 21st century they will rediscover Monument Valley and consider it a classic in game design, due to its friendly, minimalist interface, beautiful gradients that add depth to each level and the intuitive details added to subtly guide you through the game.

 

Monument-Valley-Screenshot-2.jpgMonument-Valley-Screenshot-3.jpgMonument-Valley-Screenshot-5.jpg

 

 

Game experience

A great game isn’t only about high resolution and high quality design, but it also requires a unique, a memorable gaming experience, without being to complicated to understand. Monument Valley manages to create a guided experience that immerses you level by level into the game, teaching you how it works with easy and intuitive tools, from time to time warning you of something special coming ahead.

 

Monument Valley’s gameplay is easy to understand and easy to follow through. Yet, it has the capacity to become challenging. If the gameplay is quite straightforward, its solutions aren’t. The architectural puzzles are mind-bending challenging the player to stretch his or her imagination to comprehend the complex structures detailed with such visual simplicity. This creates a pleasant tension that changes into an endorphin-charged experience every single time you manage to finish a level.

 

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As we said at the beginning of this article, what adds to the users’ experience is the story. Everything follows a narrative thread that provides an enriched and immersive experience. Endless levels would be fine, but it would’ve lacked purpose. It also would have lacked monetization.

 

Add everything together and you get this result: satisfied customers.

Here’s a short recap of what we can learn from Monument Valley’s extraordinarily beautiful design and success.

 

Lessons:

  1. Beautiful design pleases more than just the eye, adding value whether to your product, app, brand or brand story.

  2. Think of new ways you can make your customers interact with your app. Monument Valley let’s and encourages you to break and rebuild their world in order to find the solution. It might just be an idea to ask your customers to help you build or rebuild your next product.

  3. Simple doesn’t necessary mean simplistic, easy to understand doesn’t mean lacking complexity. Less is more has never been more appropriate. Learn to provide simple services and easy access to those services for your clients, but always have a multilayered perspective: how can this service add even more value to your clients? Surprise them with less clutter and more valuable experiences. Even if it’s just beautiful design to begin with.

  4. You do the hard work, let your customers do the fun part. It took around three years to launch Monument Valley II, and it’s just a couple levels following a simple storyline. For 3 years a whole team of people worked on this project. And its success is measured in client satisfaction and the amount of fun people have playing the game.

 

If you have a project on your mind and you want to apply all these lessons to it, keep in mind that you don’t have to do it alone. We can help you create engaging design and narrative focused, visually-focused apps and webpages that can help your brand tell your story better.

 

Also, if you liked this article and you want to keep in touch with everything we post you can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

 

 

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