Shiny Shiny Menu
So way back when in cTrix's Satiator video - did anyone catch the brief shots of the loader menu? Here's a little refresher:

At the moment, this rather... minimalist... piece of UX design is the only interface the Satiator has. You can browse folders and load files by name, and that's it. (At least if something goes wrong it gives you a helpful error message!)

This is a classic "designed by engineers" user interface: it works, but it's not pretty. I bet it would be unpleasant to use with hundreds of titles. And if I were to add more features - like savegame backups? I can't imagine that being pleasant.

The answer is simple: call in a professional! In this case, the amazing Victoria Dominowski, of Secret Little Haven fame. (For those who missed it, this game includes a turn-of-the-century style operating system UI created from scratch!) As luck would have it, she happens to be a Saturn fan, and so she has a much better grasp of the platform's needs and aesthetics than I ever could have.

Behold, a user interface that's actually nice to look at and easy to use!

Mockup of booting up and selecting a game

I'll let Victoria explain how she arrived at this design:

When designing the Saturn Satiator interface, I wanted to make something that felt like a natural extension of the Saturn’s native BIOS menu. The blue information bar used for CD track data in the main menu was repurposed to be a context-sensitive information area, showing directory and navigation information. This allowed me to condense many disparate UI elements into a single area in a way that is faithful to Saturn users. The BIOS menu’s design language elsewhere was adapted, as well. Clear menus to contain lists and boundaries, while a grid pattern is used for areas of interest and pop-up windows. However, some elements, such as the main menu “Orb Grid” was changed to a menu system that is readable at a glance. Rather than moving the cursor over every button to learn its function, all file operations are now handled with their own discrete button, making the Satiator UI faster, cleaner, and more usable, all while remaining faithful to the best of the Saturn’s native interface. Using what works and changing what doesn’t is what UX Design is all about, and the Saturn BIOS gives a lot of inspiration to draw from!

Victoria's design also includes a save-game manager - this is a much-requested feature and I will definitely be bringing it to the Satiator as soon as I can. Here's some of its interface:

Now all this shiny design just needs to be implemented on the Saturn itself - an easy job for a practiced Saturn graphics hacker, perhaps, but I am not that. It's going to be a little while before I have time to work on this, though. Right now I'm concentrating on getting the beta carts out - so hardware and firmware, not the menu. The beta carts will ship with Ugly Menu. And during beta I'm going to be working hard on whatever compatibility issues come up. So it'll be a little while, at this rate.  Whenever it is, I can't wait to get using this lovely design - I admit I'm a little sick of the sight of my own ham-fisted efforts, and doubly so now that I know how it will end up.

It's been a pleasure getting to watch a real pro put this design together. Victoria is available for hire for UX design and game design work, and you can find more of Victoria's work in her portfolio.

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