About the Project
Vagrant Story is still marvelous to fire up, but it’s not easy to find. In fact, I keep my original PlayStation disc in good condition for this reason.
Considered the pinnacle of Squaresoft’s collective talent at the time, Vagrant Story followed their groundbreaking work in the late 90s bringing Final Fantasy to Sony’s first console. Its capital city of Leá Monde remains a good mystery, and the experience overall feels timeless thanks to its cinematic direction and real-time combat. You can still trace back many of the innovations Vagrant Story established to today’s action RPGs, including Elden Ring and The Witcher.
For as much of an influence as Vagrant Story had on me growing up, I never managed to beat it. Back in 2000, every inch of this game was ahead of its time. But no matter how many times I start a new save on my PSone, I can only get so far. It’s not the combat, the puzzles, nor the story that lose their grip on me – it’s the amount of time I have to spend in the menus, and how often I get lost in them.
When it first arrived, Vagrant Story’s menu system and the gameplay it supported were mind-blowing. But as a UI/UX designer today, I start to notice things getting between me and my adventures through Leá Monde. Crafting weapons with confidence still eludes me, and entering combat with the wrong one is now an exercise in patience. There are things I’d never change about the game: its writing, its one-of-a-kind Shakespearean graphic-novel art style, and its ghostly ambience to name a few. If Vagrant Story were to get a second chance on modern consoles, would its UI/UX age gracefully, too?
What you’ll find here are my initial answers to that question. This is an ongoing project I’ve been thinking about and taking notes on for years. We have tools today for exploring these ideas more fully, so I thought it’d be fun to imagine a user interface that complements the vintage quality of Vagrant Story with ideas today’s players might find more welcoming, contemporary, and accessible.
Thanks for entertaining the thought with me, and I hope you’ll visit again to see where it goes.