Unit 13™  —  PlayStation®Vita Game

The video of the Unit 13™ front-end UI above was taken from an engine free, demo version of the game's UI. As such, there's no data present that was provided by the engine (just placeholder strings, etc).

About the Game

A third-person military shooter, targeted from the beginning as a PlayStation®Vita 'launch-window' title, Unit 13™ was developed by Zipper Interactive and published worldwide in March 2012 by Sony Computer Entertainment, exclusively for the PlayStation®Vita handheld game console. Upon release, Unit 13™ quickly became the top selling downloadable title for the Vita.

"Unit 13 is a portable shooter by Zipper Interactive, the developers behind the SOCOM franchise. Welcome to Unit 13: the military elite, the toughest of the tough. Play through scenarios that echo real-life news headlines and infiltrate some of the most challenging war zones a soldier can ever face. Aim, fire and move with pinpoint precision using the PlayStation Vita system's dual analog sticks. Adapt to objectives that change each day and invite a partner to join you in battle thanks to 3G connectivity and the two-player Co-op Mode."


Conceptually, the UI for Unit 13™ was designed around the idea of making the PlayStation®Vita in the player's hand feel like an extension of the game world... A PDA carried by an operative handler (i.e. the player). This idea was foundational for all of the UI designs. Even the in-game HUD was thought of from the perspective of a handler monitoring the operative's actions on their PDA (via a tiny drone following the operative) and sending instructions in real-time.

From the UX side, principal considerations included not only making sure that all actions could be taken using either the touch screen interface or the physical controls (e.g. the device D-Pad, buttons, etc.), but also making sure that the player could move as seemlessly as possible between the available device input options. In other words, the player needed to be able to start interacting with the UI using the device's physical controls, switch to using the touch screen at any point, and then go back to using the physical controls without losing any of the context of what they had been doing.


Thoughout development, I took primary ownership of much of the game's frontend interface, including it's global navigation systems, notifications panel and ticker, "initial start view" sequences and menus, co-op, its "Daily Challenge" view and UI features, the in-game EULA interface, and Online Pass interface.

I also worked closely with the Art Director to create animated underlay and overlay, shader-like, visual effects. These helped to create a unified feel to the UI of a low, fluctuating power device. We also worked together to tune the timing and curves of most of the game UI's animations.

On the frontend engineering side, Unit 13™ was a big shift for the team at Zipper, as it included a transition from ActionScript 2 development to AS3 (via Scaleform GFx). To help ease and facilitate the change, I created a UI framework for the team, that they could leverage to speed development and iteration on the game's menu system views.

Other Contributions

In addition to working on, and designing for, the main game UI, I created many rapid behavioral prototypes, to test and experience design concepts and ideas from the team. I jumped in when necessay to design and add glyphs to the game's font. I designed and developed internal tools for the UI/UX team to automate asset build processes.

Sample Notes

As noted above, the video example was taken from an engine free, demo version of the game's UI. So you may notice that there is only placeholder data present in the views seen.

The gallery of images include both shots taken from the (dataless) UI demo and shots from the in-game UI (with the full, in-game content).

If you have a PlayStation®Vita and a WiFi connection, you could also download the game from PSN and play around with the trial.

Tools Used: Flash Professional CS5.5, FlashDevelop, MonsterDebugger, TheMiner, Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver,
Scaleform GFx (4.x), UltraCompare, TortoiseHg, Perforce (SCM), & Internal Tools of Zipper Interactive.

Unit 13 is ™ and © 2012 Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC. "PlayStation" is a registered trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
The Sony Computer Entertainment logo is a registered trademark of Sony Corporation.

Copyright ©2005-2024 Tom Keen.  All rights reserved.

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