Head-Up Display (HUD)

A HUD (Head-Up Display) is part of a game’s visual user interface. It’s an overlay that displays additional information as (typically) 2-dimensional text or icons on the screen, on top of the 3D scene. Not all games have, or need a HUD. To avoid breaking the immersion and cluttering the screen, only use a HUD if it is the only way to convey certain information.

HUDs are used to supply players with essential information about the game state.

  • Status: Score, minimap, points, stealth mode, …

  • Resources: Ammunition, lives/health, time, …

  • Vehicle instruments: Cockpit, speedometer, …

  • Navigational aides: Crosshairs, mouse pointer or hand, …

You have multiple options how to create HUDs.

Option Pros Cons

Attach elements to default guiNode:

Easy to learn. jMonkeyEngine built-in API for attaching plain images and bitmap text.

Only basic features.
You will have to write custom controls / buttons / effects if you need them.

Use advanced Nifty GUI integration:

Full-featured interactive user interface.
Includes buttons, effects, controls.
Supports XML and Java layouts.

Steeper learning curve.

Use user contributed GUI libraries such as tonegodgui or Lemur:

Both have many features that would be difficult to do with Nifty
Includes buttons, effects, controls.
New features are still being released

Are not necessarily guaranteed future updates, not as well documented

Using the GUI Node is the default approach in jme3 to create simple HUDs. If you just quickly want to display a line of text, or a simple icon on the screen, use the no-frills GUI Node, it’s easier.

Simple HUD: GUI Node

You already know the rootNode that holds the 3-dimensional scene graph. jME3 also offers a 2-dimension (orthogonal) node, the guiNode.

This is how you use the guiNode for HUDs:

  • Create a GUI element: a BitmapText or Picture object.

  • Attach the element to the guiNode.

  • Place the element in the orthogonal render queue using setQueueBucket(Bucket.Gui).

The BitmapTexts and Pictures appear as 2 dimensional element on the screen.

By default, the guiNode has some scene graph statistics attached. To clear the guiNode before you attach your own GUI elements, use the following methods:

setDisplayStatView(false); setDisplayFps(false);

Displaying Pictures in the HUD

A simple image can be displayed using com.jme3.ui.Picture.

Picture pic = new Picture("HUD Picture");
pic.setImage(assetManager, "Textures/ColoredTex/Monkey.png", true);
pic.setPosition(settings.getWidth()/4, settings.getHeight()/4);

When you set the last boolean in setImage() to true, the alpha channel of your image is rendered transparent/translucent.

Displaying Text in the HUD

You use com.jme3.font.BitmapText to display text on the screen.

BitmapText hudText = new BitmapText(guiFont, false);
hudText.setSize(guiFont.getCharSet().getRenderedSize());      // font size
hudText.setColor(ColorRGBA.Blue);                             // font color
hudText.setText("You can write any string here");             // the text
hudText.setLocalTranslation(300, hudText.getLineHeight(), 0); // position

The BitmapFont object guiFont is a default font provided by SimpleApplication. Copy your own fonts as .fnt plus .png files into the assets/Interface/Fonts directory and load them like this:

BitmapFont myFont = assetManager.loadFont("Interface/Fonts/Console.fnt");
hudText = new BitmapText(myFont, false);

Positioning HUD Elements

  • When positioning GUI text and images in 2D, the bottom left corner of the screen is (0f,0f), and the top right corner is at (settings.getWidth(),settings.getHeight()).

  • If you have several 2D elements in the GUI bucket that overlap, define their depth order by specifying a Z value. For example use pic.move(x, y, -1) to move the picture to the background, or hudText.setLocalTranslation(x,y,1) to move text to the foreground.

  • Size and length values in the orthogonal render queue are treated like pixels. A 20*20-wu big quad is rendered 20 pixels wide.

Displaying Geometries in the HUD

It is technically possible to attach Quads and 3D Geometries to the HUD. They show up as flat, static GUI elements. The size unit for the guiNode is pixels, not world units. If you attach a Geometry that uses a lit Material, you must add a light to the guiNode.

If you don’t see an attached object in the GUI, check it’s position and material (add a light to guiNode). Also verify whether it is not too tiny to be seen. For comparison: A 1 world-unit wide cube is only 1 pixel wide when attached to the guiNode! You may need to scale it bigger.

Keeping the HUD Up-To-Date

Use the update loop to keep the content up-to-date.

public void simpleUpdate(float tpf) {
  hudText.setText("Score: " + score);
  picture.setImage(assetManager, "Interface/statechange.png", true);

Advanced HUD: Nifty GUI

The recommended approach to create HUDs is using Nifty GUI.

  1. Lay out the GUI in one or several Nifty XML or Java files.

  2. Write the controller classes in Java.

  3. Load the XML file with the controller object in your game’s simpleInit() method.

The advantage of Nifty GUI is that it is well integrated into jME and the jMonkeyEngine SDK, and that it offers all the features that you expect from a professional modern user interface.

For HUDs, you basically follow the same instructions as for creating a normal Nifty GUI, you just don’t pause the game while the HUD is up.

See also