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FIRAXIS asks for your help on Interface Design...

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  • #76
    Ok, so ideas for Interface :

    1) Right click menu. Not overdone, and not to replace hotkey. ie. Right clicking a city gives you a menu :
    Build -> Gives you the current queue and allow you to build a structure anywhere in the queue, still menu driven. Faster than having to click on the city, set thing to build then leave.
    Governor -> Change governor type(if it is used as in SMAC) easely.
    Units -> A list of all units in the city. But could be in a status bar, a la CIV2, althought a status bar should be 'optional' or autohiding of some sort (taking way too much place for its use. Only good for begininers, and even then...)

    2) All similar info on one screen. The idea is not to crank up everything you can on a screen. Actually, it is a very bad thing, may it be a game, a book, etc. In a city report screen(with all cities listed), put everything pertaining to the city : current production, shields, food, pop, etc. DO NOT put units residing in the city and the whole build queue, but do put trade routes currently working. Also try mixing numbers and graphics. Number are unappealing but take less space than graphics. ie. put an Unhappy citizen icon, and the number of them beside it. Do not put 5 unhappy icon, taking too much space for nothing, put that in the ciy screen where everything isn't cranked up, not in the report screen. You want a quick look of the city there(hence the name: report), you do not manage the city from there. Then again, maybe options like 'Set all cities to...', or 'Set selected cities to...'(where you could ctrl-select different city) : Gov type, production, autobuild, etc. Also, the right click menu could be good there, easy management without cranking tooo much stuff, and not having to click and view the whole city screen, then change, then come back, etc.

    3) As for the city screen itself... I love the Civ2 city screen much more than the SMAC one. Simple, too the point, appealing, etc. Actually, it took me 5-10 minutes to figure out how to build something in a city in SMAC, haha(go ahead, laugh at me =), until I saw that the bar at the bottom of the screen actually changed.



    • #77
      Simple and unobtrusive are some fundamental priciples of interface design.

      Any interface that sticks in your face and reminds you of itself can't be that good. That's why <em>CtP</em> and <em>SMAC</em> interfaces are at best mediocre. However, CtP is worse because <em>it violates established conventions</em>. For example, the position of the "cancel" and "ok" buttons are reversed. Same with <em>Starfleet Command.</em> A selected opinion is darkened instead of lightened. A player has to think about what to do before proceeding.

      Any information that can be hidden should be hidden. For example, there are supporters for a "ticker tape" idea. However, two main flaw mars the suggestion. First, ticker tape won't appear until Industrial Revolution. What about earlier (and later) Ages? Seond, it sticks in the user's face. A better way would be a pop up window that lists all the events which can be hidden by the push of a key (or click of the mouse). It can be called up through a menu selection.

      Little icons above cities showing various status would make it easy to check things out at a glance.

      Make sure all the important information can be accessed easily. In Civ/Civ2/SMAC, I can find out how many of each unit I have. Knowing that I have 28 Pikemen is good but not very helpful. What I <strong>really</strong> need to know is the location of these units. And to do that I have to go to various cities and click on the units they support/produced. It would be very nice if I could click on a unit type to get a map showing where every unit of that type is.

      Here are some suggestions:

      1. Use subdued colors for the interface so it won't call attention to itself.

      2. Use icons and symbols to represent information wherever possible. They need less interpretation than words. An added benefit is they don't need to be changed when porting the game to another language.

      3. The interface should normally not taken up more than 1/10 of the screen.

      4. alt+tab should be a "shell escape:" it drops you out from the game and into Windows (Warlords III has this feature).

      5. Use bar graphs to represent numeric information. It is a lot easier to compare bars of different lengths than numbers.

      6. Be consistent. A color or symbol represents one thing one place should also represent the same thing in all other places. That's why the look of the interface should not be changed. It confuses the user.

      7. Hyperlink everything, but make sure all hyperlinked items are different from non-hyperlinked ones.

      That's all for now.
      <font size=1 face=Arial color=444444>[This message has been edited by Urban Ranger (edited December 23, 1999).]</font>
      (\__/) 07/07/1937 - Never forget
      (='.'=) "Claims demand evidence; extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence." -- Carl Sagan
      (")_(") "Starting the fire from within."


      • #78
        I believe the ticker tape is a bad idea because things don't happen in real time to report. At the begining of the turn you want to glance at the events which happened and then move your units, but you rarely look back at it once you've started moving units ect.. In SMAC they had a small list of events which occured and you could atomatically zoom to where they happened. This should again be included. It could also advance through the ages from a stone tablet to early writing to manuscript to printing press to typed.


        • #79
          I got more specifics right here

          I've been testing my skill at the One City Challenge, and the intensive play has reminded me of something. Put relevant information together. For example, in Civ2 the Tax/Lux/Sci sliders are in a separate window from the Trade Advisor and the Domestic Advisor. It would be OK if you could have more than one of these windows open at the same time so the changing the sliders changes the Advisor screens, but we can't do that. SMAC has a similar problem with the SE controls.

          The advisors, controls, and other screens should be windows we can size and move, and toggle to stay on top when we click on the map to move units.


          • #80
            I had no trouble with the SMAC interface---I want to learn the hotkeys quickly and right-click context menus help me do that. But a lot of people seem to hate it and I have to admit that it is very hard to use just the mouse in SMAC. You really needed to use the keyboard or you would end up doing incredible amounts of clicking.

            IMO, the current gold standard of interfaces is the one in Age of Kings. When you select a unit in AOK you get full information about that unit in a nice transparent overlay, you get a small control window with icons for all that unit's actions and you get a status window that displays the units current combat stats.

            While this is not that much different than SMACs interface in most respects, it is the iconic control of actions that seems to be what people want. Icons seem more immersive than word-based menus. As I said, I generally prefer hotkeys, but icons (with slow tooltips or an explanation box) are better when you are learning the game or when you don't want to use both keyboard and mouse.


            • #81
              When I play I would really like to have a clean map as background. So I would like some sort of customizable layer system for the map. Say, the first layer shows everything, while the second layer shows necessery info like roads/rails and cities BUT NOT farms/nets/mines.

              Everybody who has played CTP will know what I mean, by the time u get the third upgradeble terrain improvment the map is cluttered with improvments. Then wouldn´t it be great to able to change the appearence!
              I was thinking in the lines of what the SimCity series has, were you can change view between 'underground' and normal view. Kind of like that, it should only be one mouse-click away.