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UI and Usability: Csebal's List

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UI and Usability: Csebal's List - 4/6/2010 11:57:59 AM   


Posts: 22
Joined: 11/23/2009
Status: offline
Here is a collection of issues i think require some more work.

Most of these are not bugs, but they are not just mere suggestions either. This post is more about usability and UI issues, than it is about my wishlist for additional features.

Warning, wall of text incoming. Keep in mind, that some of this is subjective. I will try to give some arguments as of why i think things would be better the way i suggest. Most of this is based on my own experience in UI development and playing about every 4x title there is or was.

I will mostly deal with the three screens i (we?) use the most: main galaxy view, the expansion planner and the design screen.

Let's begin, shall we?

Lets start at the very beginning, the main galaxy view: Main-1) There should be filtering and display options for the 'minimap'. - show/hide objects (like ships, bases) - sometimes i'm just not interested in where all my assets are, but would like to use the minimap for different things. Having big empire colored blips on it might be quite contraproductive in these scenarios. - color planets by type/size/resources/etc (resource types, like gases, minerals, luxury). It is a simple mode toggle, that would make finding the planet you are looking for a helluva lot easier. The current coloring by type is cool, but it can (and should) be expanded. Also, these filtering/display modes could be used for the main view as well to make spotting filtered things even easier.

Main-2) More info for the info panel. Suffice to say, that to get some trivial information about a ship, like the cargo it is carrying, or the actual status of its modules, i have to dig down into various screens to find what i am looking for. This info should be all there on the info panel. Instead of the various next/prev buttons, which are only moderately useful, you should add some tabs to the right of the panel, that allows you to open up in-depth information about the currently selected item on a new panel, you could then easily fit between the current info panel and the minimap. What kind of information? Well.. all of it. The player should not have to leave the main screen to find out something about an item he already has selected. Leave the list for what they are meant to: getting an overview of your empire or finding that needle in the heystack.

Main-3) Ship command buttons. Or rather the lack of them. Right now, the only way to issue commands to your ships (that i have found) is through rightclicking. While it is half-acceptable for certain targeted commands, it certainly isnt for trivial tasks, like: stop, refuel or even automate. There should be a set of buttons for each task a ship/base/whatever can perform. A commands tab would go well with the above mentioned tabbed details system.

Main-4) Colonies and planets. About the same as ships. I have to open up various screens to get trivial information about my colonies. Also some extra information about planets would come in handy, maximum possible population comes to mind here for (not-yet) colonized planets.

Main-5) Zoomed out view and star systems: When you select a star system, you see a list of resources in that system. Hovering over those resources should display the quality of the best source in the system as it can be quite important when deciding where to build the next Caslon mine. Optionally, there could be some specific overview tabs based around the tabbed info panel system from the Main-2 suggestion.

Main-6) When building something, you should really show the estimated time remaining or the planned finish date, so the player has an idea how fast a construction will be when starting it. This obviously can't take resource shortages into account, but would at least give us a fair idea what construction times we are looking at.

Expansion planner: Now this screen i find very useful in the beginning that gets pretty useless towards the mid-end game. Reason? Its cluttered with pointless information and no way for me to properly filter out the information i need.

Exp-1) Show resource quality in the resources list of colonies and resource targets. See the point i made above. When you are looking for that next caslon moon, you will want to grab the best source available. Now if the resource you need is a fairly common one, like the one i used in my example, you would have to manually check 7-8 targets, switching between the main view and the exp planner screen for every one of them. This is just bad. Instead you can display the quality pecentage of the source when the user hovers the mouse over it, or better yet, put the quality right there next to the resource icon in parentheses. [icon] (78%), [icon2] (51%).

Exp-2) Show the name of the star system for each potential colony and/or make the right side minimap zoomable. Why? Because you will have no idea where VL226 really is, and a postage stamp sized minimap is no help in that either. Remember how freaking huge of a galaxy your game has? Its impossible to make out the difference between systems close to eachother on the minimap.

Exp-3) More filtering options. More often than not i find myself looking for not one specific resource, but more like: luxury resources, or resources i have less than N sources of. With that said, the resource list should have checkboxes that allow you to select/deselect them for filtering, instead of the filter by list you currently have. The filter by list should be rewired to set the checkboxes to preset values like: "all resources", "strategy resources", "luxury resources", "resources you have no sources of", etc. Also there should be a filter to hide locations that are in "enemy" systems.

Exp-4) The send colony ships buttons are a nice touch, but there should be a way to cancel the colonization. That is, stop the colony ship that is heading to that planet (potentially also returning it to the nearest refueling point, to not leave it stranded in the middle of nowhere) and remove the colonize order from colony ships already being built.

Exp-5) The way the build and colonize buttons work now is a big weird. They seem to issue a build order to the closest colony, regardless of how many other orders it already has, or its development levels. This results in newly colonized systems that struggle with building their spaceport getting issues a build colony ship order, which they obviously dont complete for years. The building of colonizers should be spread evenly across your colonies, favoring those that have the biggest manufacturing capacity. For a colony ship to travel from one end of my empire to the other, it takes substantially less time than it takes for a newly formed colony to build the ship, not to mention the building of 2-3 ships.

Design screen: 1.0.3 will obviously have some improvements in this field, but theres still a few issues i have. Des-1) Delete key. When i want to delete a design, i instinctively press the delete key. If you mass delete designs (like when you start a new game), then clicking the design, then delete button, then yes button can be a chore after the 2th design being deleted. (yea, i kinda have a low tolerance for repetitive tasks)

Des-2) You should be able to delete any design. If i do not need the Vung Tau design, then i do not need Vung Tau design even if i still have that ship in service. Add a new category: "in service", where the user can see all designs he has in service, be those active, obsolete, deleted or even things he aquired / found.

Des-3) Naming of designs is a little erratic. I noticed that there are some default names for each design role and those get used whenever you upgrade the design. This is just bad. When you upgrade a user design, called Csebal's Glory, then that should not be renamed to Vung Tau, because it is not the upgrade of Tung Vau. Instead append a roman numeral to the end of the name, or just skip renaming it altogether. The game seems to be fine with designs sharing the same name, and with upgrading making the old design obsolete, you will still only see one design, you will be able to rename if you want anyway. Not to mention the date created field, that should allow you to find the newest one of designs sharing the same name.

Des-4) Component grouping. This is really important. Its already a real pain in the ... to create small/medium sized designs, because each component has to be added individually and the lists reset / jump every time you add an item. Instead the available components list should use grouping and the used components list should be condensed to only show one item for each component type and a number next to it showing how many of that you have fitted. You really do not need to see Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine Quantum Engine

in the list instead of Quantum Engine [10].

It conveys the same information in a much clearer manner.

As for the available components, group those by component type: Armor, Construction Yard, Energy Collector, etc.. This way, when i want to fit a torpedo onto my ship, i can find it in a blink of an eye, and i can also find all previous versions too, without expanding the list to a ridiculously long size.

Do i need to mention the weapons list, where the same space saving principle can also be used?

Des-5) This is a minor thing, but you should clarify the roles, if they have any special meaning, or just get rid of those that do not. From what i can tell, the only difference between escort, firage, destroyer, cruiser and capital ship is that they can't be upgraded to a design of the other category. Apart from that, they all perform the same tasks when automated and have the same options overall. So Whats the point really? Why shouldnt i be able to upgrade my escort to a destroyer, when in reality the two ships might almost be the same anyway?

If what i feel is right, and there really is no real meaning behind the various military ship classifications, then just get rid of them and create a new role: military. Saves a lot of confusion and headache when trying to upgrade ships.

I'm sure i missed a lot, but this is a huge game and its quite hard to stay objective and not to dwell too much into what I would like the game to be. I hope most of what i wrote are valid issues for the big majority and that by collecting them and pointing them out, i was able to contribute a little to making the game even better in the long run.
Post #: 1
RE: UI and Usability: Csebal's List - 4/6/2010 12:37:40 PM   


Posts: 102
Joined: 4/1/2010
From: Linz, Austria
Status: offline

I wanted to make such a list too, but you were faster.

(in reply to csebal)
Post #: 2
RE: UI and Usability: Csebal's List - 4/6/2010 12:37:57 PM   


Posts: 102
Joined: 4/1/2010
From: Linz, Austria
Status: offline
oops double post pls delete

< Message edited by Wicky -- 4/6/2010 12:38:04 PM >

(in reply to Wicky)
Post #: 3
RE: UI and Usability: Csebal's List - 4/6/2010 12:59:37 PM   


Posts: 98
Joined: 4/1/2010
Status: offline
Agree with everything except the last point.

The different classes makes it possible to have different sized ships. If we only have one class (military), we could only have one design. The may behave the same, but it's still nice to be able to build a lot of small cheap ships and a few big expensive ones.

(in reply to csebal)
Post #: 4
RE: UI and Usability: Csebal's List - 4/6/2010 1:04:53 PM   


Posts: 22
Joined: 11/23/2009
Status: offline
Actually, you can have 5 different sized escort designs even with 1.0.2. It is because the way they are handled now, that you only see the latest design by default, even if there are more of the same type that are not obsolete.

This will get fixed/changed in 1.0.3 however, according to the changelog. So that last point is indeed a valid one, as the size of the design has no bearing on what role the design belongs to. I've had fast, small escorts and heavy, slow ones as well.. not to mention frigates that were smaller than my heavy escorts. :)

Thats why i find them to be somewhat pointless as they are now.

(in reply to Resan)
Post #: 5
RE: UI and Usability: Csebal's List - 4/6/2010 2:15:43 PM   

Posts: 616
Joined: 3/31/2010
Status: offline
Roles are fine if treated as roles instead hulls/classes (as all other 4x games treat them)

Infact I tend to find 90% of the time, the AI do use them based on their roles quite well I think the problems comes in when you have too little of one role, then the AI will "borrow" from a role with spares to make up the deficiency

So, if you're finding Destroyers being used as Escorts, it might be that you need more escorts Or even, the current available escorts aren't considered strong enough to protect against the threat facing the ship being escorted

Of course, there is always room for refinement


(in reply to csebal)
Post #: 6
RE: UI and Usability: Csebal's List - 4/6/2010 2:16:11 PM   


Posts: 81
Joined: 11/20/2009
Status: offline
I agree with these suggestions.

(in reply to csebal)
Post #: 7
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