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Coder Diary #23 -- UI Potpourri

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Coder Diary #23 -- UI Potpourri - 10/9/2014 8:01:40 AM   

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Coder Diary #23 -- UI Potpourri

(Mucho screenshots in this Coder Diary.)

On the Dev Team, and in my Man Cave, we are hard at work developing new games in the Command Series (next up: Middle East, ME), also finding ways to spiff up and fix issues with earlier games (EF, WF & RS). Here's a potpourri of some recent UI (User Interface) and game play changes.

A pet peeve of one our Dev Team members: tiny dialogs, for example the Forces Dialog in the West Front scenario editor (wfedit.exe):

So small! Needlessly so, with today's larger, hi-res monitors. And not resizable. You have to scroll around the OOB tree. Hard to see the big picture.

Here's a screenshot, from ME, of the new, enlarged Forces Dialog:

Now, isn't that more like it?

Still not resizable, for technical reasons. But in almost all situations, no more horizontal scrolling; the dialog box is wide enough to show the entire org chart lines.

In like fashion, we have enlarged a number of editor and in-game dialog boxes, among them:

In the game engine:

  • Target Dialog
  • Artillery Dialog
  • Arrived Dialog
  • Schedule Dialog
  • Release Dialog
  • Strength Dialog
  • Organization Dialog
  • Location Dialog
  • Air Support Dialog

    In the scenario editor:

  • Forces Dialog
  • Organization Dialog
  • Strength Dialog
  • Location Dialog
  • Objectives Dialog
  • Schedule Dialog
  • Add Release Dialog
  • Release Dialog
  • Description Dialog
  • Airplane Dialog

    Other dialogs not listed are good and large enough; no need to change them.

    Here is a screenshot showing the new, larger Artillery Dialog:

    Vertical scrolling still required here, because so many arty pieces in this scenario. But in most scenarios, the new Artillery Dialog is tall enough (and wide enough) as to require no scrolling.

    Oh, and if you are concerned about the new, larger dialog boxes taking up to much screen real estate, you can of course move them around the map display, even move them off to the side, beyond the extent of the game (or editor) display, if you really need to.

    In that last screenshot, you will notice (highlighted in magenta boxes):

  • At the top, in the window Title Bar: Dynamic Scenario Date.

    Where in multi-day (and night) scenarios the displayed date changes from day to day, and day turns to night then back to day as appropriate.

    The way this works: Date changes occur mid-way between the beginning night turn and the ending night turn. So for example, for the Turns spec

    1-3[d] 4-4[n] 5-6[d] 7-9[n] 10-10[d] 11-15[n] 16-16[d] 17-23[n]

    the displayed date would change -- advance by one day -- on turns 4, 8, 13 & 20.

    This is one of those features that better connects me to the history of the situation. That reminds me I am playing/simulating an actual historical event, not just playing a generic game situation.

    This new feature will be much more important as we develop monster, multi-day scenarios for Vietnam etc., and open up the series to depicting operational warfare (within limits).

    In order for this Dynamic Scenario Data feature to work, in the .scn files, dates must be of the form (from an older screenshot, predating some of the changes described here):

    Dates like "June 6, 1944" or "December 7th 1941" will still be permitted, and will display in the game engine window title, but they won't be dynamic. No, in order for dynamic date changes, dates must be of the form: dd month, yyyy (the comma is optional, though).

  • At the right, in the Hex Info Box: A Ground conditions indicator.

    For example: Normal, Soft, Mud, Snow.

  • At the right, also in the Hex Info Box: For larger artillery units (typically), in the OOB files marked as such by the new XArtyAmmo More flag, a new Arty Ammo level, distinct and separate from the normal (traditional) Ammo Level.

    This helps scenario designers model situations where artillery ammo is much lower, or perhaps more generous, than usual.

    In connection with this, we have added a new Arty Ammo field to the scenario editor Header Dialog:

  • At the bottom, in the Tool Bar: New Air Level buttons (up & down light blue arrows).

    For the new air support feature. For now, mum's the word.

    Another UI tweak: For large maps especially, and much like the dialog boxes expansion, we have expanded the Jump Map.

    Here is the older, traditional Jump Map:

    And here is the newer, expanded Jump Map:

    You won't see a larger Jump Map for the smaller game maps. But for larger game maps, you can expect to see a larger Jump Map, with greater control over where you position your game view.

    Still another UI tweak: In the game engine, edit & edmap, implemented Options > Hex Contours Colors.

    Here is a screenshot from ME, in 2D, with the traditional dark Contours:

    Perhaps you prefer this, with lighter (Medium) Contours?

    In 3D, Dark Contours:

    In 3D, Medium Contours:

    (Again, some of these are older screenshots that don't depict newer UI changes.)

    It's an aesthetics choice, whatever looks good to you. But it can also enhance game play.

    Why would anybody ever choose Light Hex Contours? Especially in your typical beige or khaki Middle East map, Light Hex Contours would be so light as to be unnoticeable.

    On the other hand, in other terrain, especially forest and jungle terrain, the traditional one-color-fits-all Dark Hex Contours can be difficult to see.

    Here is a screenshot (an older one), from Vietnam, with the new Light Hex Contours:

    Trust me, with those lighter Hex Contours, the contours are easier to see than the traditional Dark ones.

    Play around with the Hex Contours Colors settings. Whatever pleases you, it's your choice.

    Will all or most of these UI tweaks be applied the JTCS games (EF etc.)? Sure! But you will have to be patient, as we need to release new games in the Series before we revisit and update the older games.

    A little of this, a little of that. Over time, across tweaks, it all adds up to a more pleasing gaming experience.

    But beyond UI tweaks, we are doing many, many other things, some of them major, some of them back-end, "under the hood", "infrastructure", laying the groundwork for new features, expanded capabilities, new games in the Series. Better graphics, expanded OOBs/ORGs, new scenarios, DCGs & LCGs too. More about them in future Coder & Developer Diaries.

    Until the next time...

    < Message edited by berto -- 10/9/2014 1:56:20 PM >


  • Post #: 1
    RE: Coder Diary #23 -- UI Potpourri - 10/9/2014 3:47:44 PM   

    Posts: 16208
    Joined: 7/5/2009
    Status: offline


    ORIGINAL: berto
    A pet peeve of one our Dev Team members: tiny dialogs,

    Go Berto!


    Visit us at: Campaign Series Legion
    CS: Vietnam | CS: East Front 1939-1941 IN-THE-WORKS
    CS: Middle East 1948-1985 Fully reimaged v2.0 available now!

    (in reply to berto)
    Post #: 2
    RE: Coder Diary #23 -- UI Potpourri - 10/9/2014 5:13:55 PM   

    Posts: 4608
    Joined: 8/11/2003
    From: Phoenix, Arizona
    Status: offline
    Good stuff especially the jump map!


    (in reply to Crossroads)
    Post #: 3
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