@Richard: UI design and the button wall (grid actually)

Eagle Day to Bombing of the Reich is a improved and enhanced edition of Talonsoft's older Battle of Britain and Bombing the Reich. This updated version represents the best simulation of the air war over Britain and the strategic bombing campaign over Europe that has ever been made.

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MarkShot
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Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2003 6:04 am

@Richard: UI design and the button wall (grid actually)

Post by MarkShot »

Richard,

For this game, we have a UI with many functions. Potential problems:

* A large number of functions lack hot keys.

* If the above did have hot keys, they might be of the nature CTRL-ALT-SHFT B which is guaranteed to induce Carpal Tunnel syndrome during your campaign.

* Short cut buttons have been made for ADD BOMBERS and ADD FIGHTERS that facilitate multiple ways of doing things. Multiple paths tend to make UIs complex and confusing, and code more prone to bugs.

* Buttons on the screen/window edge which is also the landing zone for scrolling. A steady hand is needed to avoid accidental scrolling.

In two separate games, similar UI designs were applied either by Gary or the games' programmers. That would be WITP-AE and EDBTR. They both use a more or less regular grid layout for buttons.

WITP-AE we see this in accessing things associated with things associated connected to BASEs. A 5x2 grid which further facilitates scrolling through a 1xN grid of objects.

EDBTR we see this with creating/editing missions. There is I think either a 4x4 or 4x5 grid of buttons. Additionally, the map buttons on the right screen edge may be regarded as an Nx1 grid of buttons.

Richard, I don't know if you have contemplated the addition of short cuts for the many buttons. If you have, I am sure you are aware, there are not enough letters to produce a reasonable mapping and/or you will need to use modal keys which kill the ergonomic nature of a short cut key mapping.

I wanted to point out an elegant and regular solution that you may have not contemplated. This is why I have taken this monologue in the direction of grids and arrays. Let the buttons be viewed as addresses, and not mnemonics. So, like for mission editing in my own programming ... most standard key boards have the F-keys grouped in 3x4 ... notice how nicely this maps to part of the mission grid? But what about the deficit of at least one or two more blocks of F-keys? Well, this can be addressed with basic mapping of B=add bomber and F=add escort/fighters.

The advantage of key to button grid mappings is that it is logical, and avoids the problems listed above. Also, it works well when there is slight change in context for the buttons. If we use mnemonics, then we need more short cut keys for context changes. But if we do addressing, the grid persists despite changing context.

Now, you are going to ask is this user friendly for the player to remember function addresses? The answer is "yes" for regular players (let's say anyone who plays from 3-5 days). What happens is that "muscle memory" will soon take over; especially because each button is not equally used. Only a few are used all the time. So, the user will remember after 3 days

F1=Bomb
F2=Recon
F3=Sweep

F5=Night raid

or

F1=Primary
F2=Secondary

F4=FUP

F12=Add fighters

Notice, the logical reuse of function keys, because they are addresses and not mnemonics.

I am pretty confident of all this as I have converted the WITP-AE and EDBTR UIs by programming in AHK. So, play the games for a few days, and it is like typing; you know what to do with your fingers. (In fact, it is faster and quicker than using the mouse. It is like a "power user" interface.)

The only general issue I see here is possibly slim notebooks and non-USA standard keyboards for making this generally work.

Richard, as I said I would help you with some of the larger issues as you attempt to overhaul this GG gem (maybe GGG). Something to contemplate.
2021 - Resigned in writing as a 20+ year Matrix Beta and never looked back ...
MarkShot
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Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2003 6:04 am

Re: @Richard: UI design and the button wall (grid actually)

Post by MarkShot »

Richard,

You never commented. I put time in to writing this. I really do want to know what you think; slick UI paradigm or a confusing mess? Thanks.
2021 - Resigned in writing as a 20+ year Matrix Beta and never looked back ...
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simovitch
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Re: @Richard: UI design and the button wall (grid actually)

Post by simovitch »

Mark, I read it but I got confused because there are currently several short cut buttons displayed on the menu items, and on the other hand I have yet to allocate my diminishing brain power into looking into this further. Once I get a grasp of the tools you are using I will comment.
simovitch

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