Author Topic: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style  (Read 917 times)

Offline kmunoz

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Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« on: October 28, 2018, 11:12:11 PM »
I'm finding it a lot easier to use and interpret the interface in AIW2 than in AIW1, which is great. I was worried that it was going to be a lot more confusing.

However, I'm finding the visual style of AIW2 to be incredibly off-putting. The icons are so thematically inappropriate that they are intensely distracting. Maybe it's the colors, but I do think it's much more the fact that the shading, outlining and overall shape of the icons are much too "childish" looking. And because the icons on the map are the dominant feature, the fact that there are gorgeous ship graphics underneath is completely lost. Even zooming in really close, the icons are so fantastically prominent that they divert the attention of the eye.

This was one of my frustrations with the original game. The way the game is meant to be played, you're constantly zoomed out, and so the details of the individual ships are lost because the icons are necessarily overriding the visuals. I had hoped that AIW2 would fix this, or adjust it, somehow. And I was encouraged to see all the great work that went into making really gorgeous units. But once again, as with AIW1, you just never get to see them. You spend all your time watching the icons again. And if you do zoom in, the icons are in the way.

There are a few other little details that perhaps are going to be filled in over time, that suggest to me at this moment that the great visuals in AIW2 just aren't that important in the development process. Ships pop into existence while being built, rather than undergoing even the most rudimentary of construction animation. And when ships drop into wormholes - which are below the plane of the game - they simply disappear. They don't even drop down into the wormhole graphic, they just go poof (and they go poof at a surprisingly great distance from the wormhole graphic). When the AI's command centers get destroyed, they blink out of existence. There's no graphical representation of their destruction, as far as I can tell. The ships move around and have pew-pew graphics, but they have very limited dynamic quality.

I'm not a modder (well, not a good one), but if I'm going to spend as much time playing AIW2 as I did AIW1 I'm going to have to do something drastic about those icons. They need to be toned way, way down - the colors need to be more muted, they need to be less puffy, and as graphical representations they need to be a lot more immediately distinctive. Yes, they all look different, but even in their difference the still look very same-y and don't contain enough information. NATO symbols work despite their obtuseness because each one is identifiable immediately, even if you don't know what they represent. You're never going to mistake infantry for armor - the icons are simply too distinct. Learning the meaning of each icon may take a little time, but once you've got it in your head, you can read a map very clearly and very quickly. I suspect that is not going to be the case for AIW2's stock icons, because while they convey information more immediately (take less time to learn), they convey that information very poorly (are difficult to distinguish on the map).
« Last Edit: October 28, 2018, 11:14:15 PM by kmunoz »

Offline Misery

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2018, 04:03:12 AM »
For what it's worth, I actually agree with the bit about the icons.  I hadnt mentioned the icons in my own feedback topic... but I did have trouble with them, in terms of trying to figure out what I was looking at.  At the time though, I figured "Well, it's just that I'm nearsighted, that's why I'm having trouble differentiating them", but... then yesterday I went and started a new game in the first AI War.  Same very small icons, but I have no trouble seeing what they are and distinguishing them, nearsighted as I am.


Online TheVampire100

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2018, 06:41:53 AM »
What icons are you exactly talking about? The icons of the ships? The icons in the UI?

I don't have any issue with the visual aspect of the icons so far, in fact I find them a lot better than what we had in AI War 1.
As far as colors go, don't forget that the colors of the icons are the color you chose for the game. There isn't much the developers can do for you in that way.
That being said, I think a black (or better white) borderline around each icon would help to differentiate them from each other better when they are grouped together. Currently the outline of icons is a lightler version of the color you choose (if you choose green, its light green).

I also think the icons should be bigger when fully zoomed out. It is hard to see or distinguish them when they are so small. For example, look at the guard posts. They have basically the same core design. Which is good btw, it helps the player to notice immediately that these are guard posts. However, the tiny ymbol in the middle, the one that shows what type of guard post it is, is so small, it is hard to notice.
This goes both for the UI and the planet view.

It would also help if the icons would not "stick" together, overlapping each other. That way its hard to see what is exactly in your fleet. Maybe you could make it, that when multiple icons of the same type are very close together, they are brought together into fewer icons until you zoom further in again or until some of them are destroyed so the visuals are not so "swarmed".

Offline Misery

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2018, 03:01:17 PM »
For me it's the ship icons, whether they're on the map or in the UI bar.  I find them very hard to look at and differentiate.  May as well be a bunch of blobs half the time.  It's really hard to say just why that is.

I did try changing the colors up.  didn't make a difference.

I wish I had a suggestion to give here, but yeah, I dont quite understand the cause.

Offline etheric42

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2018, 04:48:42 PM »
I don't have much to say about the "childishness" of the icons.  I'm not an artist and I'm not sure what it would take to make them fit stylistically in the game.  But I agree that there just seems like blobs of color when large numbers of ships get together and I would appreciate some kind of icon grouping, or as kmunoz says, let me see the ships and not the icons.

The problem is this is a hard thing to figure out.  How do you effectively command and control this many ships if you want to preserve the RTS/SupCom/TA-style interface?  And the RTS/SupCom/TA interface is at the core of AI War, if you make it a different kind of interface it might be a good game, but it may not be AI WAr.

Total war does it by making the icons the unit's class and only having 20-40 units in a slow-moving engagement, although I like that style a lot, even that's likely not enough for AIW2 with its hundreds of units (and everyone loves the hundreds of units in a fight).

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2018, 10:15:33 PM »
What icons are you exactly talking about? The icons of the ships? The icons in the UI?

Both.

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As far as colors go, don't forget that the colors of the icons are the color you chose for the game. There isn't much the developers can do for you in that way.

The color palette is too bright overall.

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I also think the icons should be bigger when fully zoomed out.

Oh god no that would be even worse. The problem with differentiating the icons isn't that they're too small, it's that they're both too complex and too similar. Size matters a lot less than differentiation. If, for example, the icons were replaced with numbers in 5 point font, you would find it much easier to distinguish them, even though they're half the size of the current icons.

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They have basically the same core design. Which is good btw, it helps the player to notice immediately that these are guard posts. However, the tiny symbol in the middle, the one that shows what type of guard post it is, is so small, it is hard to notice.

If the tiny symbol in the middle weren't surrounded by an indistinct color blob, it would be easier to distinguish, though still not ideal.

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2018, 10:20:41 PM »
I don't have much to say about the "childishness" of the icons.  I'm not an artist and I'm not sure what it would take to make them fit stylistically in the game.  But I agree that there just seems like blobs of color when large numbers of ships get together and I would appreciate some kind of icon grouping, or as kmunoz says, let me see the ships and not the icons.

This is a good point as well - when you have a lot of squads of the same type the icons overlap and jostle but you're not gaining any significant information. Perhaps if X number of identical squads are clumped together then the icons should merge like Voltron and become a single icon, with the icon's size identifying how many squads are involved.

I am probably an outlier player because I'm generally terrible at all games and AI War is no exception, but I honestly cannot figure out why I would ever need to distinguish, on the game map, every individual unit in my fleet-blob. Does the exact location of a particular unit really matter when most of the commands I'm giving are very broad stroke "whole fleet attack these things here" commands? And if I need to grab only a specific type or types of units, am I going to do that from the map or from the sidebar? In short, do I even need icons on the map at all? (Yes, I know I can turn them off - this is more a game design question than a personal preference interface question, at this point.)

Offline etheric42

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2018, 01:55:13 PM »
There's a command to turn off the icons in the main viewport.  Control + F11.

Play with it for a bit and see how it feels.  See what information you're missing and what uses it has.  I'd love the feedback for that.

Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2018, 02:24:15 PM »
There is also a file in the game, called CMPVisualConstants. Found by AIWar2 > GameData > Configuration > External Visual Constants.

In there, you'll find a line: "extra_y_offset_to_all_icons="0""

With that you can shunt icons up a fair bit. More you do it, the more the units'll become visible underneath, if that's something at all curious of. It's been on my mind to get that improved a bit officially. Generally I think above 60 works well, though higher you go the more the icon and the units actual position get separated visually.

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2018, 08:18:02 PM »
With the icons off entirely, the units on the map become even more indistinct at the usual zoom level for effective play. I’ve considered changing my playstyle around a bit to play the game zoomed in more closely and run at 1/2 speed, to see if that provides a more satisfying experience.

Offsetting the icons farther away than they already are makes matters worse, because your eye naturally moves to the icon rather than the ship itself. And then everything seems to be in the wrong place.

The thing that all of this makes me wonder is something that I wondered about with AIW1 as well. If the level of granularity in the game is so low that playing zoomed out and moving huge masses of ships all at once is the most effective play style, why does the game even bother representing “individual” units? How often do players utilize the geography of the map vs. simply sending blob vs. blob without concern for direction, encirclement, etc.? (And if those things are important in the game, should there maybe be tools and controls in the interface to make certain types of positioning and formation accessible without fiddly clicking all over?)

Offline Misery

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2018, 01:16:26 PM »
The thing that all of this makes me wonder is something that I wondered about with AIW1 as well. If the level of granularity in the game is so low that playing zoomed out and moving huge masses of ships all at once is the most effective play style, why does the game even bother representing “individual” units?


Aye, I've had the same thought on that.  Though, with the first game, I always found it totally irrelevant.  I was playing it for the sheer strategic depth it offered... the graphics had no bearing at all on it.  I honestly would have barely noticed if it simply never bothered to render things beyond the icons.  With this new one, I forget it's even got 3D anything going on most of the time.

And AI War sure isnt the first game to do that.  I remember SupCom was like that.   It was nice to look at up close I guess, but much of your time was spent so zoomed out that it was a wonder they'd even bothered to make proper graphics of the units in it.   And I was totally fine with that.  The game was brilliant, as far as I was concerned.  Granted, not as good as AI War, but still...
« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 01:19:16 PM by Misery »

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2018, 02:02:22 PM »
For most players (the average player who isn’t here on the forums) the draw of AIW2 over AIW1 will likely be twofold: 1) graphics improvements and 2) better performance. The gameplay has been reset to be mostly the same as 1 and the under-the-hood changes, while massive, aren’t going to be “visible” to most people. But once people realize that #1 doesn’t help game play (because the icons are still the primary information source in the game), they may come away disappointed. Especially when the icons look the way they do.

Modding the icons looks to be beyond my capability, otherwise I’d try putting together something more NATO-style to see if that improved readability and immersion.

Offline etheric42

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2018, 03:28:21 PM »
You still have the sidebar to select units from, like you said before.  Is there anything that could be done with unit size that would make it manageable?

Some people on discord have been talking about starship-focused builds instead of fleet ships.  If your fleet was mostly/entirely starships, would it be easier to manage?

Offline Misery

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2018, 07:45:39 PM »
You still have the sidebar to select units from, like you said before.  Is there anything that could be done with unit size that would make it manageable?

Some people on discord have been talking about starship-focused builds instead of fleet ships.  If your fleet was mostly/entirely starships, would it be easier to manage?

Units would have to be absolutely enormous to even be visible most of the time.  Likely not viable.  And heck, even if they were made bigger, there would be so many, so close together, that they'd just be a blob anyway.

As for the sidebar... I dunno about anyone else, but I for one find even that hard to look at.  Which doesnt make any more sense, really.

If I could I'd probably just mod the icons and put the old ones in from the first game instead.  Those were very crisp and clear.  Even being small as they are, I can still read them easily.


For now I've mostly just stopped with this one, honestly, and gone back to the first game.  The hard-to-read icons are a headache waiting to happen, and I dont even want to talk about the bloody ship stats.   Normally I try to help out with testing and all that, but this is a bit beyond my patience.

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2018, 10:33:06 PM »
Some people on discord have been talking about starship-focused builds instead of fleet ships.  If your fleet was mostly/entirely starships, would it be easier to manage?

Well, this gets far afield of the original topic, but... My opinion on this is probably not going to be especially helpful. My sense of it is that the decision way back in AIW1 to implement massive quantities of tiny ships was a design decision that ultimately painted the whole enterprise into a corner. The way the game is designed to be played, there is very little functional distinction between a hundred fighters blobbed together attacking an opposing blob of a hundred fighters and a single "capital ship" with (for the sake of argument, but I'm aware that it's extremely reductive) stats 100x larger. With a small number of larger units you have a number of game advantages:

1) The map is less cluttered
2) The graphics can be showcased
3) Additional strategic and tactical tools can be implemented that don't get oversaturated when you have to think about 100 discrete entities

Maybe there are strategies that involve splitting up 100 ships into smaller strike forces, but has there ever been a strategy that hinged on a single non-starship unit doing anything on its own (and for this argument I'm not including scouts)? And if (read: since) the answer to that question is "No," why do single units exist? Why not scale to the minimum distinguishable force element in the game? (By analogy: why the hell do we still have pennies in the U.S.? Why not just go full Canada and get rid of them already? We don't need them and they only get in the way.)

So that's a roundabout and unpalatable way of saying: I think a starship-only build is a lot more interesting, manageable and graphically/iconographically appealing.

Way back when AIW2 was in its first iterations, some videos were shown of groups of small ships zipping around one another like bees or gnats. Visually, very cool. It didn't survive, however, and now we've got static formations of little ship groups (each one being represented by a single icon). Perhaps it was too graphically intensive to do it the original way; I'm not sure. But what's important to note here is that it never made a difference in how the game would be played. The bottom line was that each formation was really treated as a single unit as far as the interface was concerned. So why not just have them as a single unit? Why not go farther, and have the blobs of units that we treat as single, discrete force projections actually be single, discrete units?

Then half the problem with the icons is gone (because there aren't nearly as many of them to become a visual clutter).
« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 10:35:51 PM by kmunoz »