Author Topic: Forming a GUI focus group.  (Read 1417 times)

Offline x4000

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Forming a GUI focus group.
« on: January 23, 2018, 12:20:55 PM »
Hey all,

This is something that we're going to need to do sooner than later, and we may as well do it sooner than later.  Basically we've got a version of the game GUI at the moment that has gone through a lot of iterations, and it's ugly but it works.  There are a variety of things that are suboptimal for various reasons, though. 

Either we just haven't had time to deal with an issue yet, or we haven't figured out the best way to do it because we're engineers rather than designers.  And from a designer standpoint -- Blue, that is -- the game is so freaking complicated that it's hard to have her come in and make it more usable without stripping away important pieces of function.  More pretty?  Absolutely, she can handle that.

Anyway, I'm reaching out at the moment to see who has interest in this sort of thing, and what sort of involvement you might be interested in having.  All of our GUI stuff is open source and largely xml-based, so technically a lot of it can be directly modded if you're the sort who wants to directly tinker and try out ideas that we might then integrate.  In other cases you might just want to look at what we're doing and say "here's what I love, and here's what I hate."  Or even if you're just saying "I was immediately confused by this, and while I did figure it out after a bit, I think it's too confusing for new people."

We're also going to need some way of collating all this information from people, and working on a central design concept.  In an ideal world that would be Keith or I... but, well, that's not our top skillset, to be blunt.  Anyone who remembers arguing with me about control nodes knows this.  The odds are fair that there's going to be too much feedback for Keith and I to directly be able to oversee all of it and make something coherent out of it, so having a volunteer project manager (or a couple of them) on the GUI focus group would help a lot in terms of telling us "do this, sillies!"

I think that a lot of what we already have in place isn't too bad, and the framework itself is pretty well engineered at this point, but there's still a lot of work to do and we're inevitably going to need help.  If you think this sort of thing sounds like something you'd be interested in some level of helping on, then please let us know.

Thanks! :)
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Offline ilitarist

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2018, 12:51:54 PM »
I'm web developer and work with UIs a lot. Even developed a mobile game, not that it had a great UI. Won't probably have enough dedication to PM but sure could give some advices on UI. I hate strategy game UIs with passion and would gladly badmouth them.

Offline x4000

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2018, 12:59:07 PM »
I'm web developer and work with UIs a lot. Even developed a mobile game, not that it had a great UI. Won't probably have enough dedication to PM but sure could give some advices on UI. I hate strategy game UIs with passion and would gladly badmouth them.

You are absolutely the sort of person we need, then!  Stay tuned as we get more people writing in, and we'll see how we can organize this whole thing and who wants to run point as PM, etc.  But this sort of perspective will be invaluable as we go. :)
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2018, 01:01:14 PM »
Incidentally, part of the reason I made the first AI War was that I hated all space strategy games, but I like space and I like strategy, and I wanted one I'd like.  Coming at it from an outsider perspective can definitely be valuable; aka not buying into genre conventions, etc.  How much of that we can wind up putting into practice without alienating everyone who is familiar with the genre we shall see, but it tends to make for nice nudges in the right direction if nothing else.
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Offline FalseMyrmidon

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2018, 01:08:53 PM »
I can give end user feedback.

Offline Lemmin

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2018, 01:34:33 PM »
I'm happy to provide feedback, although I do admit I'm approaching this with some pre-conceptions. I'm a huge fan of Sins of a Solar Empire, so you've a lot to live up to! I've also been playing RTS games for more than 25 years so I can't really approach this with a fresh mind. I don't think I've the time to commit to being a co-ordinator or project manager for this, sorry.

A few GUI thoughts:

1) Theses days any RTS without "infinite zoom" (the ability to zoom out to see the entire 'map', and zoom back in to unit level) gets dropped by me pretty quickly. I can't be having with pushing my mouse against the side of the screen to scroll, I just want to zoom out and zoom back in to the action using the mouse wheel. CF Sins of a Solar Empire and Supreme Commander.

2) Different people use UIs in different ways. Some people prefer symbols/graphics/icons, other people work better with text/numbers. Still other people remember the position of stuff. A good UI would suit all these people, or else be able to switch between these different ways of working and thinking. This is why creative people love Apple computers - they are fully graphical. Many authors can't stand Apple because textual people are looking for a written description.

3) Keep the basic interface simple, let users drill down for more complicated stuff. If possible you'd be able to run a statistical analysis of which functions people use most (and which least) during the alpha and beta, and organise the game UI on that basis. Any functions that are almost never used should be banished to a sub menu - those they people are drilling down to find often should be brought up a menu level.

Just my initial thoughts, based on my very limited viewing of the game videos.

LEM


Offline etheric42

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2018, 02:06:55 PM »
I can give feedback.  I'm also a manager in my day job and do some light project management.  I'm happy to coordinate (or help coordinate) if you would like.

Offline x4000

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2018, 04:04:52 PM »
Awesome, thanks folks -- good thoughts already.

@etheric42, would definitely love to have your help on coordinating.  My dad is going to help out as well in a broader PM role for a bit, since I'm shorthanded at the moment and that used to be his job, but it's a huge job and so help is extremely valued.
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Offline Taichikitty

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2018, 05:39:37 PM »
I am a QA team lead for an android-based tablet line's launcher software.  I am happy to kibbitz on UI design, and eager to experiment with modifying the interface myself.

Offline stryder2384

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2018, 06:41:19 PM »
I'd be happy to help. I'm an architect that does a lot of graphic design work as part of my job. I was actually thinking the other day that the GUI of AIW:C was very good. A lot of information, and difficult to approach, but ultimately gave you everything you need.

I can't be of much help from a programming standpoint, but might be useful helping keep the GUI clear and easy to understand.

Offline x4000

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2018, 08:10:15 PM »
That is absolutely FAN-tastic.  We need people with all these skills.  We're going to start doing posts about specific topics in the GUI soon, and hopefully we'll have a nice cabal of you to help us figure out what needs to happen in each area.  Tomorrow is the Starward Rogue expansion release, and a newsletter will be going out, and then Thursday hopefully we can get started on the first of this with even more folks.
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Offline Sounds

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2018, 08:19:10 PM »
I'd love to help. I've extensive expertise in HCI / UI design and consulting - from solution prototyping, architectural design, implementation and delivery. The only issue is that's still part of my day job, so I can only only offer a few spare cycles on the weekends. Does that work for you?

Offline x4000

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2018, 08:46:37 PM »
Oh yes, that very much works for us. :)

I'm not around on weekends usually, although some on Sunday afternoons.  Keith tends to be on and off on Saturdays, depending on the week.  But either way, it's not like we have to be on at the same time to have discussions and whatnot.  Most of us here aren't even in the same time zone, and plenty of us not even on the same continent.
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Offline Sounds

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2018, 11:05:40 PM »
Oh yes, that very much works for us. :)

I'm not around on weekends usually, although some on Sunday afternoons.  Keith tends to be on and off on Saturdays, depending on the week.  But either way, it's not like we have to be on at the same time to have discussions and whatnot.  Most of us here aren't even in the same time zone, and plenty of us not even on the same continent.

Awesome. :)

Will you be putting up a follow up post of what you exactly need?

Technical, implementation, design, etc. whatever you need. However I don't want to be your bottleneck, so I can't put my hand up to do the PM / coordination side to make it worth you while due to availability.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 11:07:23 PM by Sounds »

Offline abuchris

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Re: Forming a GUI focus group.
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2018, 07:31:57 AM »
I work in IT as an architect, but never with GUI.

However, AI War I has such a horrible UI that I can get no friends to play it with me, so I am VERY motivated to make AI War II a lot better :)
Also, I am a grumpy old fart of 47, so I have no problem being critical and a hard-sell on design issues, so I can provide user feedback.

Also: GET OFF MY LAWN!