Author Topic: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map  (Read 597 times)

Offline x4000

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GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« on: January 25, 2018, 05:19:14 PM »

There's a lot going on on this screen, so we're only going to talk about one part of it at a time.  Right now let's talk about the galaxy map part and what it's communicating to players as they come in.  Remember that this can be multiplayer or single player.  Right now this is the same screen that we use for the actual galaxy map in the in-game view, but minus some stuff (and then plus a GUI window at the bottom that we're not talking about in this thread).  What should we be doing differently?  In the video I show you a number of things that bug me, and that might be problematic in multiplayer.

Take our quick poll and give us your feedback on the "Start New Game" Galaxy Map!

https://goo.gl/forms/uLj2HHTfjzoBmQcs1
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 05:00:26 PM by Dune »
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2018, 12:11:22 AM »
When I start a game the most important thing I want to see is the whole map layout. I don't care which planet I'm supposed to start on because I always change it. What I want to see is the whole map at a reasonable zoom level so I can quickly decide what starting location best matches my playstyle.

Many maps aren't currently laid out to show the names reasonably except when zoomed in due to overlap, so I propose requiring that you hold down Control or mouse over a planet to see the name (and some reminder text to this effect might be useful. Perhaps the first time you enter this screen you're given a "How To" popup, and there's a button on the Map Select menu to see the "How To" information again). Or perhaps the names appear automatically at a certain zoom level, otherwise you need to hold down Control/mouse over the planet.


Offline Draco18s

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2018, 01:51:53 AM »
I'm with Badger on this.
My only other comment is that if the map is going to regenerate when you switch homeworlds, don't recenter the map. Leave it exactly where it was. Its too annoying to have it shift over.

And oh, yeah, I'd want to know what bonus ship I'm getting.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2018, 01:54:27 AM by Draco18s »

Offline etheric42

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2018, 03:35:14 AM »
It seems these are the key questions I heard Chris ask in the video (rearranged a bit):

  • Where should the screen be focused when first accessed.  Centered on planet zoomed out?  Centered on planet zoomed in?  Framing the galaxy?
  • Is highlighting adjacent space lanes useful?
  • There are multiple panning options, how do we get players to use them if necessary?
  • Is redrawing the map problematic, especially in multiplayer?
  • Should there be names on planets / how to deal with overlapping names on planets?  How does this affect talking about the map in multiplayer?
  • How do we coordinate in multiplayer (identify who is selecting what planet, seeing what your username is, etc)?

So here's my $0.02 after sitting down and trying to look at each question separately.

  • Where should the screen be focused when first accessed.  Centered on planet zoomed out?  Centered on planet zoomed in?  Framing the galaxy?
    I agree with BadgerBadger and Draco on this.  The controls present in this map are primarily map type creation and homeworld selection.  Framing the galaxy achieves the goal of seeing what map type you are picking.  Starting zoomed in and having to unzoom every time makes me wonder why I am being presented with a useless initial view that I have to fix each time.  As far as homeworld selection, while I appreciate it giving you a suggestion in case I don't want to have to think about it, there should be some instructional element that making this selection is even part of this screen.  Sure, veterans and people who absorbed a tutorial will know, but many people skip tutorials (or don't remember all of them) and selecting your specific starting position is not in a lot of RTS/4x games.  Perhaps leave starting planet unselected with floating text that says "select starting planet" until one is selected as well as a "randomize" button?

  • Is highlighting adjacent space lanes useful?
    I agree that highlighting the space lanes is a very useful piece of feedback.  Is there a better way to show that or other information that is missing here?

  • There are multiple panning options, how do we get players to use them if necessary?
    Panning with keyboard feels unresponsive (it continues for a noticeable amount after letting go). Screen edge panning is problematic if the game is windowed and not taking up your full screen (mouse past the edge or on another monitor causes it to pan constantly). Although in most games I rarely click-pan, when faced with this map click-panning was the first option I tried (with all three mouse buttons just in case).  Consider click panning?  Consider a transparent popup box with basic camera controls?  (I know camera controls are normally tutorial stuff, but again, people skip tutorials or half-remember them.) If there was a semi-transparent box with help text on it (like camera controls, or instructions to select a planet) where would be the best place to put it?

  • Is redrawing the map problematic, especially in multiplayer?
    I do find the map redraw annoying, but if the camera wouldn't move and the background wouldn't change, it would not be as bad.  I would imagine multiplayer it would be pretty bad (and an opportunity to troll) but without seeing it in action it would be hard to say.

  • Should there be names on planets / how to deal with overlapping names on planets?  How does this affect talking about the map in multiplayer?
    I think the names are kind of pointless in single player.  I'd prefer them to be gone or on mouse-highlight only in order to remove any overlapping names and reduce clutter.  In multiplayer, however, they are useful to coordinate... but of very limited usefulness.  There are so many planet names, trying to find the one another player is talking about is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  I would recommend hiding them altogether and finding a different way to coordinate in multiplayer.  You could name clusters or sections to give points of reference (like the constellations in Endless Space 2, and then they hooked a gameplay mechanic to it even), but in some map types the hooped section would be pretty arbitrary.  Does anyone like having the planet names there for lore/immersion purposes?

  • How do we coordinate in multiplayer (identify who is selecting what planet, seeing what your username is, etc)?
    For identifying username, you could have a chat lobby with a list of present people, color coded and with "(you)" next to your username.  Then on the selected planets you could hover the username (or "planet name (username)") over it.  That can take a chunk of real estate though and you may want your in-game chat to be hidden (especially since many people will be playing single-player).  To declutter the most, I'd recommend just floating "Your homeworld" or "Username (you)" over your planet and the other player's usernames over theirs.  Then (if the redraw wasn't an issue) you could always select a planet as your homeworld temporarily as a means of referring to it in multiplayer (if you don't want to spend too much time adding coordination tools, if you want to add coordination tools, adding a ping or a Total War style map drawing system would be useful on this screen).  How would you coordinate in multiplayer?


Not one of the questions asked, but one of the red backgrounds makes it hard to see the detail of the lines, particularly over a bright spot on the image.  Screenshot attached.

What does everyone else think about that? 

Offline Kordy

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2018, 01:11:38 PM »
1) Where should the screen be focused when first accessed.  Centered on planet zoomed out?  Centered on planet zoomed in?  Framing the galaxy?

Considering the tactical ramifications of where your starting planet is matters a freaking lot, zoomed out please. A general info about the layout of the galaxy is more important in the decision making compared to where the game decides to start you at, considering it can be changed. It's like the ages old 'do I move my settler in turn 1 or do I settle' problem in Civilization. Luckily, we can move without any penalties.

Also, the particular names of the systems don't matter if you're solo. And on Multiplayer, I'd rather have a small window which shows the names of the planets players picked, and the option to click them to highlight the planet with the player color, along with anything special from picking that particular planet a la special ships or whatever. You can probably put that on the right of the screen, above the main menu, along with a chat box on the left of the screen, again just above the menu. There's enough screenspace near 'start game' too, for info purposes.

2) Is highlighting adjacent space lanes useful?
The red links to adjacent planets is very nice, but you guys might want to think about color blind people here and pick a better color for links, especially considering the example background from etheric42. Adding a soft glow would also help in that regard.

3) There are multiple panning options, how do we get players to use them if necessary?

Wait, you guys don't have mouse drag panning? Why the hell not? Putting all the panning information available from a clickable box won't hurt either. Again, there's some available screen space near start game button.

4) Should there be names on planets / how to deal with overlapping names on planets?  How does this affect talking about the map in multiplayer?

Have a mock-up! I'd love to see a window with this information available:


Clicking a player's name should pan to the planet the player picked. Pinging would be nice for information conveyance. Other than that, simply zooming in sidesteps the overlapping names.

Offline FalseMyrmidon

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2018, 04:25:04 PM »
    Where should the screen be focused when first accessed.  Centered on planet zoomed out?  Centered on planet zoomed in?  Framing the galaxy?
Zoomed out. 


    Is highlighting adjacent space lanes useful?
Yes.  If nothing else they add emphasis to where you planet is.  I like knowing how many connections my planet has and this makes it obvious.


    There are multiple panning options, how do we get players to use them if necessary?
Put a small "Note:" or "Tip:" on the screen somewhere saying "Note: Pan the screen by middle click dragging or edge scrolling" or similar.


    Is redrawing the map problematic, especially in multiplayer?
I haven't played multiplayer but it took me a minute to remember what this was refering to.  I've barely noticed it.  I can see how it could be annoying in multiplayer, especially when it's not tied to an action you're taking (which makes it more noticeable).


    Should there be names on planets / how to deal with overlapping names on planets?  How does this affect talking about the map in multiplayer?
You can dump the planet names on this screen, I don't care about them.  Put a toggle box to turn them on and off maybe?  I feel like overlapping is expected to happen when you zoom out far enough.  Maybe have the names fade out when you zoom out to the point that they're going to start overlapping and blocking other information.


    How do we coordinate in multiplayer (identify who is selecting what planet, seeing what your username is, etc)?
Overlay a chat window above the rest of the hud buttons, MMO style.  If there's no activity in the chat box then it should not be visible until you hit enter to start typing in it.

Offline dfinlay

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2018, 04:52:33 PM »
1) The biggest thing I notice here is that it's not at all made clear to a new player what you are supposed to do on this screen. I recall it took me several games of AIWC before I realized that you could choose your starting world and that that also affected your bonus ship. There needs to be a message explaining this (probably a box in the corner that has separate "close" and "never tell me again" options).

2) This seems like an unnecessary thing to be in the game for first-player experience. I'm not even sure if being able to pick your starting world as opposed to figuring out how to deal with the one you got is correct in general, but definitely for a first-time player, it really isn't a decision they should have to make right when they first launch the game. This comes back to an idea I posted in the Main Menu thread that there should probably be a Quick Start/Advanced Start distinction and this should only be in the advanced start. Then, people will forgive a bit more clutter and complexity here if you get to it by "Advanced Start" than by just starting a game (not that we don't still want to minimize clutter, but still)

3) It should definitely start zoomed out and centered on the center of the galaxy. The point of the galaxy view is to be able to see the galaxy and pick where you want to start, and you can't do that if you can't see the galaxy.

4) The redraw and lag on selection isn't actually problematic or even frusterating, but it does seem somewhat unprofessional, which could be an issue especially if this is one of the first screens people see.

5) I would only have names appear on mouse-over here. They aren't really that important in single-player for the decision of where to settle (the only decision made here) and in multiplayer, being able to ping the planet you are thinking of taking or otherwise want to mention will be more useful than naming it for communicating with teammates.


Offline ilitarist

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2018, 03:54:04 AM »
I haven't played AI War beyond tutorial so as a new player I can see some problems here.

1) Might not be UI thing, but I agree with others that there should be something like Advanced Start showing that galaxy view and stuff. I think The Last Federation did that - you just selected difficulty and some important options and that was it. Pretty sure that for most players seeing the whole map would feel unnecessary - it is as if the game tells you that you're supposed to see something here: "why are you playing the game if you don't understand the importance of this map"? I understand that map has to be that big or otherwise it's useless, but currently it signals to new player that this map is much more important than it would turn out to be. So yeah, the best solution would be not to show it to the player unless he clicks Advanced Start. Same with Number of Clusters, Connectivity and Seed - it would probably be enough for a player to see a choice of Random Map Type, Size (there would be a choice of size, right?..) and Difficulty.

2) I also approve of not showing planet names by default. If you need it in MP show it on zoom or on mouse hover, separate checkbox would clutter the UI.

3) Start button should be in the corner. People are used to important buttons like that being in there. Quit should probably say something like "Main Menu" or "Back to main menu" and would be OK if it's to the left of Start and of the same size and shape.

4) There are 2 fonts on this page. One of them is StarCraft 1 Menu font if I'm not mistaken. There it was used for big buttons, here it seems to work as default label. I think it's OK for big important buttons but doesn't work for labels. And anyway it's too recognizable and associated with StarCraft. I'd suggest using a single font here for everything apart from big important buttons, I already made some suggestions in Main Menu.

5) Rename "Random" button to Random seed. If you don't know what it is you may think that otherwise you're selecting premade maps and random creates random one; or that it has no relations to random button. I also don't like "Generate" button at all; maybe rename it to "Generate from Seed" or even just make it a button integrated with seed textbox saying something like "Go!" or even just showing a tick. In a similar manner "Random" button can be integrated there and have a dice on it instead of text. Thus it would be clear those buttons relate to this button. Kinda like that:
(ugliness is intended). Or perhaps you may have a separate big button "Generate Random Map" that randomizes seed and generates the map and that seed textbox has a little tick button integrated in it - I think it would be the most obvious solution.

Offline etheric42

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2018, 03:32:36 PM »
ilitarist, you make some good points, but a lot of your comment has to do with the buttons at the bottom of the lobby screen.  If you don't mind I'm going to repost them in https://forums.arcengames.com/ai-war-ii-interface/gui-focus-group-'start-new-game'-p2-lobby-interface/ as that is more of a discussion of that part of the screen.

Also, there's more about starter ships on that discussion.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 05:13:39 PM by etheric42 »

Offline Dune

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2018, 05:02:40 PM »
Take our quick poll and give us your feedback on the "Start New Game" Galaxy Map!

https://goo.gl/forms/uLj2HHTfjzoBmQcs1
Helping organize things for AI War 2.

Offline Atepa

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2018, 02:01:21 PM »
1. If the first task for a player to do is going to be zoom out, then ideally we would start zoomed out and save the player the step. Frame the galaxy, that is the task at hand is determining your galaxy after all.

2 & 5. If the system names are going to have a purpose (other than just as identifiers for each system, then we should show them, otherwise, I'd say suppress them and display them if a player mouse's over them. Currently there is no difference between if I start on a planet called Bob, or a planet called XST-001a. What is important is the connections to that planet, and those are harder to see / understand with the text all over the galaxy. The highlighting does help, and should stay if not made a little more accessible / have a text equivalent to it (possibly a note that gets added to the system name of your selected planet with how many wormholes there are connecting it.

3. Moving around the galaxy map, I'm okay with the keyboard ways to do so as it is the same as within the game itself. I also agree that the keyboard movement seems a little unresponsive and continues after you let go of the key. (Even worst when you SHIFT+WASD)

However, is it possible to also add Left Click and Drag to the Galaxy map moving? as opposed to Middle Mouse. (both here and in the actual galaxy map) that way just feels more natural for this display.) If we are keeping only the Middle Mouse for moving the map can we inverse the movement. If I'm clicking near the right edge and dragging left, I want to see the stuff to the right of where I clicked, not move the map further to the left.

4. In regards to regenerating what really threw me off with it, is the background changing, and it re-centering on my newly selected planet. At first I thought it had generated a new map for me. If we weren't re-centering on the player would it help with re-draw speed since it would be one less thing the call would have to do when it moved the player system.

6. Ideally I'd like to see the return of the lobby section on the right hand side of the UI from AIWC as opposed to the "Factions" tab that currently resided at the bottom. (in 0.705) as it makes fiddling with your galaxy and your players feel very disconnected from each other but trying to share the same UI. And while yes they are two separate tasks  you should be able to manage both of them quickly at the same time, not bouncing back and forth between the two.

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2018, 02:11:02 PM »
I do think there was a decent amount of value in putting the AI difficulty/balance/colour on an Always-Visible menu on the right. That's stuff that seems always relevant

Offline Elda King

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Re: GUI Focus Group: "Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2018, 01:17:48 PM »
I too in the original AI War took quite a while before I even knew that selecting starting planets was a thing (and affected what ship you started with) - I just assumed the map had a (fixed) starting position. In AI War 2 there are even less hints about this. I think there absolutely needs to be some interface that indicates this: either no planet is selected and the player must manually select every time (with an option for "default" or "recommended"), or a window showing the current selected planet (with some option like "start on [planet]" so you know you can change it), or if you want to make it more multiplayer-focused make it a list of selected planet for each player and list it as a [name] (Default).

About how the names are displayed, I think the game could only show the names when zoomed in past a certain level - either you see the big picture, or you see the specifics about a small area. As is it is really hard to read when zoomed out. Alternatively, they could not be shown at all; it isn't particularly important to know the names of the planets at this stage.