Author Topic: Research into RTS UI  (Read 902 times)

Offline powpow

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Research into RTS UI
« on: February 08, 2018, 09:13:41 PM »
https://docs.google.com/document/d/16C1Hkv_EavdW0yvTYFB22WTz2OjNEzZ6cgCrZBGbP8c/edit

Some super fast research into RTS UI trends and challenges before I goto sleep. If anyone wants to edit this document then send me a message.

If anyone else has played an RTS with a UI they are particular fond of, perhaps post a screenshot with an explanation why.

Offline etheric42

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Re: Research into RTS UI
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2018, 02:45:47 PM »
Wow, I really like this!  Thanks for putting all these thoughts together.  Not sure how I feel about the Planetary Annihilation UI comment.  On some level, I agree you shouldn't have to look to too many places.  On the other level, if they were all in the same place, wouldn't that create a big impenetrable block of information?  I like being able to look right and see my units, look up and see my resources, look someplace else and see my build options.

Offline powpow

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Re: Research into RTS UI
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2018, 06:59:40 PM »


If the Planetary Annihilation UI is anything like Supreme Commander (see above pic) then I'm not sure I agree with that comment either. I played a bit of Supreme Commander yesterday to have a look at the UI.

I really like:
- The top bar clearly showing total resources and amounts being generated
- Right bar for all the groups set with CTRL+number. The number on the left is the hotkey, the bottom number is the total number of units in the group
- The infinite scroll of the mouse wheel allowing you to seamlessly zoom in/out from seeing 3D units at a base to abstract icons covering the whole map

I don't particularly like the cluster of icons in the bottom right corner (what do they mean? Not intuitive), but the tooltips make them functional.

Offline Someone64

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Re: Research into RTS UI
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2018, 08:51:27 AM »
Zero-K's UI (free and open source rts game based on the Spring RTS game engine) gets pretty much everything right. Most players who come from playing it who play other RTS games refer to themselves as being 'spoiled' from how good it is. The UI layout itself looks pretty standard but all the magic is in how easy it is to do tasks without enormous amounts of clicks. It's so easy that it's possible to play the game effectively only clicking about 12 times every minute. Buildings can be built in lines or grids with custom spacing by holding modifier keys and dragging out your mouse, every command can be queued using shift and inserted into an existing queue using other modifiers, units can be put into formations simply by right click dragging a line formation out, paths for individual units can be made by dragging a line, holding modifiers can allow you to do this for groups too, and the repeat button allows for a lot of automation, both for factories and allowing units to do things like go on a specific patrol path or rebuild destroyed buildings.

It also has a few extra interesting systems like selection priority where you can press a little numbers in the command panel to set the priority of a unit to be selected, holding ctrl while using a guard command (and other combos of modifier keys) allows you to make units guard another unit in a circle formation, circle around them instead of standing still, or stand relative to the units' facing. Similar to PA, if you zoom out enough units will turn into icons instead (unlike AIWII's current system which is to always have the icons above units, creating painful clutter). In general the game is great in both handling UI for managing huge amounts of units and small squads.

You can see a few basics of the UI of ZK here and here. The layout of ZK's ui is changing a bit often as it makes is sprint towards its official Steam release and some screenshots on the wiki are a bit old (game's always been available for free and the Steam release is for publicity so you can still check out the game's UI yourself regardless).

Last cool thing about it is that since it runs in the Spring engine, the UI is completely customizable. Panels can be moved around and resized as you please and the UI can be extended (and even automated) through lua scripts that the game calls "widgets" which run entirely client-side (this can mean advantages over others, I suppose. Doesn't allow cheaty things of course and the unit AI is made in such a way that micro isn't required).
« Last Edit: February 20, 2018, 09:00:39 AM by Someone64 »

Offline etheric42

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Re: Research into RTS UI
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2018, 12:15:24 AM »
Ah, interesting.  I'm glad someone is working on Total Annihilation 3.  I still don't get why some games insist alternate between left mouse and right to input commands.  I mean seriously, why is move right click and attack move a+LEFT click.  Why is placing buildings left click and moving right click (not as bad as attack-move earlier, but still).  Seriously, make a button the "select things but don't really do things" button and another button the "seriously, go do this" button.

Also what is with having early campaign missions be a tutorial and then saying "you should overdrive your metal extractors, read the manual to know what we mean by that."

I did really like the click-drag to draw formations thing.  I did not like that I couldn't make my selections walk at the speed of my slowest unit selected.  I mean if it wants me to cover my rocketeers with machine gun fire to protect them against basic speed bots, then let me move my rocketeers at the speed of the machine gunners.  Also, when is a game going to let me see a unit's patrol waypoints and just let me drag them to move them around.

I also didn't like how I could assign a builder to a command group and then the units that it spawned weren't automatically part of that command group.  I thought that was the way it worked way back in TA.

Auto retreat is nice.  The game should tell me how to set a retreat location, but I assume it shows up in a later campaign mission.

Also interesting is the traditional build menu+hotkeys AND a radial build menu by holding right-click.  AoE metal extractor placing is also nice.

The feedback parts of the interface lean heavily on TA and SC.  I guess why fix what isn't broken.  I like being able to draw on the map, but I still feel a bit crowded in by the interface and I don't know how many units I've selected at one time (or that I own).  Whoever chose green as a default PC color on a grassy background was wrong, I often have a hard time picking out individual units and I often zoom out to icon land just to find things.

A lot of interesting things there to explore!  (Plus now I have some TA3 to keep me entertained in the evenings for awhile, Planetary Annihilation just didn't do it for me.)

Offline Someone64

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Re: Research into RTS UI
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2018, 07:07:45 AM »
IIRC there's a button in the command panel (bottom right I think...?) that has a circle with an arrow coming out (or in?) of it to set the retreat location. In general things like that are just buttons on the UI. Only a few things absolutely require hotkeys like CTRL Guarding and command queueing and unit groups.