Author Topic: AI War 2 First Impressions  (Read 878 times)

Offline Flavin

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AI War 2 First Impressions
« on: April 27, 2018, 05:38:19 PM »
Hello, I backed this game during the Kickstarter but I just got around to giving it a try now so I figured I'd give some feedback. Right off the bat when you launch for the first time, the game forces you to pick a ship type, color pallete, character, and profile name. This was a problem for me and gave a negative first impression because while I was at this screen the game's music was blasting, and the resolution was way off so I had to quickly click through all of this profile set up stuff while having to listen to loud music and read through it all in a tiny window. It would be much better to allow a person to access the settings menu and get things configured properly before forcing them to make all these decisions about their profile. My idea would be to bring the player to the main menu when they launch the game, and initially have the the tab on the bottom left say "Create new profile" instead of allowing them to start up a game, then once they created their profile they can start playing the game, tutorial, etc. You obviously don't want someone to be able to start up a match without creating their profile, but you need to give them a chance to tweak the settings first.

Onto the settings menu, I found it very annoying that every time you make a change and click save you get kicked out the settings menu, this messes with a person's habitual behavior developed from using settings menus from other games or software and for me at least I kept clicking save and getting kicked out of the menu out of habit so I had to keep going back in. It would be better to keep the player on the settings menu, or have a "save and close" button as well as just a normal save button (the former option is probably the way to go.) Also, there aren't any volumes sliders, just on and off buttons for the sound but I assume this is just because the game is still in Alpha.

Here are my initial thoughts on the game itself after trying out a match, some of what I say here may be wrong because I did not spend much time on it: The ship designs are really cool, the backgrounds of the planets are really cool, and I love the new look of the warpgates compared to the first game. I also think a lot of the changes I noticed compared to the first game such as being able to move your command station (and even use it as a combat unit while invading another planet) were really clever and will set this game apart from the first. Making things mobile that were previously stationary adds a lot of flexibility and allows unique playstyles to emerge. I would imagine you could treat your command station like the one in the first game and just leave it in one spot and surround it with turrets, or you could get a little risky with it and use it to help capture an early enemy planet.

Unfortunately, this game has it's own share of UI problems which while different from the first game, I found to be just as bad or worse. I'll start with what I liked and then get to the issues with this. The decision to have a stationary window on the side with everything you need (research, unit lists, and options to build units) I actually think was a smart call. It will definitely take some time to get used to but you no longer need to cycle through the units on your planet like the first game to get to what you need, everything is always right there in front of you no matter what planet you're on. I would like to see an option to shrink it when you're not actively using it so you can gain back some screen real estate would be a good idea though because it is pretty wide. I also really liked the ability to zoom in on the Galaxy Map, my issue with the first game was that there is so much  that needs to be display on the map at once that unless you were constantly micromanaging your map filters it could get very busy and overwhelming to look at. Much of the time you don't need to see the whole map, you just want to focus in on one area of it and clearly see how those planets connect to each other and what units/resources they contain. It helps make things more accessible when you're not forced to look at everything all the time.

Now for the issues I had with the UI. With the Galaxy Map I don't like how the Planet names scale up as you zoom out to a point where practically all you can see on the map is planet names when you're zoomed out. I'm sure the names can be turned off all together like with the first game, but most players will still want to be able to see them, just not have them overshadow everything else. The planet view however is where the Major UI issues rear their ugly head. Everytime you hover your mouse over a unit, you get this massive, ugly, semi transparent window that pops up in the the upper left area of your screen right under your resources bar. It feels as if it takes up a fourth of the available screen real estate and gives way more information than it needed when you're simply hovering your units to go and select them. Maybe others don't feel this way but to me it actually makes the game near unplayable to keep having these massive boxes flashing at you whenever you move your mouse over anything that give you information you don't need and obscuring your view of what is going in in the planet. The first game didn't have this problem because the window that was popping up was in most cases smaller, much of the screen real estate it used up was already taken up anyways by the permanent ship categories bar so you weren't losing a lot of screen real estate you would normally have most times you hovered on something. With this new UI the resources bar at the top takes up more space vertically than the old one did, the new persistent action box on the right side takes up far more space than the right hand bar on the first game that just showed a column or two of units on the planet, and even with the unit categories bar from the first game not appearing at the bottom right hand corner of your screen you still have the new settings bar down there, so you really don't have a lot of screen real estate anymore. I think these massive unit detail boxes need to be made smaller and moved down to the bottom right overlapping that new settings bar. The way they are now the best thing I could compare them to is like if you had adware on your computer that pops up and covers what you're trying to look at all the time. Also, the window for ship selection doesn't tell you what ships you actually have selected, it just shows the number of ships and their strength. This may not need to be fixed, it may just be an unavoidable problem caused by having the massive persistent action bar taking up the whole right hand side of the screen. It's just annoying to not be able to quickly see a list of what you have selected. Last but not least, when you are having ships build it shows you a % complete but not a time until completion. I think showings seconds remaining to build the next ship would be a lot more valuable piece of info. Also the if the ship cap and amount used currently owned could persistently show on the icons rather than having to hover over them it would help justify having this massive bar on the right. If it's not going to tell you at a glance without needing to hover over it what your caps are and how many of each ship you have then I don't really think it's giving you enough info at a glance to justify all that screen real estate.

TL;DR: I think there needs to be a hard look taken at what information you really need showing on the screen at all times, and what information you don't need to show. The sheer amount of text is a real problem. Other more mainstream games with better UIs seem to utilize more symbols, and less text. This game (and the first one as well) tend to show you a mini-essay on what each unit does whenever the opportunity arises to show you it. Much of this information is going to be intuitively learned through play and not worth flashing huge text boxes over the screen to convey. This game isn't really that much more complicated than most other RTS games yet there seems to be an impulse in your design philosophy to overload the player with info you don't always need to see which obscures things you really do need to see at all times such as resource costs, ships built/ship cap, and Mark level.

I know I may have came off as a little harsh here but I am rooting for you guys, and I appreciate how transparent you guys have been throughout the development of this game, where as many other kickstarter devs go months without communicating to backers at all and then try and pass off the excuse that they were too busy to make a post. You guys are insanely busy as well, but you take the time to communicate with your backers because it is the right thing to do.

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: AI War 2 First Impressions
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2018, 06:02:38 PM »
I agree that the default volume might be a bit high, I usually turn it down to 40 or 50 myself. Might be worth making that the default. I have suggested that the Profile page also include a "Lets get the application sized appropriately for your monitor" section, which would alleviate that. Volume isn't a slider, it's a Number you type in.

You picked a perhaps unfortunate time to get a first impression because things are about to change pretty radically on the gameplay front. The gameplay is going back toward AIWC in a lot of ways, including significantly limiting the mobility of your home command station.

The UI is also in a state of flux; there are large chunks (the galaxy map, for example) which is pretty unfinished. I think most people agree that right not it's not in a good state.

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: AI War 2 First Impressions
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2018, 10:20:59 PM »
I have made the default volume quieter.

Offline etheric42

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Re: AI War 2 First Impressions
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2018, 02:26:22 PM »
Hey Flavin, I'm helping Chris design the UI.  We have a lot that is planned but not implemented, so some of the things you are bumping into may be things we have (hopefully) already solved.  The idea of setting your resolution before going through the profile is a good one, since it sounds like the game is having a hard time detecting a good default one to use, and I like the idea of having a "settings" button on the profile creation screen.

Onto the settings menu, I found it very annoying that every time you make a change and click save you get kicked out the settings menu, this messes with a person's habitual behavior developed from using settings menus from other games or software and for me at least I kept clicking save and getting kicked out of the menu out of habit so I had to keep going back in. It would be better to keep the player on the settings menu, or have a "save and close" button as well as just a normal save button (the former option is probably the way to go.) Also, there aren't any volumes sliders, just on and off buttons for the sound but I assume this is just because the game is still in Alpha.

It sounds like we need a traditional "okay / cancel / apply" set of buttons here.  The settings menu is a place I don't think we even have a planned design yet, since the functions there have a habit of changing.

Unfortunately, this game has it's own share of UI problems which while different from the first game, I found to be just as bad or worse. I'll start with what I liked and then get to the issues with this. The decision to have a stationary window on the side with everything you need (research, unit lists, and options to build units) I actually think was a smart call. It will definitely take some time to get used to but you no longer need to cycle through the units on your planet like the first game to get to what you need, everything is always right there in front of you no matter what planet you're on. I would like to see an option to shrink it when you're not actively using it so you can gain back some screen real estate would be a good idea though because it is pretty wide.

Good call on that one.  I'll need to check with Chris to see how easy that would be to implement.

Everytime you hover your mouse over a unit, you get this massive, ugly, semi transparent window that pops up in the the upper left area of your screen right under your resources bar. It feels as if it takes up a fourth of the available screen real estate and gives way more information than it needed when you're simply hovering your units to go and select them. Maybe others don't feel this way but to me it actually makes the game near unplayable to keep having these massive boxes flashing at you whenever you move your mouse over anything that give you information you don't need and obscuring your view of what is going in in the planet. The first game didn't have this problem because the window that was popping up was in most cases smaller, much of the screen real estate it used up was already taken up anyways by the permanent ship categories bar so you weren't losing a lot of screen real estate you would normally have most times you hovered on something.

This is something we've gone back and forth on.  At a certain point you really want to get info on what you are looking at and the game moves too fast to force you to hover over an object for a half-second before the tooltip appears, but yeah, it takes a lot of space.  My original thought was to have a (much smaller) tooltip show up at the cursor, but even if it was smaller that is still a lot of flickering tooltips in a crowded map.  The idea of obscuring the settings/etc bar is interesting.  That's also where AI taunts and chats will pop up (as toast notifications like Steam chats), so the tooltips would obscure them.  Any alternative solutions?  (Please note that any tooltips that display in the upper-left corner are placeholders from much earlier, the newer ones show up next to the sidebar, but they are still big, and are only expected to get bigger as AIWC style ships come back)

Also, the window for ship selection doesn't tell you what ships you actually have selected, it just shows the number of ships and their strength.

That's definitely a placeholder.  That info is destined for the bottom-center along with all your control groups.

Last but not least, when you are having ships build it shows you a % complete but not a time until completion. I think showings seconds remaining to build the next ship would be a lot more valuable piece of info.

I think the % was a last-minute addition, I like the time until completion instead (especially with the pivot to AIWC where ships seemed to build more slowly).

Also the if the ship cap and amount used currently owned could persistently show on the icons rather than having to hover over them it would help justify having this massive bar on the right. If it's not going to tell you at a glance without needing to hover over it what your caps are and how many of each ship you have then I don't really think it's giving you enough info at a glance to justify all that screen real estate.

That was the original design.  I don't remember why it was changed to what we have now, but I'll try to follow up on that.

TL;DR: I think there needs to be a hard look taken at what information you really need showing on the screen at all times, and what information you don't need to show. The sheer amount of text is a real problem. Other more mainstream games with better UIs seem to utilize more symbols, and less text. This game (and the first one as well) tend to show you a mini-essay on what each unit does whenever the opportunity arises to show you it. Much of this information is going to be intuitively learned through play and not worth flashing huge text boxes over the screen to convey. This game isn't really that much more complicated than most other RTS games yet there seems to be an impulse in your design philosophy to overload the player with info you don't always need to see which obscures things you really do need to see at all times such as resource costs, ships built/ship cap, and Mark level.

I'm assuming this is referring mostly to the tooltips, because most other things are in symbol form right now.  Someone else suggested we do "simple" tooltips that hide a lot of the details and expand when a button is pressed (such as alt) to show the full details/stats.  What do you think of that idea?

Offline .hawk.

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Re: AI War 2 First Impressions
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2018, 06:21:49 PM »
Someone else suggested we do "simple" tooltips that hide a lot of the details and expand when a button is pressed (such as alt) to show the full details/stats.  What do you think of that idea?

I think this would be an improvement but I think the people for which the full tool tip is most useful would be for new players just starting out. And if that's the case, you might want to include a note in the simple tool tip like "press alt for more" which would take up more space.  :-\

My ideal unit tool tip would at most have the unit name, owner, and the quantity when moused over it. Then reserve the long form text and stats for when a single unit/squad/building is selected. Sure, the long form would blip up when mirco-ing a single flagship and the like but it would be much less often than it is currently. Also, I feel like selecting a unit to get for info is more intuitive than a hotkey.


Related to this conversation but not the quote above: I wish the top and side bar were equally readable at lower scales. For my tastes and set up, the top bar is just about perfect at 0.7 scale but that makes the side bar a little fuzzy due to smaller, less differentiated (especially the starships/some flagships), and more complicated (move orders) icons.

Offline etheric42

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Re: AI War 2 First Impressions
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2018, 06:57:01 PM »
I had been thinking about what if there wasn't a tooltip when mousing over a ship on the screen, only tooltips when mousing over the sidebar, and to make things easier when you mouse over something on the screen, that ship's icon gets highlighted on the sidebar.

Is that too little info?

Related to this conversation but not the quote above: I wish the top and side bar were equally readable at lower scales. For my tastes and set up, the top bar is just about perfect at 0.7 scale but that makes the side bar a little fuzzy due to smaller, less differentiated (especially the starships/some flagships), and more complicated (move orders) icons.

That's great feedback.  I've thrown it on my Trello board and next time I see Chris back in UI mode, I'll pass it along.  We may never be able to get that sidebar shrunk right due to detail level required on the icons, but if we started with the top bar a smidge smaller, they'd probably be better off in relation to eachother.

Offline Flavin

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Re: AI War 2 First Impressions
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2018, 09:27:56 PM »
Regarding the ability to shrink or minimize the action bar on the right side of the screen, what I was envisioning when I wrote that was this feature in Adobe Photo Reader where you click a vertical button with an arrow on it which is at the tip of their right hand vertical bar, and when you click it everything in that bar is then hidden except the expand/collapse part of the bar. This way when you're doing something like invading an enemy planet where you're not likely going to be using that action bar and you want to see as much of the screen as possible you can easily minimize it so you can see the whole planet you're attacking.




This is something we've gone back and forth on.  At a certain point you really want to get info on what you are looking at and the game moves too fast to force you to hover over an object for a half-second before the tooltip appears, but yeah, it takes a lot of space.  My original thought was to have a (much smaller) tooltip show up at the cursor, but even if it was smaller that is still a lot of flickering tooltips in a crowded map.  The idea of obscuring the settings/etc bar is interesting.  That's also where AI taunts and chats will pop up (as toast notifications like Steam chats), so the tooltips would obscure them.  Any alternative solutions?  (Please note that any tooltips that display in the upper-left corner are placeholders from much earlier, the newer ones show up next to the sidebar, but they are still big, and are only expected to get bigger as AIWC style ships come back)

Again, I would challenge this design assumption you have made that the player really needs that level of detail about a unit after the third or fourth time they encounter it. After a certain point you're familiar enough with the basics of what a unit does that you don't need to see what it's favorite color is, or what it's favorite thing to eat for breakfast is every time you hover over it. It's just an information overload. I really like what .hawk. said, but I would go a step further and say that you shouldn't need a tooltip to tell you whether you, your friend, or an enemy owns a unit, that should be clearly conveyed visually. Your idea of limiting tool tips to when you hover over the unit icon on the sidebar is really great and would allow you to present all the extra intricacies about a ship in a way that is convenient, rather than outright annoying. You're giving the choice back to the player. If someone wants see exactly what a unit does, they can move the mouse over to the unit icon area and check it out, but 95% of the time at least, they don't need to see all that, especially when a unit is not new to them anymore they don't need to be barraged with flickering tooltips whenever they try and do anything.


I understand the impulse to give the player as much information to work with as possible but there really is such a thing as too much information and I think the insanely massive tooltips everywhere are just going to overwhelm your average, more casual player. Even if they were restricted to the ship icon area I would still recommend simplifying them, but I do like the idea of holding alt to see an expanded view. You can have it both ways, you can show the really minute details about units to the people who want to see them without bogging down the more casual players who aren't interested in excel spreadsheet analysis for their games and just want to learn enough to get by.

Offline chemical_art

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Re: AI War 2 First Impressions
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2018, 09:33:04 PM »
I am in favor of making the most intricate details to be toggled by holding alt. Tooltips from mousing overall should very briefly convey the most essential information, but alt can be used for everything else.
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