Author Topic: Nailing down the Build Menu  (Read 615 times)

Offline keith.lamothe

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Nailing down the Build Menu
« on: August 04, 2017, 10:49:58 AM »
Here's an example of the current state:

August 10th:
Build Menu


Tech Menu



What needs to happen?

Thanks :)

Old states, for reference:

August 7th:


August 3rd:
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 08:01:39 PM by keith.lamothe »
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2017, 10:57:56 AM »
The build Q itself needs to use icons, though this is blindingly obvious. One usability thing I've had is that if I'm using my mouse to click on the units I'm building, I have to move the cursor all the way across the screen to click "Looping/Not Looping". Could we get a toggle for that in a closer place?

Offline x4000

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2017, 11:11:15 AM »
The build Q itself needs to use icons, though this is blindingly obvious. One usability thing I've had is that if I'm using my mouse to click on the units I'm building, I have to move the cursor all the way across the screen to click "Looping/Not Looping". Could we get a toggle for that in a closer place?

I think that needs to stay with the build queue itself.  What if the build queue itself was all the way on the left side of the screen?  It seems kind of natural to me.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2017, 11:15:34 AM »
If it's on the left side then it will interfere with the sidebar. We could move the sidebar to the right side though?

Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2017, 10:09:39 PM »
Looking at that screenshot I think that I'd rather have a building menu structured like so

|>> [MRLS] - MK1 - MK2 - MK3 - MK4
|> [Turrets] [COOKIES] - [GOTHIC] - [METAL] - [WubWub]
| [Infrastructure] [Ships] [Refrigerators] [AlienTechFromArea51]

This seems to me not to require more than 720p width depending on how the MK levels are displayed (ie, smaller icons, maybe..). The idea is that you click on INFRASTRUCTURE, and it becomes glowy, then it opens a list of infrastructure (whatever that may be) you click on that and you get types within that infrastructure type (different turrets, or stations, or whatever) then you click on that, and MK selection opens up neatly above whatever you clicked.

Basically this kind of layout would not obstruct the sidebar no matter what side it is on, as it could be centered so that sidebar fits nicely into it. Since only the build-bar with the top index would require any constant presence on the screen.

Something else my idea has as advantage is that you got 1280p or 1920p width.. but you only got 1080p or 720p height, building menu should always try to somehow limit what's on-screen somehow...

Ps.: I know that my naming scheme sux and the text layout skips the selection process, I am not up-to-date what buildings are in the game right now ;P Anyhow, that's just a suggestion or idea or whatever.

Depending on how many types of "stuff" you got, this kind of scheme might easily become overloaded. Ps.: Cost/data/tooltip could be displayed as tooltip attached to mouse pointer (maybe?)

I find everything way too big and way too unstructured atm, but that's what this topic is for I guess. By the way, I mean a drop-down list could also work just fine when you click on "Infrastructure" -> Then lets you select what you want, and opens a build tab for that thing, MK levels and what not.


Ps.: That stat display down the bottom isn't gonna be in the actual game, right? I mean those numbers are imo stuff the sidebar should display, way less verbose too.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2017, 10:14:25 PM by eRe4s3r »
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2017, 08:23:08 AM »
Looking at that screenshot I think that I'd rather have a building menu structured like so

|>> [MRLS] - MK1 - MK2 - MK3 - MK4
|> [Turrets] [COOKIES] - [GOTHIC] - [METAL] - [WubWub]
| [Infrastructure] [Ships] [Refrigerators] [AlienTechFromArea51]
That's similar to something I tried last week, except it was like:

|>> [mark 1] [mark 2] [mark 3] ...
|> [fighter] [bomber] [type 3] [type 4] ...
| [ships] [turrets] [tab 3] [tab 4] ...

(so what yours does is basically put a "sub-tab" or "sub-category" line between tabs and types, and somehow collapses types and marks into one line, I'm guessing by having it show a set of types when there's no mark selection, but only showing one type and its related marks when a type is selected)

But I got feedback that the vertical arrangement of marks, and having the marks show up for all the available types as soon as the tab was selected, was desirable. So it went back more in the direction of classic's build menu. In fact, it's likely I'll be moving the build queue back to the left side, and I can't lay it out vertically without messing with the sidebar and perhaps other stuff, so it'll be back to horizontal. And it can't be under those rows (as it was in earlier versions of this game) because that puts it between the bottom-bar menus and the build menu itself, which is just weird. So it'll be back on the left, back to horizontal, and back on the top of the build menu. Translation: precisely where it was in classic :)

I certainly don't mind doing the layout just like classic, but I'm not sure that's the way forward long-term. And we've got to nail down the layout for 1.0 pretty soon so the real UI art can be finalized, etc.


Quote
Ps.: That stat display down the bottom isn't gonna be in the actual game, right? I mean those numbers are imo stuff the sidebar should display, way less verbose too.
Yea, that's just a test display, I should take a stab at showing it in the sidebar.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2017, 09:29:09 AM »
I worry about putting the build menu across the middle of the screen, since if I am in a battle it will kinda get in the way. I am still intrigued by the notion of swapping the main sidebar to the right and putting the build menu vertically on the left, but if there are issues that complicate it then so be it.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2017, 11:02:45 AM »
The sidebar could go on the right, sure, as it was in classic. But folks wanted to try it on the left, so here we are :)

I guess the build menu could go on the right, but I think all our brains would explode.
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Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2017, 11:51:46 PM »
Making the build menu should imo also take into account what happens when you got expansions or modders adding 600 new ships or 20 new MK levels, putting Mk levels like this

MK8
MK7
Mk6
MK5
MK4
MK3
MK2
MK1
<FIGHTER MOD XX>

would get really really unusable really fast (at least if it were a sort of trailed tab system. Basically the previous "tab" should still be clickable to go "back" to

While this (click on MK6)
<| FIGHTER MOD XX | MK1 MK2 MK3 MK4 MK5 MK6 MK7 MK8 |>

Building 17 of MK6s
<| FIGHTER MOD XX | MK1 MK2 MK3 MK4 MK5 MK6(17) MK7 MK8 |>


is a self contained GUI element and very easy to understand "at a glance" reading form bottom upwards goes against my nature (hence why I somehow feel MK levels are the wrong way around.. heh)


Essentially, I guess I am saying it needs to on the left side..... but sidebar is not infringing this, sidebar shouldn't be the ENTIRE left/right screen imo. At least not if I didn't specifically drag it "down" to that position/resized it myself.

Obviously the MK1 etc. are icons so that the (17) would need to be on-top of the icon somehow...

Now, as for another issue here, there should also be a BUILD QUEUE ;p And that precludes placing ANYTHING to the right of the screen. Build queue can't be anywhere else but right side. It'd look out of place anywhere else imo ;p
« Last Edit: August 07, 2017, 11:56:28 PM by eRe4s3r »
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2017, 12:43:00 AM »
My response is intended to be  "argumentative in a 'lets have a passionate discussion' kinda way, not a 'calling you an idiot and trying to stop discussion' kinda way", so it's phrased more polemically than perhaps is necessary, but hopefully this disclaimer helps. Also I started to ramble by the end of this diatribe. Feel free to yell back and call me an idiot ;-).

I think requiring Keith/Chris right now to code around the possibility of modders doing crazy things like adding 20 mark levels and 600 new ships is massive overkill. If you wanted to balance that as a popular mod then it's a ridiculous amount of effort. If you want to just do it for yourself then you can do whatever hacking you need to make it work because you're the only audience.

 I don't think Arcen's code should be required to support every possible mod out of the box; I think if someone wants to mod the game that heavily then they'll have lots of conversations with Arcen/the community and might have to do some of the UI lifting themselves. If the ideas are cool then people will pitch in with help and advice, but there's no need to build for every possible future immediately. If anything, given the release dates Arcen is shooting for getting things to be really fun/playable/balanced/exciting for a normal non-modded game out of the box by October is going to be a challenge. Keith is still doing balance/bugfixing without hitting the Nemesis, Interplanetary Guns and Spire, and one always wants to have a margin for error on top of that. I think trying to enable them to hit their release dates with the Fun and Awesome game that AIW2 can be, and get some real public enthusiasm about the game should be the priority. I'd much rather they focus on a solid core of content and making the game playable.  The people who want crazy mods can write the code themselves (and if you don't have the C# skills there's a backerkit option for modding help).

That said, at the moment if you get enough things on the build Q it will definitely scroll off the edge of the screen. At the moment it's limited to 19 possible build slots before it starts to roll off the edge of the screen (so if you have 4 bonus ship types you won't be able to fully upgrade everything and have it all in the same build queue). The most obvious possible solutions to this include "capping the number of build slots" or "allowing the build queue to wrap to another line". +

I think I'm pretty okay with the menus as they are,  but if we want to spend more time trying to perfect things it might not be a bad idea to try a few different mockups of putting UI elements in different places (sidebar left and right, build Q as is vs vertically on the opposite side of the sidebar, stuff like that). Doesn't have to be working code, just some pictures/diagrams to let us compare things and have a more informed argument.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2017, 07:53:33 AM »
Updated the original post to show where things are in 0.507. Not pictured: the ship/squad counts are no longer where they were, and are now in the sidebar.

On modding things with more than 5 marks: sure, someone can do that. They can also mod the UI to make it show all that data in a way which they think is reasonable :) Possibly some kind of paging buttons, or just have separate tabs for "normal fleet ships" and "epic fleet ships", etc. For that matter you can completely replace the build menu with an implementation of your own.

So my goal as far as mods goes is that you have the tools to make it happen, and you aren't locked into an Arcen-implemented UI that can't work with what you've done.

On the position of the build queue, left vs right: I'm happy to do whatever, but honestly I need you folks to tell me where you want it. If I'm testing and an interface feels clunky I consider changes, but I'm only one data point.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2017, 09:37:17 AM »
Response to August 7th state. We need to figure out some mechanism for the GUI to include "How many ships of each class do you currently have, and whether this is the maximum number of squadrons you can build". This sort of information needs to be accessible to both the build menu and the build queue (so I can tell how many of a given unit are in the queue).

We could try using the hovertext for this, but that comes with a downside. The easy visibility of all the "how many of each ship do I have" information from the Space Dock menu in AIWC was a very convenient way to be able to track how a multi-front battle was going (say where you are defending multiple choke points against a CPA and need to figure out which units you can still afford to build since you are running out of metal). It would be good to make sure that this information is available to the player in some fashion (maybe we have a Fleet State screen you can open from the ark?)

Also, the Tech Menu needs to be able to show which things you've researched already. Two proposals. First, allow a color change in the button type from within C#, then change the color once you've researched something. Second proposal: Don't show buttons for things you've already researched. Discussion: The second option is much easier, but it was useful in AIWC to be able to compare the relative merits of (say) the Mark II ships you've researched and the Mark III ships you are considering when deciding what you need to upgrade. The first option is probably harder but will probably be useful down the road.

Doing UI interface design is hard and it's something I'm bad at, but hopefully these ideas are at least somewhat helpful. In terms of build queue placement, could we get mockups of some ideas? Just trying to visualize how it might look in your head really doesn't work that well for something this complex.

Final thought: in AIWC the hovertext for a unit included a description, sometimes a long and helpful one. Could we get the "Description" field from the xml added to the hovertext? I realize there is currently not a description for most (if any) units, but there will be eventually, and even having it print "placeholder description" would let us make more informed UI suggestions.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 09:54:20 AM by BadgerBadger »

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2017, 10:09:32 AM »
Response to August 7th state. We need to figure out some mechanism for the GUI to include "How many ships of each class do you currently have, and whether this is the maximum number of squadrons you can build". This sort of information needs to be accessible to both the build menu and the build queue (so I can tell how many of a given unit are in the queue).
Getting text onto the image buttons may take another video-of-keith-slamming-his-head-repeatedly-into-a-brick-wall but needs to happen sometime.

Given that, how about having the current-number-of-squads-in-play in the upper-left corner of each build menu/queue button, and the max-number-of-squads-you-can-have just below it, possibly with a leading / character to clarify "out of"?

Another thought that comes to mind is adding a small fuel/power icon to the bottom-right corner of a build menu/queue button if that unit cannot currently be built due to a lack of fuel or power (depending on which resource it uses).


Quote
Also, the Tech Menu needs to be able to show which things you've researched already.
Yea, I was noticing that too. I think:
- a different button background for not-currently-unlocked
- plus a science icon in the bottom-right if "you could unlock this right now, but you don't have enough science"
- or a padlock icon in the bottom-right if "you cannot unlock this right now, regardless of science points, because you don't have the prereq"

Quote
First, allow a color change in the button type from within C#
From what I understand from Chris this is not generally possible. All the visuals of the thing are baked in from the unity editor. So I can have a different color button but I have to define it in Unity, and then (I believe) I can swap which button it is using at runtime. Though it may actually be that I can't swap it and instead have to make sure the variable display piece is a sub-image of the prefab, and I swap it by controlling which sub image(s) are drawing at a given time.


Quote
Doing UI interface design is hard and it's something I'm bad at, but hopefully these ideas are at least somewhat helpful.
Very much so. I don't need rocket science here, just "it needs to tell me which techs I already have, duhhhhh" ;)


Quote
In terms of build queue placement, could we get mockups of some ideas? Just trying to visualize how it might look in your head really doesn't work that well for something this complex.
Was this for me, or eRe4s3r? You've already seen non-mockups of my ideas :)


Quote
Final thought: in AIWC the hovertext for a unit included a description, sometimes a long and helpful one. Could we get the "Description" field from the xml added to the hovertext?
A good point. Where to put all the tooltip data is a different question, because it gets so mammoth, but one step at a time.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2017, 10:40:43 AM »
If you can get Current and Max number of squads onto the button icon that would be great. If you can only get one number, get "Number of squads remaining that you can build" just like in AIWC. I think you can even skip the "out of" on the icon, but really spell it out in the hovertext for the button. That way the expert will know at a glance and the novice just needs to hover to understand.

I really like all of your other ideas (fuel/power icons on the build menu buttons, padlocks on the tech buttons, etc etc).

The mockups thing was just about whether the sidebar should be on the left or right, so it's more about the ongoing discussion with eRe4s3r.

In terms of changing the button color, telling Unity "use button X instead of button Y" is fine.

Wish list: I'd overall like to be able to have more direct control of the UI from within the C# only (for example, I'd like to have the Game Start screen able to dynamically add some drop downs/buttons depending on the currently selected map type. So if someone wanted a "clusters-mini" map then they could say "I want fewer, larger clusters" or "I want lots of small clusters". But if they selected a different map type then they get a different set of buttons/drop downs. The ButtonSet is almost good enough, but it would be nice to have a button/drop down/text box set too. ).

Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Nailing down the Build Menu
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2017, 04:41:28 PM »
Dah problem is dat a functionality mockup is quite complicated.... ;P

Rudimentary ideas, note that because of how the buttons work and the right is not bordered off, sidebar is kinda stuck to the left in this idea.

Ps.: Don't worry, I don't think my ideas are the infinitely superior ones, I simply want to help reach a consensus with the end goal of a good GUI I will never take any suggestion or opinion as an insult. We all got different view on this topic, and figuring out how to please all sides is what GUI design is all about ;P

Anyhow, to the image

Sidebar shows pinned location or current location at the top. If pinned is at the top, current location is shown beneath.
Each sidebar block can be minimized (showing only PIN and rudimentary condensed information at best (ship counts, basically) but even when condensed, display will always show enemy and friendly force counts.

And yeah, I know I didn't go into detail of the icon displays of the sidebar, that's really beyond the scope of sidebar design itself, that's a talk about information display. And equally important.

What I wanted to show with this, basically, is that the sidebar isn't ever gonna interfere with anything in the lower half of the screen, unless you pin and maximize a dozen things

The reason I wanna have sidebar to the left is basically the build queue and alert icons, chat,ping and stuff like that, we can't ignore that functionality, and it kinda needs to follow same design as the sidebar on the left imo. But maybe not exactly like this mockup. My only goal is really to not occlude the main-view unless needed... and sidebar needs to fulfill the purpose give you either minimized rudimentary count info, or expanded, give you in-detail overview over your, the enemies, and your allies, fleets.

The build-queue will have to have a minimize, default, maximize toggle as well.... when it comes down to it, it may be better to display build queue as icons but.. I am not sure 4 different MK icons are gonna help readability. Build Queue in AI War classic was exceptionally ugly (imo) but I think doing it like that doesn't exactly hurt the GUI, as long as everything has a nice look. And white icons are not a nice look (imo)

Gods, I completely forgot, but yes, build queue is at the top right in my head... not at the bottom right. I .. would honestly have to see it in action with the sidebar and build menu, chat and coop functions to appreciate where the position really ought to be. My big problem with the queue is that originally I really intended to just clone Homeworld 2 (which had a expand/minimize) build queue on the left-mid of the screen, but HW2 only had very limited build sources, basically construction modules on big-ships only. So it could display that really nice without much GUI...


Aaaanyhow, I know this post was not really about the build menu.... but it seems to me these things are kinda related. ^^
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 05:08:51 PM by eRe4s3r »
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