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Settings and User Interface


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Recently I introduced a new player to 0 A.D. and got a fresh view of our user interface from his comments and behavior. I think there are a couple key issues that we should step back and think about:

  1. An often unintuitive user interface
  2. Option creep (read this for a great explanation of why that's bad)

More specifically:

  • The lobby user interface is confusing and ugly. (the following notes are taken from my observation of a first-time lobby user)
    • The lobby is hard to find. What is a "Game Lobby" supposed to by anyway? Why do I need an account? (Fix: Renaming and better labeling. Change to "Play Online" and add some more information on hover in the login/signup dialog.)
    • What any of the colors mean is unclear and they generally make the interface look bad as they are non-complementary. (Fix: Re-evaluate our use of the colors and potentially tone down their use some while making our color choices complementary to the modern design)
    • The user list statuses are confusing. Why is "Online" a status? Isn't everyone online? (Fix: Turn the status column into a single yellow/green/red status and sort the list by status, then rank)
    • The chat box starts empty on user join and (in my tests) no one even knew it was a chat box until I told them (Fix: Enable chat history by default)
    • The chat text entry box looks more like a decorative feature than an input method (Fix: Placeholder text and a send button)
    • The host/join game buttons are in a weird location. They should be near where you select games. (Fix: Maybe re-evaluate the layout?)
    • Games in progress in the same pane as new games is confusing (Fix: Create two panes, one for games in setup and one for games in progress)
  • The options dialog is oversaturated (my own observation). Fix: combine graphics options as possible (eg. combine gentangents with perferglsl), and simplify the number of overlays. (eg. always show ceasefire time in ceasefire games, combine gametime and realtime options/displays into one)
  • The game setup options are getting confusing (my own observation). Do we really need both "Explored Map" and "Revealed Map"? What does "Disable Treasures" even mean? Who are "Late Observers" and why would I let them join? Fix: Not as easy, but we may want to reconsider what features players actually use and give better descriptions/titles to the options that we keep. An easy first step might be grouping the options better and renaming "Late Observer Joins" to something more accessible like "Enable Spectators". We also shouldn't add more options for things like #3546. Developer features should be disabled if cheats are disabled and vice-versa.

I would love to hear other people's input. For the most part these are simple changes, but they can get political (resulting in a commit-revert loop, like with Yes/No ordering). Hopefully we can come to an agreement here and incorporate the resulting decisions into our design documentation.

Thoughts?

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Graphical options are currently a complete mess. My personal opinion is that if users want to get advanced, they should go to the config file. Otherwise, a "very fast-fast-nice-beautiful" setting (possibly with more than 4 levels, and possibly a few different bars for a few different things) should be enough.

On the technical side, options are even uglier. It's absolutely the ugliest code in the game.

Finally I do agree that most of our menus fall in the "open-source" conception of a menu: you can find everything, and you better know what it refers to.

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Well that's seem like a nice plan to be done

Might want to look at

http://trac.wildfiregames.com/ticket/2506

http://trac.wildfiregames.com/ticket/2596

Generic Ticket http://trac.wildfiregames.com/ticket/3569

Text Based options : http://trac.wildfiregames.com/ticket/2451

Autodetection : http://trac.wildfiregames.com/ticket/145

Edited by stanislas69
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Overall I definitely think this is an area that needs some attention, here are a few things to consider though:

  • Game Lobby/Play Online: While I think that Game Lobby might not be the most descriptive for someone who never has played any multiplayer game, I don't think switching to "Play Online" is necessarily the best option. If that would have been the only way to play online, sure, but now it isn't, so to make it easier to know what you are talking about when e.g. someone asks for help/debugging etc I think the name should be well defined. It should be possible to e.g. include some more information in the button (Game Lobby - Play Online or something).
  • Options: Limit the visible sure, remove options not so sure. I'm certainly ok with e.g. only having basic options via GUI and having the more advanced ones in config files, but removing useful options just to make it simpler I don't agree with. We should definitely add some options in either case though, things like resolution are needed.
  • Do we really need both "Explored Map" and "Revealed Map"? - Well, they serve different purposes, so I'd say we do. Explaining things better is definitely a good idea though.
  • What does "Disable Treasures" even mean? - Not seeing the problem with that one, unless someone don't know what treasures mean? (Or the word disable, but I doubt people who are native English speakers would have that problem, and if you aren't you can play a translated version.)
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