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August 12th, 2010, 10:18
We are in the process of reworking the interface, so I am wondering what do you guys think are the most important things to think about for an interface in a turn-based RPG.

Do you prefer minimalistic and ease of use? or complicated and cluttered with buttons? What are feature which must be easy to reach? is it okay to have fast keyboard buttons for certain things or should everything be done with clicks?

Do you have examples of games with good or bad interfaces?

As this game is turn based during battles, I think there is no need to be able to do everything extremely fast, thus so far the interface is minimalistic, click your own character and you get buttons what it can do, click another character and you get options what you can do with that character…. click an object and or location, and you get options what you can do with that object/location.
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August 12th, 2010, 15:20
Great interfaces, NWN2 & WOW. Very configurable, lots of hotkeys, with a little work you rarely have to go into a menu.

While totally fluff, it helps to surround your UI with a little graphic to tie the interface to the mood of the game. Arcanum & WOW are great examples but NWN2 didn't even try and it distracted from the ambiance.

Keyboard shortcutted squares that you could drag anything (ANYTHING!) to. A weapon to switch to, a spell, a skill, etc. I liked how NWN 1&2 allowed you to put 2 weapons in the same square for dual wielding or sword & board. And those were just shortcuts, so the shortcut didn't go away ( unlike Arcanum where you put the actual item in the shortcut and then the shortcut was gone after use ).

Every actionable UI item should have a mouseover description. Every hotkey square should be context sensitive ( ie if there's a spell in that slot, show the mouseover for that spell, if it's a weapon, the weapon mouseover ).

Drag & drop interface, especially in inventory, right click is auto-equip or use. Right click quick buys/sells if at a vendor.

Since it's turn based it's easy to separate the combat UI from the exploring UI. Take advantage of that. Keep the exploring UI minimal but don't be afraid to fill out the combat UI, one of the problems of turn based combat is the length of time it takes combat. Making spells, skills etc as fast as possible to execute helps with the speed and tedium.

Think about right vs left click. Every button has a normal left click but take advantage of having two mouse buttons, it's appalling how few games do this, yet I've never seen a PC gamer with a 1 button mouse. Example: A spellbook button, left click opens the book, perhaps right click opens a quick list of all spells in a simple menu for speedy access. If something has two steps to execute, for example perhaps casting a spell requires you to choosing how much mana to spend to cast it, left click is normal brings up the how much power dialog but right click always casts it at full power.

If something has a scroll bar, make sure the wheel works if my mouse is inside that area. It's sad how many developers working on console ports don't bother to make the mousewheel work anymore.

Keyboard shortcut everything that makes sense, the hotkey squares and major actions ( inventory, spellbook, character sheet, etc), and the end turn button at a minimum.

This should go without saying but use a readable font ( BG2, Oblivion & Return to Krondor I'm looking at you ). Scale it for PCs, not for TVs 15 feet away.

A lot of gamers are using 7+ button mice these days, no need to have default configs for the extra buttons, but make sure they're mappable. A lot of gamers also have Logitech G-series keyboards with the LCDs, it's a nice feature if you can support those.

Bad interfaces, that's easy, almost everything made in the last 5 years that has a console port. Alpha Protocol, bad. Borderlands, really bad. Menu based interfaces suck on a PC. Super bad are direct console ports like ( going a ways back here ) FF7, where they didn't even try to PC the interface, they just mapped the arrow keys to the controller d-pad.

Things that aren't so great in "good" PC interfaces. Inventories that have pages (NWN 1&2) or excessive scrolling ( Wiz 8 ). Personal taste I really like my inventory items to have relative size (Diablo, BaK & NWN1) instead of same size tiny icons for everything ( NWN2 & Drakensang). It really helps give character to the items, makes them more unique, it's more exciting to get that item.

Don't ask me a confirmation when I click something; I just clicked it, yes I want to do it (possible exception, quitting without saving ).
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August 12th, 2010, 15:33
I'm more of the minimalistic approach. Show me as much of the game world as possible on the screen. A click for a menu of context-related actions.
I hardly ever use shortcuts, I use click for everything with a few exceptions (I for inventory, C for character, ESC for meta-menu, M for map, J for journal).
It would be cool if you could remember the last and the most used actions per character, like, I click on Wanda the Sorceress and the last command is on top, and under it the most used 4 or 5 commands, so I don't have to go through several menus like 'Spells'->'Level 3' and then browse around for 'Fireball' if that's her favorite spell.
In the inventory part, make it easy to compare an item with what the character already has in that slot. Make it so hovering over an item, or right-clicking, pops a description of the item, with the stats. Make it simple to move items from one character to another (Maybe, you click on an mace in Wanda's inventory, and as you hover the mouse over other characters with the mace selected, a popup shows what that character has equipped in that slot (if any), that would be neat.
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August 12th, 2010, 16:07
Good points wolfing. Item comparison mouseovers are great, if you do it in your own inventory compare it to what's currently equipped. If you drag it over the portrait of another character, compare it to what that character has equipped.

I remember when WOW implemented comparison mouseovers, it was a nice feature, saves a lot of memorizing.

An advanced feature might be shift+click an item to set it as an additional comparable item so you can easily compare two unequipped items in your inventory, in addition to your equipped item.
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August 12th, 2010, 23:51
I believe there should be a button for in-game help.
At least the basic use.

Help is the imho far most underrated thing … feature in PC gaming. Most games omit any help section at all.

Built-in help has the value of gold (so to say), if it is made good.

And if it is really good, then it can help anyone to become acustomed with the controls even if the handbook is gone.

I currently like the help features of Drakensang (or was it Drakensang 2 ?) and TOEE most.

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August 13th, 2010, 10:05
Interesting idea Alrik…. help is definitely underrated but it is also hard to make it without breaking the game immersion IMHO opinion……
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August 13th, 2010, 11:24
You could do it in a different screen, for example. Just a simple painting with arrows pointing out to the various buttons and explaining what they mean, as the core basics.

You have several diferent screens within the game, I assume : equipping the hero, game options and so on. The "explanation screen" would be just another one.

And unless you want it to be used for other purposes, I'm for F1 as calling this "explanation screen".


Uh, and I just came up with a totally weird idea : A screen wherein one can calculate damage numbers … In my image, this would be nothing more than a simple text screen, only hat you type in numbers you scribble down from weapons you (in the role of your hero) want to purchase, and calculate in how much this new weapon might add to the damage you can already inflict Same would go for armor … This idea as it is right now is far from being thought-through … It was just a "flash" of an idea I had, and it was nspired by Drakensang (and Divinity 2) where one has to calculate carefully how much a new intem increases or decreases a certain amount of value … It would be like … some sort of calculating all the money you need for buying all of this stuff when you go into the grocery, and - to be more "hardcore" - what kind of calories each food stuff would contribute to … Only that this "calculation screen" would enable to player to calculate everything through manually, and that means going through several possibilities.

Just as an idea.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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August 13th, 2010, 12:18
Something like a civilopedia perhaps. Civ II, III, IV all had it and increased the game a lot. Something like that for spells and how the weapons work would be nice.
My first game where I saw 1d6 or 2d5 didn't make any sense to me at first. I thought 6 was higher so I always used that.
I was used to it meaning min damage/max damage, not dice rolls.
It wasn't until I got to a forum that I got it.

So if you're using something that's new or might be obscure to some people it might be worth putting it somewhere.
You have to think about your customers, so you should think of them (us) like idiots or baby's. We don't understand anything. You will have to teach us.

However KOTOR and KOTORII tutorial levels were long and a bit boring, so are many other RPGs tutorial levels if you can't skip them. So having a help menu might be good. Helpopedia
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August 13th, 2010, 14:05
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
You could do it in a different screen, for example. Just a simple painting with arrows pointing out to the various buttons and explaining what they mean, as the core basics.

You have several diferent screens within the game, I assume : equipping the hero, game options and so on. The "explanation screen" would be just another one.

And unless you want it to be used for other purposes, I'm for F1 as calling this "explanation screen".
I really like this idea Alrik. A simple static context sensitive overlay that just had a label and brief explanation of every button on the screen at that time. You usually see this kind of a thing printed in a manual but with digital downloads, who even sees the manual anymore?

This could really help the learning curve if the interface becomes complicated.

Didn't Wiz8 actually have a feature like that? I thought there was a button you could hit that would add a text overlay to every button on the screen.
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August 13th, 2010, 16:16
Originally Posted by Pladio View Post
Something like a civilopedia perhaps.
That would be absolutely great. The combined lore of the whole game. But also a LOT of work.
So I'd qualify this rather as a "bonus".

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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August 13th, 2010, 19:57
Well, that would depend on your lore skill………
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August 13th, 2010, 20:59
I really liked in the BG and IWD Infinity games that the side bars could be configured to slide away. That way I had everything I needed easy to get at, but could see as much of the world as possible too. Only imporvement I would have liked is if I could have configured them individually. I would have liked to keep the party portraits up, but have the other two slide away.

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August 13th, 2010, 21:21
They were ? I don't even remember this feature … Must have overlooked it or so.

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August 16th, 2010, 02:27
I'm surprised nobody mentioned temple of elemental evil. With radial menu you were able to access all skills and abilities really quickly and you could also hotkey most actions (although I ran out of keys quite quickly because of lot of default key bindings such as L for Logbook )
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August 16th, 2010, 08:55
I mostly depend on customisable quickslot bars in turn based RPGs and strategy games, and heavily use the keyboard shortcuts for the respective slots.

One great feature that multiplies the number of available slots and intuitively assigns keyboard hotkeys are the <Control> / <Shift> / <Alt> quickslot bars which pop up only when you press one of those control keys. Since they are not visible at all times, they do not needlessly obstruct the view, which is a big advantage over multiple permanent quickslot bars as e.g. in Dragon Age Origins. Pressing <control key> <number> is also a lot faster than switching bars, pressing a number, and switching back to the original quickslot bar again.

For an example, this scheme is used effectively in the City of Heroes / Villains MMORPGs.
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August 16th, 2010, 14:49
Originally Posted by Hamenaglar View Post
I'm surprised nobody mentioned temple of elemental evil. With radial menu you were able to access all skills and abilities really quickly and you could also hotkey most actions (although I ran out of keys quite quickly because of lot of default key bindings such as L for Logbook )
I remember it well and I thought it was innovative for it's time but it was difficult to remember all the hotkeys with no visual reference. Also the radial was mostly for show and was difficult to navigate quickly at times, there's no reason the same concept couldn't be done in a more tree like fashion ( and it has, many times ). It's set a hotkey to any actionable item had the right idea but I think did it backwards. Instead of assigning the key to the spell, most UIs are easier to reference if you're assigning the spell to the key.

Originally Posted by coyote View Post
One great feature that multiplies the number of available slots and intuitively assigns keyboard hotkeys are the <Control> / <Shift> / <Alt> quickslot bars which pop up only when you press one of those control keys.
Agreed, that's a good function, something that had slipped my mind.

Unfortunately I think they can be forgotten by casual gamers (or worse, confusing) because they're don't have a visible reminder by default.

I wonder if it would work well to optionally be able to separate key-modified hotkey bars from the main bar so that they're always visible, along the sides, more along the bottom, wherever the user would like. NWN2 & WOW had this to an extent.

Something I would like to see, though it maybe be a slightly immersion breaking, is a visible reminder what the modifier that affects that bar might be. For instance if you're holding down the ALT key and "ALT" shows up next to the hotkey bar, I think it would help reduce confusion with the switching hotkey bar. Or if the bars are separated they retain an "ALT", "SHIFT", "CTRL" label, that highlights when being held down, so it's easier to remember what hotkey bar belongs to what modifier.
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August 16th, 2010, 22:06
Originally Posted by LuckyCarbon View Post
[…]Something I would like to see, though it maybe be a slightly immersion breaking, is a visible reminder what the modifier that affects that bar might be. For instance if you're holding down the ALT key and "ALT" shows up next to the hotkey bar, I think it would help reduce confusion with the switching hotkey bar. Or if the bars are separated they retain an "ALT", "SHIFT", "CTRL" label, that highlights when being held down, so it's easier to remember what hotkey bar belongs to what modifier.
One way would be to display small labels <ctrl>1 <ctrl>2 <ctrl>3 and so on instead of the normal 1 2 3 etc. on the slots of the <control> activated quickslot bar, and respectively for the <alt> and <shift> activated ones. On the other hand, as long as you can see the alternate slot setups upon pressing the modifier, and since you know already what modifier you are currently holding, remembering the shortcuts should be intuitive enough even without additional on-screen clues.
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September 7th, 2010, 16:00
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
We are in the process of reworking the interface, so I am wondering what do you guys think are the most important things to think about for an interface in a turn-based RPG.

Do you prefer minimalistic and ease of use? or complicated and cluttered with buttons? What are feature which must be easy to reach? is it okay to have fast keyboard buttons for certain things or should everything be done with clicks?
As a general rule I prefer minimalistic, clean interfaces. I'll also want quickslots (anything from 5-20) and keyboard buttons for executing common tasks. It is also important to group functions in an intuitive way. Offer context sensitive menus when clicking on objects and enemies (rather than listing a ton of actions that dont apply to the object). Keep things concise so the player has an overview.

Exactly which features you'd want to be easy to reach depends too much on the game to tell, but for a game with turn-based combat I'd like to easily be able to repeat my last action (hacking my enemy with that axe until he is dead), move the character (either by clicking or a destination or by using WASD or whatnot to take one step at a time, I assume you have some grid or hex map), and such. You'll basically want anything that is used very often to be accessible.

Do you have examples of games with good or bad interfaces?
It is easier to point to a bad interface than a good one. NWN2 had a nightmare of an interface. Sure, you could do everything, but functionality was spread out all over the place. Too often I had to search through 5 different menus to find the function I was looking for. The game also had too many redundant camera modes. The sensation reminded me of being confronted with UNIX as an absolute beginner. It was just too decentralised…

NWN2 mostly got the quickslots right though.

As this game is turn based during battles, I think there is no need to be able to do everything extremely fast, thus so far the interface is minimalistic, click your own character and you get buttons what it can do, click another character and you get options what you can do with that character…. click an object and or location, and you get options what you can do with that object/location.
I think those are sound ideas for a turn-based game. You might want to add a "goto" function for any object/enemy if the character has to be near an object to interact.
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September 9th, 2010, 13:48
The interfac of Sacred 1 was a blast for me.

It was the very first time I saw an interface that looked "beatiful" to me. It was just like eye-candy.

Most interfaces are nothing but … well, Bauhaus style o interfaces. Fast, efficient, but the eye wouldn't dare to linker more on it thn it would have to.

But the interface of Sacred 1 was … just an optical pleasure, so to say. I think it has never been reached by any other game.

Sacred 1 screenshots from a fan page : http://www.sacred-legends.de//?go=screenshots&catid=4

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