Heads Up

by Kyzrati on 20110729 , under

Recently I took a break from coding the game mechanics to do some research and interface brainstorming. I didn't really want to do this quite yet, but am afraid I'll get caught in the middle of coding some big chunk of mechanics right when a big project comes along at work. I can safely stop random ASCII art endeavors at any point...

The current state of the in-game HUD area is a mishmash of debugging info, so images seen below are just mockups. I played around with some ASCII drawing software over the past few days, trying PabloDraw, JavE5, WEPaint, and ASCII-paint. But by far the award for best RL interface prototyper goes to ASCIIPaint, even though it's somewhat feature-incomplete and (!) runs in flash...

Note: Colors/font don't mean a whole lot here, since I'm not limited to ASCIIPaint's 16 colors and will be using a custom font.

This first attempt was just trying to fit in everything I wanted in the HUD. Aside from everything you see in the original game, there are plenty of extras: "Intel" describes whatever is under your cursor, "Threats" gives a more detailed list of enemies in view, and "Reports" is a quick list of the most recent tactical events.

The reports should be concise yet easy to understand--they're basically symbolic SVO sentences. Here's the meaning of the lines in the mockup (top is most recent):
Sectoid #4 dies
J.Kyzrati shoots Sectoid #4 with laser rifle (burst shot)

J.Kyzrati throws alien grenade
J.Kyzrati primes alien grenade
Muton #2 falls
J.Brenner dies
Muton #2 shoots J.Brenner with plasma rifle (snap shot)
J.Kyzrati no longer under alien mind control
J.Kyzrati under alien mind control
J.Kyzrati panics

Obviously this HUD appears to the right of the map.

The initial attempt was definitely too cluttered...

Got rid of any unnecessary identifiers--it doesn't take long to figure out what everything does, and once you do button/control identifiers are wasted.

Using buttons instead of words in most places, saves space.

Most importantly, adding more information about the handheld items enables direct item-action selection without any intermediate window.

Rank might be better shown as a symbol (also clears up another line).

Soldier-related buttons probably look better if they don't take up quite so much space, as do the level view control buttons.

Still a long way to go with this (and it will be nice to see it with better colors), but it's getting closer to something I can implement for a test version at least.
3 comments more...


  • Creepy

    I hope the some various sections will have a submenu for details. Reports especially; those symbols look downright arcane, and the uninitiated gonna need something to check.

    And I hope eventually that those alien weapons aren't ID'd until after researching, just for sadism's sake. No fair being able to pick out the bastard with the Blaster Bombs for emergency brain ventilation when you shouldn't know what a Blaster Bomb is yet. =B

  • Kyzrati

    Heh, identification of weapons will certainly require research--everything from the original. The idea of the mockups was really just to see if I could fit all the essential information in a mere 19x60 area... It seems to fit okay, though I did have to resort to a simple type of code for the "reports" section. That was because it can present the greatest amount of information in a small area. There actually aren't many symbols to learn, since it will only list the most important types of actions, and the symbols you see there will actually match what you see in the game/map. For example, rifle type items are represented by '[', and differentiated by color. So you see a 'B' for 'burst' fire and a color-coded '[' for the type of rifle. The game is ASCII, after all, so it's naturally going to require a little bit of learning, but it should be relatively simple to figure out and the player will be eased into it since you gain the tech progressively. The "reports" are mostly supplementary anyway, since you see all the action played out. I think player's will figure out what everything means pretty quickly, but I'll add simple explanations/tutorial info as necessary, and parts of the HUD could theoretically be expandable (haven't actually decided how to implement the internal window system yet, though).

    I was originally going to use the standard "message window" approach, but I don't seem to have enough room for a few full horizontal sentences, since the view is 80x60, and the map is up to 60x60... I could cover the map partially/temporarily, but I think that might get annoying. Unless someone else has got a better idea...

    Still not working on the interface yet, anyway; for now doing battlescape mechanics. (Currently nearing completion on gravity and terrain destruction, fyi.)

  • Kyzrati

    I was just thinking on this, and seeing as how the HUD will be interactive, a simple mouseover of a report line could show its full meaning, and of course a separate message window could be brought up over the map showing all the full sentences. Either way, I don't think anyone would really need to make use of such a feature after playing for a bit.

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