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Why was the interface not developed further?


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That's rather insulting but I'm going to look on the bright side and assume you meant to insult everyone and not just me :D.

I have read Steve's reply, but I really don't see the insult. :confused:

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that almost all keys and commands are customisable.

For example Hoolaman, using the tips here, you can probably customise your mouse to do what you are asking for.

http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?t=97512

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Totally agree with Gryphonne that the it is not optimized as well as it could be for RTS play. At a glance to get the best situational awareness is critical for effective command and control in RTS where speed is an issue. Where it needs a complete overall is in its relative hotkey set up IMO. In the end I think BF will find is that it is easier to adapt WEGO to an RTS design in mind rather than the other way around. Perhaps this is a lack of experience in not playing as much RTS in other games to see what is optimal. It is after all a much more WEGO centric community.

An overall for Cmx2 would be out of the question perhaps, but who knows. Have to sign the painting and move on to the next sooner or later. For the next generation of CM games I think a more TOW hotkey layout would be better. Instead of a 4 tab system it would have more sub tabs per order of variations of the root. Proper use of the Ctrl, and Alt keys act as gears, and short cuts a on a NostromoN52 multiplying the use of single hotkeys.

An example:

Q key = QUICK

Q key + Ctrl = FAST

Q Key + Alt key = ASSAULT

So, if you wanted to ASSAULT you can access by:

Selecting via the space bar pop up commands.

OR, click GUI corner tab on QUICK revealing the ASSUALT GUI button. Then click that.

OR, Hit Qkey + Alt key to access via using just hotkeys.

I don't find any problem with the camera, but having a multibutton programable mouse helps. The two button system it uses, although different than the more typical center mouse button for rotation, I do find is more comfortable and egornomic than center mouse types. I would have to test each way in CM to see what I think would be the better overall system to use.

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You need to get out in the gaming world more. Look at MMOs. An entire genre where you have 5-10 times the game functions that CM has to bring to the interface. CM is a breeze compared to those games.

And you don't find most MMO interfaces bizarre and frustrating? You need to "get used to" them as well. Also, I'd argue that very few classes in any MMO are as complex to play as even an average game of CM. (And yes, I've played a number of MMOs - WoW, LOTRO, Conan, Galaxies, CoH/V, and WAR, off the top of my head.) Those that do are clunky, frustrating messes (Mastermind in CoH/V, for instance).

I don't mean to derail the conversation, but you guys keep bringing up other games as though they offer the same complexity of command as CM does. I don't argue that CM's interface needs work, but these broad genre-based comparisons aren't doing you any favors in trying to get your point across to me, and I've played many games in each genre. It's probably better to cherry-pick things that you think could work in CM and put those across as suggestions.

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...players that spend a lot of time in other games (RTS, shooters, etc) could get crossed up by any new game that defies what they now consider "conventional" ... It is much easier when you don't have to break old habits and only have to develop new ones.

All true.

OTOH, I can remember how much clunkier RTS game interfaces (and interfaces in general) used to be. As a whole they've improved a great deal. (I play lots of games.) CM's interface hasn't improved nearly as much IMO.

Maybe it's because Battlefront doesn't care. Or maybe it's that they haven't had the benefit of hundreds of games and thousands of programmers over a decade or so working on the problem for other types of games. Plus Battlefront itself is rather small. I'm going with the second and third possibilities. CM does present some unique challenges.

So I think it's more accurate to say "There's a lot of room for improvement." than "The interface is bad." I'm looking forward to seeing what the next major release brings.

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For the record, I too believe the interface needs to be substantially streamlined to minimize clicks required to issue the most common commands in RT play.

Also, while I get that a "Show All Target Lines" toggle isn't relevant to the CMx2 engine any more, that was a great way to show you at a glance where the action was heaviest and which units needed micro. Just having the icons blink momentarily when a unit takes a casualty simply isn't enough when trying to manage a company in RT play. Blink and you miss it.

While I'm not underestimating the programming complexity, resource "drag" or aesthetics issues of "animating" icons, something minimally intrusive like the following would dramatically improve playability:

(a) Unit is stationary, with no orders: default icon (square or circle)

(B) Unit is under orders: "squeeze" icon (slightly taller than it is wide)

© Unit is Moving: "italicize" icon (trapezoid or 0)

(d) Unit is firing/aiming: "flatten" icon (slightly wider than it is tall)

(e) Men are Cowering or vehicle has received a shell hit: "negative" icon (light figure against darker background)

(f) Unit has taken a Casualty or AFV being abandoned: blinking icon.

Or sumfink....

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To answer the topics question with a simple answer, as with everything is comes down to development time...for this release the development time we spent on the interface went into the quick battle system which we felt was the better choice. We do wish to make some notable changes to the in game interface overall and we didnt feel we had the time to do them justice with this initial release, so keep an eye out in the future guys. ;) Dan
There's the answer. Official.
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Battlefront: "This is a matter of personal preference. I find it VERY F'N ANNOYING when I'm trying to move a unit near another unit and the system thinks I want to switch units."

"Honestly, it never ceases to amaze me how much time people can put into suggestion lists and how little time they put into thinking through the implications of their suggestions. I know that customers shouldn't be expected to be as thorough in their thinking as we developers MUST be, but c'mon... at least try

One reason why game designers are so annoying to talk with about feature improvements is we can't afford to daydream. We have to think through everything VERY HARD before we even try to implement something. Have to. Otherwise we wind up wasting time on a bad idea and then wasting more time fixing the bad idea. Good game designers do "tire kicking" as second nature, bad game designers are out of a job because they don't. Customers can afford the illusion of infallibility and therefore don't tend to double check their ideas because they're assumed to be "perfect"."

Hey, I think this is a great game/simulation. But:

1. Are we really going to have Battlefront posts shouting obscenities?

and

2. As a physician, I find that patients have the same groundless worries and suggestions time after time. But I don't express my frustrations to them (and try not to vent on my family.....I....kill things in CM2). The last sentence I am quoting above sounds as though someone should take a few days off.

I find the UI does a good job. But I chuckle everytime a CM game comes out with the "alt" key commands--sort of has the "legacy" feel of a DOS prompt>

Maybe it seems like whining, or being unappreciative, but I think the customers are trying to help. If I pulled my 21 year old over to my computer to look at CMBN, I think he would react to the UI with a "What the....?" You may never get the WOW crowd, but if you want to get more of the teens/20s guys interested in tactical warfare, like we were in the Squad Leader days, a UI overhaul is likely needed.

But you probably know that. It is probably on the drawing board. Customers, however, can be an impatient group.

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I have read Steve's reply, but I really don't see the insult. :confused: http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?t=97512

I'm pretty certain he was referring to this part:

Honestly, it never ceases to amaze me how much time people can put into suggestion lists and how little time they put into thinking through the implications of their suggestions. I know that customers shouldn't be expected to be as thorough in their thinking as we developers MUST be, but c'mon... at least try

Tongue in cheek as it may be, he does imply the average customer is a dumbass (..true as that may be :D ).

It's probably better to cherry-pick things that you think could work in CM and put those across as suggestions.

Well then...

As others have already said, some established standards in the RTS genre are definitely transferable to CMBN.

Left click selects, right click orders being probably the most obvious one. This control scheme would be highly intuitive to most people who have already played a RTS game. Overload the right mouse button and have a menu option, a file like hotkeys.txt or somesuch to enable the user to map orders to their liking to their mouse button(s). Come to think of it, in-game keymapping in general would be nice.

For example: right click=quick, ctrl+right click=target (if memory serves, ctrl-right click was also force fire in c&c-style games), alt+right click=face, shift-right click=cover arc.

Manual unit grouping would be a great feature as well. Ctrl+# (0-9) defines the currently selected units as group #, selectable by # key or the Function keys.

Off the top of my head I can't remember whether the F1-F12 keys are already occupied, it would be less intrusive that way as currently the camera controls rest on the number keys.

Again, anyone who played an RTS before is used to this feature, and F1-F12 is not too much of a variation (Dawn Of War II uses this, as well).

Using the base of a unit to convey more information about its current status. As of now, it works as a 4-state-health bar. One could think of a few icons (compare Relic games, cover symbols, panic symbols etc) to offer more information at a glance. Unit is routing would produce an exclamation mark on the right edge of the base, unit is pinned produce a needle to the right, unit is hiding would produce a "stealth" symbol at the left edge etc.

Obviously, you'd have to refrain from putting everything in there, but having an indication of factors that directly affect the units fighting ability would be great.

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There's the answer. Official.

+ 1. Battlefront DOES care about making improvements, and does consider the feedback on this forum. Indeed I have seen suggestions come to incorporation in patches regarding CMSF builds that were the result of feedback. They are also more involved with their forum than another game I have been involved with. As a customer, and fan I think that says their intentions are in the right place. Remember it is a PROCESS. The first guy who had the first TV I am sure said wouldn't it be nice if I had a thing in my hand that changes the channel instead of having to get up to do it. Eventually the development process, experimentation, and knowledge catch up to bring designs to their most realized potential. The company will admit their game is not perfect, but they are trying to make it the best it can be. This is the most important thing. This is true of many things. I have never painted the perfect painting, and I doubt I ever will, but I try and learn from the last experience to improve the next one. That is all one can do. It is a PROCESS.

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You can get used to anything, given enough time. But sometimes there's a good reason for referring back to how it was done better before, unlearned behaviour or not.

Good to hear more time is being put into this in the future.

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I'm pretty certain he was referring to this part:

Tongue in cheek as it may be, he does imply the average customer is a dumbass (..true as that may be :D ).

Well then...

As others have already said, some established standards in the RTS genre are definitely transferable to CMBN.

Left click selects, right click orders being probably the most obvious one. This control scheme would be highly intuitive to most people who have already played a RTS game. Overload the right mouse button and have a menu option, a file like hotkeys.txt or somesuch to enable the user to map orders to their liking to their mouse button(s). Come to think of it, in-game keymapping in general would be nice.

For example: right click=quick, ctrl+right click=target (if memory serves, ctrl-right click was also force fire in c&c-style games), alt+right click=face, shift-right click=cover arc.

Manual unit grouping would be a great feature as well. Ctrl+# (0-9) defines the currently selected units as group #, selectable by # key or the Function keys.

Off the top of my head I can't remember whether the F1-F12 keys are already occupied, it would be less intrusive that way as currently the camera controls rest on the number keys.

Again, anyone who played an RTS before is used to this feature, and F1-F12 is not too much of a variation (Dawn Of War II uses this, as well).

Using the base of a unit to convey more information about its current status. As of now, it works as a 4-state-health bar. One could think of a few icons (compare Relic games, cover symbols, panic symbols etc) to offer more information at a glance. Unit is routing would produce an exclamation mark on the right edge of the base, unit is pinned produce a needle to the right, unit is hiding would produce a "stealth" symbol at the left edge etc.

Obviously, you'd have to refrain from putting everything in there, but having an indication of factors that directly affect the units fighting ability would be great.

Why would you want a ctrl+click for movement? What's wrong with using the direct hotkey? Starcraft 2, arguably the most competitive RTS out there uses direct hotkeys and mouse controls.

Although I do like the idea of using the floating icons to convey more information. But after you know what is directly affecting your units, you're going to have to click on them to take action anyway. In close combat and Command ops, you would have to cycle through all the different kind of status icons to get the information you want, and I always found that really annoying.

I prefer just to do a quick sweep of the battlefield and looking at the postures of the little guys. Lots of guys in the foetal position = bad :). The intensity of incoming fire, is usual very indicative of how things are going. I guess I would have to see it, to understand the added value really. But then again I got used to this system ;).

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No info in the unit panel, if a unit is hidden, or if a tank is buttoned or unbottened.

+1 vote for this in the next UI iteration.

Another pain in the ass for me are the missing C2-lines: it forces the player either to click like crazy on every unit to check, if the units are in C2-range or to bunch them up unnecessarily, or not to click like crazy and accept that they could be out of range. Shouldn't graphics be there, to support the gamer?

This would be nice. I can get by without it, but it would help, particularly when a scenario assigns units to a platoon commander that the player may not expect (e.g., a truck) or when units are widely dispersed (say, a mortar left with the co. commander). As it is now, if you double click on the platoon HQ to move the squads, without the graphical representation of command lines it's easy to forget that across the map there are other units you may not want to move.

This would be doubly helpful if BF implements movable waypoints in the future. As soon as that's in, moving platoons by selecting the leader, issuing the mass move, then fine tuning by clicking and dragging waypoints is going to be a (at least for me) preferred way of moving platoons.

Way to much info about foreign units.

This is the biggest one to me... or at least, I think it is. I think he means that when you click on an opposing unit, you can see exactly what it is, e.g., "First Squad B Team" or "Mortar Ammo Bearer." With all the attention paid to FOW, especially on Iron, this seems like an odd feature. Has BF said anything about changing this down the road?

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Given their resources as an indie developer, I think their priorities are evident...programming stability, historical fidelity, solid game play, attention to detail. The interface seems to have taken back seat but usually gets brought up to speed after a while. I like their priorities since the commercial (mainstream) game developers cannot be counted to support games the way this team does.

perfectly put.

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That's rather insulting but I'm going to look on the bright side and assume you meant to insult everyone and not just me :D.

It's not insulting, it's just a fact :D Pretty much all gamers think they could do a better job with x feature (especially UI) if only they had the power. But they rarely think beyond the immediate. They don't consider ramifications, they don't consider conflicts, they don't consider development priorities, etc. They picture it in their head and it shines like the most beautifully polished piece of gold on the face of the planet and sparkles like the most flawless cut diamond. It's hard for us game designer to compete with this because we have to change dreams into reality. And reality is a rather harsh place, which is why gamers don't like to go there.

Think about it from our perspective. Thousands of people each thinking they know what's best for everybody else. They come up with endless "lists" of things that would make a game "perfect". In total there are thousands of ideas, many of them in conflict with each other and the vast majority of them not very good. Or at least not well thought out, impossible to implement, or otherwise impractical. And throughout there is the notion that they know best. It's so much fun, let me tell you!

The target function could easily be left click to target and right click to select, currently no function is given to right clicking an enemy. I don't know how retarded you think your customers are but I think most of them could manage that without giving accidental targeting orders all over the place as your strawman suggests.

Hey, I just responded to your suggestion as you wrote it. Now you're suggesting changing other stuff to accommodate the idea. Which is fine in theory, but I don't think right-click to select is a good thing. But that's a matter of personal preference, obviously.

Besides, making it exceedingly difficult to set an incorrect order is not the best design philosophy and CM hasn't managed it anyway (hunt vs bail).

No game is perfect, and CM definitely has it's flaws. But if you want to see bitch lists about the UI, go with a design that isn't trying to protect the user from himself. It's just like citizens and government. Bitch and bitch and bitch about government telling them what to do and when, but the second someone does something really stupid or shady to them they demand there be a law made to prevent it from happening again. And then they wonder how it is government got to be so complicated and "over protective".

Yes its a matter of personal preference but it is also a matter of economy. You force everyone to do more movements, more clicks every time to prevent a few people doing something stupid occasionally.

And yet you brought up Hunt vs. Bail. I could make the argument that people that do this are occasionally stupid and we should't change the UI to fix that problem. But I won't do that because I think they have a point. Like it or not, people want idiot proof UI. In fact, they demand it.

This could be entirely avoided if you went with the standard of "left click select, right click acts". So if you want to place a waypoint near a unit, you're right-clicking on the game field and will never select a unit, even if you hadn't got a unit selected. And if you want to select a unit, you'll never add another waypoint for the previously selected unit by accident.

Hardly a surprise when you've played 1000 hours of your own game, eh? Just because you're used to it doesn't make it good design.

And just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's a bad design. The right/left click behavior has been in every single CM game since the dawn of time. Why this is even coming up now, after nearly 11 years, as a supposedly serious problem is baffling to me.

Well, there's a problem. :) I know what you mean, but if (I say if) that means that you'll never adopt any features of an RTS game, then you're missing some very well-designed interfaces.

There are definitely good things to learn from RTS games. Since they emphasize quick implementation of thought to action as a core part of the gameplay the UI has to be as efficient as possible. However, in order to have the UI reach a certain level of efficiency they also limit the gameplay. CM is the other way around where the gameplay is primary driver of UI, not UI as the primary limiter of gameplay.

Which means I come back to this point again, as I always do. Some people expect a game with 100s of game features that require some form of UI to have the simplicity of a game that has 10s of features that require some form of UI. It is an unreasonable expectation to have and it puts any discussion about UI on the wrong footing to start with.

The accompanying problem is every individual has their own concept of what "perfect" UI is. Some think spreadsheet like displays are the most efficient way to present information, most think it's akin to having their eyes gouged out with a rusty nail. Which means the gamers have no consensus about what "perfect" is, yet somehow expect us to produce "perfect". It's fun!

Bullhockey. How is it more exact to sometimes, arbitrarily (i.e. those times you forget and don't notice that you started with a unit already selected) move the group you intended and the last unit you had selected? What it allows is for you to be slightly quicker in having your current unit plus a group selected, whereas if a shift-dragbox select didn't add to the current selection you'd have to go back to your previous unit and add that with shift-click. It lets you add dragged groups together, too. It is however, nothing to do with precision.

Ah, I misunderstood the original point. However, what you're asking for causes problems. When you order a Group there needs to be a context for where the Commands to be placed. This is done using the current unit. All Commands made are relative to that unit, as opposed to some RTS games where they all basically try to go to the same exact spot. What you're suggesting would mean, by default, there is no current unit. If there is no current unit then there's nobody to have the Commands orientated around, and that means you can't put down any Commands until you have a Current Unit selected. On balance I think the current behavior is less annoying than the alternative proposed.

Of course the adherence or otherwise of the UI to familiar, proven standards (like scrollbars, cursor control keys, ESCape to cancel, double-click to select and OK, left-select/right-act etc) have no effect on that perception? There's a reason computer applications tend to have similar interfaces to a greater or lesser extent.

Absolutely, and CM has more in common than not in common with other games. The thing is CM isn't like other games at all. It's a sort of a hybrid between a FPS, a RTS, and a traditional hex based wargame of the olden days. Trying to force conventions onto CM just because they are more familiar and proven in a different context is a very bad idea.

Good. However, CM's interface barely rates 'adequate'. Please don't be blind to that.

I'm not blind to hyperbole either :D Read all the comments in this thread as I do.

And some people's problem is that their head is in the sand, it seems.

You've just described the average gamer very well ;) To the average gamer the equation is simply:

I think this is best, therefore it must be

You need to get out in the gaming world more. Look at MMOs. An entire genre where you have 5-10 times the game functions that CM has to bring to the interface. CM is a breeze compared to those games.

And yet I haven't seen many suggestions from the MMO players that appear applicable to CM's UI. Well, other than having a bazillion more ways to do hotkeys. That's been noted already.

Good interfaces aren't difficult to conceive, and take no more work to program than poor ones.

And you continue to prove my point. If you ever designed a UI you would know how absolutely wrong you are on both counts. Good UIs are extremely difficult to conceive because there's no consensus on what a "good" UI is. It's even harder to conceive when your game design (or any application for that matter) isn't a carbon copy of the other dozen out there. As for implementation... we could dump months of time into the UI at the expense of game features and I bet you anything two thing would happen:

1. The bitching about the UI wouldn't be dramatically lower.

2. The bitching about "missing features" would rise significantly.

We don't live in fantasy ivory towers like our wannabe game designing customers. We have to deal with solving actual problems and implement actual games for actual customers. We know you guys far better than you know yourselves, partly because we're also gamers and you're not also game designers. Our development priorities are game features first, everything else second. UI is considered "everything else".

Now that most of the critical game features we want are implemented as of CM:BN, we can now start to shift emphasis of resources to the "everything else" category. The next version of CM will have a significant UI overhaul as a major effort. Less game features will be the result, but we think it will be a good mix overall.

Steve

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And you don't find most MMO interfaces bizarre and frustrating?

Nope. Took me maybe a week to get used to the WoW base interface. The only mistake it consistently forced was that it didn't know that I didn't want to be typing in chat any more when I got blindsided. By contrast, the CM interface consistently leads me to make errors in operating it. I still add extra legs to movement orders because I haven't deselected something. I still try and move the screen the wrong way in plan views, because every other interface uses "grab and drag" and not "move my viewpoint", in plan views. It makes life difficult.

Also, I'd argue that very few classes in any MMO are as complex to play as even an average game of CM.

The three classes with which I am most familiar all have more, and more complex (e.g. conditional on prior action, resource availability or 'proc'), options than CM at any given instant. For sure, CM's simple command set spread over many individual game pieces produce more complex emergent behaviours. But that's not really something an interface can address. As I mentioned before, in another thread, I have, and use, more than 90 keybinds in my main character's main role (and another 30 or so functions on some of the same keybinds in its subsidiary roles). CM doesn't have that many commands in its gameplay.

I would love to hear your argument in more detail. As it applies to the use of the HMI.

A goodly chunk of the 'complexity' in operating the CM interface lies in its obscurity. "Where, exactly is my arty strike point going to end up if I click just here, I wonder? Oh look it's not where I want; I have to cancel the whole mission and start again."

I don't mean to derail the conversation, but you guys keep bringing up other games as though they offer the same complexity of command as CM does.

That's because we disagree that the principles behind CM's base command set is even vaguely complicated.

It's probably better to cherry-pick things that you think could work in CM and put those across as suggestions.

Okay:

  1. Left-is-select/right-is-act. Eliminates the need to deselect things after every action. Only it's not every action, it's every move action. If the last thing I did for a unit was give it a non-move command I don't have to deselect it before I can move on to the next unit. Nor do I if I use the 'next unit' hotkey (which I very rarely want to). Consistency is important.
  2. Basic industry-standard conventions: Scroll bars; cursor controls and text edit functions; double-click to select-and-OK; drag-and-drop; No modal dialogs (I'm looking at you, support interface); ESC for cancel; space for pause.
  3. Back buttons. Having to cancel something and restart from the beginning is unnecessary. I'm mostly talking about the support interface.
  4. Separate the editor functions from the gameplay ones.
  5. Implement a syntax in the hotkeys parser to allow non-ASCII keys to be customised (eventually, create a GUI element to allow in-game definition of the hotkeys and check them for sanity).
  6. Feedback on what will happen if you do something. Again, the major culprit is the artillery interface: Strike points are bound to the action grid, but you have no idea which action grid you're over when you click, so it often jumps to somewhere you'd rather it didn't. If precision actually matters (indirect HE is just very large handgrenades, after all) this is frustrating. Especially when you can't just replot the coords, but have to go all the way back to the beginning of the call process. Why not have a 'base' like units have for the strike point? And then having some idea how many shells it's going to use for a given duration/tubes/weight combination rather than having to have someone do tests and maintain a document out-of-game.
  7. The ability to save configurations. If I always add an extra BAR to each platoon, it'd be nice to be able to save 'My Armoured infantry company' so I don't have to pare down from Battallion in every game smaller than Large.
  8. Maintain the current way. As far as possible keep the the option of doing things the old way so people who are used to it are not disgruntled. I can't see anyone being disgruntled at improving the support interface, though.

I have no problem saying it's a great game, but the interface needs more than a little work to be anything better than 'adequate'. All I see is "It's fine, deal with it; it's you, not the interface. We'll have a tinker when we've done the important stuff". The HMI is important. I don't get how you Macheads don't seem to realise this, when that's the entire appeal of the Mac product.

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The positive discussion portion of this thread is not going unnoticed amidst the usual "berate the game developer" part :D

As I've said, we plan a major overhaul of the UI for the next major release of CM. Months of development time will be invested into the UI work. To put that into perspective, that would be more time than we put into the new QB system, UI and all. Which is why I keep saying that you guys can't have your cake and pie and tortes and ice cream all at once. We have to prioritize because there's only so many hours in a day and we already work too many of them.

The UI overhaul is largely designed already. We had hoped to get it into CM:BN, but just look at how much longer it took for it to be complete AND we didn't try the UI overhaul. That's why it didn't get implemented this time around.

Many of the suggestions I've seen here are already part of the new UI design. While we don't have the benefit of a direct 1:1 relationship between unit status and "health bars", like RTS games, we plan on offering the player more ways to survey his forces at a glance. The way Commands are issued is slated for an overhaul as well. Simple things, like better understanding the status of a particular unit (Hiding, Buttoned, etc) is also already incorporated into the new design.

The problem with a UI is for it to work the UI has to feel cohesive. A good UI also has to efficiently use screen space and user input. These two requirements for a good UI means that slapping in "improvements" willy-nilly generally works against the overall effectiveness of the UI as a whole. Which is why so many good ideas are not going to be implemented until there is a comprehensive overhaul.

One thing we do not plan on changing is the right/left click behavior when it comes to interacting with either the 2D or 3D environments. Left clicking is far more natural than right clicking. Therefore, we want the vast majority of clicks to be assigned to the left mouse button. And that means keeping Commands tied to the left mouse button. Right click will remain reserved for special actions, some of which may be added to CM in the future.

Steve

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As I've said, we plan a major overhaul of the UI for the next major release of CM. Months of development time will be invested into the UI work. To put that into perspective, that would be more time than we put into the new QB system, UI and all. Which is why I keep saying that you guys can't have your cake and pie and tortes and ice cream all at once. We have to prioritize because there's only so many hours in a day and we already work too many of them.

This, a thousand times this. If there is one thing some people on the forum need to learn, it is this. The game isn't made in a time vacuum (starting to sound like a broken record here). I've watched first-hand over the years the late night, early morning, and weekend work done by BFC, and not just during crunch time. So I'm always slightly bewildered when I hear someone say it wouldn't take "any time at all" to put something in, or how the extra time spent would be worth it. Just where is that time going to come from?

If you still can't understand, then answer this: if you wanted the UI work done for CMBN, list what features you would like cut in order for it to happen.

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The positive discussion portion of this thread is not going unnoticed amidst the usual "berate the game developer" part :D

As I've said, we plan a major overhaul of the UI for the next major release of CM. Months of development time will be invested into the UI work. To put that into perspective, that would be more time than we put into the new QB system, UI and all. Which is why I keep saying that you guys can't have your cake and pie and tortes and ice cream all at once. We have to prioritize because there's only so many hours in a day and we already work too many of them.

The UI overhaul is largely designed already. We had hoped to get it into CM:BN, but just look at how much longer it took for it to be complete AND we didn't try the UI overhaul. That's why it didn't get implemented this time around.

Many of the suggestions I've seen here are already part of the new UI design. While we don't have the benefit of a direct 1:1 relationship between unit status and "health bars", like RTS games, we plan on offering the player more ways to survey his forces at a glance. The way Commands are issued is slated for an overhaul as well. Simple things, like better understanding the status of a particular unit (Hiding, Buttoned, etc) is also already incorporated into the new design.

The problem with a UI is for it to work the UI has to feel cohesive. A good UI also has to efficiently use screen space and user input. These two requirements for a good UI means that slapping in "improvements" willy-nilly generally works against the overall effectiveness of the UI as a whole. Which is why so many good ideas are not going to be implemented until there is a comprehensive overhaul.

One thing we do not plan on changing is the right/left click behavior when it comes to interacting with either the 2D or 3D environments. Left clicking is far more natural than right clicking. Therefore, we want the vast majority of clicks to be assigned to the left mouse button. And that means keeping Commands tied to the left mouse button. Right click will remain reserved for special actions, some of which may be added to CM in the future.

Steve

When the next major CM is released with the new UI, will you patch CMBN's UI as well to match the new game?

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And just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's a bad design.

No, absolutely. It's bad design because it is inconsistent, requires far more mouseclicks than other alternatives and encourages rather than discourages error-by-omission.

The right/left click behavior has been in every single CM game since the dawn of time. Why this is even coming up now, after nearly 11 years, as a supposedly serious problem is baffling to me.

Perhaps because things have moved on in the world of interfaces since the turn of the century. Way back, there were no standards, and every game reinvented the wheel. Perhaps those of us who skipped CMSF had hoped BFC might've moved with the times.

Which means I come back to this point again, as I always do. Some people expect a game with 100s of game features that require some form of UI...

Um, sorry? 100s? That require a UI (as opposed to simply being presented to the user)? Sorry, could you outline some of the sets that these are included in? Cos my copy game seems to be missing about all but the first 100 :) Or we're just not talking about the same thing at all, which would explain some of the dissonance between our positions.

The accompanying problem is every individual has their own concept of what "perfect" UI is.

That's where adhering to standards helps. Even if it's not their 'perfect' it's at least familiar.

Ah, I misunderstood the original point. However, what you're asking for causes problems. When you order a Group there needs to be a context for where the Commands to be placed. This is done using the current unit. All Commands made are relative to that unit, as opposed to some RTS games where they all basically try to go to the same exact spot. What you're suggesting would mean, by default, there is no current unit. If there is no current unit then there's nobody to have the Commands orientated around, and that means you can't put down any Commands until you have a Current Unit selected. On balance I think the current behavior is less annoying than the alternative proposed.

Aha. That's an element I hadn't considered. How about, then, instead of needing a unit as the reference point, when you draw the box, the startpoint of the box-draw is the reference, and the drawn box's corner is highlighted. The order palette for the selected group comprises only those things all selected units can do. If you click a unit within the group, that unit becomes the reference point and the box-corner-reference is forgotten. When you're placing a waypoint, the unit bases for all selected units are highlighted in a way visually similar to the bases of the teams in a squad.

Absolutely, and CM has more in common than not in common with other games. The thing is CM isn't like other games at all. It's a sort of a hybrid between a FPS, a RTS, and a traditional hex based wargame of the olden days. Trying to force conventions onto CM just because they are more familiar and proven in a different context is a very bad idea.

And rejecting them because you're different and special when they've been proven in many different contexts and would make the game so much more attractive is better?

And yet I haven't seen many suggestions from the MMO players that appear applicable to CM's UI. Well, other than having a bazillion more ways to do hotkeys. That's been noted already.

Consistency in interface. Using the rightclick for something other than 'cancel'.

And you continue to prove my point. If you ever designed a UI...

I have.

...you would know how absolutely wrong you are on both counts. Good UIs are extremely difficult to conceive because there's no consensus on what a "good" UI is.

That is where you're wrong. There's plenty of concensus regarding the principles of what makes a good UI. Many of which your UI flouts.

It's even harder to conceive when your game design (or any application for that matter) isn't a carbon copy of the other dozen out there. As for implementation... we could dump months of time into the UI...

Then Charles and Phil aren't as good as I thought they were.

UI is considered "everything else".

Yeah, well.

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The HMI is important. I don't get how you Macheads don't seem to realise this, when that's the entire appeal of the Mac product.

Oh, we get it. But we aren't Apple Computer with hundreds of programmers. Reality is a very harsh and unrelenting environment to work in. It's why most gamers are more than happy to remain gamers and not game designers. It's also why most game designers secretly wish they could go back to being game players :D

I've been using a Mac, every day, since 1987. The stuff we take for granted today wasn't even thought of back then. The Mac operating system has evolved over time and generally broke conventions that were long established on the PC side. And DOS, then Windows, users hated the Mac for it. "Why can't I just get a directory prompt and type in the path?!? Stupid Macs and their GUI!" And yes, there was a time when PC users thought the inability to type in a directory path was a reason to not use a Mac.

Again, this isn't to say that there aren't places to improve CM's UI. There are. But there are also some things that are different from other games because CM is different from other games. It would be a bad idea to blindly incorporate other game's conventions simply because they are widely used. We need to be smarter than that, and that means sometimes going against the grain.

Steve

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Steve said, "As I've said, we plan a major overhaul of the UI for the next major release of CM." I expect two threads to appear within 24 hours of the demo's release.

The first will complain about the new UI and how features that were so useful CMBN have been taken out and the game has been ruined/made much harder. The second will complain that the game is ruined/made much harder because the UI isn't good enough and why don't BF use an "industry standard" set of commands just like the posters' favourite games from another genre.

Anyone want to bet I am wrong?

Frankly, I don't mind much what BF do as long as I am not expected to learn to use hot keys (sorry, Other Means). I can't be doing with that sort of thing at my time of life and the mouse works perfectly well for me (I have never had anyone bail out by mistake for a start).

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Why would you want a ctrl+click for movement? What's wrong with using the direct hotkey? Starcraft 2, arguably the most competitive RTS out there uses direct hotkeys and mouse controls.

I did not advocate ctrl+rightclick for movement. Right click->movement, ctrl+rightclick->force attack.

One thing we do not plan on changing is the right/left click behavior when it comes to interacting with either the 2D or 3D environments. Left clicking is far more natural than right clicking. Therefore, we want the vast majority of clicks to be assigned to the left mouse button. And that means keeping Commands tied to the left mouse button. Right click will remain reserved for special actions, some of which may be added to CM in the future.

I still think using the "standard" RTS system would be more intuitive to a larger number of players. However, I don't particularly care as I'm perfectly alright with the existing system after having been using it since the first days of Shock Force. :D

Although I do like the idea of using the floating icons to convey more information. But after you know what is directly affecting your units, you're going to have to click on them to take action anyway. In close combat and Command ops, you would have to cycle through all the different kind of status icons to get the information you want, and I always found that really annoying.

Well, you know which ones to click on first, for one. ;)

You would also be able to see "alright, that ATG is on HIDE, so they won't shoot infantry", or the inverse "I've got to set that ATG on HIDE so they won't start shooting infantry!".

I have never played Close Combat, so I can't comment on their implementation of this particular feature. I definitely agree that you have to choose which information is conveyed here carefully in order not to clog up the icon.

What I thought of were pretty much things that are on/off or yes/no in nature.. pinned, panicked, routed, hidden, inside entrenchment, that sort of thing. Steve already hinted at these informations to be displayed somewhere prominently, so it's hopefully just a matter of patience now.

I prefer just to do a quick sweep of the battlefield and looking at the postures of the little guys. Lots of guys in the foetal position = bad. The intensity of incoming fire, is usual very indicative of how things are going. I guess I would have to see it, to understand the added value really. But then again I got used to this system.

I am used to this system, too, and I can play smoothly with a combination of hotkeys and mouse clicks, so it's definitely not impossible to learn. However, it is also rather unintuitive (even moreso if you already played RTS games) and the controls have put off all of my friends to the point of not wanting to play the game. I had to take them by the hand and explain how things work and how they can wrap their minds around it. Recruiting results were unimpressive. :D

The added value is one of information, and as Steve already said it probably has a lot to do with preferences. Sure, you can assert by the volume of incoming fire and their refusal to move where you ordered them that these guys are pinned and maybe even broken, but you can't know either for sure without taking a look.

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No, absolutely. It's bad design because it is inconsistent, requires far more mouseclicks than other alternatives and encourages rather than discourages error-by-omission.

And opinion plays no part in this?

Perhaps because things have moved on in the world of interfaces since the turn of the century. Way back, there were no standards, and every game reinvented the wheel. Perhaps those of us who skipped CMSF had hoped BFC might've moved with the times.

We are still faced with the problem that CM isn't like any other game out there. There have been a couple hundred RTS games that are basically clones of each other. Over the past 18 or so years they have melded into a pretty standardized UI convention. How many games have there been like CM in the past 18 or so years?

Again, this doesn't mean we have to invent our own UI just for the heck of it. But it also doesn't mean that other conventions can be applied equally well in the CM environment when all other factors are considered.

Um, sorry? 100s? That require a UI (as opposed to simply being presented to the user)? Sorry, could you outline some of the sets that these are included in? Cos my copy game seems to be missing about all but the first 100 :) Or we're just not talking about the same thing at all, which would explain some of the dissonance between our positions.

I consider combinations of UI, designed to produce a different result, as being a unique element. But yeah, "100s" is not the right way to put it. Let's just say there's "more" ways to interact with CM's game than most games out there.

That's where adhering to standards helps. Even if it's not their 'perfect' it's at least familiar.

Agree to a point, but disagree if the overall impact is a net negative for the game. Most people interested in playing a game like CM will put in far more time into CM than into any other single game on your harddrive. Learning a few new habits shouldn't be that much to expect of players if it is in the best interests of the game itself.

Aha. That's an element I hadn't considered.

Which gets back to my point about it being so easy to criticize a UI if the thought process stops with "make it work like the other game I've played".

How about, then, instead of needing a unit as the reference point, when you draw the box, the startpoint of the box-draw is the reference, and the drawn box's corner is highlighted.

Now you're saying that you have to draw the box in a context sensitive way? What game uses that convention? All the games I'm aware of the box has no context sensitivity at all. So what I see you doing here is suggesting to break the game convention of all other games and for what reason?

And rejecting them because you're different and special when they've been proven in many different contexts and would make the game so much more attractive is better?

No, of course not. But as you have illustrated quite well, context is often not considered by the critic.

I have.

Excellent! Where can I download a Demo so I can see what you came up with?

That is where you're wrong. There's plenty of concensus regarding the principles of what makes a good UI. Many of which your UI flouts.

There's also plenty of disagreement and connection to specific context which may, or may not, apply to a given situation within CM.

Then Charles and Phil aren't as good as I thought they were.

Obviously you don't have any idea what you're talking about.

Of course switching right click behavior wouldn't take much time at all. Neither would be implementing scroll bars or any other single concept. But your list alone covers a HUGE range of things to change. If you think this can all be done in a couple of days or weeks... well, let's just say I'm glad you're not in charge of development resource allocation for Combat Mission :D

Steve

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