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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Odyssey UI Improvements: An Educated Guess

I guess I couldn't just walk away for a week. I suck at taking a break. However, I read something over on Massively that really got my attention. As you are all probably aware, CCP just announced the next expansion called Odyssey. Most of the coverage has basically been a regurgitation of what CCP said would come with Odyssey. That's nice, but what's the point - to waste photons and electrons? Sorry, I have more respect for my quantum friends than that.

However, after reading Massively's paraphrased comments attributed to John Lander about CCP's thinking processes concerning Odyssey and the future of Eve Online, a picture started forming in my head of what some of the purported features might really look like. Here are four things from the Odyssey web site and Massively I believe are not really separate things but part of a greater vision:
  1. Discovery scanning (Odyssey site)
  2. "Intuitive" navigation (Odyssey site)
  3. A revamp to how the game indicates points of interest (Massively)
  4. You should be exploring and looking for new ways to get things (Massively)
When I see those four items in a list, I see an old problem resolved with a new twist on an old skill using a new interface. I believe we've already seen part of that new interface: route lines going from star to star and hide-able info panels. In reference to the route lines, I read a dev blog about how players might be able to click on a star and go there because the stars will be interactive (some extrapolation required - but not much.) I even believe the term "map panel" was used in the context of an interactive screen control. What's more intuitive than that? You look over your nav map (in our case the monitor screen) and as you focus (for us a mouse over) on a star all pertinent information displays on screen. The next logical step is to right click; set destination.

Let's carry that a bit further. We have already had targeting indicators moved to the dynamic screen as well as changes to the target line-up we all grew up with. Now we see who is targeting us, and with what, right in front of the star field. To target it back we just interact directly with the flashy red circled thing now.

The next step is to place book marks on that screen rather than in some secondary table. They would include everything we just scanned down with the new Discovery scanning system - anomalies and all. They should display as symbols right on the screen in front of us. I don't know if the old system map with scanning spheres will go away: CCP just did a nice iteration on that interface. I would say probably not. What they haven't worked on at all is the d-scan interface. If that's gotten no love, just like the book mark table and overview, perhaps that's what will change. I wouldn't bet against it.

Next, have all the d-scan objects show on the dynamic nav screen... yeah, why not. Get rid of the d-scan table all together and give us a dynamic nav display control right up there next to the hide-able route controls. It would not only let us set our d-scan range, but also what is displayed as well. And while at it, make d-scan an always on service. Why should I have to click a button to run it in the first place? That's hardly intuitive.

If that last was implemented along with the dynamic nav display, the overview would be superfluous. When your entire star field is an overview, you don't need no stinking table - unless you're an FC. That's why they will probably keep it as an option but it won't be the primary way of displaying things in space. Once you get rid of the d-scan table, the book mark list, and the overview, how much screen real estate did you just free up? Lots! How less confusing would it be? Well, to my way of thinking it would be far less confusing than all the tables we currently throw in a new bro's face. TBH, I've been at it 5 years and the overview settings still drive me bat-shit crazy. I have to constantly futz with them and while I do so it takes my attention away from what is going on around me. That's a big no-no in situational awareness 101.

I don't know about you, but the idea of being able to see everything on my screen in real time excites me. Yes, it would be drastically different. Yes, it would be hard for some old farts to get used to. Especially "seeing" those things which are "behind" the ship. But I think it would be easier for new players to learn than the myriad tables and nested controls we now have. A dynamic nav screen with integrated overview and targeting, on the fly controls, and pop-up info panels would certainly qualify as actively indicating points of interest to me.

It would also encourage exploring, which seems to be the Odyssey's raison d'ĂȘtre . I've already seen it with the route lines. How many of you have approached a gate, route lines on, and "seen" the star the gate points at? Then, how many of you have wondered what that star just to the lower right of it is, you know, the really bright one? "That wasn't there last time I came through," you think. Now, what if superimposed on it was a symbol from the Discovery Scanner that you'd never seen before? That's no star! Nor is it a moon. It's a mystery. Would you be interested? Yeah, I thought so.

Fly Careful

4 comments:

  1. Removing the Overview table without giving something new with the same functionality (e.g. another table) would imho annoy 99% of the combat pilots, be them either the PVE or PVP type. You always want to know whats around you, not just in front of your camera. Finding a certain ship in a blob of 10+ would be really hard without a list of all the ships, etc.
    Having more space, everything on the star screen without windows would be nice visually, but annoy everyone who actively use those windows.

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    1. I agree.

      "When your entire star field is an overview, you don't need no stinking table - unless you're an FC. That's why they will probably keep it as an option but it won't be the primary way of displaying things in space."

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  2. Just a quick thought, though I do think D-Scan could be somewhat automated, I don't think it should be on all the time. I'd suggest that if you want D-Scan running constantly it scans every 10-20 seconds, (Not quite sure what a good balance would be though.) But still allow the option of spamming it if you're really paranoid.
    Having it run on a cycle would still give ships a chance to drop on you, but also not too much time if you are actually paying attention to it. Then also leaving it open for a spam fast benefits those players who are doing something dangerous or in a scary location (Wormholes) where no one can hear you scream.
    I would probably like it on all the time, but just considering the other side.

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  3. Interesting speculations. But auto-updating d-scan totally kills probe hunters, and is thus bad.

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