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Tactical Map and Ship Orders UI

#1
After seeing the Limit Theory Gameplay Demo 3 there are some things I need to get off my chest. =)


What is a major mess in many games with multiple units is... trying to order them around. After Total Annihilation I haven't come across another game that let me play the game without forcing me to jump through all kinds of UI hoops.

You already mentioned that there will be groups / squads / wings to order around. Kind of expected that but I'm thinking of a twist to it.
The "grab a unit and order it around" definitely has a certain charm. I'm just thinking about the details.
The scope of such an order should always be able to affect the currently selected ship and / or the group it is in.

Thinking of several things at once, actually, so *breathe*...
  1. The entire inside of the orders circle would be a button. Nothing fiddly (god no!), just one large button.
    This is the only new UI element I'm suggesting.
    All it controls is the attached / detached state of the ship. (I really believe in KISS)
  2. The inside of the orders circle would show what ship is executing the order and what the target will be.
    (if that can be displayed small enough and still be readable? Hard to tell.)
  3. A graphical border would show the current group status of the grabbed ship.
    • No group, no border.
    • Ship is part of a group: border of closed chain links
    • Ship is part of a group but temporarily detached: border of open chain links.
    • A 90° section on the bottom would be made of differently coloured links.
      If any other ships in this group are on detached duty: open chain links instead of closed.
      This is just to keep an eye on your overall group status.
  4. Clicking the center "button" does not execute the actual ship order just yet.
    It only toggles between attached and detached duty while the menu stays open.
    The order I click next can so be given to only one ship or to the entire group.
  5. A double click on the button recalls all detached ships back to this group so it's back to a coordinated unit without having to bunnyhop through any menus or "catching" any ships on the screen.
  6. Left-mouse-button dragging the button outside the entire orders window would explode it into whatever full group management UI you are cooking up.
    Not because you couldn't do it in a simpler way but because it would be a cool effect. Hey, games are all about putting up a good show! =)
  7. Orders queue.
    This is a big wish, I know. Hard to do unless you're working it into the system at a rather low level. *nudge* *wink*
    Shift-clicking an order would put it on the ship's (or group's) queue and the ship would execute it after it has completed it's current task.

    This way one can give an entire group of ships a list of targets to work through. In this order.
    I outline the game plan and my ships execute it.
    I only need to take charge to handle unexpected events like detaching a damaged ship from the group.
    This is what an admiral does. Not micromanage ships every step of the way through an engagement like in X3. =)

    Come to think of it, I wrote an X3 script for "bookmarking" ships all over the universe, hotkeyed group control, and an orders queue some 3 years ago.
    I really really hate it when the interface gets in the way of well... me. =P
  8. Blow-Up Highlighting
    When you mouseover a ship, this ship / model / outline is displayed much larger than to scale.

    That way you can much more easily and directly see what you are trying to click. Reading a lot of text labels becomes optional.

    The actual mouseover area does not grow so you can still target things beside it.
  9. Orders While Paused

    Maybe I should write this in 15 different colours, underlined, and blinking.
    This is super-important to me.

    Once you're dealing with fleets, multiple ship types, and 3D positioning, you will be hard pressed to do the admiral thing because in the game, you don't have a staff to deal with all the minutiae of a complex battle.

    Alternative: A slider where you can adjust the passage of time while "paused" from 0 - 100 %.
    This way the OCD micromanagers can have their way but those who'd rather like a more "realtime" or "bullet time" feel, can have their perfect game.
  10. Selecting objects in "cluttered" situations

    Compare:
    • When hovering over such a mass of objects in the zoomed out state, the tactical interface would wait out a certain delay, maybe a second.
    • Then it pauses the game (or slows down time as per the "pause" setting) and presents the player with a drop down like that.
    • You can use this drop down to select targets exactly the same way you would on the graphical UI. Assigning targets or selecting ships for ordering.
    • If the player moves the pointer outside that menu area, the game resumes immediately.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: UI Suggestions

#2
I have to admit, I like that order execution idea. I imagine positioning all my ships for an ambush and then hitting an execute button and one of my ships draws the enemy's fire while another ship takes out the engines and the others take out the enemy's smaller support ships.

On the other hand, I sort of like the ability to set stances too. Follow would be a primary stance and sub-stances would be like "watch my six" and "assist". Aggressive would be another primary stance that would enable my AI ships to sort of seek out targets on their own. Sub-stances would include items like "attack on los" or "disable enemy engines."

I really don't want to have to control all of the ships in my fleet. I'd prefer to just say a general command like "Mine" or "Explore" or "Support" or "Attack" or "Defend" and then have my ships do something productive involving that general command unless I dictate a more specific task.
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Re: UI Suggestions

#3
corya14 wrote:On the other hand, I sort of like the ability to set stances too. Follow would be a primary stance and sub-stances would be like "watch my six" and "assist". Aggressive would be another primary stance that would enable my AI ships to sort of seek out targets on their own. Sub-stances would include items like "attack on los" or "disable enemy engines."
I wrote something like that. The turret script + configuration in vanilla X3:AP.

In previous games you could give only extremely generic turret orders like "missile defense" or "attack all enemies".
Now you can give the turret a list of target priorities to work through.
Your heavy turrets may get "attack capital ships, then missile defense, then attack all enemies".
For light turrets probably, "missile defense , attack fighters, attack all enemies".


A similar system could be used for LT ship orders.
Say, you can save 10 stances. They are effectively battle plans. (which is a cooler term anyway)

If you activate Plan Bravo, all your ships in the sector use the behaviour that they have saved under Plan Bravo.
Battleships hold position with destroyers screening them. Corvettes engage incoming missiles, then disengage and fall back behind friendly capital ships.

This way you could "save" battle plans that would not depend on a specific spacial setup or formation.

The drawback is that many gamers would feel overwhelmed by the concept of giving the orders before the battle. The usual RTS approach of "select all, attack" is considerably easier to understand.

Still it would be a game that one can play like an admiral. During a battle, an admiral's job is mostly to... sit around, looking confident.
Well, with so little known about the combat mechanics, this is mostly pipe dreaming. Maybe the combat will be so dumbed down that "select all, attack" is the only order that makes sense! =P
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
Post

Re: UI Suggestions

#4
I notice the list of ships on the bottom left of the screen,
perhaps this list could be an alternate method of selecting ships,
grouping ships, and giveing orders in general.

It should help when your ship are spread out all over the place, or when they are just plain out of sight,
due to things like nebulas, and astroids.
"A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
- Arthur C. Clarke
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Re: UI Suggestions

#5
N810 wrote:I notice the list of ships on the bottom left of the screen,
perhaps this list could be an alternate method of selecting ships,
grouping ships, and giveing orders in general.

It should help when your ship are spread out all over the place, or when they are just plain out of sight,
due to things like nebulas, and astroids.
Although I didn't show it, you can, alternatively, select units by clicking on their name under the "Pilots" list. This makes it easy to give commands even if you can't see the unit on screen.
In the future, you'll be able to select multiple units and issue commands to them all at once. Furthermore, you'll be able to drag selection boxes in order to quickly select a group of ships.
You'll also be able to assign numeric groups to specific subsets of the fleet, and select them using standard RTS-style numeric hotkeys.
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Re: UI Suggestions

#7
Gazz wrote:The drawback is that many gamers would feel overwhelmed by the concept of giving the orders before the battle. The usual RTS approach of "select all, attack" is considerably easier to understand.
I was thinking about that too...the ability to create orders for your ships would be awesome but its just seems like a step in the wrong direction for an RTS. That's why I like the stance and sub-stance idea. A player can just give a general order and the ships will intelligently carry out that order, but a more specific sub-stance can also be chosen for more unique scenarios.
Gazz wrote:Battleships hold position with destroyers screening them. Corvettes engage incoming missiles, then disengage and fall back behind friendly capital ships.
That stance idea in combination with the ability to set a ship's class would make a great combination. Name a ship with lots of guns but not a lot of health a Destroyer and that ship will behave differently for a stance versus, let's say, a Juggernaut ship. For the "Attack" stance, the Destroyer would try and position itself to deal damage without taking much in return while the Juggernaut ship would try and draw fire from the enemies. Meanwhile, the player can just fly around and do whatever the heck he wants without having to constantly manage his ships.
Post

Re: UI Suggestions

#8
Hot keys could also allow a optional simplification and game style choice as i enjoy mapping everything.

Key bindings up to a Key combination complexity such as Ctrl+shift+alt+1, Alt+shift+ctrl+1 should be allowed for anything action oriented such as UI, Fleet commands, ship builder tools, menu buttons, etc.

Using the bindings in combat would be as simple as creating a group such as in RTS Ctrl+# and picking a target then hit your key instead of bringing up the whole option wheel.
Post

Tactical Map, Features and UI

#10
i made a thread about rts maps a week or so ago (maybe two or three, i dont know) that was more of a "map needed" thread, now that it is coming i would like to present my ideas on it.

1 groups: with large amounts of ships to be comanded making groups on the fly and managing them should be easy. i suggest making it so you can after having selected a group of 2+ ships you can make them a designated group which takes orders as a group, then you can drag and drop ships onto the actual group you want them in, then they'l fly over to join them. you should also be able to make groups of goups with single ships joining them so you can drag and drop whole wings of fighters to diferent places without having to drag them out of one group and making them another.

2 information: the map should in some way inform you about the general condition of your fleet and it shouldent be just a lifebar or nothing. it can be everything fron triangular warningsigns folowing ships in poor condition to making the fire and black smoke pouring out of the side of your carriers have a red or yelow outline.
there should also be some help in scouting and info gathering, the ability to place some markers (could even be acctual roadflares, or massive ones at least)

3 graphics and art style: i dont know what you are going here but hopefully it wont take away from the awesome graphics we have seen so far.


i dont know how helpful this is but a good map really helps with the playabillity of a game.


{merged threads on tactical map and UI stuff - Gazz}
Post

Re: Tactical Map, Features and UI

#11
Feature: Blow-Up Highlighting

When you mouseover a ship, this ship / model / outline is displayed much larger than to scale.

That way you can much more easily and directly see what you are trying to click. Reading a lot of text labels becomes optional.

The actual mouseover area does not grow so you can still target things beside it.



Feature: Orders While Paused

Maybe I should write this in 15 different colours, underlined, and blinking.
This is super-important to me.

Once you're dealing with fleets, multiple ship types, and 3D positioning, you will be hard pressed to do the admiral thing because in the game, you don't have a staff to deal with all the minutiae of a complex battle.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
Post

Re: Tactical Map and Ship Orders UI

#13
If there's a tactical 3D map, I would want lost contacts displayed as ghosts with a heading arrow.
At mouseover: a dotted line projecting their course at the current time.

The whole contact would then fade out over a few minutes.


Of course, it all depends on how sensors / stealth are implemented. If you can not do anything interesting with this kind of information (like in X3), it would be pointless.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Tactical Map and Ship Orders UI

#14
JoshParnell wrote:[*]Orders while paused. Ability to pause the game without the "game paused" display getting in the way when using the UI. (Intentionally omitted for realism :) )
You made a puppy cry when you rejected this!

Realistic would be to have human-intelligent formation and ship commanders that can understand orders in plain text.
If the player has to use a game UI in realtime instead, the UI itself becomes the enemy and the game one of finding the best way of defeating the UI.

Fleets in X3 are only manageable because of the thousands of man hours that the S&M crowd invested in UI and AI.
In vanilla X3, fleets are largely pointless because there is no way you can hope to maintain and control them.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.

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