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RPG Interface, What to and what not to do...

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#1   Members   -  Reputation: 122


Posted 08 January 2000 - 09:42 PM

If you have read the topic about RPG's (What do you expect from a great RPG?), you are aware that I am part of a Game development project and am interested in outside input regarding the features of the game, and I want to know what you, (I assume, the RPG Gamer or Casual Gamer) like about RPGs, and vise/versa. About the Game: I've been writing a different style of music for the game than the common denomenator, so I hope that goes over well. The music will be a genuine Neo-Classical Form, and also will fit the current position of the player, (If he's crossing an ocean, game will start playing ocean music, etc.) We've also decided on implementing plot, (a "plot engine" ) so there will be a certain degree of linearity in the game, though we are taking many steps to avoid the problems associated with linearity (getting stuck, repetition, lack of freedom, etc.) I am hoping that our recent addition (a Graphics, creative type) will pan out, being that lot's of these guys get bored with long term projects. His work on characters is impressive! Our Maps should be unique, and often using bright colors to add a little more vibrance to the visual appeal. I feel a problem at this point is deciding the specifics of the user interface. Many games have gone to seed because of poor interfaces, and we are quite intent on avoiding this. My question is, what is the optimum balance between having enough features and being cluttered? The interface will also play a big role in character interaction. Would you like to type in text and talk to characters, select a few optional texts, or just sit there and let dialog be done autmatically? Edited by - stviemr on 1/9/00 3:45:25 AM

#2   Members   -  Reputation: 122


Posted 09 January 2000 - 12:51 AM

Ugh, interfaces. It''s a personal thing. Your best bet is find a non-gamer and see how well they do with an experimental interface - this probably means killing the idea of typing in of text, or atleast make it optional by hotkey ala Fallout. You''re right though, a bad interface can kill a good game.

#3   Members   -  Reputation: 122


Posted 10 January 2000 - 02:12 AM

Interface design is so much fun!! And so badly done!!

But if you get it right, as you have clearly identified, it will make a whole load of difference to the game.

In strategy games I like to feel like I have stacks of information to get at, loads of options to set .etc. but in RPG I think it is a different kettle of fish entirely.

I prefer a simpler interface. As ever everything should be easy to get to, and of course intuitive. The character stat screen is paramount, as we all know any RPG gamer is constantly checking to see how far off the next level is or what skill path they might wish to take. Inventory screens are somtimes linked to this, but if not are equally important.

The other important things are probably character actions (talk, fight...), and item use. These should be easily accessible (and clearly depicted) also.

As has been mentioned, so see how intuitive any interface is testing it on a novice to the RPG gaming world is a good way to go. See what mistakes they make, and most importantly which mistakes they continue to repeat. These should draw out the weaknesses in the interface.

Oh, when it comes to talking a choice of options is probably best. If you give between three and five options (in general) you should give the player enough scope for personal choice, but be able to keep your code manageable. Maybe use free text communication for multi-player games.

Hope some of that has been useful.


#4   Members   -  Reputation: 110


Posted 10 January 2000 - 02:51 AM

Here's an odd thought that I have only seen done in Unreal so far. Mimic some of the better interface features of Windows in your game. When I talk about this to people they look at me like a deer in headlights, but if you think about it, it sorta makes sense. Everyone is familiar with windows. This gives your GUI a jumpstart as long as it behaves predictably. I have though about using the right click everywhere for my online RPG. I would love to be able to right click an object on the ground and see familiar uses in a menu such as wear, get, give, destroy, use, ... Right click on a person and you can look at inventory, give them an item, ... All of this could be based off of a single piece of the windows style GUI. At present my team is coming up with other windows GUI features that could be effectively used in a game. Thats just my $0.02. Hope it helps.


ps Please spare me the flames on the intuitiveness and design of the windows GUI. I was going for familiarity here and not esoteric design quality. Windows is familiar to just about every good or bad design.

Edited by - kressilac on 1/10/00 9:07:10 AM

#5   Members   -  Reputation: 122


Posted 10 January 2000 - 04:14 AM

Context sensitive popup sort of ui is definatlely good in my opinion. When playing a game, I like to have as much of the screen real estate taken up by the actual gameplay area, with only minimal space taken up by any ui display.

Planescape: Torment does a fairly good job of this. While you still have your character portraits on the bottom row, there isn''t alot there. If you need access to any advanced features, you simply right click, giving you the interaction dialog.

Having any necessary text appear on the playing field (Torment also did this..) also was nice.

While I thought some parts of the interface for Torment were a little clunky, I definately liked its spirit.

#6   Members   -  Reputation: 122


Posted 10 January 2000 - 06:20 AM

All very good ideas... Thanks a lot.

I took note of the "Ability to right click on things" idea, because I agree it is a windows sort of concept that even novice gamers will be able to appreciate. I figure it will not be difficult to implement. Throw in some neat-looking popup menu and have it return the values of whatever region the player had clicked on. Simple and effective... I like.

We will optimize the player''s Graphical view of the RPG world somehow. One way to do this would be to simply allow a smaller space for the stats and options screen to one side or at the top, or we could even make a shaded, transparancy window, thus the play screen would not end when the menu began, it would just appear "under" the menu.

Back to the "Right-Click feature", if this is done right, it could eliminate the need for many features once dropped on the menu in older games. We could simple display the stats in a shaded window, (which the player could toggle on or off) and let the mouse or keyboard do the work. The only problem with this is that the user may not like having to keep switching between keyboard and mouse and vise/versa, and when we began design, we planned on a keyboard based game. If anyone has an idea on how to avoid that mishap, let me know...

Thanks again for the helpful input.

#7 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:


Posted 12 January 2000 - 12:16 PM

This is not intended to be a flame...

I''ve read your posts, stviemr, and I just want to point out a few things that strikes me as standing out about your project.

I think the most important thing in make a game is having great ideas and have people that can implement designs that are interesting and different from the others. So far, you give me a feeling that you have absolutely no coherent thoughts on how your game should be like. You are asking for random inputs and hopefully and mesh them together and create something that can be called a game.

Inputs from the gamers are a plus, but before you decide to take up a project, I think you as the designer, game writer should have a clear understanding of the tasks ahead. Asking gamer''s opinions on misc things like interface etc shows that you have not planned anything out yet. You are just moving along and hoping that somehow everything will fit together later before the end.

One word of advise, I think the best thing for you to do right now is stop for a second, put everything else aside and start a text document and start brainstorming. Once you have a comprehensive design doc, then you can move onto the next phrase which is actually asking opinions and hiring programmers, artists, musicians.

A obsecure question such as "what makes a rpg great" is too broad. If you want to use that as a starting point for your project, the chances are that you won''t succeed. Each person has his/her own view of what makes a rpg great. It will be impossible for you to have a game that pleases everyone. If you are trying to please everyone, then in the end, the game will fail. Your job as the designer should have your own view of what make a good game and most importantly what will make your game stand out and attract other people.

Sorry I kept going on and on, but I think that in order to succeed as an independent/amateur developer, you need to start with an small organized project instead of just collecting pieces as you go and hope for the best.

#8   Members   -  Reputation: 122


Posted 12 January 2000 - 04:06 PM

Sir(or Madam), I will say the "Father Knows Best" tone of your message does make me a little nauzious. (Not intended to be a flame)

I do agree with your point about compiling a solid draft of the design on paper. This game has been (until recently) a somewhat disorganized project, so you made a good inferrence in your post. We do wish the game to be a success, but we also are people who lead different lives. (i.e. Some of us work Full-time jobs and have families which we devote a lot more time to than Game Development.)
Before we compile a full design, I would like to have some ideas or possible directions to go in, such as a rough drawing of an interface screen or some possibilities for plot development.
From the postings on this site, I have gotten miscellanious feedback that has helped in the conceptual design immensely. (In case you were unaware, These postings have been up since December or so.)
I also posted these messages because I enjoy discussing the subject.
My advise to you is, don't judge a book by its cover.

"One does not criticise anything that is functioning. A nose is not manufactured, a nose just is, thus too, my art."
-Igor Stravinsky

*In Defense, my team and I DO have many coherent and interesting ideas that is the "stuff" we will use to piece together the game. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to more or less "spill my guts" on the very kernels of the game, because, someone else could obviously use them as their own, and then the thousands of hours logged in on this project would be in vain.
My point in these messages is merely to get some ideas from a random source. In Other Words, expanding our pond of ideas to include a much larger number of thinkers... Of course, it comes down to our own byass and opinion as to what the game will be. This has been EXTREMELY helpful to us, And I do not think it at all a waste of my time or anyone elses...

Edited by - stviemr on 1/12/00 10:11:31 PM

Edited by - stviemr on 1/12/00 10:31:48 PM

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