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New User Interface

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dgreen02

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So I've been spending most of my time this last week re-writing the user interface. Before I was using a windows-like-interface which was quite cumbersome and un-intuitive. I've taken a more standard approach with the new interface.

Instead of having 12 windows I've compressed the same functionality into essentially 5 command windows -
- Weapons Market / Inventory
- Vehicle Dealership
- Business Manager / Territory Overview
- Drug Market
- Diplomacy

Instead of using a windows-like-interface, it uses a more streamlined interface where only 1 window is visible at a time, and I think it looks a lot more slick, is more intuitive, and is surely a move in the right direction. Another nice touch is that the window interface is animated so it slides out of the side of the screen as you change command windows ;-) Also you now drag&drop the drugs/weapons/vehicles from your inventory directly the game world.

Here is the raw image of the new overlay that will sit at the bottom of the screen and contains the 'Money / Respect / Gang Size / Vehicle Count' stats, as well as a mini-map which displays territory information and the exact field-of-view of the user's camera.



Also this new User-Interface scales with screen resolution changes to maintain a constant size. I had noticed a major bottleneck in the game's rendering, because DrawText() and DrawSprite() calls were intermixed things were slowing down a lot, so I now render them in separate passes and the frame-rate went up by about 10. That alone would have required essentially re-writing the user-interface.

By consolidating the inventory and weapons market into a single window things are much smoother. Before you'd have to buy a weapon in the weapons market -> open the gang manager, drag + drop it into a gangsters inventory, and then select that gangster. There were many problems with this, for instance there was no correlation between the gangster's world position through the gang manager window. The new way to equip gangsters will be to drag + drop the weapons from the inventory causing the cursor to change into whatever gun you clicked on, then you just drag + drop it into the game world.

This is how vehicles will work as well, when you buy a vehicle you can place it anywhere in your territory by dragging and dropping it, same with drugs. Whenever you purchase a drug from the drug market it will be placed in your inventory. Purchasing drugs / vehicles for your gang will probably be more infrequent than purchasing weapons, which is why I decided to combine it with the inventory screen. I mean you could be a successful gang by just walking places, and extorting businesses I suppose...you don't need drugs or cars to be a successful gang [grin].

Some early screenshots -




Here are 3 more screenshots of the new interface, I've still got a lot of work to do.

There are still a lot of things I'm not happy with in these screenshots, things will probably change a lot. The font that is used to display the gang stats isn't as good as it can be ;-) There are some other things that look 'off' to me right now, but just getting functionality in there is my main concern at the moment.







I still have 3 windows to finish, so that's what I'm going to be doing for the next few days, I think the new UI is a step in the right direction.

- Dan
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Way better, I think I mentioned months before that I wasn't happy with the interface, especially all the windows, but this is a good step in making playing easier and more fun. I'm not a fan of the blackness of the windows though and the heavy white glow around the title and button text don't fit well with the rest of the clean and really nice lower part of the interface (which in my opinion looks really great!). I recommend using a lighter color, maybe some textured/brushed metal in light gray and an even lighter, whitish background for the main parts of the interface (for example the texture of a sheet of paper) and a blue or black text color. Good readability is important, you don't want to tire your players out by making these parts hard to understand.

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Yeaaa it might be hard to see because the screenshots are so small. I am planning on changing a lot of things around, I'm still not happy with the way the buttons look or some other parts of the windows.

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I suppose this could be considered a little superfluous, but...

Perhaps you could have different backgrounds on the UI for the different gangs. Like I remember seeing an Italian mob style gang in the game. Seeing an graffiti covered industrial brick wall on the UI doesn't quite jive with playing as them. Perhaps each gang could have slightly more custom-tailored UI images, for that immersive feel. It's just a little something extra though, not a deal-breaker.

I like the new UI though. Clicking through 10 windows to do something isn't very fun, especially if you're trying it in real time.

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I suppose this could be considered a little superfluous, but...

Perhaps you could have different backgrounds on the UI for the different gangs. Like I remember seeing an Italian mob style gang in the game. Seeing an graffiti covered industrial brick wall on the UI doesn't quite jive with playing as them. Perhaps each gang could have slightly more custom-tailored UI images, for that immersive feel. It's just a little something extra though, not a deal-breaker.

I like the new UI though. Clicking through 10 windows to do something isn't very fun, especially if you're trying it in real time.

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Yup I was planning on doing that. I wonder what I could make the Italian one look like, I agree grafitti doesn't really fit...

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Looks great, my only complain is that the menu bar is way too big and covers too much of the screen. I feel if you make it a little smaller it would look nicer.

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If you think mine is bad, I guess you never played Age of Empires 3 :-D

http://www.seldik.com/images/aoe3.jpg

Compared to most RTS games out there I'd say my command bar is one of the smallest. Having it down there does give the game a much more traditonal feeling, even if it does take up 20% of the screen's height.

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What's the point of the graffity wall other than using valuable screen estate?
Couldn't you simply display the icons with transparency?

And if you do keep it make sure you don't calculate the 3d scene underneath it, that would be quite a waste :) .

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Well typically most RTS games have some sort of 'themed artwork' on the command bar when nothing is selected, and if you have some information to display in that area, it is overlayed on top of the command bar (territory control percentages for instance, which I just decided to include in the 'Business overview' window instead of right on the interface).

I'm trying to keep a standard RTS feel/look when you're not controlling a gangster. And for me the game has a much better feel with a traditional sized/looking command bar at the bottom of the screen.

As far as re-sizing the 3D world's viewport to fit the screen more closely, of course the thought had crossed my mind....but if I do that I'm unable to use any transparency effects. They might not be used in this particular version of the interface, but I've been kicking around a lot of ideas and some versions include transparent aspects.

I think the grafitti/command bar gives the game a better look, I don't mind the loss of 20% of the screen, especially considering that other RTS games in the past would loose 40% of the screen, and I never minded in those games.

I'm going to be working on this a lot the next few days I'll have more progress soon. Thanks for the comments.

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