I tried out Raduprv's MMORPG, Eternal Lands tonight. I like to try such games once in a while, just to see if perhaps my tastes are changing. What did I determine? Eh, it's ok. I'll probably try it some more tomorrow, after getting a decent amount of sleep.
I played through the first little bit with the help of a "Newbies Guide" on the site. Ignoring the more esoteric problems (it seemed to have to resync with the server fairly frequently, and the framerate was generally poor, but Raduprv's mentioned that he's looking for a strong OpenGL coder, so I guess that's going to improve), it was fairly easy to get into - left-click to walk to a spot on the ground, with the cursor changing to other modes depending on the item you hover over.
So far, almost so good.. one problem I think they may need to work on is that there's no action acknowledgement. It seems that the client must send all actions off to the server, which will then send back the command to have the model start walking or whatever. This means that there can be a delay between clicking and seeing your character do something - sometimes several seconds, I experienced. And because there's no acknowledgement of the click, you're left wondering if the game registered it and that you clicked on a walkable spot and so on... you may well try clicking again, or clicking somewhere adjacent, which just confuses things further as the character starts to move and then changes direction. An acknowledgement is necessary - some kind of sound or something, just to indicate that the command is ok (as far as the client can see) and is being executed. That said, the client has been open-sourced so maybe it'll happen in the near future.
The *other* problem - which we can probably put down to me not reading the game's featurelist beforehand - is that some of the hotspots seemed hideously small. As it turns out, you can orbit the camera around your character - I hadn't realised this, and was looking at certain hotspots side-on (or even from behind), which made things a tad difficult for me. [smile]
Anyway, onto Too Much Information. It seems fairly common in RPGs that you've got a whole load of character stats for each member of your party, and all the monsters have stats, and all the items have stats... and so many RPGs seem determined to throw as much of this information at the player as it possibly can, all at once.
Say you're controlling a party of five people. Each of these people have health, mana, hunger, and fatigue displays. They also have primary weapon, secondary weapon, the five items in their 'potion belt,' their current action, and any special modifiers such as "poisoned" or "blessed."
That's just a fraction of the UI the average RPG seems to present, and yet I ask, why? Why show me the hunger meter if it's not low and we're not in a situation where I might want to know it (i.e. one where food is nearby)? Why show me their primary weapon if we're not in or preparing for a fight? Why show the potion belt when it's empty? And so on and so forth.
What'd be *really* cool would be to have stat meters appear and disappear based on what you're doing at the time. Walk into an area where lots of things are available for harvesting? *Bing*, and your harvest stat fades into the character display. Walk into a shop? *Pouf*, and the amount of gold you're carrying appears. Otherwise, those things should be hidden for general play. Sure, bring them up when the player asks for them - have some screen on which all stats are displayed, in full - but otherwise, minimize the UI. "Auto-Hide." If you felt really enterprising, you could let the player define which statistics he wanted visible on the screen at all times, and which should be made available when important.
I think it's the seven +/- two rule, and it intrigues me that RPGs are as popular as they are when people are actively having to worry about upwards of fifteen elements at a time.