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Counting objects

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Hello, I am in the process of designing the user interface for a game, and I want a way to allow the player to know the amount of a certain type of object, but without using numbers. I simply feel that displaying N objects (N being small) instead of writing "N" changes the feel of the game towards what I want it to be (use symbols, no text/numbers, to communicate). As such, I wanted to know if anyone had a reference, or maybe good enough keywords, to help me find what range is "automatically" counted by the human brain (for instance, we never have trouble identifying 1, 2, 3 objects, and we can associate fairly easily as well numbers to groups of 4, 5, 6, 7, but is there a definite study for this?) Also, I would be interested to know if placing the objects in a certain shape helps counting (for instance, putting them on a line doesn't, but what way is the best?)

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if you show a stack of items, such as games like "master of orion" did, or any backgammon game in the world does (even the physical board versions :). You will find that the player instantly gets a qualitative assement, but has much more trouble getting a quantitative assesment ... which can be very good or very annoiying, depending.

My example, if changing my tax slider in Civ 2 changes the sizes of my luzery, science, and money output stacks, but i'm trying to micro manage, I HAVE to refer to the numbers, not the stacks, to tell the real diff between 33 and 37 money, and 22 and 23 science - this is NOT visually possibly via the stacks alone, there MUST be numbers to see somewhere. Most games like that put the numbers next to the stacks, but if you game is not meant for micro management, you could make the numbers "pop up" help for the stack, so when you hover over the stack, you see the value.

Note, this is exactly what is done with progress bars (like experience to next level) for most games (such as Warcraft 3).

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Dunno, in some games (Crimsonland, MoHAA - i think & some other) I've seen ammo count shown that way - in a straight line. I had no troubles identifying the count.

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I believe the 'sense of number' goes up to five, seven, at most ten for most people. Of course, certain configurations, such as two groups of five fingers, are instantly recognisable.

If N is smaller than ten, you should probably have no trouble if you just split the objects into two groups of five.

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Look at the patterns of a deck of cards. That goes up to around 10

5:
* *
*
* *

6:
* *
* *
* *

and so on. I think that is a fairly "universal" pattern that people should be able to recognize fairly quickly.

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