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Dak Lozar

Can good gameplay exist w/ a poor interface?

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I''ve been coaxed into play EverQuest (EQ)... again. A few of my friends have been playing this game for some time. I on the other hand had been playing Ultima Online(UO). I played UO for exacltly 3 years and had played Asheron''s Call (AC) and EQ during this period. I didn''t like EQ because of the interface and I didn''t like AC because of the lack of play. This discussion is not about the multiplayer aspects of these games, I''m simply using these three games as a point of reference. As I said, I''ve been playing EQ for about a week this time. And the thing that frustrates me the most about this damn game is the GUI. I''m convinced that the thing was designed by idiots- and even worse, it makes smart people adapt to it. My friend Kressilac is a very smart guy (at least, I think so) and yet, he has adapted to the game in a way that makes me think just a little less of him Kressilac says that using the keyboard (or hotkeys) illiminates much of the interface woes. But, as a player of UO, and a long time computer user, I tend to like pointing and clicking. I first started on Unix and shell based OSes and enjoy some of the benifits from a shell or a CLI, but in a game, I want to point and click darn you! Is the gameplay enough to make you adapt to the UI? And should gameplay be enough to allow people to overlook a poorly designed interface? IMO, the two are connected and good gameplay with a poor interface is poor overall. Just as poor gameplay with a good interface is poor overall in my book. How many of you (if any) are playing EQ and tollerate the interface? Even if you haven''t played EQ, what''s your thinking on this? Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser

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Well, interface is consistently rated as one of the most important things for any computer application. Hell, for about anything period. I hate microwaves where I have to press the cook/time/whatever button instead of just punching the damn numbers. I want it to cook for 1 minute. What else would I pushing these damn number buttons for, it's a microwave, not a calculator!

Example, if I programmed a version of chess, and yet, you have to click on the select unit button before selecting a unit, and then click the move button before moving, regardless of whether it is the smartest/best looking etc... version, its going to suck.

BUT, rules are different from interface. If an RTS has intriguing strategic possibilities, even strange interface behavior, such as difficult camera controls, can be overlooked, or dealt with if there is enough depth in the game, and the interface is bareable.

So I'd say, that as long as the interface difficulties are quirks. Or minor nuisances, and gameplay is good enough, it is dealable. But nothing hurts a game (or microwave) worse than a poorly laid out interface.


Edited by - Potsticker on November 28, 2000 2:21:04 PM

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Never played EverQuest. But just the same I have to say, yes, gameplay is enough to make me adapt to the UI. But to a point. If I had to use the chess interface Potsticker just described, I wouldn''t bother. I could tolerate entering in coordinates on the keyboard, but not so many mouse clicks.

I''d say that for me, if the gameplay rated say an 8 and the interface was a 2 then I would probably make an effort to adapt. Or any combination that balanced out to 10. Assuming of course I was remotely interested in trying the game in the first place.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Ever played chess via mail with no graphics? Lousy interface. Game''s still the same, though.

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Never played EQ either, but I dug up some old early 90''s / late ''80s games which had IMO awesome gameplay. Starflight was one of them, X-Com another. In both, you have to go through a rack of buttons just to get anything done. Starflight doesn''t even have mouse support, and to make things worse there are nested menus that don''t wrap!!!

I found the interface irritating, but the gameplay compelling, and played for many hours.

A guess a really important factor would be how much competition a game had. Chess isn''t such a good example, because there are many well made shareware and commercial games out there. MM games are a bit more constricted, as at least for MMORPGs with first person perspective there are only 2, I think, right? And games like Starflight, or Master of Magic, or X-Com are even better, because no one is really making games of that quality anymore, so your really have little choice if you really want to play.

So if it were something like an RTS or FPS, bad UI would probably kill you. But with something more rare (a hardcore wargame or science fiction RPG?) you probably could get away with less polish.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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As a player, I can tolerate poor interface, if- as many have said- the gameplay is totally spectacular. Like Wav mentioned, this has alot to do w. competition. If the game is one-of-a-kind, I am far more likely to put up w. poor interface, than if the game is a clone. I do not play Mortal Kombat, and would not play it for free, simply because the interface is unintuitive and there are such better options for vs. fighting games.

However, as a designer, I _will_not_ tolerate poor interface. On the game I''m working on now, there were four distinct modes of play. The fourth mode was probably the most exciting, but there was no way I could make the interface conform to the style of the other three modes, so the fourth mode got the axe. No questions, no tradeoffs. Done. (Specifically, the fourth mode was side-scrolling while the other three were isometric, but the interface issues went deeper than that)

If you see the Buddha on the road, Kill Him. -apocryphal

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I am no programmer but I do belive that a good interface is what keeps as game playable. it is all well and fine to make a killer 3d graphics engine or really fast and lush 2d shit but if the player has nothing to look at, it will not be a very enjoyable experience. I am an artist and to tell you the truth, makeing the game interface is almost an art on its own. you want it to be simple and easy to read but it also needs to reflect the game well and make it all fit together well. I have never liked how some games have passed off interfaces (Quake 3).
Actully i really liked the interface of need for speed high stakes.it was really well done. im speaking of the pc version. another good one is legend of mana. it is simple, only showing a few things that are easy to read and it is very very effective. your interface should never draw your attention from the things that are happening in the game. some have tried to do this by making them translucent. in my mind, that is only good to a degree as it can still get in the way given a chance. i dont know. I would go for the smallest on screen data displays possible and not only that, they need an artistic touch to make them non intrusive.

I am not text, I am not organized pixels, I am not killed by turning off your monitor, I am not isolated by turning off your computer. I just am.

Conshape Electronic Arts


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Guest Anonymous Poster
text based MUDs

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