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If a machine has a switch with the word "On" next to it,
what does that mean to you?

a) Flipping the switch will turn it on.
b) Flipping the switch will turn it off.

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Re:

What are the possible configurations?

A) The switch lever is pointing left. The label is in the middle above the switch.

B) The switch lever is pointing down. The label is above the lever.

C) The switch lever is pointing up. The label is below the lever.

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For me:

A. Meaningless.

B and C: Flipping the switch will turn the machine on in both cases.

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Short answer: B


Long answer:
From a logical view the lever should point down in the default state (off). The reason is quite simple, because everything is falling down . So the (secure) default state should be pointing down so that there will be only a small chance of activating it by accident.

To underline it a "on" label above the lever will help to identify the meaning of a lever (lever pointing to label = desired action).

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c) Without further information this is ambiguous; my presumption without any additional information however would be that the machine performs a single action when turned "on", and that flipping the switch will cause that action to be carried out. i.e. without further information I would assume that the switch is a single-action device rather than a toggle. For example, if we were looking at a donut machine, flipping the switch would produce a donut, and flipping it again would produce another donut.


The first potential source of additional information I would look for is what state the machine currently appear to be in? If I can see it working I would assume it is already on, and therefore that the switch would turn it off. If I can not see that it is working I would look to see whether or not I would likely to be able to tell - are there exposed parts that would obviously be doing something when the machine is on, or is it completely enclosed.

Assuming I need/want to find out the answer and that the consequences aren't overly bad -- or that the consequences are bad but I must know how the switch works, I would try the switch and see what happens.

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Make the switch red/green. If you see it being green it mean it is on, if you click it it changes to red which means it is off. You will never get confuzed by colours, while on/off is more tricky and the answer depends on a person.

It also matters how you draw the switch. If it's Off+On and the On part looks "pressed" then it means it is on.

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All important flipswitches such as for example fault-current circuit breakers or switches on machinery generally operate in a "up is on" fashion.
Add to this that "press" usually means "on" for sunken buttons and "off" for elevated buttons.

Those conventions ensure that you can always instantly (without having to think) stop a machine or turn off the current. Even if you fall unconscious and literally drop onto the switch, it will turn off the current, which is normally (very few exceptions) considered "on the safe side".

This is normally the case for "unimportant" switches too, although there are exceptions. Many people have their light switches installed in the wrong sense because they think it looks better and because dust does not accumulate so much on the protruding edge (since most switches are "off" for a longer time than "on").
And of course, in a two-changeover-switch configuration, one switch's function depends on the status of the other. If they point in the same direction, regardless of whether that's up or down (assuming one of them is not installed upside down), the current is on, otherwise off.

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Quote:
Original post by Acharis
Make the switch red/green. If you see it being green it mean it is on, if you click it it changes to red which means it is off. You will never get confuzed by colours, while on/off is more tricky and the answer depends on a person.

It also matters how you draw the switch. If it's Off+On and the On part looks "pressed" then it means it is on.


But red is not Always off. Many dangerous and critical systems have red as the 'on' state, and it is "Warning, this thing is on and you are in danger!"

See firearms and fire control systems. When the green light is on, the system is in 'safe' mode. Green is good, and not accidentally shooting yourself or a buddy is good. Red means you're dead. If you see red, it means the system is live and you should pay attention to it.

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The most clear configuration:

The switch has two labels, one "On" and one "Off". The lever always point to either one of the labels. When the lever points toward "Off", it means that the machine is off, and flipping the lever to the "On" position will turn on the machine.

In this configuration, if the lever is so long that it covers one of the labels, the visible label is always on the opposite side of the lever. Therefore, the visible label always show the effect of the switch when the lever is flipped.

In summary:
o When you see "On" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine ON
o When you see "Off" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine OFF


Another common configuration:

This switch also has two labels, but one of the label is always hidden by the cover of the lever. As a result, when the lever is pointing down, you can only see the word "Off" above its base. When the lever is pointing up, you can only see the word "On" below its base.

These switches are designed to tell you the state of the machine. When you see "Off", it means that the machine is currently off, and vice versa.

In summary:
o When you see "On" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine OFF
o When you see "Off" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine ON

I think this second configuration is messed up because the label, which corresponds to the state of the machine is always opposite to the direction of the lever.

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Quote:
Original post by Wai

The most clear configuration:

The switch has two labels, one "On" and one "Off". The lever always point to either one of the labels. When the lever points toward "Off", it means that the machine is off, and flipping the lever to the "On" position will turn on the machine.

In this configuration, if the lever is so long that it covers one of the labels, the visible label is always on the opposite side of the lever. Therefore, the visible label always show the effect of the switch when the lever is flipped.

In summary:
o When you see "On" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine ON
o When you see "Off" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine OFF


Another common configuration:

This switch also has two labels, but one of the label is always hidden by the cover of the lever. As a result, when the lever is pointing down, you can only see the word "Off" above its base. When the lever is pointing up, you can only see the word "On" below its base.

These switches are designed to tell you the state of the machine. When you see "Off", it means that the machine is currently off, and vice versa.

In summary:
o When you see "On" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine OFF
o When you see "Off" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine ON

I think this second configuration is messed up because the label, which corresponds to the state of the machine is always opposite to the direction of the lever.


This is really a mode-of-thinking problem, as you've outlined it in the situations where the lever is long enough to cover a label. The question is whether you're focusing on the lever itself or the machine that it affects.

The first configuration you list describes the effect of flipping the lever; the information conveyed by the label pertains to the lever and its operation.

The second configuration describes the state of the machine; the information conveyed by the label describes the machine itself and not the function of the lever.

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Quote:
Original post by Wai

Another common configuration:

This switch also has two labels, but one of the label is always hidden by the cover of the lever. As a result, when the lever is pointing down, you can only see the word "Off" above its base. When the lever is pointing up, you can only see the word "On" below its base.

These switches are designed to tell you the state of the machine. When you see "Off", it means that the machine is currently off, and vice versa.

In summary:
o When you see "On" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine OFF
o When you see "Off" and you flip the lever, it turns the machine ON

I think this second configuration is messed up because the label, which corresponds to the state of the machine is always opposite to the direction of the lever.


I'm an manufacturing engineer that programs PLCs for proprietary equipment. This second configuration is the norm, especialy anything related to electrical engineering. "messed up" or not, its the same principal behind the LEDs on your computer, monitor, modem, router, harddrive, game console, etc. informing you that the device is turned "on".

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Re: MSW

I guess the exception is emergency stop buttons, where the label says "stop" and it corresponds to the function of the button instead of status of the machine.

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Another example:

Say you have a long lever that can be turned to open or close a hatch. If turning it to the 3o'clock position will open the hatch, do you put the label "Open" at 3 o'clock or at 9o'clock? On the emergency door of an airplane, the label would be put at 3o'clock, corresponding to where the lever needs to go open the door. This kind of configuration shows the current state, the possible states, and the action needed to get to a different state.

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Quote:
Original post by Wai
Re: MSW

I guess the exception is emergency stop buttons, where the label says "stop" and it corresponds to the function of the button instead of status of the machine.



Depends on the machine. Industrial injection molding, C&C machines and whatnot. The "stop" button typicaly halts the active process, which isn't the same as turning the machine "off".
And for some of the smaller scale machines we build for assembly lines. The emergency "stop" button is a push/pull switch that acts like a breaker for the whole machine...So to turn the machine "on" at the start of a shift, you pull the big red button marked 'emergency stop' which in turn lights up red indicating the machine has power.

What does this have to do with game design anyway?


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Human-Computer Interface design. This is very much related to game design for information display.

Personally I prefer switches that are labeled On and Off, visible at all times, and the switch points to which state the system is currently in.

This offers the lowest level of confusion, as all states are shown, and a big arrow pointing to the current one is fairly easy to understand.

If you see a switch and only one label you have to ask yourself "Is that label the function it is currently in, or is it the function that happens when I press it?"


On the note of real world equipment, emergency buttons are generally designed to be pressed as easily as possible. "Something goes wrong? Slap the big red button labeled 'Emergency'!"

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Yes, obviously. We have dozens of way to turn on machines anymore. From the near "universal" circle with a vertical slash "power" icon on touch-on/touch-off switches on electronics. To the good old throw switch...It's the OPs focus with such throw switch types that makes me curious - as if this intrests relates to something specific like a game puzzle design.

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I was wondering whether people have an intuitive preference thinking in terms of the actions, or the state.

I ran into that problem a few times when I have modes that the player could activate or deactivate. It usually happens when I try to make the interface more elegant.

In one game, to pause the game, the player could click on the icon with two vertical bars. Once that is clicked, the game is paused, and the icon changes into a triangle. When it is clicked again the game resumes. So the icon of the button shows its action instead of the state of the game.

However, somehow that arrangement looks weird because when the game is running, the player sees an icon that means pause. If I don't show the icon, the player wouldn't know that they could pause the game. Is there a better arrangement?

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One thing you should consider is "how do other common systems represent this?" For example, in iTunes right now, I have a song playing and the "Play/Pause" button shows the pause symbol. When I click it, it pauses the song and changes to the play symbol. Windows Media Player, YouTube, etc. all act the same way. In this case, it's intuitive that when I click a button with a pause symbol it puts the system into a suspended (but resume-able) state because that's what it does in the majority of other systems.

My dad has a TV where there's a red light that turns ON to indicate that the TV is OFF. This drives me nuts as almost literally every other device with an indicator light operates in the exact opposite manner.

On the iPhone, when you have a slide toggle, it's label shows it's current state. I'm sure if they had both state labels, Apple would have chosen to have the toggle switch closer to the active state.

The best method to use depends on the context it's used in, and how others did it in a similar context. Make the controls behave in ways the user is familiar with. Don't change it unless you truly know it's better (or you're doing UI design research).

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The worst example I can think of is a push-button toggle with the word "on" printed on it. Does pushing the button turn it on, or is it currently on? It's a poor setup.

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I hate the red LED also. I know it is meant to tell me that the unit is plugged in, but some of them don't even label "standby", it is just next to the power button.

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Quote:
as if this intrests relates to something specific like a game puzzle design.


One thing I don't quite know how to express in the last few posts is how puzzle games tend to require more thinking in terms of the state than the action. To have a narrow example, imagine a simplistic RPG where the player kills monsters.

To the player, all monsters have only two states: either alive or dead. The player always want the monster dead, and himself alive. All of the player's decisions are done to maintain this configuration (i.e. Monster->Dead. Self->Alive).

When a game start to get more puzzle elements, the goal of the game tends to expand in a particular way. The goal requires the player to imagine more configuration. For example, maybe a monster is require to stay alive to keep an even stronger monster from coming out. Then, the game introduces a situation where the player doesn't want all monsters to die.

According to this, if you want to add more puzzle to a game, you could identify the configuration of state where the player assumes to make decisions on the actions, then add rules/behaviors so that there are more desirable configurations.

How else might one add puzzles (i.e. more thinking) to an RPG?
a) Add minigame or side quests that have nothing to do with the monster-hunting sessions
b) Add elemental bonuses to actions, so that an action is more potent to certain monster.
c) Limit the number of skills a player character can have, so the player needs to team up with others and figure out what combinations work well.
d) Add status effects and required supplies for actions, such as requiring arrows, bullets, or make weapons take damages and require repairing.

Is there a meaningful distinction?

When you look at a switch, do you think more in terms of what you want to do, than in terms of what it is currently doing? Do you prefer games where the desired state is obvious, and you choose your actions; or where the goal is defined, but the desired state is not, and you have to figure out how things ought to be before you can decide the actions?

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It's also culture, in some countries down on a light switch is "on" eg here in Oz, and up is "on" in some countries, eg in the US.

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Quote:
Original post by kal_jez
It's also culture, in some countries down on a light switch is "on" eg here in Oz, and up is "on" in some countries, eg in the US.


No, you just keep installing them upside down.

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Quote:
Original post by kal_jez
It's also culture, in some countries down on a light switch is "on" eg here in Oz, and up is "on" in some countries, eg in the US.
Well, sure, it's down from your point of view, but you're in the southern hemisphere, and therefore upside-down.

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Quote:
Original post by Wai

If a machine has a switch with the word "On" next to it,
what does that mean to you?

a) Flipping the switch will turn it on.
b) Flipping the switch will turn it off.


B

Quote:
Original post by Wai
What are the possible configurations?

A) The switch lever is pointing left. The label is in the middle above the switch.

B) The switch lever is pointing down. The label is above the lever.

C) The switch lever is pointing up. The label is below the lever.


A) B
B,C) Not enough information. I'm inclined to say B because this is how light switches are labeled. But if the label isn't on the actual lever, then A.

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