Two tasks complete- the game screen is resizable, and the map display takes up the entire screen. The next big challenge is to decide how I’m going to arrange the UI components.
The Original Layout
This is what we’re starting with. Much of the screen is filled with blank space. The map takes up a little over half of the visible area. It is clearly a product of the 90s, if not earlier.
Idea #1: Ultimate Layout
In this layout, styled after a game I may have played far too much of in my childhood, all the UI components get shoved over to the right hand side of the screen. When the mecha control menu is active it takes space from the top half of the message console. This display scales well as the screen gets bigger since the height of the message console can always be increased.
One problem is that because of the shape of the isometric tiles, horizontal screen space is more valuable than vertical screen space. At 800×600 you can see further up and down than you can left and right. Even at 1366×743, you can see one tile extra in the vertical direction than in the horizontal. Also, it may just be because I’m not used to this layout yet, but I often missed messages popping up in the console.
Idea #2: Wizard Layout
In this version, also named after an RPG of yesteryear, the interface is scrunched to the bottom of the screen. The message console retains its original position, while the character info display gets cut down to just the most important info and moved to the lower left corner.The panels are transparent so they don’t block the map display.
Originally, I planned for the mecha control menu to appear to the right of the message console, but I’m not sure that’s the best place for it. Another option would be to extend the message console to the full width, and stick the mecha control menu above the PC’s head as needed, as shown below:
Is that a weird idea, or do you think it works? The control menu would probably also be semi-transparent.
As the window size changes, the Wizard layout UI elements remain centered at the bottom. Personally, I think this looks better than the Ultimate layout since the play area covers the entire screen. It also has the advantage that it’s basically the same interface as used in GearHead-2. One concern is that it may not be easy to read text on the semi-transparent panels. My other concern is what to do with the mecha control menu.
So, what do you think? Please vote for your favorite layout in the comments.
Maybe you could replace the Walk, Run, Turn, etc. text buttons to graphical icons of a man walking, a man running, etc.?
Also, in the old 4:3 CRT days, I preferred having stuff centered on the bottom. But with today’s widescreen maybe you be wasting some of the most important parts of the screen?
If you want to examine a similar case where the developer had to make the same choices, you could compare old school Avernum with new school avernum.
Both of the approaches have merit. Would it be possible to combine them? As in, use the Ultimate Layout for character info/mecha commands, and then have the message console minimized and pop up Wizard style when needed? Notifications that the player considers to be important would benefit from the eye-catching dialog box you used for the Wizard mecha command example. Thematically, it could be justified by the fact that every player is likely to have some form of phone or computer on their character’s body.
Tough decision! Though I’d say Wizard is better since the messages would have enough room to reduce the overall number of line breaks compared to what you’d have in a side-oriented log. That and you don’t really have to worry about transparency being a problem for some players (it will be)–just make that a variable adjustable in the options for those who need it. You also may as well make the UI block draggable so that players can put it where they want when fullscreened, into their preferred corner, for example.
The pop-up window would be great for seeing enemy status!
The centered wizard looks best to me.
I like the both the “ultimate” and “wizard” layouts (the latter in version with mecha commands being available in the lower right corner – the popup covers a bit of battlefield and generally seems unwieldy to me by comparison).
I’d have to say wizard. More screen space than the rest, no information lost. As long as it’s readable, it’s good.
I like the wizard layout myself. Also, while I’m here just wanted to say thanks so much for making the Gearhead games. I’ve been a huge fan for a number of years, and just spent the (entire) weekend playing your new version. Thanks for all the entertainment.
Depends heavily on monitor size, I think, but I really do like the semitransparent Wizard one.
A problem I have with the reduction of visible character stats is that it offers very limited UI space for buffs/debuffs and of course knowing that your stats just tanked. Happened to me in GH2 way too often when I was brute-forcing Mecha Engineering rolls that I suddenly ended up nearly starved to death because it didn’t refresh the stats while in the engineering UI.
I do prefer Wizard, though a mix of both wouldn’t go amiss, either – say the body-form/HP/status stuff in the top-right, and the log in the lower-left.
Or maybe do what later Ultima games did and let you drag UI elements around to your heart’s content.
Out of the two, I definitely prefer Wizard over Ultimate, but I’d go with something more akin to a modularized version of the classic interface layout, with draggable elements and configurable transparency as Kyzrati suggested.
I’ve taken the liberty of making a Mockup of my own idea. Feel free to ignore it if you don’t like it; it is your game, after all…
That works. There’s still room to place the minimap. (In the bottom right?)
I’m thinking of something like that. For now, the PC’s stats are still shown in the lower left, but when someone else’s stats need to be shown (when targeting, using the look command, or maybe even on mouseover) I plan to have the info panel pop up in the upper right.
Also seriously thinking about how to implement draggable elements.
Are you switching to SDL 2.0?
Not until FreePascal does so first. Some people are working on FPC headers for SDL2, so hopefully one of those projects will be inducted into the free component library.