Our current round of updates have focused very heavily on our user interface – and there is a very good reason for this. (Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post titled “One Click, One Kill” for more on this!) We really want the user interface itself to reflect our game, and also to be user friendly at the same time.
To this end we’ve spent a lot of time looking at new users interactions with the game – not an easy challenge when you consider there is a finite amount of people who are new to the game. If the user can’t figure the action out within three seconds of us asking him or her to accomplish it, the element in question gets careful reconsideration for improvement.
In one of our old games, a series of drop downs let you fire a torpedo. This was changed later to a list of buttons, but this list of buttons was not anywhere near to the targeting box. This meant that when selecting a target on the combat grid, you were two or three hundred pixels away from the box you needed to click on to fire a torpedo at your target.
We’ve fixed all of this with floating HUDs, which we are not quite ready to show you yet, but which look pretty damned cool.
The way the floating HUDs work is very simple – a red circle is oriented around every enemy ship on the map and on your mouse hovering over that target, a simple “Select Target” button becomes available. Clicking this will lock your ship onto that target – henceforth all weapons fired will zero in on that target, and that target alone. A red text box will tell you if you are out of range, and change to green (immediate visual feedback) when you enter range, and a the “Select Target” button will become a “Fire Button” that when clicked, translates into a dropdown menu where you can select which tube to fire.
We’ve gone from a one second delay between targeting and firing to a zero second delay – and an unintuitive user experience has changed to something even a child could grasp simply. While a one second delay doesn’t seem like very much, if there are ten ships in the fleet you’re engaging that’s ten lost seconds to shoot at each of them once – twenty to shoot at them twice, and more if you’re also engaged in other actions with your ship (which we desperately hope you are – this is a stealth game, not a charge in and start firing! [Developers Note: You have to wait for SSF for that!]).
Friday we’ll be posting another update about some of the more passive systems you use and how we’ve been updating the UI to more properly handle them.
Until then, Sink Enemy Shipping!