Monday, June 3, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I have a philosophy when it comes to UI, especially on mobile devices. I think the fewer the button pushes it takes to get a user somewhere, the better. I don't like wasted space, and I don't like 'back' buttons. The more tiers you have, the more likely a user will get lost in your menus.

That's why, on a Blu-ray or DVD you will often find that selecting an audio option jumps you right to subtitles. And Selecting a subtitle option often jumps you to 'play movie.' The reason being is that's probably where you're gonna go next. This minimizes user input and is just good intuitive design.

Personally, I start by choosing 'scene selections' and then pick chapter 1. Why? Because it skips a lot of warning cards and logos. That's a free tip. You're welcome.

So, I wanted the UI for our game to have one menu. All buttons visible at the bottom of the screen at all times. No matter where you are in the menus, you can always get to where you want to go. In one button push - it's right in front of you. The worst menus I ever experienced were the crafting menus in Final Fantasy XIV. I kid you not, there were around 9 tiers you had to go through to craft one item. When you were finished, you had to back out of each tier. There was no 'close all' option. Terrible UI design.

What they should have done was had the same button that opened the menu close all tiers. Say if it's 'C' to open the Crafting menu - you navigate through it, open a bunch of tiers, etc. - then you just hit 'C' again and they should all go away. I played that game with a combination of a controller and the keyboard & mouse. They had made the game with the controller in mind, but honestly it's difficult to have standard MMO controls conform to a controller's setup.

For our game, people argued against me saying that a 'main menu' with a big 'ole "play" button on it would be more intuitive to users. And if they go to a sub-menu, hiding all other options would make their choices easier, and having a 'back' button would fulfill their need to know that their selections were registered.

I could definitely see the point in their argument. I likened it to the system settings in Macs vs. PCs. On a Windows machine, I'll often hit the 'Apply' button before hitting 'Ok.' Either way works, I'm just a bit OCD about it. On a Mac, if you go into System Preferences and change a  setting, it's done. There is no 'Ok' button. You made the change, you obviously knew what you were doing when you chose it, so it is finalized at that moment.

I find the second method to be more clean. There are no erroneous button pushes. But, as was pointed out to me numerous times, the average user wants a certain set up. They're comfortable with it. And I had to agree that while my way may be the best for me, it is not for everybody.

Another thing I had to contend with was some art criticism. I've probably never had my art critiqued. Well, except for film projects, and they were always given an A+. Lots of people wanted to be on my crew. I really credit Gavin's writing for all that; I just pointed the camera at things and had a knack for editing.

I remember from friends who majored in art that the way to react to criticism is to just shut your mouth and take it all in. Don't try to justify or argue; although I found myself explaining a couple of things. It was very humbling. A lot of people I showed my work to really liked it; it all just boils down to tastes and what one is used to seeing. I refined my work based on the criticisms it received and ended up making most of the adjustments. A large portion of the work was going over the edges of the image with fill paths to give them more natural strokes. There were over 700 paths in the Illustrator doc at one point, so there's a lot going on in there.

Skeleton images from Sorcerer's Odyssey.

 As an aside, I've been learning to code in C#. It's been a long time since I've written any code, like since 1998 when I did C++; so I'm basically just starting over. I have some simple game ideas I could probably pull off with a couple weeks' worth of work, so I want to pursue those in my spare time.

Learning to compromise is a big part of making games for a corporate entity. You have to navigate around the wants of the people paying you, as well as what the programmers are willing to do. A large part of my job is managing people by influence rather than authority. That means I need to be able to bend as much as I ask others to bend for me.


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