Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

For feedback during the beta-pre-order period for the tower-defense/RTS/management/sim hybrid ww1/2/future game.
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cliffski
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Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby cliffski » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:00 pm

Sooo...
I've fixed another 20 bugs, and am now honing in the unit deployment bar at the bottom of the screen, and how to improve it. I want to know your views. My current view is that it has two problems:

1) It shows ALL your units, so it can get unwieldy if you have designed a whole bunch of them and only wish to use a subset.
2) It has no real definable or logical order to the unit icons, they are all jumbled up.

I need a solution that is:

1) Feasible for a mere coder like me.
2) Easy and obvious to understand for anyone who ignores the manual and just experiments
3) Supports really easy casual play, without custom units as well as hardcore players
4) Works in every screen res down to 1024x768

My gut instinct is that a button on the corner of the bar, which launched a window (and paused the game if required) that let you view a big huge list or grid of all your icons, and let you toggle them on/off individually as being required in this battle, might be an idea. But againm, if you have 100 designs, that's a lot of clicking to turn 90 of them off each time, or not. I can make your choices persistent, but maybe it needs more than that.

All thoughts much appreciated.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby SneakyMax » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:19 pm

I think the easiest and quickest fix right now would be to simply sort the units by their type. Infantry, then light, medium, heavy mechs, then light, medium, heavy tanks (or put lights together, etc), then support units...etc. It doesn't solve the number of units problem though.

For that, I think having an army/battalion system would be best. Again, easiest and simplest for that would be that grid you talk about, which is then saved as an army, and before the battle it just lets you choose that. I think most people would understand that concept. It doesn't make unit designing and saving/loading any better though, and I would love to see that system better integrated with the unit designer.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby snowdrift » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:36 pm

I think, to use an icky term.. that "deck building" is a mechanic that you might want to explore.

i.e. Actually restrict units in a battle to (say) 10, and pre-battle you pick those from your full-screen scrollable, type/name/weight/cost/whatever sorted inventory of all available units.

The reason is that at the moment, I'm actively deleting units just to keep them all on the bar. Using a scrollbar in a game like this isn't something I ever want to do, so to me there's no sane way to use any more units that can fit in the visible area.

One idea that's just occured to me - allow customisation of the unit icons. Either simply by colour - or by allowing user-defined icons, or possibly with small or background versions of badges. Maybe you could have every unit belong to an army division with its own badge, and players can assign units to whatever division they wish. This'd give a lot of flexibility to the user for sorting/management. For example, one person might divide things into laser/flame/projectile, and have a Flamer division with its own badge. Then, in-game all units in that division would have a red badge indicating instantly that they're flame-based.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby snowdrift » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:39 pm

SneakyMax wrote:I think the easiest and quickest fix right now would be to simply sort the units by their type. Infantry, then light, medium, heavy mechs, then light, medium, heavy tanks (or put lights together, etc), then support units...etc.


(sorry) To me that sounds almost the worst way to sort things. It'd mean little-used units would spread out other units, making you have to scroll past them all the time.
It'd also be bad if you had a map where you wanted to use lots of light mechs, and support units .. and had 10 tank designs. You'd be forever flicking between the beginning and end of the list.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby cederic » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:51 pm

Armies are a great idea (and you have the code already written, as it's effectively the manifest on a saved replay) but would need an army creation screen. If you can add that (and it doesn't need to be sophisticated) then it would both solve a chunk of the Unit Deployment Bar issue and also make my desire to control which units are included in an online challenge far easier to implement. Don't constrain the number of unit types in an army though, I suspect people would just mod the constraint straight back out :)

--

Ouch! Just tested 1024x768. Anybody gaming on that needs an upgrade, fast!

--

Anyway.. as an alternative or addition to the army idea, filter buttons! The deployment bar is this shape:

/-----\

So divide that width (whether it's 800pixels for people gaming on netbooks, or 1700pixels for those of us with a little wider screens) by 8 and have eight filter buttons lined along the top or botom that toggle on/off showing light/med/heavy mechs/tanks, infantry and trucks.
For defence, 5 buttons for light/med/heavy turrets, infantry and support stations.

Those buttons don't have to be large, you could make their visibility a toggleable option, and it gives people the ability to show any/all subsets of their unit types as they desire. Maybe a 'show all' and/or 'show none' button in the corner too for added convenience.

Feels a little more intuitive and quicker to use in the heat of battle than a more complex filter approach.

You could also hotkey the number keys (1..8) so that when a number key was hit, only that filter button's units are shown. So you wouldn't need to toggle off heavy tanks and toggle on Medium Mechs, you just hit '3' and it shows you your medium mechs.

--

Sorting: would be nice, but ideally would need to be alphabetical, by value, by unit type, maybe even by weapon type. I'd suggest if you want quick/easy make it alphabetical and people can use a 1-2 letter key at the start of their unit names if they need to sort. (I think it's already alphabetical, but case sensitive and upgrading a unit without changing the name breaks the case)

--

Divisions is a nice idea, and could become part of a two-tier army system. "The Fifth Armor Corps comprises the 28th Lancer Mechs, the Heavy Tank Brigade and misc support units"

--

Different icons is unnecessary if people use a little more variation on colour schemes - I used 23 different unit types in my last attack and they all look different despite using the same four-colour palette.

--

But given the choice, armies! :)
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby Jono » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:57 pm

Maybe have a list of generic units on the bottom (Infantry, Light Tank, Med Tank, etc) and when you click on one it will display all of your units of that type. It isn't a perfect solution, but I can't think of a better way of handling a large number of unique units.

Edit: sorta ninja'd by cederic lol.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby cederic » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:05 pm

Jono wrote:I can't think of a better way of handling a large number of unique units.


I can, but I'm trying to stay pragmatic :)

Another suggestion that might help: Make the mouse-wheel scroll the deployment bar if the cursor is over the bar. That'll annoy people that are trying to zoom the map but the instant feedback makes it easy to correct and also easy to learn. It might prove far easier than clicking the scroll bar (which causes me much pain, as I somehow keep managing to scroll it the wrong way).
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby SneakyMax » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:11 pm

snowdrift wrote:(sorry) To me that sounds almost the worst way to sort things. It'd mean little-used units would spread out other units, making you have to scroll past them all the time.
It'd also be bad if you had a map where you wanted to use lots of light mechs, and support units .. and had 10 tank designs. You'd be forever flicking between the beginning and end of the list.


I guess right now what bugs me the most is having some infantry on one side of the bar, and other infantry on the other side of the bar. I just don't have that many designs I use at once. Like I said, it does nothing about having many units. I didn't think about having little-used units be jumbled up, but that can't be any worse than it is now, can it? Aren't you flicking between the beginning and end anyway right now?
Last edited by SneakyMax on Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby snowdrift » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:13 pm

Hotkeys - nice idea. But I'd rather they could bind to specific units.. and here's why:

If I want to drop 4 different types of unit straight down on deployment squares, I _don't_ want to mouse to the bottom, click, mouse over to the deployment, click, mouse all the way back, click, mouse *back* to where to put it, click... etc. (I had chronic RSI, I know when things are bad for me)
Better would be : press 1. click, press 5, click, press 4, click, press 0, click. Uses both hands, and doesn't require lots of mouse fast-movement=>micro-movement switches.
Exactly the same reasoning as shift-key deployment in my mind.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby cliffski » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:14 pm

cederic wrote:Another suggestion that might help: Make the mouse-wheel scroll the deployment bar if the cursor is over the bar.


It does :D

It clearly needs pointing out to people :D
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby snowdrift » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:16 pm

SneakyMax wrote: Aren't you flicking between the beginning and end anyway right now?


I'm not shifting the bar left/right. I delete units to keep them all on-screen at once.

It's annoying that they're random, but I've been just remembering where units are, as opposed to expecting them to be in any order.. a bit like how I don't expect the P and Q keys to be next to each other on my keyboard :)


Mouse-wheel:
Cliffski - could I request that you try playing for a couple of days without a mouse-wheel..?
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby SneakyMax » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:26 pm

Well I never intended for my idea to be long term, more like a "maybe simple enough to get in the next patch and make things more organized, while working on something more effective for the future". I love your idea of background icons/colors to identify units, and I'm in full support of the army/deck ideas floating around.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby Elric_de_Melnibone » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:31 pm

snowdrift wrote:i.e. Actually restrict units in a battle to (say) 10, and pre-battle you pick those from your full-screen scrollable, type/name/weight/cost/whatever sorted inventory of all available units.


Nononononono. NO.

Don't put in more restrictions.
That is NOT the way to go.
Just voicing my fear of that idea being realised.
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby snowdrift » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:36 pm

How about:
Allow you to pick what units you want on the bar.. up to and including "ALL"
?
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Re: Lets talk about the unit deployment bar...

Postby Xietanu » Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:18 pm

I like the idea of the armies, though I appreciate that it's probably one of the solutions that involves the most work for you. I don't think there needs to be limitations on what you can put in your army, just whatever collection of units you like, and you just have some kind of army management screen where you can add/remove units and select what army you want at the beginning of battle, at the same time you pick difficulty and attack/defending. It could be a drop down list or something similar. Ultimately, the idea of having a selection of armies each with their own colour scheme is just appealing to me on some OCD level, plus I think it would fix the issue.

To make it easier on the casual/newcomer, you could also have a 'default' army that's just 'all units', so they get all the of the pre-built ones and any new ones they make. Then, when they want to cut down on the lists, they can mess around with armys, but they don't have to.

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