sven wrote:One of the unpleasant truths of developing a working game is that you'll spend a lot more time than you'd like agonizing over UI designs -- and I think that's part of the reason that you so rarely see significant interface specializations in practice. If you can design an interface to your mechanics that feels like it's playing well, it's very hard to break it all up, and rework things to put in another collection of buttons and widgets.
Arioch wrote:Thanks for posting. If you have the time and inclination, I'm curious to know what in SiS worked for you and what didn't.
It's interesting that you're so focussed with UIs, Sven, given Arioch's question.
I'd really need to sit down for a weekend with SiS to get all technical analysis on it, but after dipping back in for half an hour just now to refresh myself? You guys did some amazing stuff with some of your UI, and then inadvertently made some other stuff unnecessarily difficult. Like. The shortcuts - being able to click a wrench on a system to go directly to the empty build queue, clicking through turn-summary to go straight to the relevant screen, all that? That stuff is beautiful and adds SO much to accessibility, which is desperately needed. (And I love that it's possible to click on a pop unit and get the encyclopedia entry below their stats.) But then we get to fleet management and differently sized ships show up in the fleet view in a way that stacks them kinda unevenly, and we need to mouse over each type of ship to get the name - since the visual look of the ships aren't necessarily very dissimilar...
Then we get to the tech tree, and, like. It's really hard to navigate it to find what node does which thing - again, it involves mousing over little icons to look for tool tips, turning a search for information into an imposing quest through a vast tech tree. But then you guys flip the script again, and stuff like queuing the technologies? Being able to click through prerequisites with hyperlinks in the text and the tree itself? It's like y'all found a thousand convenience features we desperately need in everything, and made them happen, and, it's just, wow.
(I think looking at the way text can hyperlink through your game may have made me have my original thoughts about a markup language based UI with CSS or something, too?)
Structurally - and I recall this from my earlier playthroughs I was doing a few months ago in the run up to my hobby-writing - there's this concept I have around how 'subgames' link to each other. Which specifically comes in with stuff like the tech tree, and the way it's presented quite imposingly, and like the ship designer? On the one hand it feels like there's a lot of possibility with it, but actually playing it's hard to design a ship - it felt more like a ship upgrader? And these factors hurt the way the game links structurally with your ship combat - which flows absolutely beautifully.
It's really interesting, because, like... Stars in Shadow does a lot right. A hell of a lot right. So much right that picking it apart from the outside and dissecting where it didn't go so right is an actual technical challenge. Because, I mean, some stuff did go wrong - otherwise SiS would be much better known. And If I had to guess - and I could be wrong - at some point there was a decision to aim for simplicity, mechanically, which was absolutely the right choice - a good simple game is a thousand times better than a bad complex one. Stuff like diplomacy being largely currency based, the improvement slots thing on planets so you can build a mine or a farm or whatever rather than this infinitely stretching list of new buildings, all that? Completely the right call. Why? Because you built something huge from scratch. I mean, obviously you've borrowed a lot from MoO2 and similar, but it feels a lot more like you looked at it, examined the parts you liked, and went of to integrate what you liked into something you built fresh and new?
In short, when remaking or cloning a game, if you remake the game by focusing on the surface level elements of the game — the simple things you can point at — you are not likely to make something nearly so fun to play as the original.
<--- From my essay hobby thing. By doing it the way you did it? You clearly dug very deeply into how you were going to make your own game, rather than how you were going to remake somebody else's. I admire you guys for it.
So yeah. I think you guys have every reason to be incredibly proud of what you've achieved.
And I need to get and play your Legacies DLC. Between that, and this Gardeners thing you mentioned? Sounds like you may be iterating in a really interesting complexity now that you've got so many good things going on the accessibility side.