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Starsector 0.97a is out! (02/02/24)

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Author Topic: UI is way too obtuse  (Read 15903 times)

cp252

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UI is way too obtuse
« on: November 09, 2014, 11:52:48 PM »

Aha, nice rage inducing thread title.
Okay, let me make this clear first: Starsector's (I'll always call it Starfarer in my heart) complexity is what sets it apart from superficially similar space combat games like SPAZ. It's the reason I still have the shortcut on my desktop after more than a year of periodic cleanup, though I haven't come back and played in a while.

Here's the issue I'm having. Since the game has gained so many core features and significant rebalances since I've last played, I've got a bit of a noob perspective on things now.

I don't get any of it.

I'm reading the balance discussions and I'm intrigued at all the different stats weapons have and I can't tell which weapon has what anymore. They're meaningless numbers, and I don't think every new player would spend hours in simulation trying to work it out.

Also, it's been mentioned in depth before but outside of combat I am completely lost. Trade is incomprehensible.

Perhaps some UI work needs to be done on all sides? Take burn for example. It needs to be a kot more obvious when a particular ship is affecting your burn speed. I thought the shepherd was a fast carrier until someone pointed out it was too slow to keep up with a frigate fleet. Maybe a little bar in the fleet menu with sprites of your ships arranged along it like they're running a race? So I can instantly see who's fast an who's dragging their feet. That kid of thing. Side by side comparison interface would be nice too, like seeing a selected ship in the tooltip next to whatever ship you're pointing the cursor at, for easy comparison.

-typed on mobile, sorry for mistakes
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 10:04:23 PM by cp252 »
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cp252

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2014, 11:54:58 PM »

Oh, one more thing.
Maybe an intel thread would be nice too. A brief one-sentence description of the weapons of the game as the community sees them- which ships are useful for what, what they shouldn't be used for, etc. to a new player all ships and weapons are just pretty pictures right now.
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Maniaks

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2014, 12:49:55 AM »

Remember you can hover your mouse over any thing in UI you don't understand!

Hover mouse over your burn meter. It's written there very clear:
your total fleet burn = burn speed of slowest ship
It's that simple.

That ship comparison for burn speed is already there in it's info tooltip when you expand it (hover mouse -> press F1)
it shows it like:
ship X: 9
ship Y: 8
ship Z: 1
(your result burn = 1)

Weapons aren't complex at all. The flux mechanic is pretty simple, firing builds up flux (fancy way for heat in space) and blocking shots with shield also builds up flux. Again, if you don't know what "energy" weapon means just hover mouse over it's icon in weapon stats screen. Maybe the only thing that isn't explained is that weapon's listed flux cost already includes and calculates it's fire rate, flux per shot and/or charges.

Complete ship comparison you suggested would be awesome, there is a bit too many aspects of every ship that i have had a hard time "memorizing" stats when comparing them. I remember it was a pain to compare ships when i started to play starsector and there was even less stats back then =D
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 12:53:45 AM by Maniaks »
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Gothars

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2014, 02:15:47 AM »

Admittedly... I have to agree the complexity is verging on being problematic. I did need quite of bit time to understand every of the more intricate mechanics (combat/flux, CR/fleet management, trade/intel), and that was while I had the time to master one before the next was introduced. I can imagine having to learn all of them at once being overwhelming.

But since Starsector is, as you said, great because it is complex, better presentation seems the only way to go here. I'm sure Alex is aware of it, since he's constantly working on it. To know what has to be done is not to know how exactly it has to be done though, and the real difficulty lies there.

Mh...


I tend to agree that the heap of numbers is terrible for ship comparison. Though, I'm not sure that any UI could even remotely compare to simulator/fight experience with the ships. Combat is just way to multi-faceted and context dependent. So... give up on being comprehensive. The only way I can think of to really make this more approachable, is to reduce the UI complexity so much it becomes downright misleading. That is, give ships a few classification numbers and hide everything else behind a "more info" click. Like this:

Tempest:
Combat rating: 8
Logistic rating: 4
Burn speed: 6

Tarsus:
Combat rating: 2
Logistic rating: 7
Burn speed: 4

(1-10 could be the vanilla range, with potential for mods to be rated higher/lower. Maybe also include crew/freight/fuel.)

I think it is OK when a number is somewhat misleading/oversimplifying (which is has to be when the ratings are auto-generated), as long as the game is honest about it and doesn't claim/imply perfection.




I  also had the idea of tutorial courses within the game, offered on certain markets, that you can enroll in. So, for example, you enroll in a trade school and get all the trade related tutorial pop-ups. Or you find a smuggling tutorial on a pirate station. Same with fleet management and later features. That way you would not be spammed with tutorials that you presently don't care for, and you could repeat them at an time. In this context the game could also go more into the underlying principles, like that the trade is event based, not routine based.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 02:21:56 AM by Gothars »
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WKOB

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2014, 02:21:42 AM »

This is... interesting. I don't mean to call you guys dumb or anything, but I don't see it. I mean, every statistic is so self explanatory.
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ValkyriaL

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2014, 02:34:54 AM »

Considering iv'e played this game for 2-3 years and know more or less every stat and description on everything in my head, i usually rage at people saying the game is to complex, but...it really is, there is SO much stuff you have to cover and remember, even with the countless lists and windows explaining mechanics to you in a way that a 6 year old would understand, its simply to much to cover in the space of a week or a month.

just give it time.  :)
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Gothars

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2014, 02:37:45 AM »

I mean, every statistic is so self explanatory.

Right, but its context, and thus what it does ultimately mean, can only be gauged with a lot of experience.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 02:41:57 AM by Gothars »
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The game was completed 8 years ago and we get a free expansion every year.

Arranging holidays in an embrace with the Starsector is priceless.

Regularity

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2014, 04:39:33 AM »

Right, but its context, and thus what it does ultimately mean, can only be gauged with a lot of experience.

As someone who picked up the game less than a week ago, I found the tutorial to cover the basics of combat pretty well. Although its worth noting the tutorial doesn't cover non-combat gameplay very well -- but then again, non-combat tutorials tend to be painstakingly slow-paced, so it's something many of us would prefer to read about from the manual or in-game tooltips as needed.

But all in all, the learning curve for this game was MUCH more gentle than I had come to expect from most space sims. But that's just my anecdotal experience, and may differ for other players.
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Newnonel

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2014, 05:03:56 AM »

I learnt my way from getting blown up repeatedly.
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Midnight Kitsune

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2014, 06:30:14 AM »

I kinda agree with the OP... For those of us that have had the ability to learn the mechanics slowly through the releases, it is fine. But for those that jump into it all at once, it can be overwhelming. Case in point: My friend recently bought this game and the first thing he did was click on the codex. He, of course, got hit with all of the info on the ships at once and was intimidated by all of it (IE. Information overload) I helped him by writing up a SS "dictionary" of sorts
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WKOB

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2014, 06:32:25 AM »

So maybe he should play the tutorial and play the game a little by doing some simple frigate on frigate battles instead of getting "information overload" by opening the entire compendium of... information. I'm just saying, the game is not complex at all, take a ship, hold shift and left click at an enemy. In many battles, this can win it for you. Particulary if you're in a Wolf versus a Cerberus for example.
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JohnDoe

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2014, 06:44:01 AM »

This is... interesting. I don't mean to call you guys dumb or anything, but I don't see it. I mean, every statistic is so self explanatory.

Not really. How better is a ship with 400 armor rating than one with 200 armor rating? Is a 200 base flux dissipation rate considered good or average for a frigate? It's not explained intuitively in the UI.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 06:53:28 AM by JohnDoe »
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Maniaks

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2014, 07:09:56 AM »

This is... interesting. I don't mean to call you guys dumb or anything, but I don't see it. I mean, every statistic is so self explanatory.

Not really. How better is a ship with 400 armor rating than one with 200 armor rating? Is a 200 base flux dissipation rate considered good or average for a frigate? It's not explained intuitively in the UI.

This is learned in 10 minutes of combat (lets say tutorial) when damage is greatly represented in game with colored numbers. About considering if a frigate is good or average, in my opinion this is something you should find out yourself by playing and exploring the game.

For me only thing that can be confusing currently is the combat readiness because i find it quite an original mechanic not found in many games. It's not that hard once you learn it though.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 07:14:07 AM by Maniaks »
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cp252

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2014, 07:17:34 AM »

Yes yes, all these things -can- be learned. My primary concern is that the game is a mass of spreadsheets. While those of us who already understand the game mechanics and have a feel for the ships can say 'just play', that's way too much to expect from most new players and it's not a good thing if you want to attract players at all.
As it is now, whenever there's a balancing run I have to spend hours in sim fiddling and relearning, and I already know the mechanics. Imagine if you were new!
Plus, there's no way to embrace and learn the whole system and spectrum of equipment at once. You discover bits and pieces of new things as you go and they're all an unidentifiable blur to a new player, who might quickly give up after a point because he's hunting the same old small fleets and can't figure out what to optimise in order to improve.
With certain complex games (I'll take pokemon) there's big, complete wikis to help. Bulbapedia, to use pokemon as an example. The community does its part to nurture new players while the developer builds the game. We don't even have a brief list of what each mysterious weapon and ship is good for and why.
Yes, you could tell a new player to just learn to read the spreadsheets / learn from painful experience but not everyone will have the patience for that, and I don't want to see this beautifully complex game which Alex has worked so hard on to be forgotten or dismissed because of a huge, boring barrier to entry.

Edit: to simplify and clarify. This game's depth and complexity is one of its greatest strengths. It just needs to be properly presented in UI so the cliff-like learning curve doesn't turn potential fans away.

I also think the community could help a lot with that, by collating your combined wisdom- say, when it comes to the relative usefulness of ships. This would also let Alex see quickly if a particular ship, weapon or hullmod needs to be toned down or buffed.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 07:21:14 AM by cp252 »
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Histidine

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Re: Game is way too complex
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2014, 07:37:04 AM »

Personally, I think that if you play Starsector (at least the combat part; people are going to naturally try a spreadsheet approach to trade at first because that's how they assume it works) and have to touch a spreadsheet at any point prior to the grognardy optimise-all-the-things stage, you did something seriously wrong somewhere. The campaign's current unforgiving nature makes trial and error a costly proposition, but there are also missions, and you still don't need to touch any spreadsheets.

A practical example: What should I put on my Lasher; dual autocannon, railgun or light needler? Now, to be sure, someone presented with all three choices at once may instinctively try to figure out which of the three is best. But the fact is for the purposes of basic combat you can get away with just eyeballing the stats and picking the one you think might be most useful; they all fill the same general role in a comparable manner. Besides, the store probably only sells the basic autocannon. Later, when the player has figured out more of the game and picked up some bigger guns, they can go back and see if they can improve their build further based on what they've learned.

With certain complex games (I'll take pokemon) there's big, complete wikis to help. Bulbapedia, to use pokemon as an example. The community does its part to nurture new players while the developer builds the game. We don't even have a brief list of what each mysterious weapon and ship is good for and why.
Starsector wiki
Not entirely complete (Trade page Coming Soon™), but, well, it's a wiki - you know what to do.

That said, I think it'd be worthwhile to quickly whip up a list of
Quote
brief one-sentence description(s) of the weapons of the game as the community sees them- which ships are useful for what, what they shouldn't be used for
covering all the small and medium weapons, frigates and destroyers, with graphics included.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 07:40:11 AM by Histidine »
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