The UI… Where do I begin… (Eve Blog Banter 9)

It’s blog banter time again.

Welcome to the ninth installment of the EVE Blog Banter and its first contest, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

“Last month Ga’len asked us which game mechanic we would most like to see added to EVE. This month Keith “WebMandrill” Nielson proposes to reverse the question and ask what may be a controversial question: Which game mechanic would you most like to see removed completely from EVE and why? I can see this getting quite heated so lets keep it civil eh?”

The group had been working around the clock for weeks. Exhaustion had set in some several Tuesdays ago and every one of the assembled scientists and programmers were now operating purely on nicotine and Quafe Ultra.

The group had been given the momentous task of reverse engineering the Jovian capsule interface such that pilots of non-Jovian persuasions would be able to successfully operate their ships via the capsules. The quality assurance officers had been clear on the goals: no aneurisms and no bits of partially digested breakfast in the pod fluid.

They had succeeded, almost. There was one last, but not insignificant, hurdle that needed clearing.

“Maybe we could just make the font really really small,” said one of the junior programmers, “they could like, zoom in to read it or something.”

The rest of the room sighed.

“Small font, are you serious? Do you know how many rows of data we’re talking about?,” the head programmer looked around the room for support, but most people were either asleep or playing cards in the corner. He took another swig of Quafe and raised his voice, “Well I don’t know either, but it could be a really really big number. So our font would have to be like,” he waved his can of Quafe around dramatically flinging droplets into the air, “like atomic… quantum font or some crap. That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

The junior programmer shrugged his shoulders, mumbled something unintelligible – even to himself – and turned to focus on Texas Hold-em.

The lead programmer sat back in his chair, drained his can of Quafe and threw it in the general direction of the trash bin. Owing to his lack of trash bin hitting skills, exaustion or the grace of god he missed and instead sent the can spinning end over end, blue droplets spraying in a thin arc, at the face of the currently sleeping Bill, the head of the design department.

As the can impacted Bill’s forehead he jolted upright, his eyes wide and distant, as if viewing another place.

“I’ve got it!,” Bill shouted, “it’s so simple. It came to me in a dream.”

The room all looked in his direction. One of the junior programmers took the opportunity to peek over at his neighbor’s hand, and then turned his attention on Bill. It wasn’t cheating, he thought, he was going to fold anyway.

“Arrow things, or… no…” Bill struggled for the words to describe the alien concept, “scroll… yes… Scroll Bars. We’ll have scroll bars! See, if there are more rows of data then the interface window can handle, we just let the user scroll,” he placed extra emphasis on the strange word, “to see the rest of the rows!”

It was the solution, it was genius. Everyone put their cards down and went back to their terminals.

“This is perfect, make it happen,” exclaimed the lead programmer, “damn Bill, you’re a genius.”

“That’s not all,” Bill continued, “see because if the user resizes the window so that they can’t see all of the columns, we can use a horizontal scroll bar! It’s perfect!”

The typing stopped, everyone was looking at Bill.

“Sorry, columns? What was that? You’re losing me Bill.”

Bill considered his words carefully, this was not an easy concept to explain.

“See, if the window is too small to show all of the rows then you can scroll with the vertical scroll bar.”

The lead programmer nodded, “yeah I’m following that.”

Bill continued, “and if the window is too small to show all of the columns then you can scroll with the horizontal scroll bar.”

The lead programmer’s face contorted with puzzlement, “Okay, okay. Hold on now, so you could do this scrolling thing in two dimensions?”

“Exactly!” Bill exclaimed.

“Yeah… um…” the lead programmer waved his hands at the rest of the crew to continue working, “you know Bill, you’re tired… why don’t you take the rest of the day off. The first idea was great but this whole two dimensional thing is a bit crazy. I don’t think space ship pilots are ready to deal with two dimensions at the same time.”

Ten minutes later Bill was escorted from the room by security. His repeated shouts of “Horizontal Scroll Bars”, echoing through the halls.

A User Interface is something one uses to do stuff. In Soviet Russia, user interfaces use you! The EVE UI is like that. It’s something that happens to you… when you’re out in the woods… that you don’t talk about.

“But Ghenna”, you say, “you can’t remove the UI. The game would be unplayable!”

Yes, yes. I know. I also know that the devs keep saying that there is some sort of crack UI team that is taking the UI apart and putting it in little glass boxes to test and redesign. Kind of like those displays in IKEA, where some poor chair gets sat on by a robot thousands of times. I can also admit that the fitting screen is better than it was (it’s still no EFT). Search windows in containers are nice, and the little “how full am I” bar is now blue, and has gone through at least one “blueness/size” revision, but I digress.

In the end I think the best thing for us all is to just scrap the whole thing and start from scratch. Also implement a mandatory “Do you think Excel is the best thing ever?” screening process to weed out the kinds of designers that we don’t want. At the moment when I show people EVE the conversation goes something like this.

Me – See how awesome it is?

Some Guy – Wow that’s really pretty! Go fly around a bit.

Me – Cool, let me undock

SG – Is that a spreadsheet?

Me – No, no. That’s the overview… here let me fly over here.

SG – You had to go like four menus deep into the context menu to fly there?

Me – Yeah, you get used to it… here let me show you the market/industry/science/etc interface.

SG – Wow, that’s a lot of spreadsheets… I’m gonna go get a beer.

“But Ghenna”, you say, “it’s not really that bad. You get used to it and it’s part of what makes EVE so different.”

Or perhaps you say, “OMG carebear! WTF GTFO & GBTWoW lol”

Yeah… well check this shit out. Did you see the titan going down, or the shitstorm of UI elements? I’ll tell you what you saw, you saw a BoB titan getting raped by chat channels, fleet lists and overview. That’s what you saw. Yes, you can tab the UI away so that you can actually view the beautifully rendered game that is playing in the background during those brief moments when you’re not either menu-surfing, spreadsheet monitoring, or trying to click a microscopic moving target in space because you didn’t think to set up an overview setting to only show hostile war-target Gallente interceptors piloted by Caldari with speech impediments.

Let me try to be constructive:

  • A new targeting system that is intuitive and works well (the overview is not this system, though it could possible be salvaged), that does not involve clicking microscopic targets in space, watching a list for the duration of a fight, or having gigantic, useless icons appear all over the place that you have to avoid double clicking on (it’s like a minigame!) when maneuvering manually.
  • Hotkeys! Hotkeys! Hotkeys!
  • A chat interface option that is easier on the screen real estate. Maybe the option to merge chats.
  • UI elements that don’t require a 4000dpi laser mouse to click (or avoid) reliably. This to avoid the current “click the tiny green strip/microscopic triangle/quantum dot in space” wack-a-mole style mini-game.
  • Don’t even get me started on the in-game “browser”
  • Some sort of consistency in attributes, so I don’t need a calculator to figure out whether 1.75% means 1.75%, 175%, plus 1.75%, 42, biscuits, etc.
  • Did I mention hotkeys?

Scrap the UI and make a new one rather than trying to prop up a dead guy.

Well, that’s all I have to say. This post is too long already. In the event that people think that this is a stupid idea, then I’ll retract my venom against the UI and just cast my vote to remove the Caldari. I know they’re not a bug… they’re a feature… but it’s been a long time coming.

List of Participants:

  1. Diary of a Space Jockey, Blog Banter: BE GONE!
  2. EVE Newb, (EVE) Remove You
  3. Miner With Fangs, Blog Banter – It’s the Scotch
  4. The Eden Explorer, Blog Banter: The Map! The Map!
  5. The Wandering Druid of Tranquility, “Beacons, beacons, beacons, beacons, beacons, mushroom, MUSHROOM!!!”
  6. Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah, Kill the Rats
  7. Mercspector @ EVE, Scotty
  8. EVE’s Weekend Warrior, EVE Blog Banter #9
  9. Miner with Fangs, Blog Banter – It’s the Scotch
  10. A Merry Life and a Short One, Eve Blog Banter #9: Why Won’t You Die?
  11. Into the unknown with gun and camera, Blog Banter – The Hokey Cokey
  12. The Flightless Geek, EVE Blog Banter #9: Remove a Game Mechanic
  13. Sweet Little Bad Girl, Blog Banter 9: Who is Nibbling at My House?
  14. One Man and His Spaceship, Blog Banter 9: What could you do without?
  15. Life in Low Sec, EVE Blog Banter #9: Stop Tarnishing My Halo
  16. Cle Demaari: Citizen, Blog Banter #9: Training for all my men!
  17. A Mule in EVE, He who giveth, also taketh away?
  18. Dense Veldspar, Blog Banter 9
  19. Morphisat’s Blog, Blog Banter #9 – Randomness Be Gone !
  20. Facepalm’s Blog, EVE Blog Banter #9: What a new pilot could do without
  21. Memoires of New Eden, You’re Fired
  22. Kyle Langdon’s Journeys in EVE, EVE Blog Banter #9 Titans? What’s a Titan?
  23. Achernar, The gates! The gates are down!
  24. Speed Fairy, EVE Blog Banter #9: Down with Downtime!
  25. I am Keith Neilson, EVE Blog Banter #9-F**K Da Police
  26. Clown Punchers, EvE Blogs: What game mechanic would you get rid of?
  27. Estel Arador Corp Services, You’ve got mail
  28. Epic Slant, Let Mom and Pop Play: EVE Blog Banter #9
  29. Deaf Plasma’s EVE Musings, Blog Banter #9 – Removal of Anchoring Delay of POS modules
  30. Podded Once Again, Blog Banter #9 – Do we really need to go AFK?
  31. Postcards from EVE, 2009.
  32. Harbinger Zero, Blog Banter #9 – War Declarations & Sec Status
  33. Warp Scrammed, Blog Banter 9 – Never Too Fast
  34. More as they are posted!
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About Ghenna

An exiled amarrian noble and ex-imperial capsuleer coping with the psychological trauma of experiencing her own death and acclimation to her new home in the Gallente Federation. Ghenna maintains a publicly accessible archive of her aura-log impressions for therapeutic purposes. She currently resides in the Gallente-Caldari warzone, where she serves the Gallente Militia.

14 thoughts on “The UI… Where do I begin… (Eve Blog Banter 9)

  1. Pingback: Blog Banter #9 – Randomness Be Gone ! | Morphisat's Blog

  2. Pingback: “Beacons, beacons, beacons, beacons, beacons, mushroom, MUSHROOM!!!” | The Wandering Druid of Tranquility

  3. I love the Banter! Great post!

    One of the hardest parts for me, being a new player and all, was figuring out the UI and not having hotkeys for everything. I mean, I love the minimalist approach (no grotesque, over-the-top, flaming icons or anything) but there hasn’t to be a better solution than context menus that run 10 sub-menus deep.

    Well done.

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