Archive for the 'Touch and Go' Category
Thursday, December 1st, 2011
We’ve just talked through some of the test systems we’ll be implementing for the iPad interface.
The point of this is to allow us to:
1.) Check out a bunch of different styles and ideas
2.) Provide enough workarounds for current problems that we can get more into the meat of the UI than we can at present.
I really like this approach because it’s about preventing arguments – many, many UI issues are extremely subjective and easy to misunderstand in abstract. If one person says, “I want a button” and the other says, “I want a slider” , it may actually take less time to implement both and try them than it will to try and thrash that out with a multi-week long argument…although I assume your mileage may vary depending on what your GUI system is like!
Here are some of the things we are thinking of doing:
Tap to select, THEN drag to move
This was Ian’s suggestion to eradicate confusion between objects – this could be a good direction
Keep map movement and unit selection together
I’m very keen on the idea that you can quickly scroll the map around, then choose the unit for which you want to make a plan seamlessly and without modifiers, so we are going to aim for that
“New Waypoint” Handle and Button
We’re going to try two different ways of adding waypoints to a plan.
The Orders Menu may turn into a more permanent “Xcom-style” set of buttons at the bottom of the screen
There will be a big, prominent button that allows you to delete WP’s and orders - we have this in our current build but it’s a bit hidden.
Time + / – buttons
We won’t be using the time handle system in quite the same way as we do on the PC – there will be a new system for waiting
Playback vs. Planning
As some games do, we may remove the UI during the first run of a turn’s playback so that you can see everything better.
Owing to the lack of screen space we will probably have to break one of my rules about always having descriptive text available within easy reach for a pictorial button – instead of that, we’ll probably have a “question mark icon” help overlay which can pop up over the screen to explain what the hell all the buttons do.
Temporal slider for orders movement
Physically dragging orders around the screen may be too onerous, so we’ll probably have a new UI element which allows you to just move them along a plan using a slider.
Double tap is currently quite annoying and happens a lot by mistake – hopefully we will get rid of it.
All of that stuff is totally up in the air currently – just thought I would let you know our thinking. I’m really looking forward to actually being able to play the iPad build properly as a game – at the moment it’s kind of impossible.
People have asked me if any UI changes will make it into the PC version – I will be looking at people’s UI issues from the Hotline, Bugs and Wishlist threads at some point next year to see if we want to make any PC-specific changes. Also, if there’s a UI element on iPad that people love, I can’t see why we wouldn’t want to integrate that back into the PC version.
This kind of stage is fairly difficult – you don’t want to under- or over-commit to specific methods, just try to be as objective as possible about potential solutions. Anyway, confidence that we can make a nice robust UI is still high, so we will see how things progress.
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
We continue our blog series about bringing a popular PC/Mac/Linux indie game to the iPad…
I’ve just had my first couple of days with the “raw” build of FS iPad and I’ve been working on going through the entire UI making notes of conflicts and problems.
I feel reasonably positive at this point that some of the fundamental UI structures in the game will remain in-tact, but also that there are a lot of challenges.
At the moment, we’re using “hold down one finger” to open the orders menu – this is basically not working at all, so we’ll need an entirely different system.
Similarly, double-tapping to make a waypoint is pretty cool, but it’s very easy to accidentally double-tap when you’re either moving an existing waypoint, or scrolling the map around.
At the moment, we’re using “pinch-to-zoom” and “drag an empty piece of map” to do map control – as I’ve just told Ian I love the way both of these are working and I want to preserve them, even if we need something like a separate “I am moving the map around now” mode to do so. It just feels really natural, as that’s the way you interact with a map intuitively on the device.
It’s interesting how some small UI elements (like the aim handle) actually work reasonably well on the ‘pad. Obviously, they still do have conflicts and we need to work on those, but it seems like size / distance apart aren’t the only thing that matter with UI’s on the device.
It’s too early to suggest proper solutions to everything at this point, because every solution will have to be a compromise / balance with something else. The process of getting into the game a bit is productive though, and I hope to have most of my notes finished tomorrow.
The next stage is for Ian and I to figure out exactly what initial changes we want to make so that we can continue testing and iterating.
Monday, November 14th, 2011
I’ve decided to attempt a series of regular posts to go behind-the-scenes a little bit on the iPad launch of Frozen Synapse. In an ideal world, I’ll be doing a more significant post every week, with a lot of little updates in between.
State of the Game
If you’ve heard me talk recently, or seen anything about how FS has been doing, you’ll know that we have over 300k users now. Sales continue to be good, even with the massive numbers of discounted copies which were sold during the Humble Indie Bundle and we’re confident that we’ll have a good Christmas.
We have some challenges still to overcome: as Ian mentioned, we’re taking on a new person to help us provide better support and updates for the existing version; at the same time we’re pushing forward with the iPad build.
Thoughts on iPad
I’m a very recent convert to the iPad and I absolutely love it. Here’s why in a nutshell:
- It’s much faster to do certain things than an equivalent device or netbook
The combination of portability with a very effective “sleep” mode make it the thing I reach for when I want to check something or look something up.
As a musician, I’m very keen to try out things like Touchable which look like they could transform some of the stuff I do.
In terms of games, I just whipped through Scribblenauts (which is just pure unashamed silliness) and I am being entertained by Infinity Blade right now. Ian is a 100 Rogues fan so I probably will pick that up too.
Will it work?
FS is a complicated game and it’s not for everyone; much of the iPad market is casual. However, we’re starting to see people hankering for deeper games. Here are the conditions in my mind for FS performing well:
- Great interface
- Great press / feature by Apple
We’re quite lucky in that FS’s existing performance means that iOS sites are willing to talk to us and take us seriously. I’ve had mails from quite a few indie devs recently along the lines of “journalists don’t reply to my mails”.
The sad fact is that there has to be SOME kind of story behind what you’re doing. “Unknown dev announces unknown new IP with generic-looking gameplay and not-very-good-art” is not a story, and it’s hard to make it one.
I think with FS that getting the attention of the media will be easier than for some other projects, that just leads to…
Jabbing My Fat Finger At the Screen
How are we going to make the interface good?
The PC interface for FS is far from perfect, I will admit that freely. It’s massively improved from what we started with way back during the early days of development, and for the majority of play it works very well. There are specific situations though, where it can still be a nightmare, and I wish we could solve all of those problems.
I think we can solve SOME of them, and I hope to do so, but how will this translate to the iPad?
I think one of the core issues is differentiation – it’s very hard to know what you are selecting at any one time, especially in a cluttered view. I have some thoughts on this which are germinating, and I hope to try out our existing build of the game (which is basically vanilla – i.e. your finger is the mouse right now) seriously very soon and start making a list of interface problems we need to solve.
Hopefully I’ll be able to talk through those on here at some point.
I’m away next week (and I don’t currently have clearance to tell you why!) and I will keep you updated on my…movements.
Let’s take this wonderful journey into the world of touch together…ugh. Better end there.