User Interface & User Experience

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User Interface & User Experience

Postby Kaz » Fri Oct 10, 2014 12:21 pm

With the roll out of v2.9 comes some large changes to the user interface.

This is the first step towards creating a responsive version of the Monarchy game, and and such, is still a fixed size layout that is not ideal for mobile play. That will change with the next reset, but I want to use this age to get a basic opinion on the new features added to the UI, along with any suggestions for improvements.

If you have suggestions that are specifically mobile/tablet based, feel free to make them, but please point out that you think that they would only suit a small touch-screen scenario.

At point of reset, I have not yet finished the overhaul. Certain screens look wrong simply because I've changed some back end css and they now need a small tweak. Please don't point those screens out unless of course I post in here to say that the screens are all done.

I will also be changing the War and Sorcery screens to work like the Scum screen (at point of reset). The changes are minor, but include some HTML5 functionality and also when you hit enter after typing a kingdom number they will submit the form you were expecting. Currently (until i post otherwise), hitting enter will submit skill 1 on sorc or war, regardless of the target box you've just entered.

[EDIT]

I have amended the title of this thread to get feedback on the new UI, but also the User Experience in general. We've not made any recent changes to the main website, nor the kingdom creation process, but they are most certainly on the agenda for improvement.
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Re: User Interface

Postby dirtyrat » Mon Nov 10, 2014 9:58 pm

Wow I remember eons ago when this game had its own ingame message board. Why does everyone (that owns a online game) thinks that going to a separate site to post stuff is a good thing? (Not I)
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Front Page complaints: it takes me a few seconds to get a grip on where to log into game at; upper left hand corner I see. I see way too much info for that front page = overkill I think.
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I know everyone thinks that ingame pics are the way to attract the present gaming crowd but I question if it is a "little" overdone in here. So much graphics to plow through:(
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Oh I also tried to back space to the game but since I was logged into the forum it appeared some sort of error occurred. So I created another window to go there and that didn't work as well - stuck on front page and wouldn't let me log back into game. (I'm guessing I messed it up somehow; it's night and i am tired and sleepy..)
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OK old complaints when I first tried this game out eons ago. (But I just left the game without posting anything)

1. Every race has their very own unique building names. That is so confusing if you try to switch to another race and then must re-learn what is what. As far as I know this is the only game that I have seen do this. A castle for example should be a castle to every single race.

2. Did I miss the differences between the various races? Or is there no difference? Is there a help guide on that info?

3. I always liked the take on the mortal gods and the magic system. (Not a complaint)

4. I LOVE turn games VS real time games but this game is very limited to what choices you can pick from; tithe, build, hire and/or train troops, and attack. This may be a WAY bigger selection than from other text games I have seen BUT it can get really old really fast. I always assumed this game was more about the community than the simple boring game mechanics..?

5. Kingdom death. If I remember correctly players would stick various kingdoms at all levels of play so they knew the numbers of the lower kingdom to attack and Kill them off. Maybe this was a funny joke to the skilled ones but I never found it amusing to log into game and see I was quite dead (and needed to re-start). In a way I can see the fun of extreme player loss but I wonder IF that loophole still exists??

6. I know of two other online games that look quite good but both appear to be SO complex. So basic vs to complex...( = I just can't find a win win game:(
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Re: User Interface

Postby Kaz » Tue Nov 11, 2014 11:36 am

Dirtyrat,

A lot of you feedback is not really relating to the recent changes to the UI, and some of it is actually on the roadmap to be changed. Even so, it's always nice to get some general feedback, especially when it comes to usability, that's something that we don't get enough actual feedback on.

A big downside to the feedback that I usually get, is that it's coming from players who already have an expert understanding of how the game works, and so features that are confusing can easily go overlooked.

So, even though this thread was created in order to get feedback on the specific changes implemented in v2.9, I'm going to respond to all your points as they relate to user experience.

Going through your points starting with the old complaints.

Old 1. Integrated vs Separate Message Boards.

Monarchy or Canon (depending on what your referring to as eons ago), has always had a separate message board system, at least as far as I can recall. You've never been able to post from inside the game, and have always had to log into those boards separately.

I do recall a few games from back in the day that had a "fully integrated" board system, but they tended to be home-made boards, and because of that they missed out on a lot of management functionality and security. These are the main reasons to have a separate system for the message boards, that and avoiding spending time rewriting applications that have already been written (and tested) a thousand times over.

The game 'did' used to create you a message board account at the same time as creating a game account (a LONG time ago), but that was when a different board system (that no longer exists) was in use. That was retired back around 2002 or so, when the game switched to phpbb and has remained that way.

That being said, there 'are' ways to integrate your game account with your boards identity, by using the 'Tool' screen, but this is one of the least easy to find parts of the portal, and something that is in need of change. There are also plans to integrate the game and boards much more in the future, specifically with regards to war declarations, help systems and roleplay, but they require a stronger link between game and boards to already be in place.

I actually have already written the basics of a plugin authentication system that would replace the default phpbb authentication with one that combines site and boards, and which would allow a unified account system. However, as phpbb has been quickly developing towards the next major milestone build (3.1), I've held off simply because the new version of phpbb will render the entirety of the code out of date, and I'd shortly be unable to upgrade to a newer better board system without removing the link, or rewriting the entire system from scratch again.

Old 2. Too many graphics.

This is the only part of your post that actually relates to the recent in-game UI changes. Could you be more specific? Are you referring to the navigation icons (which are not actually part of the recent changes, but still comparatively new), or are you referring to the new modular images seem on screens like Hire, War, Sorcery etc?

I'd really appreciate more specific feedback on this point.

Old 3. Inability to backspace into the game.

I tested this out myself and the only time I was able to generate a random error that prevented my progress, was when I tried to backspace on to a page that was the result of submitting a form. The error screen that came up was a default firefox screen, that is aimed to prevent forms being re-submitted.

I have actually vastly improved this system from the old versions of the game, which used forms to navigate between screens. Now, if you backspace to a document expired error screen, you ought to be able to hit backspace again until you finally reach a screen where you didn't submit a form.

In the end, I can't really do anything to prevent you reaching a browser expired page when backspacing to a screen where a form submission occurred. All I can really do is minimise form submissions so that they don't occur during navigation, which I've done.

New 1. Different racial building names is confusing.

While I agree that the majority of other games just use the same names for the same buildings, I actually really like that this game has a lot more variety depending on which race you chose. It's one of those little personalisation touches that makes the game a little more interesting (IMO).

That being said, I can also understand that this might be confusing. We've tried to do our best to reduce confusion in several ways. Firstly we keep a consistent pattern to the buildings (e.g top left is always your income building, top right is always the BRT building etc.). There is also consistency in the icon for each building type, and also a short description under each building of what it does.

Other than renaming all the buildings to be the same for each race (which is not on the cards), I can think of a couple of minor tweaks we can do to make the process a bit clearer, but I am more than happy to hear suggestions.

New 2. Information on Racial differences

When you create a kingdom there is - between the dropdown for selecting a god, and the submit button - a link called 'Race Stats' that takes you to a page that give an overview of the various differences between the races. The same information can be accessed via the portal 'Game Information' -> Gods & Races -> {game name} Race and Troop Info, and in game by using the 'Troop Stats' icon situation in the footer.

I agree that this information could be easier to find, and it's something that's on the things to do list when I recreate the kingdom creation system. This UI overhaul is planned to cover the entire game portal and creation process, I just started with the game itself.

New 3. Storyline

I'm glad you like the basics of the storyline :)

New 4. Limited Game Mechanics / Community

On the subject of the game choices being limited to hire, train, build and attack I guess your right. But there is a lot of strategic variation between those choices. I'm not really sure what else could be added without a massive overhaul of the way the game works. The other common game options in games of this genre are a research option which generally boosts player stats and attack option, or a trading option.

I've considered a trading system in the past, but to be honest, unless you add a secondary purpose for tradeable resources then the system becomes pointless, and you're just trading for the sake of trading. A research option is another thing that would hugely impact the dynamic of the game, and adds a layer of complexity that I'm not sure is really required. I personally think that simplicity in the base game, combined with a variety of strategic options creates a better game.

I am open to ideas for other mechanisms that can be added into the mix, but am mindful of avoiding losing the core concept and feel of how the game plays.

That said, I am currently working on the concept for a 'Leader' screen, where you can personalise your strengths (and weaknesses) beyond the differences you get by selecting a different race. I am also working on a selection of new options for the War and Sorcery screens.

Regarding the importance of community, historically these message boards have always been a critical component of the overall way the game worked from a political and roleplay point of view. Unfortunately, these days, new players tend to consider message boards to be an optional part of the gaming process, and many people register an account without ever visiting the boards. I have ideas for how to try and push new players towards the boards more, but they really require the greater integration that I mentioned in a previous response.

New 5. Kingdom Death

There are a selection of features that have been added over the years in order to mitigate this. They include methods to prevent declaring war on smaller kingdoms, meaning that you can only hit a smaller kingdom 3 times, and then cannot continue because you cannot declare war. We also have added a Restore feature, that you can use after being attacked or killed, and restore back to a previous state of your kingdom rather than having to restart from scratch

New 6. Basic vs Complex

I'm not really sure if you think that this game is too basic or too complex, so am not really sure how to reply to this. Personally I think this game is basic on the surface, but complex strategically. However I think that it can 'seem' more complex than it actually is, due to a lack of a decent help system (another thing that's being worked on).
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Re: User Interface

Postby dirtyrat » Wed Nov 12, 2014 2:43 pm

Oops sorry. If anything you could have 9and still can) move my post to another section of where it should be.
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OK I forgot to mention (gripe) that each race has their own different types of troop names. I mean like hello! Medieval fantasy games should have archers, fighters, thieves, wizards, etc within their country. Some sense of stability or reasoning is always when trying to understand and play a game. Just think if we were playing a game of chess and both of our own game pieces were unknown to each other. That would really sux.

OK I see the different race troop stats and how each race (or basically troops) are better or worse in each type of defense or attack. (It took me a little while to find with "101" menu buttons; lol) My suggestion here would to be to create a race (or is it troop?) table so everyone could see how every race compares to each other. I actually did this in another game that I used to play and (I think) it did wonders for all. (And less work making future changes.)
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Research can be fun but it is, I think, a one trick pony. "Let me once again research all this garbage so i can keep up with everyone else.."

Trading can create lopsided playing. (cheating from my view point)


How about allowing each race a special attack or defense. (Although this idea come from another games coded mechanics)

One idea I have heard from another player (elsewhere) is to allow the player to create their own race with their own stats. Every player starts with their 100 points and they put them where they think it will be the most help.

I guess my main problem with this game it appears it lacks it's own distinctive play. And is this a numbers crunch game?
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Oh! The black background is old. Perhaps a option to allow players to create their color screen? I have seen this done before. (Until another coder accidentally messed it up and we were again stuck with a dark background)
DARK = dead game. DARK = a old text game that is no fun. Dark is out. (But i see you have some colored text so this could be a pain - different colors that don't mix well..)
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Re: User Interface

Postby Kaz » Wed Nov 12, 2014 5:43 pm

dirtyrat,

Was part of your post lost, or did you edit something out? You start by saying "Oops sorry. If anything you could have 9and still can)" and I'm not really sure what you were trying to say. I regard to the rest of that opening point, I'm quite happy to leave the feedback in here, the thread might have been intended for feedback relating to the new User Interface, but it'll do for feedback regarding User Experience in general.

I find it interesting that you feel the game lacks its own distinctive play, when your 'gripes' tend to be regarding things where the game provides that distinction. The races have different troop names to provide variety in strategy. Each of the races has different strengths and weaknesses, and I agree that we could be better at providing that information earlier in the process.

The recent changes have all been made to the game itself (once you've created a kingdom and logged into a kingdom). I have not made any recent changes to the kingdom creation process, and that's one of the next things to get a major overhaul. Rather than picking everything from a small dropdown, you'll have a page dedicated to picking your god, and a page dedicated to pick race etc. This will allow us to provide a greater description in the beginning.

On the subject of the game lacking it's own distinctive play, it's worth bearing in mind that this game is over 15 years old, and was one of the first games of it's type to exist. Many of the features that you see in other games were actually introduced to the genre by this game, and although may exist in other games, they generally have not had years of time to tweak and balance these systems like we have.

There are still a few features that no other kingdom-based war game has though. We have an advanced built in intelligence database for storing scouts, a zero-turnrate king of the hill system, and NPC kingdoms just to name a few. There are other plans for additional unique systems, but I'm not ready to announce them just yet.

As it currently stands, the majority of the races 'do' have special abilities. Humans can send caravans of cash to allies twice as often as other races; Elven kingdoms have a stronger fog and can also cast fog on allies; Goblins have a random offensive boost to kobolds that occurs when attacking; Droben summon more illusionary troops than other races; Elementals have bonuses when attacking forts, Sidhe have a 'summon temples' spell; Centaur have a 'kill scum' thievery screen option... and so on. There is a list of these abilities in a thread in the NPAC Elite forum, but I agree it's another place where we could do better with regards to providing easy to find information.

I have no plans on allowing the player to create a custom race, but do plan on creating functionality to allow the player to customise thier leader, over time, using experience that they earn as the age progresses. That would essentially do a similar thing, but it's not yet finished. I'm hoping to have a basic version in place for the next reset, but we'll see.

There are actually quite a few enhancements that have been impossible to write prior to the recent code upgrade, simply because the previous code did not allow for them, but now that I've released v2.9, providing additional information and functionality in-game is possible. My recent tedious and repetitive 6 months of recoding has opened up a whole host of new possibilities that I'm looking forwards to being finally able to implement. It's not going to happen overnight though.

Personally I think that the main problem for new players, is actually our lack of a decent help and tutorial system. I think you'd probably revisit the idea that this game isn't distinctive if we did a better job of teaching you how to play. There are plans to improve on this, but there is just me working on everything, so these are things that wont happen overnight. Improving the New Player experience is a high priority though.

With the black background, I personally 'like' dark backgrounds I think they suit the fantasy genre and I personally dislike all these 'white' websites that are influenced by Facebook. That said, the ability to change the theme is also something that's on the roadmap. It's not going to be a completely free-form system though, more like a selection of 2 or 3 `skins` to pick from.

Feel free to keep the feedback coming, I can't promise that I'll change some of the things that you don't like, but I'll certainly be tweaking some of them as and when development time allows.
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Re: User Interface & User Experience

Postby dirtyrat » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:44 pm

Yes a newbie guide would be most helpful. Most games of this type require that you either join with a expert & learn the ropes or you suffer forever trying to achieve proper attack and defense ability.
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Yes a simple page for race guidelines would be swell. Are you aware of how many game there are out there in where you can choose your own race but they are ALL the same? Answer - too many. So showing - up front - the games unique race 'flavor' would be a good idea.
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Black to white (background) is an extreme idea that I did not intend to suggest. A simple color outline would be very nice; green, red, hmm..perhaps determined on which deity you are following might be good?
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Btw for a game that induces so much deity story lines in it I would think they (the npc deities) would play along with the players. Perhaps a code for a deity to attack players who greatly continuously abuse their followers? (random chance that increases with time?) "You have been hit by a fearsome storm that rages across your country - destroying many buildings. Only a deity could cause such chaos..", "Your kingdom has been overrun by beasts from the forest; killing many troops! What kind of foul magician welds that sort of power? "

(Oh! I tried replying to your pm but it wouldn't work for some reason. I'll try again on a simple pm test after this post. Not to gripe, lol, but this type of board isn't exactly the cookie cutter type that appears to be everywhere online - that I am used to)
(edit: OK pm reply worked this time- said message sent.)
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