Sunday, August 7, 2005

Space Crack: Graphics and UI Test

This weekend I had a chance to put together a little test rig for a revised interface I'm trying out. I had two goals. First I wanted to rectify some of the complaints about my first interface. Second, I was playing with some of the artistic bits based on the comments folks had in the earlier art thread.

Click here to download PlanetTest8-7-2005.zip (2.62 MB)

The Test Rig
I'm following the list laid out in my component bible. You quickly end up with lots of objects that all can be in any of a half dozen different states. Rather confusing to be honest. To keep everything straight, I whipped together a primitive menu that lets me sort through the components as I finish them.

  • Left and right arrows switch between components. The large text tells you the name of the component.
  • Clicking on the down arrow in the center cycles through the states of the selected component. (You can get things in some odd states if you switch between components when you are in the middle of the cycle. Click enough times and it all seems to come back to normal. It's a test rig, not a polished application. :-)
Fixing the UI: The second pass
I had several issues with my first UI attempt.
  • Remove unnecessary hierarchy: First, I tried a pie menu for selecting between multiple upgrades, but it was a pain to use. This time I made the rule that ever powerup gets one button. If you can see it, you can click on it and something wonderful will happen immediately. Sometimes I wish all UI's followed that philosophy. :-)
  • Restrict the UI to the tasks at hand: Early on I thought it would be fun to have a planet that could be spun around. Unfortunately, allowing dragging in multiple directions was too much freedom. Half the time, the planet ended up at some odd unusable angle and the rest of the time the 3D rotation algorithm reversed up and down. There's no point in requiring users to master crazy 3D rotation concepts just to play the game. This time I constrained the planet rotation to a single axis. I also placed the powerup buttons above the equator so that players can always see them. Much simpler and it is still viscerally enjoyable to spin the earth like a top.
The Art Style
The art should look at lot like the previous test exe. Really the only new model is the space ship. I tried to make something a bit sleeker than the Space Cute design, but still having a prominent character element that I felt was lacking in the 50's iPod style.

I'm rather excited about the ability to use simple texture maps to change the look of the ships quite easily. There are two images, one for the helmet and one for the ship. By swapping these out, players should be able to get a huge range of different 'team flags'. I need to spend some time cranking out some skins.

take care
Danc.