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Devstream 34: UI Q&A!

Pablo and Dorian!
Rebecca: Now that we've gotten rid of all the nasty bugs, we're hoping to have it submitted to certification by mid-August.
Rebecca: How do people, like yourself, get to be UI designers?
Dorian: We've seen a lot of incredible submissions from the community. We both work in different areas, so we manage different aspects. I started as a graphic designer, so I started with a portfolio full of that. We want to see that you can adapt to a number of styles, that you have attention to detail, and that you're mindful of functionality.
Rebecca: What about in terms of programming?
Pablo: There's the difficult path of going through computer science... What I did was start in a marketing company, where I took some online snippets and made them the way I liked them. Then I started making things on my own, and now here I am!
Rebecca: Did you have any particular experience or degrees?
Dorian: I studied graphic design in university, and did work for a lot of different organizations. Not only did this expand my portfolio, but it gave me experience with a number of real world examples and different styles. One thing I would tell the community is that we are looking for new UI designers and programmers to join our team, so why not show us what you've made and visit www.digitalextremes.com/careers!
Freelancer27 asks, Could you bring back the planet naming feature into the game, since people, like me, want to "personalize" the aspects of our Navigation?
Dorian: That was a mistake, obviously. It wouldn't really be loyal to the lore of the game, and would make giving directions a bit more confusing.
Rebecca: Since that bug was so popular, we may be headed towards more customizable UIs in general.
Terrence_Knight asks, is it possible to get a non-shifting UI toggle or something? The new moving UI has been causing headaches … and a few others have reported the motion is unpleasant.
Pablo: Right now we need the motion to get to objects behind the character. One of the things that we want to have is a slider that adjusts the size of your UI. A lot of people playing on 1080p think it's too big, while others with 720p think it’s too small, once that happens, we can add something to stop the sway.
Rebecca: Some people are really against the diegetic UI. It really is a matter of preference, but function comes first.
Pablo: It was a very creative choice we went towards, and I understand the people that just want it to function. It is definitely the path we're heading towards. For those feeling motion sickness and migraines, we removed it from the arsenal because someone in the office said that it was bad. We will do something to offer those players an alternative, as well as those that don't really like it.
Dorian: Just to establish a parallel, we had something similar with the HUD and the sway. We did have the option to turn it off, but it's not as simple for the UI, because a lot of the functionality revolves around the sway. So there are a lot of other considerations we have to make before we can turn it off completely.
Pablo: It may not be custom necessarily, but we were looking at some weapons using specific crosshairs. It's already implemented on the Penta, because it made more sense to have a grenade launcher sort of thing. Anything we tried just felt a bit too heavy, but it's something that we could re-explore in the future.
Dorian: We're planning to re-improve the HUD, so we could take another look at it then. Right now, there's a lot of other things in the making, including bugs.
Brahmastra asks, what’s the next big thing you guys are going to be working on after all the bugs are fixed?
Pablo: You can't overhaul the entire UI for a game this big, so what we've got now is a foundation to build on. Now that that's out, we can start building on it. You'll notice the Arsenal is functioning pretty well and looks polished, whereas the Codex we didn't even touch. So I think our priority is going towards that. Stats we didn't reskin, codex we didn't reskin, options we didn't reskin... They work, but they have problems. Then there's clans and friends, which we will do something with.  The other things we actually did, but weren't satisfied with. For instance, mod cards.
Dorian: This is kind of our big reveal.... We are redoing the mods! It'll be a complete redesign to make them more functional. There will be an expanded and minimized versions of each mod, so that we can make the best use of screen real estate. Here you'll see the three rarities, determined by border color. There also wasn't enough emphasis put on ranks, so we've added a bar at the bottom to tell you how far upgraded each mod is, so it becomes a bit more important.
Rebecca: Just to settle this rumour, what is Ancient Retribution?
Pablo: When we make new content, we get it to replace our placeholder text. When the script fails, it'll leave the placeholder text in, which is Ancient Retribution.
Rebecca: And so ends that rumour.
Pablo: One of the things we really wanted to emphasize was the rarity of the mod, because some people wouldn't even notice the border color. There wasn't really that big of a difference between common and uncommon, so we would have to put it in words.
Dorian: We wanted to make very clear the rarity of every mod, which allows everything to breathe a little bit more.
Pablo: One thing we're currently unhappy with: when you're unfocused from a mod, they scale back, which makes them hard to read. Now, when they come down, the text remains the same size. The top and bottom of the mod just collapse onto each other. If you downsize your screen to 720p, it can be really hard to read a mod, so this will hopefully fix that. Also, we will be able to put a little bit more into the screens.
Dorian: We've been working on these for a while... We have a video to show, which shows where they started and how far they come. (GIF?) We went through tons of different styles to help determine which would be the most functional, and we're pretty happy with what we got.
Pablo: For this change, we're going to touch both mods and upgrades.
Rebecca: Do we have an ETA for this update?
Dorian: We're trying to figure out what we can implement tech-wise, with the cards expanding. Pablo's been working on that.
Pablo: Once we get that, we have to figure out how the screens will look. One thing we wanted to do with the ship is to have different mod functions be separate quests, so you can acquire them. Right now, new users get the upgrading module with everything, which can be pretty intimidating.
Freelancer27 asks, the new quest system brought up whole new ideas in how to improve its aspects and even try to add new quests entirely. But the Codex seems not a good place to handle once the Quest system grows. If there would be a new place for house such Quests, do you think it'll be best to be placed in the Radio module? Or at the other side?
Pablo: We've had conversations about this with Steve. The place it's at right now can't really grow comfortably, looking forward towards the next year of quests. The conclusion that we came to is that the Codex can handle our current amount of quests, so we'll put it out there and see how it works.  We've talked about other functions, like increased difficulty of quests, so once that's out we'll look at revising it. The state it's in will pass. We'll determine what we need based on what features are added, so what we'll be able to grow as we add new quests.
T asks, what is done for the initial planning of a UI? For example do you use concept art, photoshop screenshots, or a white board with dry erase markers?
Rebecca: Let's use quest system as an example. What will go into designing that UI?
Dorian: We always start with a lengthy discussion to determine what we want, what the user wants, etc. We do have a whiteboard.
Rebecca: What did I see on your whiteboard today?
Dorian: By popular demand, you'll be able to switch between planets while in planet view. We're always listening to the forums.
Pablo: We chat about it, then do some scribbles on a whiteboard or notepad. Then we do a wireframe, which is a very barebones Photoshop. When we feel happy with that, it becomes a mock to determine exactly how it'll look. There are several iterations within each of those steps.
(PS4)SCP-100912 asks, what part of the current UI are you most satisfied with, and what area are most displeased with, and how will you be changing it?
Pablo: Personally, I'm really happy with the genetic lab. We took something that's complicated and never been done before in our game, like the checklist of what needs to be done, and explained it all really well. For instance, when you look at upgrades, all the polarize button has is a little forma, which doesn't explain much. The only way to understand it, is to look it up or ask somebody who plays. When you look at the different parts of the genetic lab, everything has a lot of explanation, so there's a lot less confusion.
Rebecca: There have been a lot of people confused about loadouts, and a lot of threads have popped up asking how it works. If I recall, I haven't seen a single thread about genetic lab confusion.
Pablo: To go further with my comparison (genetic labs vs. upgrades), when you go to it, it just says upgrade... What does that mean?
Dorian: I'm really happy with what we did for modding, which has been split up into four sections, each with its own explanation. A lot of people were really confused by, for instance, fusion or transmutation. But with the new sections, you know exactly what you're getting into and it takes you step-by-step, which really helps new players. If we were able to get that used experience into the upgrades, we'd be very satisfied.
Rebecca: There is no fourth quest. It's just a placeholder.
Pablo: That would be something for designers. We started with the scrambler, which was very.... controversial. It's a decision for someone else, and we'll put in the UI when it comes. There is something in the works, but I don't know if I can talk about it right now.
Rebecca: Will other players in your ship ever be implemented? The current design was for single player usage.
Pablo: There are two ends to this debate: right now, we want to make the ship small for single player functionality. We don't want to have players having to run a minute to get to certain rooms, which is sort of what happens in dojos... At the same time, the teleport addresses that, so an argument could be made. I do know there is more work being done, but that is more an art department project.
Pablo: To answer your question, it’s in the plans, but not anytime soon.
Pablo: We have some of the tech behind it, but it's still being worked. The idea is to give you both interior and exterior options, including bobble heads!
Dorian: That is something that we've already been toying with. I don't know if you've noticed, but when you press escape, the bottom and top lines are your energy color picked in arsenal. So that's one small step towards UI customization, and if we see more places to insert that customization, we will.
Pablo: One thing we've been talking about is filters, dealing polarities, rarities and more, which would make sorting a lot easier. The only thing we have right now is the categories, and filters would apply specifically within those.
Pablo: That's one thing we've been wondering about. One thing that came out of PC was a little menu on the side that lets you go to a certain letter in the user list. On the PS4 controller, looking for a certain player in the player list would take forever! With this, if I said ‘Pablo’ about starting a group, you'd be able to go right to 'P', which would make it a lot quicker. One thing that annoys me is that in missions, I don't get chat notifications from my clan, and I would only see them afterwards. Private messages do show up while in a mission, but I'd really like to have clan messages do the same. We definitely know there's a problem here – we talked to Glen about clicking on names, so we're investigating that. There's always a long list of things to do.
YangiRebecca asks, will the HUD and UI have more features for team play? i.e. healthbars, commands, loadouts, etc.
Pablo: So with loadouts, now you can see them in the squad overlay, which is not as accessible, but the screen was so crowded. Right now, the profile icon is what the player choses, and seeing the actual frame being used would be more useful. At the same time, that's their avatar, so you can pay for the proper one, put it there and be proud of it.
Dorian: The squad component is a big part of what we're doing for groups of friends, keeping squads together. So I think that would be what we're going with.
Pablo: For that one I would need to talk to somebody else. Right now, while I've been farming for Kubrow mods, players will put waypoints near the dens. Most of the time, it's pretty implicit to what they're pointing to. What you're talking about is better organization for the squad, but I have a hard time thinking of someone needing to be really explicit about that.
Rebecca: On PS4, the only way we use waypoints is telling players to 'go here'.
Dorian: It's something that we haven't heard much about from the community, so if that's a problem, please let us know about it on the forums.
Polymelodic asks, any plans to include the day/night notification icon for Earth?
Pablo: I haven't really thought about this one. We're trying to strip down the amount of unnecessary information we're presenting to the player. It was enough trouble convincing people internally to put the resources right on the planet, which was just re-added this week. More obscure bits like day/night cycles may not be as big a priority.
Dorian: Maybe we could put that in mission overlay.
Rebecca: I guess it depends on if we use that feature for specific quests in the future.
Pablo: Our rule of thumb is “do you need this information to make a decision, yes or no?” Right now that's mostly cosmetic.
Ediconum asks, how are things going on Korean font change?'
Pablo: I switched computers, so I actually lost the font and had to re-download it from his message. There was another font in that thread, and it's downloaded so we're going to have a Korean font weekend! I will be posting some screenshots of the fonts comparing them. Reading the font, I can't really tell the difference, so I will need help with readability because it's all Korean to me. Then once that's decided, we'll have to licence it and such.
Rebecca: Right now, trade chat is on by default. You're a solo player, and the first thing you see is “want to buy/want to sell”... How would we change it to not be a chat-based system?
Dorian: Pat (our PS4 producer) complained to us about having difficulty in trading.
Pablo: This fix would come from a different department. First, the decision would have to be made that we want to reduce the friction of trading.
Rebecca: I think we've talked about an auction house or trading post before, where you can put your item right there.
Pablo: If that is the case, (the UI) will have to come after that decision. One thing that we've talked about is having trading in the space hubs.
Rebecca: For those of you that don't know, there will be one per planet where everybody can go and interact with each other. Have you guys explored that any further?
Pablo: Part of the U14 change was preparing for that, because we had to change a lot of the networking code, as well as the squad overlay. I've seen some art exploration of that, but I think that's as far as we got before switching to work on the new player experience.
Chat: 6 months after an auction house, every mod will only cost 5 plat.
Pablo: That's why I said friction; giving ease of access will involve more people, and once supply goes up, there may not be as much demand.
Pablo: One thing I saw on the forums was quick-key access to mission progress, where you hold it long enough to see what you need. That seems like a good idea. We'll definitely explore it.
Pablo: Right now we just have the icon on the minimap, and what we want to add next is a revive notification, but we didn't want to rush it. It'll likely be out soon.
Rebecca: In the transition, did we lose anything from the linear starchart?
Dorian: We really gained a lot in terms of not overwhelming the user – we can disclose things a lot easier than before. Understanding what you have to do next is our top priority.
Pablo: Beyond nostalgia, it's hard to parse locked vs. Unlocked nudes, to know which one comes next.
Rebecca: Before, it was literally a lock symbol.
Pablo: We're not entirely thrilled with that, and we are revisiting it.
Loswaith asks, what were the biggest failing you saw of the previous UI that inspired a complete redo of to the current UI? Why did you feel it failed to achieve this?
Rebecca: I feel like we already touched on this, with the screen overload.
Pablo: The polarization example really encapsulates our decision to redo the whole thing. It was all functional, but in order to understand the different features, you'd have to do some digging. Now the new UI is way more streamlined and explains things better, which is where we want to go.
Dorian: We want to have just the right amount of hand-holding so that the user knows what to do, while still offering them independence.
Rebecca: It used to be that a new player would see all the planets right away, but now you only see the first one. Do you think that removing those options makes the experience better?
Dorian: It's a balancing act, because you want to incentivize a little bit, but you come into the game knowing nothing.
Rebecca: We used to specifically say that you start on Mercury, because clicking any other planet would just be completely locked.
Dorian: Looking at the tutorial as an example, we don't tell you all possible buttons right away. Instead, we explain things one at a time. That's kind of what we're emulating in the UI: introduce them, get them comfortable, and move onto the next thing until you unlock everything.
Rebecca: Can we clarify which boss unlocks which planet?
Pablo: Before we had the connection that shows exactly where you'd be going next, and now you have to get the modules. I do feel like there is some visual representation there. If you're playing and you want to know how to get to a new planet, it doesn't really tell you where to go. You know you have to kill a boss like Vor, but it's not reinforced by the UI.
YourFriendlyNoggin asks, so now that the ship has 'diegetic' UI will we see the ingame information get a similar transformation? For example an ammo count on the weapon itself
Dorian: There are two different questions there. The first is world integration, which is something we've spoken about a lot, but do to the nature of the game and its rapid movement, putting ammo right on your gun would barely be visible. In terms of little popups like pickup amounts, I don't know if it necessarily warrants anything more than that.
Pablo: You just move so fast, that if we put it in the world, you'll leave everything behind!
Dorian: The HUD itself is technically kind of diegetic already.
Pablo: I wasn't aware that it wasn't functioning... I thought it took you to the PS4 browser? Basically, we don't have those things localized, which is the problem.
Rebecca: Because we work with Sony, everything has to be localized. But with the news feed, it will always be in English. We have to make it smarter to recognize different languages.
Rebecca: So what will be done with that?
Pablo: That's an excellent question, to which I don't have an answer.
Pablo: Working with the networking guys to make sure we can get those numbers.
Dorian: Maybe switch up the icons to keep people guessing!
Pablo: I have a couple of things that I want to do, but they won't be there for a couple months. One thing is a type of Leaderboard for the obstacle course. I wanted to put it in the wall where you start the Obstacle Course! The other thing is I want to add a decoration In the Dojo where you activate a menu that can show you all the different locations/rooms in your Dojo. There are other internal conversations for more long-term things, but we can't talk about them yet.
Rebecca: What is the console & PC balance in terms of menu UI?
Dorian: We want to make something that works really well on both. It's really difficult to have a PC menu work on console, but not really true the other way around.  We strive to make the UI look and function on both PC and console.
Pablo: There are games like Diablo which redid the entire UI for console. We don’t have the same team size as Blizzard, but we try to find an in-between balance. We wouldn't put out something that is annoying on one platform at the expense of the other.
I say comments about UI Performance on low-end hardware because it is a 3D interface now. Those are things that we need to address. Glen's working on his really low-end laptop to profile the game so we cans ort through that.
PS4 Update update: I get a lot of this on Twitter as well, and wanted to apologize for how long the PS4 update is taking. I think the big mistake we made was getting Breeding Grounds very close to done on PS4, but then we saw all the massive changes being made in U14, and we made the wrong decision to hold off on Breeding Grounds until U14. Then it got delayed three weeks from when we thought we would ship it. The PS4 team was ready to go and we should have put out Breeding Grounds. Unfortunately PS4 is always going to be behind because of cert and localization. When we send it to Sony, they'll bounce it if there's anything wrong, like a localization error. That's why there's no redtext, because it's very strict standards for the localization. You’ll get Breeding Grounds in U14 when it comes out in August, which we're going to try shipping to cert next week/mid-August at the latest. I hope that we'll do some rolling alerts that are really challenging, to get you guys some good loot for waiting.
Trading UI: We're definitely going to do something, but an auction house has its own host of problems. We've talked about different approaches.
Motion sickness/HUD Scale: Absolutely we'll work on that.
Pablo: We'll put it to scale, but unfortunately we cannot remove the sway until we let you scale it. The biggest question about first person we have is being able to remove the avatar.
Steve: We definitely improved the clarity of the diegetic UI flow systems, but we need to back-integrate.
Getting rid of Kubrows: Currently stasis is the only way.
Rebecca: Or letting them die.
Kubrow criticism: It costs a lot to maintain a Kubrow, and we're always listening to your input, and will be looking at that accordingly.
Steve: The main reason I walked over was to apologize to the PS4 players that are frustrated with us. We won’t make that mistake again.
Dorian: It was a really long journey to get to where we are. The inspiration for the new UI came from an exploration of a marketing piece, actually, and we thought it would be perfect for a new UI. The foundry was one of the first screens that we built, and what we found was that the white panels stands out in an open area, so we reserved that for buttons on the ship. It’s been really fun to do!
Thanks for watching!

See you in 2 weeks for TennoLive 2014: Gamescom!


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