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Jumpgate Evolution: UI: Accessible Functionality

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member Common

Today, NetDevil's Steve "Istvan" Hartmeyer submoits this new developer journal looking at the user interface in the upcoming Jumpgate Evolution.

Most developers are well aware that user interface can break a product. Sadly, it doesn't usually "make" a product. Players don't often think, "Wow. This UI is really well-executed!" If the UI is really well-executed, it's most likely that players hardly notice it at all. The trouble happens when the interface gets in the players' way, or is found inadequate. A game can be beautiful and have great features, but if the interface annoys, irritated players tend to simply pick something else to play.

Obviously, user interface has to be taken very seriously during development, which can require quite a significant investment of time and effort. Every feature needs a good interface, but there's a seeming infinity of presentation methods. How should we as developers decide how to build each interface component? There's certainly more than one way to approach the problem, but for Jumpgate Evolution, our team has elected where possible to let the players themselves guide us.
For a game that hasn't been released, such a pronouncement might sound ridiculous, but we're working to accomplish this very goal from three different directions. First of all, we're driven by the need to make the displays and controls very accessible and easy to use. Information must be available where and when the player needs it. Key choices must be practically self-evident. Frustration must be minimized, especially in the first fifteen minutes of play, when the new player is deciding whether the game is interesting or not. To learn how to do this, we test very frequently, in focused sessions lasting about fifteen minutes, using someone who has never seen the game before. We watch everything they do, asking them to tell us what they are thinking about as they do it. This teaches us what they are trying to do, where they are looking, and what they are, astonishingly enough, not seeing. We have found repeatedly that even though the information a player needs may be there, placed in a very obvious way from the designer's point of view, the player still may completely miss it. As UI designers, watching these tests can be brutal, agonizing, even maddening. Our response to the input that comes from the tests, though, is really simple. When the tests show us that things are being missed, we change those things. In this manner, many parts of our user interface are being adjusted every week, as we strive to make sure that needed information is clear and noticeable, and that it ceases to be intrusive when it's not needed. We’ve already gone through three major design iterations as well as scores, possibly even hundreds, of minor adjustments and it's not finished yet. Nearly every day we change some part of the UI again, little by little moving closer to our stringent accessibility goals.

Read it here.

Jon Wood
Managing Editor


  • DeciKabaDeciKaba FarnhamPosts: 7Member
    really enjoying these jumpgate articles..informative and interesting without tons of needless detail and simple without patronising.....keep em coming.

    On the actual topic, any UI nowadays should be very configurable and almost every element themed, hideable, resizable etc. In every game I have played I keep my UI to it's bare minimum. Any element I can't hide or resize down is going to annoy me and subsequently my opinion of the game.
  • graillgraill erty, MOPosts: 257Member

    his assumption that it doesnt "make" the game are unfounded. i group the ability to assign any key with any action (this includes movement  and camera) as part of the "user interface" along with whatever i see on the screen that could potential get in my way. few games make selectable ui's with great modability. my suggestion is this, dont think in your developers box, have the players vote, address any ideas and dont wish you could implement them, do it.

    my dream ui is as follows:

    one button disapeer/appear function, to include sections i want to leave visisble not grouped in this particular function.

    lock function on any part of the ui, not just all, or a few pieces of it.

    everything is moveable / scalable

    everything is font/color/background ajdustable.

    option to have certain ui interface appear at certain times then disapeer, as per my time limits or actions, such as battles, crafting etc.

    option to set specific ui's per pvp or pve or whatever, again one touch function once setup.

    full character item setups per function.

    just my two cents, and these guys dont think ui's make a game.....hmmm.



    can you smell that?!!...............there is nothing quite like it.....................the smell of troll in the morning............i love that smell.

  • PoopyStuffPoopyStuff Somersworth, NHPosts: 297Member

    netdevil =



    nuff said.

  • graillgraill erty, MOPosts: 257Member

    Originally posted by PoopyStuff

    netdevil =
    nuff said.
    netdevil= auto assault= a good portion of blizzard norths team (wow) that left after their new french masters ignored them.

    i have hopes for jumpgate, if eve had the same flight engine, and combat resolution i might overlook eves obvious flaws.

    eve=lord of the flies

    can you smell that?!!...............there is nothing quite like it.....................the smell of troll in the morning............i love that smell.

  • redavniredavni asheville, NCPosts: 72Member

    A Flash based UI? Just when I thought it wasn't possible to get worse than Eve's craptastic Python UI...

  • WoWownsallWoWownsall Langham, SKPosts: 17Member

    I find that the less of the visible interface I have to see, the better. I am an avid player of many different MMOs and the one big problem I find in them is the massive interfaces. When you try to "get into" the game, it's hard to do with a million buttons blinking, flashing, changing colors and moving. Looking at Jumpgate, it seems like the type of game that is more fun to play when you "get into it". My only suggestion is strip the UI down to just the necessary functions, and give the ability to change and manipulate from there. If a player finds that having the screen filled with info is good, then they can fill their screen with buttons and flashing lights.. If they find that they like their screen uncluttered with a just a map and a few buttons, let them have a basic UI. Nuff said.

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