Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

RPG Development: Sometimes it feels like it’s all UI Work

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 5, 2014

I think I’m on about my sixth iteration on Frayed Knights inventory screens. The first three were with the first game. I’m on system #3 for the sequel(s). At least this time it feels more “correct” to me, but there are still some quirks that just don’t “fit” well. For example – stacks of items. While everything else flows well, when the player chooses to move, sell, or buy an item from a stack, it necessitates another dialog to choose quantity.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t necessitate, but I don’t know a better way of handling it. I don’t think players would appreciate moving one item at a time from a stack.

I’m finding parts of the game design getting tweaked due to needs to streamline the UI. Maybe that’s putting the cart before the horse, but not necessarily. The whole thing needs to work together as a whole, and if something is just too complicated to do (as was the case too often in The Skull of S’makh-Daon), then it just doesn’t happen. As a guy who spends more time playing dice & paper RPGs in an average week than CRPGs (I tend to binge-play the CRPGs), this can be tough to swallow. I want to be able to do anything in games. As a programmer, from a mechanical standpoint, it’s not very hard to come up with abstract means of representing all kinds of conceivable actions.  And the part of me that cut my gaming teeth on text adventures, I’m used to all kinds of outrageous possibilities being permissible (“Pour vial of holy water into demon’s bathtub”).

But in modern game design, it’s all about streamlining the verbs, and being more creative with a more limited problem space that can be conveniently represented by the UI. And – to paraphrase the quote attributed to Einstein, “UIs should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

Or something like that.

I confess, the UI isn’t the only thing that has been substantially rewritten lately. So much of the game has been iterated on in the last year that it barely resembles what it looked like a year ago. That’s a good thing, as I think it’s been improved substantially, but I do worry about spending so much time re-doing the same work that I end up with the game becoming vaporware. It’s already overdue.

But dang it, I gotta get that UI “right.”


Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Infinitron said,

    Left-click once to pick up one. Left-click and hold for a second to pick up the entire stack. Middle-click or right-click to get the dialogue box for quanity, or ALT+left-click if the user is a weirdo with an Apple mouse or something.

    Swap as needed depending on your estimation of what players will be doing more often.

  • Mephane said,

    How about a click with a modifier, e.g. shift simply drops one item off the stack, into the nearest free inventory slot, and subsequent shift-clicks would move one item each from the old stack to the new one?

  • Eldiran said,

    I’m also making an RPG… and man can I relate. It feels like I spent all of last month on UI elements.

    I’m personally doing it this way:
    Left-click : pick up entire stack
    Right-click : pick up half

    Selling and buying is more permanent so it’s probably okay to use the dialog box all the time there.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Modified clicks seem to be a pretty standard way of doing it, but then I haven’t played much since Morrowind. 😛

    Maybe get some inspiration from real-time strategy titles? In AoEII, for example, I believe you can click to make one guy, shift-click to make five. So, perhaps when you click a stack, you are grabbing one item. Click again to grab another, etc. Shift-click to grab 5 more. Then, when you’re happy with it, click somewhere else to set it down. Maybe a straight click-and-drag to just move the whole stack?